Tag Archives: Communion

All distance falls away

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All distance falls away at the Lord’s table.

Today, with the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, I will celebrate and participate in virtual communion. We will spiritually connect as we physically distance.

To prepare, I offered the invitation to explore the meaning of communion by reflecting on past experiences of the sacrament. What did they have to teach us? What might we learn for today’s service?

Listening to myself for once, I did that. While I was washing the dishes, I recalled a communion service ten years ago.

During Holy Week of 2010, I took part in a meeting related to the Accompaniment Program of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Leaders in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia are taking great risks in their human rights work and their support of the communities of Colombians who have been displaced by the over forty years of violence in their country. They have asked Presbyterians from the United States to act as international accompaniers in order to provide a measure of safety—international eyes—for their work. The program started in 2004 and continues today. Over 100 accompaniers have served to date. Learn more about the program here:.

Since it was Holy Week, I had the privilege to worship with the Communidad del Camino in Barranquilla. The community honored me by inviting me to preach. Germán Zárate translated my words.

With the Rev. Adriano Portillo and the Rev. Dayro Aranzalez, I helped celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

The precious memory flooded over me as the water flowed over the dishes in my sink.

And I knew that whenever and wherever bread is broken and the cup is shared (in whatever form they take), the people of the Communidad del Camino, the people of the church in Colombia, the people of the church around the world, the people whose names I know, whose names I have forgotten, whose names I never knew, they all meet at the table. Miles apart, in Christ we are together.

Tonight, we gather at separate tables, scattered around Queens and Manhattan in my case. But in Christ, those tables become one—Christ’s table. Though physically distant, we gather in spiritual solidarity. And we gather with the church in all places and all times. One body. As we share in the meal Christ has prepared for us this night, I will remember that and smile.

All distance falls away at the Lord’s table.

 

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All Saints’ Day

Bread is broken,
wine is poured,
space transcended,
time torn;
and all in Christ
are one.

On All Saints’ Day – November 1, 1995, I had the privilege to worship at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Cape Town, South Africa. I had talked and preached about All Saints’ Day often. I have deep appreciation for the Communion of Saints. It is an important and profound dimension of my faith. Still, this was the first All Saints’ Day service I ever attended. It included the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and led me to write these words.

For all the saints, thanks be!

Cape Town, South Africa
2 November 1995

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A mystery I am thankful for

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World Communion Sunday.
7 October 2018
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone

Traci Smith, author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home has provided a gift of the November 2018 Gratitude Every Day calendar. I am using it as an opportuity to revisit photos and post them as they speak to gratitude.

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An act of commitment

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Staff and friends of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathered this morning at the Presbyterian Center for a chapel service in response to racism and white supremacy in Charlottesville and other places. (An archived live stream of the service is available.)

My colleague and friend, José Luis Casal, director of World Mission, helped celebrate communion.

During the Words of Institution, José Luis observed that, “The bodies of all who have been victims of injustice, the victims of rejection, the victims of violence…are the body of Jesus Christ.”

He reminded us that to come to the table and to partake of the bread and the cup is to commit ourselves personally to stand on the side of love with Jesus and to work against racism, white supremacy, every form of systemic oppression, violence and all that harms any of God’s precious children.

Silently, I shouted “Amen” as loudly as I could.

And I wondered—when the Presbyterian Center or any church or worshipping community gathers to celebrate communion, isn’t that organization making a similar statement? The act of gathering at Christ’s table is, for the community as well, a radical act of commitment to Jesus and to justice, to love and to grace.

May it be so. Amen.

See you along the Trail.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Marissa Galván who posted some of José Luis’s word and inspired me to write this post. The image appeared on the cover of the worship bulletin this morning. View the bulletin for the service

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Lent 2017, day 30

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“Jesus calls us all in the church to love one another, a sign by which we are identified as Christ’s disciples. This identifying sign is so important to our witness! Let us use the precious gift of time given in this holy season to lean into Jesus’ teaching and learn more of Jesus’ love, that we may reconcile with one another, even–especially–at the table.”
Cynthia Holder Rich
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

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Lent 44: Cup

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Gwangju, Republic of Korea
19 March 2013

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Why I like New York 13 – communion at presbytery

Yes.
The Presbytery of New York City has issues.
Presbytery meetings can prove frustrating.
The presbytery experiences
dysfunction
disconnection
disruption
challenges
brokenness.

But …
today as the presbytery gathered one more time,
I had the privilege
to help celebrate communion.

I led the great prayer of thanksgiving
and I helped serve.

I stood there holding the platen
that held the bread
as the members of the presbytery
came forward
to receive the Body of Christ:
people of many races,
people of different ages;
people who walked spryly,
people who used canes;
people I knew well,
people whose names I read from their name tags;
each one my sister, my brother,
all sisters and brothers to each other.

Again and again
my voice cracked,
my tears welled in my eyes
as the wonder
the grace
the love
of it all
near overwhelmed me.

See you along the Trail.

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Shooting Dogs

Location map of Rwanda

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight’s movie tears at my soul. Beyond the Gates tells the story of the École Technique Officielle in Rwanda.

As the 1994 genocide , Tutsis began arriving at the school, seeking protection from the 90 Belgian UN peacekeepers stationed there. Eventually 2,000 Rwandans arrived at the school, including 400 children. On April 11, the UN peacekeepers left. The people were massacred shortly afterwards.

A number of Europeans also arrived at the school. They were evacuated a couple of days before the peacekeepers departed. The scene is wrenching. Absolutely wrenching. In the film, two Europeans choose to stay at that point. It makes me wonder – deeply wonder – about the choices I make in relation to the least of my sisters and brothers and in relation to the least within myself. Thanks to my friend Bridgett for that image.

Characters pose a number of questions in the course of the film:

Does God love everyone? Does God even love those men outside on the roads?
Where is God in everything that is happening – in this suffering?
How much pain can a human being take?

And the historical question:

How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?

In an utterly haunting movie, two scenes stand out:

  • The Rwandans hiding in the school ask the departing peacekeepers to shoot them – that they might die quickly.
  • Before the end, children receive their first communion. Did that happen? I do not know. But there is much to ponder about the parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and genocide.

The film originally carried the title of Shooting Dogs – a reference that, under their mandate, the peacekeepers could shoot scavenging dogs because they might carry disease, but could not act to stop those committing the killing. What a world we have made.

In the last scene, set some five years after the massacre, one of the young women who survived makes here way to England where she talks to one of the Europeans who left. It is a gentle confrontation that ends with the words, given to the survivor:

We are fortunate. All this time we have been given. We must use it well.

Another sleepless night filled with powerful emotions and disturbing thoughts lie ahead.

See you along the Trail.

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September 11, 2011

On this day of sadness and pride, remembrance and looking forward, St. James Presbyterian Church used the worship resources for the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 today during worship. We shared in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Members of the congregation had the opportunity to make Ribbons of Hope which were delivered to Battery Park (my pictures from there did not work).

As often happens, a number of international visitors joined the congregation.

It was a blessing and an honor to worship with and preach to the saints of St. James.

See you along the Trail.

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Red Stripe under a Jamaican moon

Heat radiates from patio stones
even in the darkness.
Sweat beads roll slowly down the amber bottle.
O’er the mountain,
its green shades seen as black,
the yellow orb climbs quickly
to add its reflected light to the night
as it hangs like a Communion wafer in the sky.
A breeze stirs the leaves.
I drink
and remember.
 
23 May 2011
University of the West Indies
Mona Campus, Jamaica

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