We are all weary, bone weary, from the sense of loss, of powerlessness, of the shadow of doom that hangs over the earth. It is another “end of the age” that humanity has felt over many centuries. And, indeed, we are very palpably on the cusp of a disjunction from past to future, exactly the atmosphere in which the Gospels emerged two millennia ago. No wonder the Book of Revelation is so popular.
It is felt in the death of an unvaccinated family member whom we couldn’t reach with reason. It is felt in the rage that confronts our neighbors on school boards, city councils, and civic organizations. And it is also felt in the smaller publics of our life, whether in church, voluntary association, or club.
Our Roundtable Worship has gathered by Zoom for almost two years now, seeking in this digital connection the enrichment and deep centering that has meant so much in years past. As we search for a way ahead back to physical gathering, we become aware of the small but immensely symbolic elements of bodily gathering. The tasting of bread and juice as they are passed hand to hand. The feel of the talking piece as our hand receives it and passes it on. The movement of the foot and hand as the mouth moves in speech. The sense of a common leaning in to hear what somebody is saying. The slight aroma of the candle flickering on the table. The resonance of the bowl as we move into a time of prayer. The shared silence in the breathing of the sanctuary. The feel of the wood as we move our hand around the rim of the table. The embrace upon hearing something that has moved us all. Above all, the sense that we are in a place made sacred by symbols, memories, and a certain choreography of respect and awe. All of this is lost in the reduction of our worship to images and detached voices on a computer screen.
And so we are making plans to return to a physical gathering when the public health sirens are turned off, our bodies resistant to possible new variants of the scourge around and within us. Will it be a “hybrid” experience? Can the two modes co-exist? Or is worship itself only an ephemera of experience, a breath of words and song, an ineffable now-ness of co-presence? We are groping our way toward that reality, as others seek their own paths to a new place in life’s way.
In that spirit I share the introductory liturgy to our most recent Roundtable Worship.
Call to the Table
In the silence of our loneliness,
You send your word of conversation.
In the mystery of your cataclysmic power
You pour out a love that suffers loss.
In the unity of all creation
You reveal a Trinity of mutual love.
In a universe in constant labor
You give birth to world embracing care.
Out of a tree borne of the light
You build a table of plenty.
We come to your table,
Your table of peace.
ALL. Amen. Amin, Ameyn.
A Moment of Reflection: “Eucharist,” by Sadao Watanabe
Expelled from the Garden your children were spared from hopeless death.
Though oppressed and afflicted your people passed over to pastures of plenty.
The prophets in exile were fed by the grace of ravens and widows.
Your suffering servants, though mocked by the mighty, were saved by God’s power.
A people in pain gave birth to your Peace.
Lives hallowed in faith walked the way of your love.
In thanks and in praise we come to your table. Amen. Amin. Ameyn.
O Lover of All,
For your love that will not let us go, we give you our unbounded thanks. For the communion of your saints, our hearts are filled with gratitude. For the helping hand, the kindly word, the song of inspiration, we are filled with thankfulness. For the memory of your mercy and the hope built on your promises, our lips lift up our song of praise.
Thank you, Linda. Your own writings have reached many, with your encouraging words.
Bill, what power you have with words. Of course, I know they are made more meaningful because they originate in a loving heart that finds its expression in a brilliant mind. But, we and the world are enriched by it and I wanted to say thank you! Linda
Thank you, Pippa. And thank you for passing it on.
Lovely, Bill, inspirational and devout. Thank you for sharing words and emotions and feelings that move you. They will help bring us back to center. Pippa