Thursday, April 13, 2017
God the pain bearer Easter communion
I was asked to lead a short Easter communion service at an Christian-based justice agency today. I have been developing a relationship with them over the last 18 months, wanting to explore how to train ministers that can connect with communities and community development. So sharing communion seemed an appropriate next step
I decided to focus on God as pain bearer. It is a phrase from a contemporary version of the Lords Prayer, it is a large part of the Easter story and it is a way of understanding the vocation of this Christian-based justice agency, as bearing the pain in the community.
I began with newspapers and invited people to find a headline or picture of pain, tear it out and place it around the cross. I found a version of “Te Ariki,” sung by prisoners and recorded in a prison. The lines in Maori “Oh Lord, listen to us. Oh Lord, look at us. This is us, your children” seemed an appropriate backdrop to our connecting with the pain of the world. You can even hear prison doors slamming in the background. (from The Inside Volume 1: Auckland Prisons. Recorded at Paremoremo and Mt Eden Prison in July 1991 by Te Ao Marama Productions).
I chopped the Easter events into 4 sections (the Dramatised Bible is a great resource for this type of reading).
- the pain bearing of Easter Thursday
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday morning
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday afternoon
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday evening
This story of pain bearing does not wave a magic wand or seek quick fix. It is rather an invitation to sit with and be among. That allowed us to hear the words of communion as a “Take, eat, this is my pain bearing body broken for you.” And the epiclesis (the invoking of the Spirit upon the Eucharistic bread and wine) as a request for the Spirit to strengthen us as painbearers.
At a personal level, it has been a particularly difficult few months at work, with significant internal and external pressures. Sitting here, leading worship with people committed to justice in the community, was a reminder of call and focus. I’m happiest not as an administrator but as a creative thinker making interactive spaces. It was a privilege I was grateful for.
For those interested: here is the entire service script
I’ve been asked to lead a short – 20 minute – communion, for a range of people, faith and no faith. I invite us to focus on God as pain-bearer. What it means to connect pain of our world and our communities with Easter story of God as a pain bearer.
This Easter I feel pain – as a human, seeing people dying in Syria in ways cruel and barbaric; as a father, seeing the pain of my two teenage girls, their coming of age in a world of gender violence; as a Christian, seeing the impact of religious right on Christianity
These are things that disturb me, these are reasons that I need a pain-bearer this Easter.
Connecting: There are things that possible concern you. I invite you to connect with the pain of our communitiess, by standing and chosing an image of pain that disturbs you. Or, to write a word or situation, in which you see pain.
Background – “Te Ariki,” From The Inside Volume 1: Auckland Prisons. Recorded at Paremoremo and Mt Eden Prison in July 1991 by Te Ao Marama Productions
E te Ariki, Whakarongo mai ra ki a matou,
E te Ariki, Titiro mai ra ki a matou, Tenei matou, O tamariki, E whakapono ana matou, Ki a koe Aue! Aue! Te Matua te Tamaiti .Wairua tapu e.
Oh lord, listen to us. Oh lord, look at us. This is us, your children. We believe in you. The father, and the Son and Holy Spirit.
Reading: Easter story
On Thursday – Mark 14:32-36
Narrator: They came to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples:
Jesus: Sit here while I pray
Narrator: He took Peter, James, and John with him. Distress and anguish came over him:
Jesus: The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch.
On Friday morning – Mark 15:16-32
Narrator: The soldiers took Jesus inside to the courtyard of the governor’s palace and called together the rest of the company. They put a purple robe on Jesus, made a crown out of thorny branches, and pulled it on his head.
They beat him over the head with a stick, spat on him, fell on their knees, and bowed to him. When they had finished mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
On Friday afternoon – Mark 15:33-39
Narrator: At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout:
My God, My God, why did you abandon me?
With a loud cry, Jesus died.
The army officer who was standing there in front of the cross saw how Jesus had died. He said, “This man was really the Son of God!
On Friday evening – Mark 15:40-
Narrator: Some women were there, looking on from a distance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching and saw where the body of Jesus was placed.
Short reflection: This is a story of pain bearing – on Thursday a sorrow so great a pain that it crushes; on Friday morning, the pain of military violence, on Friday afternoon, the pain of feeling abandoned by God, on Friday evening, women paying attention to the pain of where the body is buried. It’s not a story of fixing things, of waving magic wands and applying easy bandaids. It’s about pain and pain bearing and sitting with people in their pain. And so we turn to communion, we are invited to participate, as pain bearers, with Jesus as this pain bearer. Anyone is welcome to participate, not because we have easy answers and quick fix bandaids, but because we are willing to pay attention to pain in our communites and world.
Communion – Mark 14:22-26
Narrator: While they were eating, Jesus took break, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples
Jesus: Take it; this is my body
Narrator: Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it
Jesus: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
So May God’s Spirit rest on this body, of one who experienced pain. May we find in this bread and this cup, the strength to keep paying attention to pain in our world
Prayer – New Zealand variation of Lords Prayer
Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
All: The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
All: Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
All: In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
All: From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.
So take, eat, you are invited to participate with the pain-bearer. Which is what you do and why your roles are so important.
Lord Jesus Christ, We remember the pain of this world.
As we consider your love, help us see and know your love for us and all people and creation. Amen
Hot cross buns for morning tea.