Sunday, October 25, 2020

Phil Kniss: So what does God need from us?

“God’s enduring Kingdom”

2 Samuel 7:1-17

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Before I focus on today’s text,

let’s catch up on the Old Testament narrative.

We have to jump over a lot of material,

to get from Genesis to Jesus in three months.

So two weeks ago, the Israelites were in the wilderness,

wandering and wondering who this God was,

and thinking they might be better off with something tangible,

like a Golden Calf.

God and the people sort out their differences,

establish a moral legal framework,

with rituals and practices for worship,

and a portable tent-like tabernacle at the center.

They continue moving from place to place,

eventually conquering whole regions,

and setting up a geo-political base in Palestine.

They did all this without a king.

After Moses and Joshua,

they were ruled by a series of judges.

One of the last and most influential judges was Samuel,

the boy given to Hannah,

in last Sunday’s story.

And there were many other judges.

But the people grew tired of not having a king, like other nations.

They felt low-class.

Other nations had royalty living in huge palaces.

But Israel’s rulers were ordinary people,

and their God lived in a tent.

God finally gave in, allowed Samuel to anoint King Saul,

which didn’t pan out so well,

and the young upstart David was anointed King.

And there’s a whole set of stories

on how Shepherd Boy David—

not even related to Saul—

ended up King David.

Lots of intrigue, and scheming, and violence,

and Saul ends up a one-generation dynasty,

and David sits on the throne of Israel.

And now comes today’s story.

There is a king living in a very fine palace.

And there is still the moveable tent-like tabernacle for God.

And there are prophets who speak for God,

who especially try to keep Kings in line with God’s ways.


So in today’s story, David frets over God’s humble house.

He says,

“Here I am living in a luxurious house

made of the finest cedar,

and God is living in a tent.

That’s not right!

God deserves more respect than that!”

Now . . . isn’t that just one of the nicest things a king could say to God?

Wouldn’t God be pleased to hear David say that?

David wants to honor God,

build God a beautiful temple,

so that not only Israelites can see

what a wonderful and powerful and holy God they have—

but also the nations can look at that temple,

and admire, and maybe even come to worship, Yahweh,

the God of the Hebrews.

So God says, “Well, of course, David.

How sweet of you to think of that.

That would be lovely. Go right ahead.”

Actually, God didn’t say that.

The prophet of God, Nathan, said that.

When David brought up the idea,

Nathan, without even bothering to go home and sleep on it,

was so sure that God would want this, too,

that he told David to go right ahead.

It was only when Nathan went home and slept on it,

that God spoke to him quite sharply.

This was his message.

I’m paraphrasing verses 5-16 of 2 Samuel 7.

I’ll call it God’s thank-you note to David.

“Where do you get off wanting to build me a house, David?

I haven’t lived in a house since the day

I delivered you all out of slavery in Egypt.

I have been moving with you from place to place ever since.

I like it in my tent.

Have you ever heard me complain to any of Israel’s leaders,

‘Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?’

No! Just forget about the idea!

“But while we’re on the subject of houses . . . David . . .

let me tell you this—

I’m going to make your house last forever.


You have led my people well.

I have helped you defeat your enemies.

So I will let you rest from your enemies.

And I will build you a house.

Not out of cedar or stone,

but a house, a kingdom, that does not end,

and that will one day save all the nations of the world.

My love will never be taken from you, David,

like I took it from Saul.

Your house and kingdom will stand forever.

“How do you like them apples, David?”

I added that last line.

But the rest of that speech was in the text,

in God’s thank-you note.

This tells me that there was more than meets the eye,

behind David’s seemingly generous offer.

Usually when I read this story

I key in on the idea that God prefers tents over temples,

and David just didn’t realize that.

God prefers we worship in a space

that reminds us we are on the move,

instead of a place that ties us down, or gets institutionalized.

And yeah, that’s part of the story.

But there’s more.

David’s offer was not so generous and self-less.

There something more insidious here.

