Since we’re starting this playlist series on World Communion Sunday, I figured it would be appropriate to look for songs focusing on world peace, unity and diversity, tearing down walls, and sharing table fellowship. (I also figured it would be a good chance to throw some world music inspiration in the mix, but I mostly failed. Leave your suggestions in the comments!) Some of the songs below hit on those themes, but when I opened up the Old Testament lection (Lamentations!) and started reading chatter about Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN, I knew I (or the providence of God) definitely picked the right week to begin this series.
For those who don’t know, World Communion Sunday got its start right here in Pittsburgh at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in the period between the two World Wars. During the Second World War, the practice was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches as a way to unite Christians in the US with their brothers and sisters around the world.
Opening Praise: Praise God in his sanctuary! Praise God in creation! Let us join together in appreciating the sights of God’s work.
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
(Addition: How forsaken lies the earth, once full of species.)
How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.Lamentations 1
The global church is splintered and fractured, unable to even eat at the same table. The American church is a vassal of a corrupt government. The earth is a slave to human self-interest. The cosmos groan for redemption (Romans 8:22). Hear what God is saying to the Church. The children are watching.
Proclamation (of Judgment):
This is what conservatives mocking and scolding liberals for the attention they’ve paid Thunberg don’t understand. Thunberg isn’t being applauded because she’s being taken seriously. She’s being applauded because she’s not.
This is an iteration of the guilt suffused throughout liberal politics, which often seems better suited to producing tears and slogans than genuine change.OSITA NWANEVU, New Republic
As the people of God, liberal and conservative, Greta and her aftermath give us a lot to think about. Are we more capable of causing others guilt than we are inspiring real change in ourselves and others? What would it mean to abandon our lifestyle in pursuit of lasting, systemic change? What would it mean for us to come before God and our systemic sins in a true spirit of repentance, as people who are in exile.
Prayer of Confession: We build walls, not bridges. We squander the world’s resources rather than stewarding them. We stand idly by in the face of injustice. We cannot do this alone, O God.
Prayers of the People: A Lament for the perceived absence of God.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted.Habakkuk 1 (NRSV)
Proclamation (of Gospel): God offers life-changing forgiveness for all of us. The Gospel declares “change is coming, whether you like it or not.” In communion, the change comes through “a box of wine,” that mysteriously is the blood of Christ.
This Sunday, I will receive the sacrament for the first time since my conscience led me to abstain mid-Summer during a time in which I was estranged from some of my brothers and sisters in the faith (Mt. 5:24). The wounds have not yet healed, but I look forward to Christ’s broken body and spilled blood reminding me of the reconciliation that was, is, and is to come.
If you are able, find an opportunity to receive the sacrament of holy brokenness this week. Our country is broken. “The body of Christ, broken for you.” The equilibrium of our global environment is crumbling. “The body of Christ, crumbling onto the floor, yet given in abundance to you.”
I can’t offer the sacraments online (Methodists who remember that dispute will hopefully chuckle at the suggestion), but I can offer some sacramental suggestions from Wil Wheaton that might offer a glimpse of the Gospel for those of us suffering from Ecological (or otherwise) anxiety.
Take a shower.
Eat a nutritious meal.
Take a walk outside (even if it’s literally to the corner and back).
Do something — throw a ball, play tug of war, give belly rubs — with a dog. Just about any activity with my dogs, even if it’s just a snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, helps me.
Do five minutes of yoga stretching.
Listen to a guided meditation and follow along as best as you can. (Editor: Can I recommend Pray as you Go?)Wil Wheaton
(As a survivor of intense, crippling anxiety at various stages of my life fueled by fears as myriad as nuclear bombs and saxophone recitals, I would also recommend to all of my human readers that you find a trusted therapist for your mental health. Even if you just need to talk through something you can’t tell anyone else. Everyone has mental health. Care for it.)
Song During Communion:
Praise after Communion:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.Lamentations 3 (NRSV)
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.Lamentations 3 (NRSV)
Go in Peace. Amen.