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That All May Be One

June 1, 2019

On Memorial Day we were able to spend some time wandering in Rocky. We went to the spot where we found our friend the Bull Moose last fall. Mama Elk (she was obviously pregnant) and another female were hanging out in the area instead. As she graciously welcomed us to hang out for a while the peace we both felt was incredible. We truly felt welcomed by her.

Denise and I have been very intentional this week about taking time to breathe in stillness and to simply Be Still in our back yard. As we have done this, the Spirit has been at work in my own heart as I have contemplated tomorrow’s message. An added blessing tomorrow is that we will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion as we always do on the first Sunday of the Month.

When I served as a US Air Force Chaplain from 1990-2011, one of the things I always enjoyed was the fact that when we served Communion, it truly was a unifying moment. Protestant denominations ranging from Episcopalians to Pentecostals would gather together in the Protestant Worship Service and receive Communion together. It was a little miracle that one would rarely see in the Civilian Parish. One time when I served Communion to some exhausted Pre-Ranger Candidates (Air Force members training in hopes of getting to go to Ranger School and earn the coveted Ranger Tab) in an austere and harsh environment, I knew by the way they received Communion what background they came from. That didn’t seem to matter under those harsh conditions. What mattered was that this Padre had come out to share a wee bit of Sacred Space and Time with them in the midst of grueling exercises.

In Revelation 22:17, Jesus said: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. Let everyone who is thirsty come… not come as long as you meet certain criteria, simply come! In his song, Big Joe, singer songwriter David M. Bailey challenges the convention of what too often happens when the church gathers around the Table of the Lord. All are welcomed to the Table… when he said all, he really meant it! In the case of the song, understandings of what is meant when all are invited to the Table are radically changed by two central characters (Big Joe, a homeless man, and Betty, a humble church member). Here are some of the lyrics:

Prayers had all been said, hymns had all been sung

Pastor set the table, invited everyone

Big Joe had heard the music so he took a step inside

He saw a bunch of well -dressed folks who looked like they were trying to hide

He saw a man in fancy robes pick up a loaf of bread

Tear it into pieces, then big Joe thought he said

All ye who are hungry – Joe thought, that’s me

So he walked on down the aisle, hoping it was free

Well the pastor looked uneasy, not sure what to do

But the usher held the plate out and said broken just for you

Big Joe felt pretty lucky, then they handed him so wine

Cup was pretty small but it tasted pretty fine

Joe said at the usher, that bread was good

Could I have a little more, do you think I could

Now the usher looked uneasy, looked a bit confused

Then said I’m sorry sir, that’s not how this bread is used

Joe said I’d like to talk to the master of this meal

I’d really like to know exactly how he feels

‘Cause up there on the table I can see it plain as day,

You got a half a loaf left over – you gonna throw that away

Cause I got a bunch of friends they re sleeping in the street

Right outside your door and they could use a bite to eat

Here is the rest of the song: Big Joe by David M Bailey

That all may be one… too often through the centuries the dogma and doctrine around the Lord’s Table has been used to alienate and exclude. Was that really what Jesus meant to happen when he broke bread with the Disciples in that Upper Room? He broke bread with Judas who would betray him to the authorities. He broke bread with Peter who would deny him three times. He broke bread with the disciples who would scatter and run after his arrest. No, Jesus welcomes all to his Table.

In his prayer for the Disciples and what would later become the Church, Jesus prayed a simple prayer: I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21) That all may be one!

This is the last Sunday in the Season of Eastertide. From the empty cross until now, we have journeyed with Jesus and the Disciples. We have heard his message of Love, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation.

In today’s world where far too many place a premium upon division between Us and Them, the message of Jesus is completely different. Where too many today say there has to be an in group and an out group, he prays that all may be one. As I ponder the Lord’s words and his life, I see the opposite of what the world says. We have forgotten how to dialogue today… we have forgotten civility in discussion… we have forgotten about mutual respect and collaboration… we have forgotten how to be united even in the midst of our diversity.

Dear reader, may we become instruments of the love of God in Christ. May the Spirit use us as She continues to bring this broken world together in unity. May we be, in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, instruments of God’s Peace.

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