If David’s political power was to have legitimacy,

he had to have that power underwritten by religion.

It is no accident that in just about every Empire in history,

there is a deep entanglement between politics and religion.

The so-called “Holy Roman Empire” is maybe the most obvious,

but it’s true in

empires ancient and modern, eastern and western.

By building state-sponsored temples and religious institutions

kings and emperors—and democracies—

are better able to influence the theological framework

that supports their own power,

that keeps the status quo in place.

I’m not saying David had a consciously evil scheme in mind

when he made this offer.

But I do think that political psychology played a part.

It’s the psychology of gift-giving that we all know.

If I give you something you really value,

you will feel beholden to me,

and will be more likely to act favorably toward me.

Granted, that’s the dark side.

Many of us give entirely selfless gifts to each other,

just for the joy of giving.

But there is a shadow side.

Especially when there is a power imbalance,

gift-giving is, by definition, a political move.

And in this text,

God recognizes David’s power move,

and cuts him off at the knees, so to speak.

God completely undermines David’s effort to ingratiate himself,

and says,

“No, I won’t accept this so-called gift of a house from you.

But I’ll give you a house and a kingdom,

greater than anything built of cedar and marble,

and that house will last forever and ever.”

God just out-gave David, in the extreme.

The relationship between God and David just got sorted out.

There is no doubt who is serving who.


When I think about this dynamic,

between God, and God’s servants (which includes us),

it seems to me this story keeps getting played out over and over.

We like to negotiate with God.

It’s not always a blatant quid pro quo, like,

“God, get me out of this jam, and I’ll do this for you.”

No, it’s more subtle.

How much of our life of worship or prayer or devotion,

is actually done, in part, to curry favor with God?

Is there at least a smidgen of a thought,

when we come to God in prayer or worship,

or in giving our tithes and offerings,

that we are saying to God,

“Look here, God. See what I’m giving to you.

See what I’m doing for you!”

And then secretly, or not-so-secretly,

hope that God treats us in like manner.

After all, God needs our worship, right?

God needs to be shown deference.

God needs our gifts to prove our love.

God needs beautiful houses of worship.

Gives God legitimacy, right?

So we protect our religious houses and institutions and traditions,

out of this warped notion that God needs all that.

When actually, we are using God as an excuse,

to strengthen our own base and power.

If anything can shed us of the notion

that God needs all these institutionalized forms of religion,

it’s a year-long pandemic.

Yes, God deserves our respect and our utmost and humble deference.

But when we push it to the next level,

and try to make our institutions sacred,

it quickly gets out of balance,

and our gifts don’t seem so selfless anymore.

So what does God really need from us?

Well, the religious life is not about us.

It is about God and God’s priorities.

It’s not so much that God needs to see the top of our bowed heads,

in order to be God.

It’s that God needs to know

we are ready to step out and go where God is going next.

We will get nowhere with God, trying to even the score.

God will always out-give us.

There is nothing we can do

to make ourselves worthy of God’s love and attention.

Still, we try. And by trying, fail.

So it is time for us to offer our confession to God,

for the ways we have failed.

You’ll find it in your order of worship.

Please join us in this confession.

one O Generous One, we confess that we underestimate your grace.

God who asks all from us, and gives all to us,

we confess that too often we seek to earn your favor.

all Forgive us, O God. Open our hearts to receive.

one Jesus Christ, Lord of the Church,

Companion on the journey, provider of all we need,

we confess that as a church 

we strive too hard to earn your approval,

and to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

all Forgive us, O God. Open our church to be 

all that you want it to be.


one Our Generous God freely extends forgiveness,

The Lord of the Church offers grace beyond our imagination,

The Holy Spirit delights to be with us, as we are, 

and to shape us into God’s holy people.


—Phil Kniss, October 25, 2020

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Paula Stoltzfus: What song are you singing?

