This communion services was the first where all for the Sunday School participated with the rest of the congregation. The children headed to Sunday School for the first part of the service, to worship together, and to do some exploration about communion. They joined the rest of the congregation during the hymn before communion.
To help the children (and everyone else) learn a bit more about communion, I put together the following liturgy. As I cast about for some way of integrating questions and answers into the eucharistic form, I remembered the Passover hagadah of our Jewish sisters and brothers. The maggid section of the hagadah is focused on helping everyone present at the table to integrate the experience of the exodus from Egypt into their own being.
At St. Marys United Church, the minister celebrating the sacrament of communion is seated behind the communion table, between two of the congregation’s elders. On this Communion Sunday, we used the more “traditional” UCCan format (individual glasses and cubed bread).
I asked one of the congregation’s Wise-Ones (aka Everybody’s Grandma) to be the Teaching Elder and one of the children of the congregation to be the Child.
The children joined the rest of us during the singing of “As We Gather At Your Table” (Words: Carl Daw; Music: attrib. Benjamin Franklin White 1844. Words (c) 1989 Hope Publishing Company)
Child: What makes this morning different from other mornings?
Teaching Elder: Today we’ve come together to share in a special meal – a meal that reminds us of Jesus’ time on earth, long ago, and a meal that helps us to remember our connection to all of our family throughout God’s world – people who have already lived and died; people who are living now; and people who are yet to be born. Today we’ve come together to share in a special mean – a meal that helps us to remember our connection to God.
Minister: All are welcome at God’s table – at Christ’s table – at this table. People from near or far. Neighbours and strangers. Young and old. Rich and poor. In whatever way you know the Christ, know you are invited to eat and drink with him… and with us. Alleluia!
During the service, the congregation is invited to respond to some of the things I’ll be saying. Don’t worry if you don’t know the responses. If you are able to read, they’re printed in the bulletin. If you can’t read them, don’t worry! If you would like, instead of words, you can follow my actions… or you can sit and listen to what is happening around and inside of you.
God be with you. (Minister extends left arm to left side, right arm to right side.)
And also with you. (People extend left arm to left side, right arm to right side.)
Lift up your hearts (Minister cups hands at centre of chest and raises hands to sky.)
We lift them up to God. (People cup hands at centre of chest and raise hands to sky.)
Let us give thanks to God, our God. (Minister moves hands from raised cup to folded in prayer, and lowers back to chest level.)
It is right to give God thanks and praise. (People move hands from raised cup to folded in prayer, and lower back to chest level.)
Child: When we sit down for a meal, we try to remember to say grace… to say “thank you” to God for the food that God has given us. Do we say thank you for this food?
Teaching Elder: Oh, yes! We give thanks to God, not just for the food, but for everything that God has shared with creation… every part of our lives.
Minister: We do say thank you, loving God.
We thank you for creating the heavens and the earth.
We thank you for being the source of all life and all creation –
for sharing with us the tiniest seed and the grandest stars…
for creating us – with our tears and our laughter,
with our joy and our sorrow,
with our curiosity and our thinking…
with our life.
We thank you for Jesus, the Christ –
for all that he learned from you and in you.
for all that he taught,
for all that he shared with the disciples,
and all that he shares with us.
Thank you, loving God!
Child: is the minister the only one who thanks God?
Teaching Elder: No! We all have a chance to say, “Thank you!” But we believe that the minister’s voice and our voices join with the voices of everyone who loves God. Not just people, but every part of God’s creation. It’s true – every part of God’s creation! Here.. listen to this song from the bible… (Read Psalm 98)
Minister: Therefore, we praise you, wonderful God, joining our voices to sing out the glory of your name!
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of Love and life!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God.
Hosanna in the highest!
Child: So, communion is a time to celebrate!
Teaching Elder: It is a time to celebrate… but it is also a time to remember some sad things, as well,. God’s people haven’t always been very good at listening to God’s call. Sometimes we’re afraid of what God asks us to do. Sometimes we’re too tired. Sometimes we’re interested in something else. Sometimes… well, sometimes we’re just nasty. As part of our “thank you”, we remember that we aren’t always listening… and we celebrate that God still loves us – no matter what!
