The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 (CEB)
This Sunday, I will be preaching from 1 and 2 Corinthians. Like many pastors, I serve a congregation that spans the political spectrum. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper, a statement of God’s reconciliation with the world through Christ.
When I began to feel the call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, I really struggled with whether or not to pursue ordination. I didn’t struggle with my call as a disciple, but I did struggle with being a “professional.” My struggle wasn’t with the occupation itself, but with my witness. It’s easy to say that pastors or other professional religious have Christian vocation and call – but that’s for the “professionals.” I thought I might be a better witness by living out my vocation as a “regular person.”
What do I mean?
We all know we should read the Bible, but it’s hard to find time. Of course, your pastor has time because that’s their job – they’re a pastor. I may read my Bible in my work of being a pastor, but that comes second to my call as disciple. You don’t outsource your discipleship to me because I’m a professional. If you believe yourself reconciled to God through Jesus, then you are called to this ministry of reconciliation.
Let us offer our thanksgiving to God.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
God of goodness and mercy, you pursue us without rest. You called to us in the Garden after we chose knowledge rather than you. You brought us through the wilderness when we complained and preferred captivity. You led us with leaders like Deborah and Samuel even though we failed to trust in you. For your faithful and sovereign love, we give you thanks.
Jesus, you stood in solidarity with us in your humanity. You chose to come to us so that we could be reconciled to you. You trusted us with your human frailty in the form of an infant. You chose death so that we could understand life. For your compassion and grace, we give you thanks.
Holy Spirit, you continue to form us into disciples and Christ’s Body, the Church. When we build barriers between one another, you work to tear them down. Through your truth, you remind us that regardless of political party or country, we belong to a Kingdom. You reassure us in our fear and teach us to trust in you despite the uncertainties of this world. For your truth and communion, we give you thanks.
Holy Spirit, we come to this Table looking for the communion with Christ that sustains us and the communion with one another that seems so easily to escape us. We ask that you would once again heal us by making the loaf and cup we share be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. As we eat and drink together, may Christ’s communion be our communion so that we may share it with the world. To you be the glory, forever and ever.
As a sign of our fellowship and communion with Christ and one another, we now join our voices to pray, using the words most familiar to each of us: Our Father…
The Sacrament of Communion is the ultimate act of reconciliation. What does God’s act of reconciliation through Christ look like? It looks like sharing in the broken body and the spilled blood of Jesus. In our sharing, we proclaim that we stand on level ground with one another with Christ as our head.
Despite our differences, this Table declares our reconciliation in Jesus Christ and reminds us with our communion with one another. It is here that we affirm that we all belong to Christ. We once again turn to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians (10:16-17):
Because there is one loaf, we, many as we are, are one body; for it is one loaf of which we all partake. When we break the bread, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? When we give thanks over the cup, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?
Before his death, Jesus was anointed with nard. This sweet scent went with him as he completed God’s act of reconciliation by accepting death at the hands of the world and responding with life at the hands of God.
In your bulletin is a prayer attributed to Teresa of Avila.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people. —Teresa of Ávila (attributed)
After you receive the elements, you are invited to be anointed as the body, hands, feet, and eyes of Christ in the world.
The Lord’s Table is prepared for all those who desire to be fed by Jesus. Come and be nourished so that you may share in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.
Prayer After Communion from 2 Corinthians 5:14-19
The love of Christ controls us, because we believe that one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. Jesus, you died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for you, the one who died for us and was raised.
We pray, then that from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards but through your eyes. Because we are in Christ, we are part of the new creation. The old things have gone away: and look, new things have arrived!
We give thanks for this meal we have shared, proclaiming that all of these new things are from you, God, who reconciled us to yourself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. With fear and trembling and trust in you, and the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called. Amen.
If you are looking for more liturgical resources, please consider checking out my books:
Prayers for the People: Scripturally Based Prayers for Worship Prayers for the People is a collection of prayers for worship. These prayers offer the worshipping community fresh perspectives for praying the words of Scripture, using current language and references. Cross-referenced to the Revised Common Lectionary, pastors seeking to lead their people in prayer have found a relevant and beautiful source for worship planning.
Come to the Table: Communion Liturgies of Invitation to Celebrate and Experience the Love of God is a collection of communion liturgies inviting worshippers to experience and respond to the Gospel. These meaningful liturgies enhance and reinforce the biblical message of the day. Worshippers are welcomed to the Table to experience the Word in preparation to go out into the world and live it. Come to the Table includes liturgies for the entire liturgical year providing pastors with a valuable resource in worship planning.