“God honors the lowly”
Luke 1:46-55; 1 Samuel 1:9-11; 19-20; 2:1-10

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I enjoy listening and singing along to music. Right now, music is even more necessary to find spaces when it can be played. I like listening when I’m working in the kitchen and moving around with the rhythm.  Music so easily releases stress, expresses emotions, and connects me to the world around me. Making music is so rich and full of meaning.  

I have a deep appreciation for those who are able to compose songs matching the words to notes. It is a gift when the music matches my soul’s longings.

Hannah seemed to be able to match her words in this ancient poem with her soul’s song.

Hannah is one of two of Elkanah’s wives. The other wife mocked and degraded Hannah for not having any children.  They lived in a patriarchal society in which a woman’s value and identity was linked with whether she bore not just children, but specifically a son.  A son would ensure that she would be cared for in her old age.

The context surrounding Hannah finds growing dissent within the Israelites wanting to change their leadership to match those around them, which relied on monarchies for leaders. This would give them clearly defined leaders for the long-term instead of a cyclical pattern of Judges who would emerge as leaders in times of crisis.  

Eli and his two sons are mentioned as priests who carried out the religious roles. The sons are spoken of as corrupt and devious. They were actively abusing their powers as the people sought to be faithful to God.

Within this cultural milieu, Hannah found herself very alone.  She had a husband who didn’t understand, a co-wife who mocked her, a faith community that highlighted her lack of value (communal events highlighted the fact that she didn’t have any kids), and a priest, who in her hour of prayer accused her of being drunk.  

But Hannah was a woman of faith. She cried out to God in her deep sorrow and need doing what we sometimes do, bargaining that if God would give her a son, she would give him back into God’s service.

In our gospel text, we find another time when the culture is in turmoil.  A young engaged, virgin, Mary, is approached by an angel to bear God’s son.  She ran to her aunt's place to seek refuge.  Upon entering and receiving a hearty welcome, Mary sings a song we return to year after year, usually in advent. But listening to her prayer in the context of Hannah’s prayer is a reminder that Mary is one of other women in the Bible who are an integral part of God’s salvation story.

It’s as if these songs are singing God’s way into being. Those on the margins are raised in value in God’s kingdom.  Those with privileges are humbled.  Those that are hungry in body and soul are filled.  Those whose stomachs and pantries are full find the storeroom of their spirits empty.  Those without power are equipped with a power of faith.  Those with earthly power lead with a false power that easily fades.

Hannah’s worth couldn’t come from her earthly community. It was her faith in  God which allowed her to go to the depths of her vulnerability and pain, seeking healing.  In time, she experiences the presence of God in her life that allows her to see God’s work with different eyes.  She lives into understanding the upside-down nature of God at work, raising up the powerless, bringing down the powerful and so offers her only son at the time, into God’s service.

Last week I was able to listen to a PBS documentary on Howard Thurman, an African American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader who grew up in the far south in FL in the early 1900’s.  He was profoundly shaped by a repeated mantra his preacher in his early years ended every sermon by saying, “you are not _____, you are a child of God.”  Thurman returned to that phrase over and over as he grew and developed his own self worth.  To have those words repeated, that no matter what others called him, he was first a child of God, profoundly shaped his identity.

This is God’s redemptive spirit at work in the world and in our lives.  You are a child of God, valued, accepted, and loved.  When you or I stand internally from this place, grounded in God’s love, the things of this world, power, wealth, and identity begin to shift in their worth.

Both of our texts are encased in troubled times, where two women cry out to God from their depths. Out of these cries come songs of God’s revolutionary work and gracious providence.

We live in a time where we are offered every bit of information that we could ever want (or not), from politics to pandemic, natural disasters to demonstrations. It can seem like no matter what news source we turn to there is turmoil, devastation, abuse of power, producing layers upon layers of anxiety.

That is the world around us.  On top of our work and demands on our relationships around us; on top of continuing to navigate our health and well-being where we are constantly calculating our moves and practices. It is the mounting layers that can press in on every side.  Hope can seem elusive.