Minister: We rejoice that, through Eve and Adam and all of their children, you entered into relationship with us. We rejoice that, through Sarah and Abraham and all of their children, you entered into covenant with us. But… we also remember that the covenant and relationship with you has been broken, many times… by our ancestors – and by us.
Each time the covenant was broken, you invited us back! Through prophets and pastors and wise ones, you invited us back!
And still we broke faith with you.
But, when the time was right, you sent Jesus to live with us.
Given life by the Holy Spirit,
given life by the decision and action of your favoured one, Mary,
he came to share our life – to bring us back to each other and to our covenant with you!
At the Jordan river your Spirit came upon him,
calling him to tell the world the good news of your love.
He healed people who were sick and fed people who were hungry.
He cried with those who mourned and danced with those who celebrated.
He looked for people who were lost and alone…
and helped them to understand that they were welcome at your table!
He lived out the fullness of your grace.
We saw his holy love.
Child: God has loved us in so many ways!
Teaching Elder: Yes… we can see that in Jesus’ life and in the lives of his followers. Now comes one of the parts of communion that I find difficult. You see, Jesus didn’t only show us God’s love by his life… but also by his death.
It’s alright if you don’t understand it. I’ve been thinking about it for many years, and I still don’t quite understand it myself. But Jesus’ made a decision to accept what was going to happen. He believed that his death – and whatever came afterward – was an important part of helping God’s people to be re-connected to God’s love. So we remember that night..
Minister: On the night before he was put to death,
Jesus gathered with his friends for a special meal.
He took bread and gave thanks to you, O God.
He broke the bread and offered it to those gathered around him,
saying, “Take this and eat; this is my body which is given for you,
do this in remembrance of me.”
Taking a cup, he once again gave thanks to you,
and shared the cup with those gathered, saying:
“This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood.
Drink from this, all of you.
This is poured out for you and for many,
for the forgiveness of sins.”
After the meal, Jesus was arrested. His disciples and friends ran away.
He was beaten for what people thought head had said.
He stood trial… and was put to death on a cross.
He gave all of himself to your people, O God.
His life and his death.
Then you raised him from that death, holy God –
that he might be one with you, now and forevermore!
Child: What does s/he mean – eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood!?!
Teaching Elder: When we eat the bread and drink the juice, we see these things as symbols of all that Jesus gave, and the Christ gives, to the world. When we eat the bread and drink the juice, we’re taking in part of Christ’s spiritual body to help us remember
that we are part of that body. I think he might have been trying to show how important all of this was, by using pictures that people might find scary.
Child: But… it’s just bread and juice, right?
Teaching Elder: It’s bread and juice… ordinary food made special by God’s love for us and our love for God.
Minister: Through that love, you gave to your people the gift of your Spirit,
bringing us together from the ends of the earth –
helping us to be the church, sharing your love in the world.
Gracious God, we celebrate with joy all that you gave us in Jesus the Christ.
We ask that we might live out of his love –
that we might be a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable in your sight,
that you lives might sing out the mystery of faith:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again!
Invocation (Epiclesis & Anamnesis)
Minister: Remembering his death,
proclaiming his resurrection,
and looking for his coming again,
we offer to you, O God, this bread and this cup.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts,
so that everyone who eats and drinks at this table
might be one in Christ’s body… your holy people.
Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory is yours, God most holy,
now and forever more!
Child: Everything is ready?
Teaching Elder: Just about! Each of us reminds ourselves of Christ’s call, by sharing together in the prayer that he gave to his disciples.
Breaking the Bread and Pouring the Wine
Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
Jesus Christ, the true vine.
The gifts of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God!
Come, for the table is prepared and our cup is overflowing.
Child: Now everything is ready?
Teaching Elder: Yes! Today we are going to stay in the pews. The bread and the juice will be served to us, one at a time. When we get the bread, we’ll hold on to it, until everyone is served… and then we’ll all eat it together. We’ll do the same thing with the juice.
Child: I know! We eat and drink at the same time to remind us that we are all part of the same family – all parts of God’s house and Christ’s body!
Teaching Elder: Exactly!
Sharing the Elements
Prayer After Communion
All: Thank you, Loving God!
Thank you for sharing Jesus with us.
Thank you for sharing your Spirit with us.
Give us strength and love,
so that we might share it in the world,
in your Name! Amen.