Holy Communion

8885024392My family shared communion bread in my father’s hospice room before he died. We blessed it, broke it, and ate it. My mom caught a few medical professionals off guard by holding the loaf out to them when they came into the room to check Dad’s blood pressure or give him his medications.

But all awkwardness aside, it was a beautiful thing to share this ritual with my dad one last time. . . . Except that Dad was past eating, even something as small and perfect as a piece of holy bread. So my mom tore off a piece for him and laid it on the pillow near his mouth.

As he took his final breaths–those breaths that are ragged and uneven, those breaths that make you count the seconds between them–I imagined that small piece of Jesus’ body filtering the air. As Dad drew air into his failing body, as his lungs struggled to push air out, it flowed through the blessed and broken bread.

That bread remained there when Dad died, on the pillow next to his beloved face–small and white and still.

This final image of my father is a painful blessing. It comes unbidden each time I speak the words, “This is my body,” each time I offer the loaf to those who can still take and eat.

For me, the phrase “communion of saints” used to conjure up vague images of sparkling lights scattered out there, somewhere–kind of like stars, but less specific, less real. Now the “communion of saints” is that hospice room. Too specific. Too real.

It is the gummy bread in my mouth, the labored chewing, the effort of my tongue and throat muscles as I swallow. It is holding hands with my brother and my husband, scrunching down and twisting my head to wipe the tears on the sleeve of my sweatshirt. It is watching my mom lead this ritual as both faithful pastor and grieving wife, somehow standing strong and collapsing all at once.

It’s a painful blessing–every time there is a loaf of communion bread, I am in the hospice room with my father again. I realize that I never saw anyone take that torn-off piece of bread away. And so it will always be there, on the pillow, next to Dad. It will always be there, holy and broken and unconsumed.

Noon Worship at Phoenix MCUSA Convention

Gathering Hymns:
Bwana Awabariki 32
The love of God 33

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8, 10-11

Call to Worship:

You who are poor, why have you come?
To hear good news.
You who are brokenhearted, why have you come?
To heal our hearts.
You who are captive, why have you come?
To hear words of freedom.
You who are prisoners, why have you come?
To be released from what binds us.
You who mourn, why have you come?
To receive comfort.
Then you are welcome here in this place,
at this table, where Jesus offers blessing for all.

Words of Welcome

Prayer of Confession

Holy God,
Open our eyes to the presence of your Spirit
upon us, within us, among us.
For our apathy in the presence of oppression,
Forgive us.
If we have contributed to the brokenheartedness of anyone,
Forgive us.
For our participation in systems that enslave,
Forgive us.
When we are deaf to your good news,
Have mercy and open our ears.
When our mouths remain too tightly closed,
Loosen our lips with songs of praise.
Hear our prayer, O God, and forgive our sins.
Hold us in your mercy, now and forever.


Assurance of Pardon

O taste and see that our God is good! Through the limitless compassion of Christ, we are forgiven. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are energized for God’s work of justice and peace in the world. Thanks be to God.

Scripture: Mark 14:12-16

*Call to Communion

As Jesus requested,
the table has been prepared,
and all are welcome at the meal.
So come–each of you, all of you–come to the table:

Those, like Peter, hopping out of the boat onto the waves, then sinking fast;

those with more enthusiasm than resolve–
Come to the table;
Those, like James and John, asking to be seated at Jesus’ right and left in glory;

those dismayed by Kingdom priorities–
Come to the table;
Those, like Mary, weeping outside Jesus’ tomb;

those full of love and grief–
Come to the table;
Those, like Martha, mourning Lazarus’ death and wondering why Jesus did not come sooner; those struggling for faith in the face of despair–
Come to the table;
Those, like Judas, offering to betray Jesus to the chief priests;

those disillusioned and rebellious–
Come to the table.
Jesus offers the bread and the cup to all who come,
So let us gather around the table with joy!

 Hymn: You’ve got a place 39

Invitation, Instructions, & Words of Institution 

Sharing the Meal 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Blessed be the ones who dance 28

Sending Hymn: You are salt for the earth 17

Benediction (Ephesians 3:16-21)

I pray that, according to the riches of Divine glory, God may grant that you be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Wednesday Worship Piece: Being Disciples

This Sunday will be our final Sunday in a series on Jesus’ disciples. I will preach on Luke 24:36-53–Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples. Plus we will share communion together this week.

Call to Worship

Leader: We come this morning to spend time on the path with other disciples.
Side 1: Others who are wondering.
Side 2: Others who are waiting.
Side 1: Others who are growing.
Side 2: Others who are giving.
Side 1: Others who are messing up.
Side 2: Others who are speaking up.
Side 1: Others who are stepping out.
Side 2: Others who are standing down.
Side 1: Others who are hungry
Side 2: Even as they reach out to feed others.
Leader: May our journey this morning be worship.
All: May the One we follow be praised!

Prayer of Confession & Assurance of Pardon

God, You have told us to trust in you with all of our hearts.
You have told us not to lean on our own understanding.
And so we try to trust,
but we get very nervous when we don’t understand.
We don’t understand what you mean by
“This bread is my body.”
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

We don’t understand who will betray you
or why
or what that will mean for us.