Perhaps that is the magic of music.  It can take us a world away.  Lift our spirits, we often say.  When we sing our songs of faith we lament, we praise, we sing God’s way into being, shaping our hearts and minds.

We need to remind ourselves that we are not defined by our skin color, but by being a child of God.  
We are not valued by whether we are single or married, but by being a child of God.
Our primary identity is not in a political party, but by being a child of God.
Our security doesn’t come from our paycheck or wealth management, but by being a child of God.

One of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians (3) says it well,
16 I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through God’s Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In Thurman’s years as educator and preacher he found silence and contemplation a life-line, drawing on God’s source of life to fuel him in his spirit and work in the chaotic swirl of the world around him. I learned that not only did he practice this in his private life, but also in his public, including silence regularly in his sermons.  I was inspired to hear that and so I invite you into a time of silence and contemplation today to consider a few questions.

As we do so, close your eyes or look out a window. Take a deep breath and listen. Allow this space for God to enter.

Consider where you are physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally?  
Do you need to offer a lament and cry out to God?
Where do you see God’s revolutionary care in action?
What song are you singing?


Let us continue our contemplation as we read the confession together.

One: O God our King and our Maker,
forgive us when we try to make you in our image;
forgive us when we turn to earthly rulers
for the wisdom and strength
you have already shown us.
All: Fulfill your purpose in us,
that we may be your people,
your temples upon this earth,
your sisters and brothers in love and mercy.
One: Even the Most High God regards the lowly
with love and compassion.
Even the perfect Christ welcomes the sinful and lost
with open arms.
Come, we are the brothers and sisters of Christ.
All are forgiven by grace.
All: We are the family of God.
Praise be for forgiveness in Christ’s love!
(— Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press by Mary Scifres. Posted on the Worship Elements page of the Ministry Matters website.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Phil Kniss: It just came out of the fire!

“The people turn away”
Exodus 32:1-14

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This Old Testament story can be read as
a old strange tale from a land far, far away,
or, an essay on how to live with today’s news and social context.
. . . or . . . both.

If we open our heart and mind to it, this story more than most, I think,
easily straddles two very different worlds—
the Ancient Near East, and
our own 21st-century North America.

As Peyton pointed out to the children,
we first hear this story, and think “that’s strange!”—
worshiping a golden calf,
instead of God who helped them out of slavery.
But then we think some more,
and we realize we have things that distract us from God, too.

Let’s dig a little deeper into that line of thinking.
But first, we’ll look at a few details in the text.
There’s a little bit of ambiguity here.
It’s not exactly clear what’s happening—
is it worshiping a false god?
or worshiping God falsely?
Of course, neither one is a good thing,
but it’s interesting to ponder.
Does the Golden Calf represent some foreign or heathen deity,
and they’re turning their back on Yahweh?
Or, are they just trying to remake Yahweh
into something more sturdy and tangible and visible,
because pillars of cloud and fire are a little nebulous,
and this spiritual entity Moses keeps
walking up the mountain to visit,
they’ve never seen.

The people, in going to Aaron, used a generic word.
“Come, make us elohim. Make us “gods.”
Elohim can mean the gods of the nations, or their one God.
But in either case, they don’t call God by name.
Aaron does.
Once Aaron saw how things unfolded,
and the people get all excited about this calf,
and start bowing down,
Aaron seems to want to reframe the situation,
and bring it back to Yahweh.
So he built an altar in front of the calf,
but tells the people,
“Tomorrow there will be a festival to Yahweh.”

It makes me wonder if he was thinking,
“This looks like we’re worshiping an idol,
but let’s say this stands for Yahweh,
and it’s all good.”

Aaron is a master of the art of self-justification.
He can dodge an issue as well as any politician on a debate stage.

We’ll get back to this scene in a moment,
but now the camera shifts back up the mountain,
to Yahweh and Moses in conversation.

Again, a subtle shift in vocabulary speaks volumes.
In this conversation Moses gets sassy with God,
and gets away with it.
Actually, he changes God’s mind.

