Remembering the Table, Sermon 5/1/2016

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May 1 2016
Rev. Anna Woofenden
The Garden Church, San Pedro CA
Scripture: Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Audio

“And the spirit carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord…and then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

These words and images are ones that we are familiar with—we invoke them every week as we begin worship and unpack the objects that remind us why we are here. They include our icon of the tree of life, and we remember how God is everywhere and moving in all things, and how God is right here with us, right here in our little plot of earth in the middle of the city where we are cultivating more love and healing, peace and justice, as we are feeding each other and being fed. We look to this image of the heavenly city, of this tree of life, and we are reminded why we gather, how we gather around this table—God’s table—where all are welcome to feed and be fed.

On this, our one year anniversary since placing this table and anointing it, it’s a beautiful gift of divine leading that the lectionary cycle gives us this text today, and in praying and studying and reflecting on it this week, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t really heard before. It’s that very first line, “And the spirit carried me away to a great high mountain, and showed me the holy city.” The spirit carried me away to a great high mountain, and from there showed me the city.

The spirit carries us up to the mountaintop, where we have the 5,000-foot view. The spirit carries us up above the details and daily nitty-gritty, to see the big picture, to see our community as a whole, to see the ups and downs of our life journeys in context. It’s that invitation to zoom out and see how our specific intentions and choices echo out into the larger movement of God.

And so I invite us to go to the mountaintop today, to zoom out, and look over this past year and how we have been collaborating with each other and with our creator.

A year ago we stood in this empty lot and believed in something. We believed in God’s promise of something, we had dreams—for ourselves, for our community, for our world. We saw things that were not as we want them to be. We saw boundaries that needed to be broken through. We saw people hungry. We felt a longing for community. We believed in this dream of growing food and connecting earth and people. And so we started showing up, and you all started showing up, and look around us now.

Think of the stories, the people, the connections, the meals, the tears, the laugher, and the joy.

And so here, on our one-year anniversary, we stand on the mountaintop and we remember what we have been called to dream and who we are called to be together. We remember this image, this dream of the holy city of Jerusalem settling upon the earth. The symbols used throughout that show us another way. Rivers, which have served throughout the biblical narrative as obstacles to be crossed, are no longer barriers. Temples to contain the divine are no more. The tree of life that stood in the Genesis garden is found to be growing on both sides of a single watercourse that flows from the throne of God. And the tree bears fruit all year long and has leaves that heal the nations. No one is to be left out. There is access for everyone without exception. God is everywhere. And all are welcome.

This is not the pristine Garden of Eden, that which is set apart, perfect, that is idealized, or only in the quiet of stained glass sanctuaries and specific religious rituals. It is the message that the Heavenly City is one where there is no temple, because God is everywhere, right here, in the middle of the city. God is the peace that is created within, the silence within noise, the force of reconnection within disconnection, etc.

God is Advocate, the Holy Spirit we heard about in our gospel, God is the parent, God incarnate in Jesus the Christ, showing us how the divine love is right here in action with us. It is this force of love—moving and blowing in the universe—that we gather around, that we are infused by, that calls us to transformation, to love.

And so, I would like to bring us back to our dedication. On May 1st, 2015. A few of you were there, and many of you have joined us since; all of us have been living it together. I’ve pulled up the liturgy that we used, right around this very table, and I invite us to participate in it. On this anniversary, to recommit ourselves to the work of this scared space and to God’s presence working amongst us.

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Opening the Gates and Consecrating the Table

The Garden Church, San Pedro, CA
May 1st 2015

We’re gathered here to bless this church and to name it as a place where God is present and where people experience God’s embodied love as we feed and are fed.

We’ll bless through prayer and song, anointing and scattering of water. Between the prayers we’ll sing an alleluia.

Let us pray:

May the God of all creation, bless this space and its many parts, for the seeking of the peace of the city. This lot has been waiting for us, longing to be a life-giving element in our city and in the lives of the people who live here. It is our partner, our co-creator, our home for this season.

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us the grace of your presence in this sacred space, that you may be known as the inhabitant of this dwelling, and the defender of this community; we ask it in the name of the One God of heaven and earth, Amen.

Alleluia.

Now let the mighty power of the Holy God accompany us as we bless this space. Banish from it every unclean spirit, cleanse it from every residue of evil, and make it a secure habitation for those who enter these gates, Amen.

Alleluia.

As we open our gates, we ask you O Lord, to watch over our goings out and our comings in from this time forth, for evermore. May each who enters here feel Your love and the love of the Beloved Community. May this be a space of refuge and sanctuary, delight and abundance, honoring and peace.
Alleluia.

At our center, we consecrate the table: the table that holds the symbols of our life together:

The Word of God, for the people of God.
The candle that is the light of Christ and the light in all people.
The water of life that nourishes and renews.

The bread and cup that feed us and reconcile us.
And the tree of life. Reminding us of why we are here…that our work here for garden and for spirit, be a piece of the heavenly way of being, right here in the dirt of earth.

We consecrate this table with the anointing of oil—the oil that runs over the head of those who are prophets and priests of God’s message in the world. We anoint our table with oil as it in itself, at the center of our worship space and of our life together as a community, bears God’s prophetic message to the world. All are welcome at this table. All people, in all expressions of humanity, are welcome at this table to feed and be fed. This is God’s table—all are welcome here.

And so we anoint and consecrate this as God’s Table. (Pour oil)

We honor those who have gone before, the ancestors and the communion of saints, those who make us who we are and who continue to be present as we plant their seeds.

(Placing of seeds and plants from Lara’s family seeds)

Emanating out from this table, we dedicate this as sacred space, God’s Church, a place that is a blessing for all who enter, and that we go out from these gates to be a blessing in the world.

And so, we bless this space with the sprinkling of water, the water of life, of renewal, the precious water that connects us all and makes all things new. And we use rosemary, for remembrance, as at this table we are called to remember Christ’s love. (Invite people to take rosemary branches and dip them in the water and share in the blessing)

We bless the gates at the North, to be a blessing of welcome to all who will enter. (Bless)

We bless the western wall, whose color from an artist’s eye, captures our own vision of precious water that nurtures the plants and the people. (Bless)

We bless the southern border, which allows our vision to not be boxed in, to keep us ever expanding in hope and purpose. (Bless)

We bless the eastern wall, (dino and all) where rises the morning sun, that is the bringer of life. (Bless)

We bless the sky above us, the rain and the sunshine, the expanse that connects us to all of life. (Bless)

We bless the earth beneath us, the earth that holds us and nurtures us and grants us life. (Bless)

Oh Holy God, provider of all good things, we know your presence to be here, right now, in our time. Bless the land we stand upon, dig into, grow from. Bless the food that will be grown, the tomatoes and spinach, the squash and thyme…bless the people who will be fed by nurturing, and sharing, and eating this sacred food. Bless the music, the teaching, the prayers and the relationships that will rise… Bless the laughter and the tears, bless the connection that comes as we work side-by-side, the hands that are held, the transformation of each of us as we live in love with each other. That all may be welcome to work, worship, eat. Feed and be Fed. Amen.

Thank you to Amy Gall Ritchie, Sara Miles, and Paul Fromberg for sharing words of prayer that are woven into this liturgy.

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