Liturgy for a Time of Nationalism—Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany

For the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, or whenever the Beatitudes and Micah 6:8 are read in the church (Lectionary Year A).

Call to Worship:

God’s Spirit breathes into the clay,
from the dust hear the beat of hearts born to love.
God’s Spirit speaks through a bush, a plant,
shaking mountains, whispering clouds,
impassioning, inspiring prayerful servants
to love godly visions
of deliverance from slavery,
the breaking of bonds,
the Banquet of Creation,
the lion loving, lying with the lamb.
God’s Spirit sings over deserts,
dry bones learn to dance
to the rhythm of lively song.
God’s Spirit kindles a flame—eternal, dancing,
to burn in the prophets, the poets, the disciples, the church.
Speaking beauty to chaos, truth to tyrants, love to all that would seek to blow it out,
grace to the shunned and the shamed, resurrection to the Crucified.
Breathe your breath, Spirit of life, of liberation, of love, of dance.
Breathe your Spirit, O God, into us as we gather in your Name.

In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Confession and Absolution:

God of Hope, your Son proclaimed that blessed are the poor, the persecuted, the poor in spirit. Blessed are the hungry and the thirsty and the peacemakers, the least, the last, and the lost. We know these proclamations of blessings remain unfulfilled desires when we fail to take heed to your prophet’s call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with you (Mic 6:8 NRSV). We confess that we have spent more of our lives stumbling in comfort than walking in the humble path of justice. We confess that we oppress one another, we press one another down, and so it is impossible to walk upright, to walk together, hand-in-hand, in kindness. We have failed to love. We seek out our own pleasure and ignore our neighbors’ pain. We treat our weaker members with contempt, and so we tear your Body apart. Conform our hearts to you, give us desire for your Reign of Love, that we may look past our own pleasures and pains toward the good of all Creation. Release us from the bondage of fear, whose fruit is fences and iron bars. Turn our walls into banquet tables. Give us fruits of love, your Spirit, the joy and nourishment of all your creatures. Amen.

The Spirit of Life calls us out of locked rooms and into new life: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17 NRSV). May God free you from all that suppresses your appetite for God’s Reign of Justice and Love. May Christ free you from the shame of the past. You are forgiven. You are made new. You are freed to live into God’s desire for Creation. There is nothing that can separate you from God’s love.

In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of the Day:

God of deliverance, bless us by your presence. May we be those humble ones who rise from the dust to make peace and love justice. Be with us when we suffer pain. Keep us on the path to love and liberation, until that day when we are all are embraced by your resurrecting love. Amen.

Dialogue (traditional):

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Preface to Communion:

Before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples to eat. When they gathered and shared, gathered and prayed, ate, and sang, there he would be when they gathered in his name. This was his promise.

And so the disciples gathered in hope, gathered in longing remembrance, sparking with each meal their hope for God’s Reign that Christ had proclaimed.

Today, we still share this foretaste of the Feast to Come. We give to all a taste, as with any desire. We share, bread and cup, body and blood. We act out the Reign in ritual, even as we pray for the Reign to come. And we proclaim Christ’s mystery as we watch and wait.

Christ has died. Christ is Risen. Christ will come again.

By eating the bread and drinking the cup, we remember God’s Reign and taste Christ’s presence, and we stand as one body with all who remain suffering or betrayed, inside and outside this room.

Words of Institution:

In the night in which Jesus was betrayed . . .
After the meal, Jesus took the cup . . .