God first says,
“Go back down the mountain, because YOUR people,
that YOU brought up out of Egypt,
have gone wild, and are worshiping a golden calf.
I’ve seen how stubborn and evil your people are.
So just step aside, and let me destroy them.
Then I’ll start over and make you into a great nation.”

It sounds like God is playing right into the greatest temptation
of prominent religious leaders—to make it all about them.

But Moses wouldn’t have it.
He turned God’s words right back in God’s face.
“Don’t be angry at YOUR people,
whom YOU brought out of Egypt!”
Don’t destroy them!  What will the Egyptians think of you?

So God took a deep breath.
It says, “the Lord relented, and did not destroy his people.”

Some more things happen in chapter 32,
horrible things that could take us
a whole seminary course sorting out how to make sense of
how God’s actions relate to our actions.
Read it yourself, but just to name it in 15 seconds, and then set it aside.
Moses goes down and somehow—between Moses and/or God—
the golden calf gets ground into dust,
the dust gets mixed with water and the people have to drink it,
and then there’s a violent massacre of the worst offenders,
and then, some kind of plague falls on the people.
Bad stuff.
Some of that falls into the strange and faraway category—
hard to read that with today’s world in mind.

But I do want to lift out one key comment from Aaron,
and reflect on that a bit.

When Moses came down the mountain,
and saw all the revelry taking place around the altar to the calf,
all in the name of a festival to Yahweh,
he turns to Aaron and says,
“What in the world have you done?”

And Aaron, ever the skilled politician,
minimizes, deflects, and blames:
“I just threw their jewelry into the fire,
and out came this calf.”

Even though, a few verses earlier,
the text was careful to tell us that Aaron fashioned this calf,
with tools, held by his hands.
So this was a little more than deflection.
This was really fake news.

So let me recap,
in terms that are a little more general.
Listen carefully,
and see if you hear anything at all,
that sounds like it might possibly pertain to us—
something that we might have seen before,
or maybe even participated in.

So . . . the people are in a state of widespread ambiguity and anxiety.
They are sincerely trying to follow God’s way,
but God is hard to decipher.
Not much clear and tangible to go on.
Generalized promises of presence, and faithfulness,
but hard to pin down exactly what God is up to.
But the people are expected to keep waiting,
keep worshiping,
keep holding on to their unanswered questions.

But it gets old over time,
and so they start creating their own tangible representation of God.
Something they can point to and touch,
and say, this is it.
And doing that makes them feel better,
and the more they get used to this particular form of God,
the more it actually functions as God to them.
The form itself becomes sacred,
and they devote themselves to that form.

Then when someone comes along with a prophetic word
that’s hard to hear,
and accuses them of idolatry,
of putting more stock than they should in these forms,
the people, as well as their leaders,
defend themselves.
They say,
“Oh no, no, no! We are still worshiping Yahweh!”
This particular institutional or cultural form here
that you accuse us of worshiping,
it’s not an idol.
We just gathered a bunch of stuff,
and put them together,
and it just . . . it, it, it just came out of the fire!
It just came out of the fire.

I think this strange story is lot more real than it seems.

Idolatry is not some rare and exotic sin that befalls
some poor benighted heathens far away,
who bow down before statues and offer them food.

In our journey of following God into the unknown,
into the unchartered wilderness of life,
idolatry is anything we create,
that gives us comfort and predictability and controllability,
that creates a tangible substitute for the intangible.
It’s anything we might create
that we say looks like God,
because it looks like what we wanted anyway.

Idolatry is something we engage in daily
as we put our trust in tangible things like
material possessions or retirement investments
or social status or other stuff of privilege.
Not saying those are evil in themselves.
The Golden Calf was not inherently evil.
It was how the people related to that object,
and how they let it replace
their worship of a God they could not control.

