A brief liturgy to share when a sibling in faith is drawing close to death.
Words of Preparation Sensing that his days were numbered, Jesus gathered around his friends and family—all those who had journeyed with him along the way. They told stories, shared memories, sang songs, marveled at the miracle of honeybees…*
Knowing that these beloveds would need courage for the days ahead, Jesus invited them to join him at a table.
Words of Institution And taking some bread into his hands, Jesus gave thanks for it.
Then he said, “This is my body, breaking for you. Take it, and eat, and be made whole.” [Share the bread and eat together.]
In the same way, he took a cup of wine into his hands. And he gave thanks for it.
Then he said, “This is the love that flows through my veins. Take it, and drink, and know that you are loved.” [Share the juice/wine and drink together.]
Words of Thanksgiving The gifts of God for God’s beloved. Thanks be to God.
Sharing the Peace of Christ May the peace, courage, and love of the Cosmic Christ be with you, now and always. And also with you.
*Include other bespoke wording to reflect what has been important, particularly in these last days, to the person and those who surround them.
A call to worship, based on the NRSVUE version of Genesis 1:1-5.
One: When God began to create the heavens and the earth, Many: the earth was complete chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, One: at the same time, a rushing wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said,
Many: Let there be light. One: And there was light. The light and darkness were distinct, Many: And God called them good.
One: God named the light, Day Many: and the darkness, Night. One: There was evening and there was morning, the first day.
All: Swept in by the Breath of God, we gather in the goodness of this moment to worship the Creator.
Come, Holy One, Breathe in us your spirit-spark. Rest on us like a gentle wind. Transform our ways of being from muted grays to radiant rainbows, that we might find in you and in one another and in all creation the gifts of hope, healing, and liberation. Amen.
The Ignatian Imagination Prayer is a sensory, engaging spiritual practice that encourages one’s imagination to run free with the Spirit through scripture. Teresa A. Blythe writes in her book, 50 Ways to Pray, that the intent of this practice is “to imagine that you are physically present” in a particular scripture, “and to allow that scene to become a prayer for you.” (p 100)
Especially for passages that we know (or think we know) well, this spiritual exercise invites us to look, listen, and feel again. To be open to an awareness of words and emotions we hadn’t noticed before. To let the scripture speak to us in our present experience.
This practice can be used by individuals or in a group. To use it on your own, simply read slowly through the passage and the questions, taking the time you want to enter into each portion. Allow about twenty minutes to go through the following scripture. Jot down your experience in a journal, if you like, and any insights that dwelling in the word brought you.
For use in a group, read through the passage and questions, allowing more time than you think might be necessary. (As one who has received guided meditation before, I often feel rushed in my imaginings!) You may want to invite shared reflection at the end. A pdf version of this reflection is available here.
Prayer of preparation
Spirit of New Life, I/we ask for grace: that all my/our intentions, my/our actions, and my/our imaginings will be used for the service and praise of the Divine. Amen.
Ignatian Imagination Prayer
Within a few days [of the angel Gabriel’s visit to her], Mary set out and hurried to the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
Take a moment to imagine yourself in this scene, not necessarily taking on the character of Mary or Elizabeth (or Zechariah). Simply be an observer for now.
What do you notice about Mary as she hurries down the roads of Judah? Does her face tell you anything about how she’s feeling?
What time of year is it in in Judah? What do you smell?
What does Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house look like? As Mary nears the house, when does she call out to Elizabeth? What does she say? Where is Elizabeth when she hears Mary call her name?
As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In your mind’s eye, notice how Mary and Elizabeth meet face-to-face.
What does it look like as the Holy Spirit settles on Elizabeth? Is there a visible change, or do you feel a shift in your surroundings?
Imagine Mary notices you, and calls out to you, too, to join their delighted embrace. Does anything move in you—does your heart beat quicker or your stomach do little flip flops? Stay there, in the scene, as a full participant in the story.
In a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why am I so favored, that the mother of the Messiah should come to me? The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed that what our God said to her would be accomplished.”
What is the energy like in the room as Elizabeth shouts this blessing? After her long journey, how does Mary react to Elizabeth’s words? Does anyone or anything else in the area also join the scene, drawn in by Elizabeth’s excitement?
Do you eagerly join in the blessing, or do you hold back?
Mary said: “My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant, and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed. For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me and holy is your Name.
What does Mary’s song sound like? Is it in a major key or minor key; a rapid tempo or meandering pace? Does she start out tentatively or boldly? How is she moving her body?
Do you feel an impulse to sing or sway along? What is Elizabeth doing?
You have shown strength with your arm; you have scattered the proud in their conceit; you have deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places. You have filled the hungry with good things, while you have sent the rich away empty.
What emotions cross Mary’s face as she describes God’s actions? Are there hints of rage, hope, frustration, or joy? How does the tune and volume of her singing shift in these stanzas?
As you hear her revolutionary words, sung there in your presence, do you feel nervous…or comforted?
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant, mindful of your mercy— the promise you made to our ancestors— to Sarah and Abraham and their descendants forever.”
As Mary’s song ends, survey the scene again. Look all around you. What do you notice? Has anything changed between Mary’s arrival and now?