We don’t understand how death is victory.
We don’t understand post-resurrection life–yours or ours.
We don’t understand why you ask us to stay here,
And we’re afraid we will somehow miss the power when it comes down from on high.


Assurance of Pardon

Jesus is gentle with our doubts. The Spirit offers us peace in the midst of our lack of understanding. The One who created us leads us step by step into deeper trust. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday Worship Piece: Proper 14, Year B

Sometimes there is one phrase in a given scripture passage that grabs my attention and seems to bear repeating.  This happened for me this morning with part of verse 29 from the Ephesians 4 reading. So today I offer a call to worship based on Ephesians 4:29, as well as a piece for communion preparation I wrote awhile back based on John 6.

Call to Worship

 Holy One,
As we gather this morning to worship you,
May we speak truth,
So that our words may give grace to those who hear.
May we pray in faith,
So that our words may give grace to those who hear.
May we sing with joy,
So that our words may give grace to those who hear.
May we listen with open minds and receptive hearts,
So that Your words may give grace to us who hear.


Here are the responsive words of preparation for communion, based on John 6:

Jesus told the crowd, “You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

We are indeed hungry. We want to have our fill.

It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

We are hungry for life. Give us this bread.

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

We are thirsty for life. Give us a drink.

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. All who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Lord, we do not want to eat your flesh or drink your blood.

My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.”

This is a hard teaching. But we are hungry. We are thirsty. What you offer, we accept.

If you are working with the reading from Psalm 130, you might want to look at this sermon and prayer of confession.

*For those new to the blog, I post worship pieces each week–usually on Wednesday. Sermons and liturgical material is indexed by scripture and topic on the Index page. You are welcome to use any of these pieces in your own worship setting.

If you like what you see here, consider signing up for a free email subscription (on the right side bar) or liking Spacious Faith on Facebook.

Wednesday Worship Pieces: September 11

Yes, I know it is Thursday.  It’s been one of those weeks.

Our worship on Sunday will be a service of remembrance and lament for the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and for our nation’s violent response to those attacks. You are welcome to use any of this liturgical material in your own worship context.

Call to Worship (with lines from Psalm 51)

We face this day with heavy hearts.
Have mercy on us, O God.
We remember the images of towers collapsing.
Do not cast us from your presence.
We remember the confusion, the fear, the deep sorrow.
Do not take your Holy Spirit from us.
We remember the rumblings of anger, the hatred toward Muslims, the rush toward war.
Deliver us from the guilt of bloodshed, O God.
We remember, and so we lament.
Grant us willing spirits to sustain us.
We remember, and so we gather.
Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love. Amen.

Candle Lighting

Following the Call to Worship, I will read the following statements which are adapted from material provided by the Peace and Justice Support Network.

  1. We grieve each of the nearly 3,000 persons who were killed in the aerial attacks on September 11, 2001.
  2. We grieve the Afghan people who have been killed in the resulting war, at least ten times the number of those killed on September 11.
  3. We grieve the estimated 100,000 persons killed in the Iraq War which was also justified by the September 11 attack.
  4. We grieve the lives of thousands of American soldiers who have been killed and those who bear life time wounds of body and spirit from the fighting in these wars.
  5. We grieve the ordinary people and communities in our country who have sustained hardships because needed resources–over one trillion dollars–have gone instead to fighting wars.

For each item read, we will light a candle.  After the candles are lit, we will sing Dona Nobis Pacem.

During Children’s Time, we will speak (gently, carefully) about the fact that children were hurt by the 9/11 attacks and children have been hurt by our country’s responses to the attacks.  Each child will (help) light a candle to remember the children that are hurt when we do not live in peace with each other.  We will pray together, asking God to help us follow Jesus by working for peace in our community and our world.

Words for Communion

On this day, many of us have painful memories; memories of division, of fear, of death.

Yet here in this place, around this table, we remember something else; something more. We remember that on the night Jesus was betrayed, he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So here at this table, we receive the Good News that division, fear, and death are not the ultimate reality of this world.

You are invited to share the bread–the body of Christ–as a statement of our unity, an acknowledgment that we are connected intricately and intimately with other people.

You are invited to share the cup–the blood of Christ–as a reminder that we, like Jesus, can face those things we fear with the confidence that God’s love and mercy surround and protect us always.

You are invited to this table to bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus; to proclaim that the powers of death have been once and forever defeated by the Life of God–life eternal and abundant in Jesus Christ.

Please come, the Meal is ready.

Wednesday Worship Piece: Pentecost

Call to Worship for Pentecost Sunday (that includes baptism and communion)

God of wind and fire,
When you send your Spirit, we are created anew.
God of mighty oceans and still waters,
When we receive your baptism, we are born anew.
God of bread and wine,
When we eat at your table, we are nourished anew.
So pour out your Spirit
Let sacred waters flow
Fill us with holy food.
May our hearts and our hands be open wide
to receive your gifts of life.


Words for benediction–and my prayer for each of you:

As you go forth from this place,
may the wind of the Spirit startle your senses and blow through your life;
may the fire of the Spirit scorch your complacency and light your way.
And may the blessing of the Holy One—Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer—rest with you now and forever more. Amen.