Idolatry is what moved them further away from their calling.
Their call was based on their ancestor Abrahams’ call,
when God told Abraham to leave his security behind,
and go to that place yet-to-be identified.
That call was affirmed when God sent the people out of Egypt,
into the wilderness,
and told them to watch and listen,
and keep moving in the same direction God was moving.

Turned out that wasn’t quite enough for them.
And often, it’s not enough for us.

It’s a constant temptation for us to make idols we can manage,
and worship them,
without ever admitting that we worship them.
We say, “It just came out of the fire.”

Especially in times of stress and uncertainty and risk,
we are prone to make idols.
We as individuals, and we as a church,
are both equally prone
to be involved in idol-making.
We all have the urge to manage and control God,
or create a God that looks and acts like us.
We all have to be on guard.

We are called, sisters and brothers,
to go all in with God,
to worship God alone,
to throw ourselves on the love and mercy of a mysterious God.

That is hard to do anytime.
It’s particularly hard when the world is trembling around us,
with political chaos, pandemic, climate change,
and with super-storms and super-fires,
adding suffering upon suffering.

We should give ourselves grace when we grasp for something solid.
But we should also keep reaching toward
the God that is beyond our control,
and who promises to be with us in the wilderness.

May God have mercy on us all.
Please join us now in a responsive confession,
which you will find in your order of worship,
as Laura and the singers lead us.

—Phil Kniss, October 11, 2020

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Phil Kniss: Sitting at the table of a God on the move

“God delivers the captives”
Exodus 12:1-13, 13:1-8

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The narrative continues,
and God keeps running interference on God’s people,
as they veer off track this way or that . . . or
they get stuck in a terrible situation,
and need to be rescued.

This time, it’s the second one.
They’re stuck.
More than stuck, they’re enslaved.
Oppressed. Trapped. Powerless.
And this is what gets God fired up the most:
humans oppressing other humans.

It’s the worst way to fail our divine calling—
when human beings, loved by God,
use and abuse other human beings, equally loved by God.
It’s an insult to God.
It’s saying to God’s face
that God’s love is meaningless—
God’s love for those persons we oppress,
and God’s love for us.

This story of the Exodus from slavery
is the sacred text for understanding God as liberator.
This story has been a touchstone
for oppressed peoples across the ages—
for enslaved persons from Africa,
for Jews during the Holocaust,
for campesinos in Latin America.
Even Muslims revere this story.
Prophet Moses is named more than any other individual in the Quran.
His role in the Exodus is an inspiration
wherever Muslims are oppressed today.

So what happens in this story?
If you recall, from my sermon last Sunday,
Joseph, the ancestor of these enslaved Hebrews,
played into the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptian Empire,
and helped them set up a system of oppression,
during the great famine.
Now Joseph’s actions have come back to bite his own people,
generations later.

Sure, Pharaoh would have been oppressive without Joseph’s help.
Nevertheless, by this time Pharaoh’s treatment of God’s people
is beyond the pale,
so God steps in to punish the oppressors,
and liberate the oppressed.

10 fantastic stories we call the great plagues
get the Hebrews to the place where we find them today,
in Exodus 12 and 13.

They are about to be pushed out of Egypt.
Egyptians see the Hebrews as the cause of their suffering,
and want them gone . . . as far away as possible.

So this story is about their last night in Egypt,
and last meal together as a community,
and the first Passover Feast.
God the avenger went through the land with the final plague of death,
but passed over, or spared,
those who splashed the blood of a pure lamb on their door jambs.

Strange ritual to us.
But made perfect sense to a culture that did animal sacrifice.

In the Passover, God is on the move.
Everything about the Passover story
points to a God that will not sit still,
and doesn’t want God’s people to, either.

They baked unleavened bread,
for the very practical reason they were in a hurry.
They couldn’t sit for hours and wait for dough to rise.
They had to mix, bake, eat, and run.
God was on the move.
God was doing something that night they would remember forever.
God was liberating the people of Israel
from the bonds of slavery.

