Archives For Liturgy

Christmas Prayer

Jason Micheli —  January 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

y_holy_eucharistI’ve written a lot here about how I believe the priesthood of all believers is the unfunded mandate of the Reformation. To that end, I asked a friend and layperson, Caroline Sprinkel, to write a Eucharistic Prayer for Christmas Eve. Not often enough do pastors mine the wisdom and theological riches sitting in the pews. Here’s proof:

Most Holy of Holies, God of all creation,  Author, Director, Producer and Center of all that ever was and ever shall be, the One who called His creation Good, the One who is Love, Righteousness, Justice, Beauty, Grace, Perfection, the Beginning and the End,

We, your creation, give You all our praise and all our thanksgiving, for You alone are worthy.

You, the Holiest of Holies, Glorious beyond all comprehension, the One who breathed life into humanity, who created every single one of us in Your image.

Before the beginning,  before our need was ever established, You chose to enrobe yourself in our flesh, to limit your limitlessness and come to live as we live, in all our earthiness and frailty.

Gracious God, you came, instead, like the least of us, messily born from the poor, Jewish girl, our sister Mary, and you were adopted and discipled by a poor Jewish carpenter – our brother Joseph.

Indistinguishable from your own creation.  Vulnerable – born on the run, in the straw and the dirt, in a stable, where the breath of barn animals warmed you.  And yet, kings feared you, wise men knew of your coming and brought gifts for a King.

Meanwhile, Lord Jesus, you cried, you needed to be fed and changed, you loved to be held and the way your mother smelled.  You learned to give kisses, and learned manners, and learned the Torah listening to your father.  You played,  laughed, made friends, skinned your knees.   You were somebody’s neighbor.  You were the carpenter’s kid.  You grew up.  You worked 18 years at a boring job.  You were just like us.  Known and knowable.  Fully, 100% human.  And, nothing like we could ever be, because even in your human condition, You are also fully 100% God,  living a life just like ours, but without sin.   Intersecting space, time and history as Emmanuel – God with Us.

At just the right time, on a spring evening, after countless meals with friends and strangers, you sat with your closest friends, your disciples and shared the Passover meal together.  Only this time, you did something revolutionary; something that your thirty three human years and 3000(?)  years of scripture and all eternity were leading You to:   You took the bread that represents the Passover lamb and said, Eat this, this is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  After dinner, you took the Passover wine and said, Drink this – all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many.  Drink this in remembrance of me.

At tables and alters around the world, Jesus – Emmanuel – the Word Made Flesh –  invites us *all* to be satisfied, healed and freed from death through His human body and His human blood and His bodily resurrection.   He invites us to His table:  the divine feast of oneness with Him, satisfied in Him and by Him, now and forever.

Help us, O God, to believe Your beautiful, impossible reality.  Give us a taste of our eternally Good future – with You in us and among us – now and forever.

Blessed God, with this union and communion

shed your grace brighter than starlight on us

that we may bear your glad tidings, your Good News to all

and renew our weary world in your name:

the name of Emmanuel – God – With – Us.

O come O come Emmanuel.

Taize-Pine-Ridge-2013I’m spending the next four days at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as part of the Taize Pilgrimage of Trust. I’m joined here by 3 others from my church along with thousands of Christian pilgrims 18-35 from around the world as well as the brothers from the Taize Monastic Community in Burgundy, France.

The Taize Community was started by Brother Roger Schultz, himself a Swiss Reformed Protestant, in 1940 as an ecumenical monastery that would in its life together embody peace and reconciliation in postwar Europe.

What started as a small band of brothers from Catholic and Protestant denominations quickly grew to attract over 100,000 ‘pilgrims’ every year for a week at time. These pilgrims come from all over the globe, are primarily youth and young adults and for 7 days seamlessly integrate into the community’s weekly rhythm of fixed hour prayer (worship), bible study, and work.

As I tell people, think ‘Woodstock crossed with a Medieval Monastery.’

Every year the brothers of Taize take their community on the road in order to reconnect with former pilgrims and welcome others who might not be able to make the trek to rural France.

I’ve been to Taize a couple times in the past. The following are my journal reflections from my first pilgrimage.

Taize 2008 016

One of the brothers here yesterday described the community here as the hub or the spoke around which the entire world revolves. ‘We think of our community as the engine that keeps the world running’ he said.

And by ‘community’ he meant the the community’s rhythm of thrice a day prayer and worship. That if they stopped worshipping the world would cease spinning. Their worship, he believes, is what they owe the world.

It’s their vocation.

My first gut reaction to hearing him describe the world and worship this way was to dismiss it as so much pious speech.

That this was my first reaction I feel exposes something, a deficiency, in or about me.

As any good seminary student learns early on, ‘liturgy’ means literally ‘the work of the people.’ The work of the laos NOT the clergy. I don’t know if I’ve ever really grasped what this means until I came here.

Too much or too often our worship is not work (even though it can sometimes feel like work to endure a worship service). Seldom though do we think of our worship as work- as something we do for another.

What I mean is: our worship is most often driven by what people in the pews like or want. We evaluate worship based on its utility, based on what I want, how it makes me feel, whether it ‘feeds’ me or I got something out of it.

And just because I don’t sit in the pews doesn’t mean I’m not guilty too. I cater to that same utilitarian impulse with topical sermon series meant to get people’s attention while other pastors pack secular wisdom into the guise of sermons with series like ‘5 Biblical Principles for a Better Marriage.’

The unspoken goal of most worship is the experience it creates in the worshipper; liturgy becomes instead the work of the clergy for the benefit of the laity. Worship is to serve the needs of the people there. Why else would ‘performance’ be such a strong element of worship be it the choir standing up front as they would in a musical or a band playing on stage as they would at a concert?

What would it be like for a congregation to believe as firmly as Brother Whathisname that if they stopped regular worship their surrounding community would cease to exist? What would it be like for a congregation to gather every Sunday morning in the conviction that ‘this is the work we do on behalf of our little patch of the world?’

The worship here at Taize shouldn’t be so appealing to so many young people.

While all the chants sung here, which make up almost the entirety of the worship, are dated from the late ’50’s on (making them more contemporary than most traditional hymns) the sound is decidedly ancient.

There are no song leaders, no visible cantors, no choir or band up front to lead us. Nothing sounds remotely like anything you’d hear on the radio and yet thousands of people younger than me are sitting on their butts for nearly 5 hours a day singing strange, archaic-sounding music.

The appeal, I think, is the brothers’ conviction that the world needs their worship as much as a body needs water.