Notice your body in the scene—emotions, sensations, tension.
What do Elizabeth and Mary do following this greeting, blessing, and song?
Let your full imagination run free now. Allow the scene to change in any way you feel inspired. Linger and interact with the characters there. What are you doing? Do you go off to tell someone about your experience? How do you describe what happened?
Either in a journal or in a group discussion, take time to reflect on the experience. What does it mean to make ready for the birth of the Divine within us? Consider how Mary and Elizabeth prepared.
What does this mean to you? What part of the story helps you lean into a welcoming spirit? What part of the story disturbs you most? What insight does this imaginative exercise provide?
Close by offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God or pray a version of the Prayer Jesus Taught.
In our backyard, a gorgeous, expansive oak hovers with a regal grandeur, providing shade and scurrying space for the squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, and goldfinches. The last few weeks, the oak has been dropping thousands of acorns, which plummet to the earth with a powerful velocity. (One does not want to be sitting under her branches when there is any wind, lest an acorn drops with forceful precision on an exposed head…) It’s clear that autumn is arriving as the boughs sigh with relief as they lighten with each released acorn.
Tomorrow marks the autumn equinox here in the northern hemisphere of Planet Earth. In Madison, the weather has subtly shifted with the days still (mostly) bright and warm, and the nights cool and breezy. In this threshold between seasons, the earth reminds me to prepare for the winter ahead. The annuals and perennials alike are shifting their focus, nudging me, too, to let go of those things that were wonderful for a season, but now need to be put to rest…perhaps until next spring, or perhaps for good.
O Spirit of Change, prepare my heart for the winter ahead, but not before I have celebrated the fruit of summer. In this Great Transition Time, as the earth continues in its path, may I sense, like the Mother Oak, a lightening in my body, as the gifts of the long summer days drop to their earthen womb below. Amen.
Today at Madison Mennonite, we round out a full year of worshipping distanced–a sobering, disappointing, and often discouraging reality…while also a testament to the Spirit’s faithfulness in all circumstances.
We are taking some time today and in our Koinonia Groups next week to hold the tension, grief, and anxiety of the last year. It feels important–necessary, even–to mourn the pain that the pandemic has caused: bodily, relational, emotional, economic, spiritual pain.
Then there are the divisions that have emerged or grown more obvious: cracks within familial relationships, extreme othering within political discourse, racial inequity.
Yet I think it’s important, as the church, to recognize that some of the divisions, like physical distancing, have emerged for the sake of community and the love of neighbor. This purposeful distancing is counter-intuitive for Christ-followers, and yet it aligns with the call to think bigger, beyond ourselves, from what’s good for a few to what’s good for the collective.
These are complicated, contradicting, and disorienting realities. I am hoping that our world grows a little gentler this week, as we hold space for ourselves and for one another. So many are dealing with pandemic-inflicted wounds that are still tender to the touch. I pray for God’s grace to abound.
A Congregational Prayer of Remembrance Eternal Presence, This has been a strange year. Disorienting and isolating for some, liberating and full of opportunity for others, our experiences are disparate.
As we look back on this year, O God, help us be gentle with ourselves and with one another. Draw us together in curiosity and compassion. Unite us in our common commitments, to loving our neighbors, extending the tables piled high with grace, as we continue to seek your reign in our midst.
We give you thanks, Abiding Spirit, for journeying with us, renewing our spirits through the generosity of this Beloved Community. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.
A prayer for the second Sunday of Advent, Year B, based on the lectionary text of Psalm 85:1-2,8-13.
O Steadfast Love, you are the source of goodness and grace, and you delight in the sweet embrace of righteousness and shalom. Speak your peace to us, your people, that our faithfulness might be restored; through Christ we pray, Amen.
Author of Life, Painbearer, and Peacemaker, we long for you. As the sunlight diminishes each day, the shadows seem to overtake our world. Chaos, confusion, and uncertainty threaten to spill into every vacant space in our minds and hearts.
We long for your presence. All: Loving God, be our peace.
As we move through this election season, we pray for inner peace. We pray for an awareness of our belovedness, of the Spirit’s empowering presence. Center us in our true, whole selves. Give us clarity of mind and a discerning heart.
We pray for inner peace. All: Loving God, be our peace.
We pray, too, for the peace we share with the world. In the midst of harsh and hateful language, may we speak words of healing. In the midst of hypocrisy and hyperbole, may we act with integrity. In all the ways we live and move this week, may we be bearers of justice, mercy, and nonviolence, modeled on the way of Jesus.
We pray for our peace witness in the world. All: Loving God, be our peace.
We pray for the peace of the world. We pray for those in power, that they will use their power for unity and not for division. We pray for each election site in our communities and nation, that intimidation and fear-mongering will be absent, and safety, wisdom, and a commitment to just process will flourish.
We pray for our communities, that neighbors will reach out to neighbors in recognition of our common humanity.
We pray for the peace of the world. All: Loving God, be our peace.
We long for your presence and peace, O God, in all people and all places, this day and everyday.
All: We ask this in the name of the Creator, Incarnate Wisdom, and Inner Breath. Amen.