Everyone—Hebrews and Egyptians alike—
were in a hopelessly stuck and static narrative,
where everyone’s survival depended on status quo;
depended on the oppressors staying in power,
and on the oppressed staying in bondage.

They had forgotten (or had never known)
the God that called Abraham and Sarah to become nomads,
to give up being rooted and stable,
and to go to a place God would show them.

The Exodus was kind of like Abraham and Sarah, revisited,
but a larger scale.
God was moving,
and the Hebrews were encouraged to join the movement,
go into the wilderness, only God knew where,
and discover how to be utterly dependent.

So in Exodus 12, the Israelites eat on the run.
They have fast-food for dinner.
Because God is moving quickly,
and they have to hurry to keep up.

Did you hear Moses’ detailed instructions?
Not only was the bread unleavened, for sake of speed.
Even the meat preparation had to be efficient,
no leftovers to hassle with.
If one household was too small to eat a whole lamb,
they had to share with a neighbor,
so there was enough, but not too much.
And eat the lamb and bread, Moses said,
“with your cloak tucked into your belt,
your sandals on your feet
and your staff in your hand.
Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.”

It’s not hard for us to picture that.
Think of the way enslaved people in this country
might have eaten their food on the Underground Railroad.
Food in one hand, knapsack in another,
eyes up looking for bounty hunters,
shoes on their feet,
almost crouched, ready to run.

So what can we take from this, today?—
this notion of fast food and God on the move?
Does it relate to the Lord’s Supper?
Our ritual is different of course.
We might call communion a grandchild of the Passover,
since Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover meal,
at their Last Supper.

One thing is similar.
At the communion table we also “eat on the run.”
The God who invites us to sit at this table,
is a God on the move,
as God always is.
God has a mission—
to restore shalom in a broken and sinful world.
The mission is urgent.

Not saying we should rush through the ritual.
But, the Lord’s table is not a place to take up residence.
It’s not a place to stay and overeat.
Here we eat lightly, and move on.
The Lord’s Table is a place to be refreshed and renewed
so we can leave the table immediately after the meal,
and go about our work
of sharing God’s liberation and salvation.
We “eat on the run” so to speak.

The focus of this meal is not inward, it’s outward.
The movement is “that way,” not “this way.”
We are a missional church.
And this is a missional meal.
We eat not to stuff ourselves, but to celebrate liberation in Christ.

So I invite you,
as you prepare to partake of this meal wherever you are,
to consider what it means to sit at this table with a God on the move.
Especially now.
With so much of the world and our lives in turmoil,
we crave stability and predictability.

Where is it in your own life,
or in the life of our church,
where you might be clamoring right now
to manage, control, to fix something into place . . .
but God might be saying, “Trust me.”
Stay with me.
I know the way we are going.

God is on the move,
and we are joined to God in mission.
So . . . come to eat and drink and be renewed.
But don’t come to stay.
Come to go.
Receive, then give.

And remember, we are not eating this meal alone.
Today is World Communion Sunday.
We join with Christ’s body everywhere
to celebrate God’s saving, liberating work in Jesus.
We are all on the move. All together.
Godspeed. God be with us.

To help connect us to Christ’s body
that enfolds many cultures and tongues,
we will again read a bi-lingual Eucharistic Prayer,
as we have in previous World Communion Sundays.
This traditional prayer before communion
is in both English and Spanish,
and switches back and forth, but not always in translation.

And to help connect us to our own scattered body here at Park View,
we will be reading along with ourselves—
a recording of us last October,
last World Communion Sunday,
when this sanctuary was full of people.
So read along if you wish,
or if you just want to listen to the sound of our gathered voices,
that’s okay, too.

After this prayer Pastor Paula Stoltzfus will give you instructions
on how to partake of the communion at home.

Follow along now on the screen, or your printed order of worship.
You will hear me read the English light print,
and Peyton Erb read the Spanish light print,
and all of us read together the bold yellow print,
in both languages. Let us pray together.

—Phil Kniss, October 4, 2020

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