Pastor Karen Crawford
Alice Hoover, organist
Jim Arganbright, liturgist
Link to Livestreamed Service: https://fb.watch/8pGxZgjSiE/
Let them Come to Me
Meditation on Mark 10:13-16 and Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Pastor Karen Crawford
Oct. 3, 2021: World Communion Sunday
It is wonderful to be back in our main sanctuary for World Communion Sunday. I don’t think I will ever forget those months of virtual Communion during the pandemic! That was hard, envisioning our connection with the Body of Christ while isolating in our homes.
Today, I am ready to celebrate Communion in a way that fits what we believe—that Communion should be passed, poured, eaten and in all respects shared with one another, symbolizing the unity we have in Jesus Christ! The Sacrament of Communion should be delightful to see and delicious to taste—like the God we worship. As the psalmist sings in 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”
We who were spoken into being and fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God are reunited, restored, re-membered and reconciled to one another and our Creator. We have come to be changed and made new, and to become agents of change with the Body of Christ around the world.
Paul talks about our call to co-labor with Christ in 2 Cor. 5, beginning at verse 14, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Our becoming a new Creation and co-laboring with Christ in his ministry of reconciliation is the message artist Makota Fujimara shared with Sojourners magazine in February. Fujimara is the author of a new book, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making, published in January. He was inspired by theologian NT Wright, who wrote the forward for his book. Wright says the resurrection of Jesus sparked “the unexpected launch of new creation, of the ‘kingdom of God,’ on earth as in heaven” and that humans are equipped and invited to work with God in advancing this new reign.
Fujimara, in his art, uses materials and techniques from nihonga, a Japanese style of painting. Pigments are made from crushed minerals and precious metals, then applied in many layers. Nihonga, he says, is “a slow process that fights against efficiency.”
Link to more about Fujimara’s art:
“Prayer and contemplation are woven into the work. The tiny mineral particles refract light, often creating subtle prismatic effects. It is a style of art made for the type of long, unforced gaze that slowly reveals evermore depth. Deceptively simple and quietly elegant.” Sojourners, Feb. 2021. Here is “Walking on Water.” And, “The Art of the Gospels.”
“God created beyond utility or need,” Fujimara says. “God is all sufficient and self-sufficient. In short (shockingly) God does not need us. Yet God chooses community over isolation, gratuitous creation over passivity. God invites us to co-labor toward the new.”
“Fujimara is also a student of kintsugi or ‘golden repair,’ the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with lacquer mixed with precious metals, restoring a bowl or cup to wholeness and function while highlighting, rather than masking, the fractures. Objects repaired by kintsugi masters are often stunningly beautiful, veined with gold, silver, or platinum that trace a history of traumatic destruction and sublime redemption.”
This art begins not with the gold—but with the shards. “Kintsugi masters sometimes handed down a set of fragments through generations, contemplating the pieces… for decades before beginning the repair, which itself might take years.” Like the art of kintsugi, Fujimara invites us to “look with compassion and love on broken lives and broken systems as the starting point of repair, reform or healing.” He sees virtue in being able to see the brokenness and fractures, as painful as they may be.
Through the pandemic and many other traumas of this last 18 months or more, we can learn from Japanese art and the gospel itself that “we must first learn to behold even those painful broken fragments as beautiful,” rather than rush to fix everything or hide the damage. (Sojourners, Feb. 2021)
Western cultures, including we who live in the U.S., wouldn’t hold onto broken shards for generations, considering how we might make a work of art of what remains. If something is broken, we quickly get it fixed or throw it away and buy new. We wouldn’t bother with the painstaking process of putting together all the broken shards with precious metals, and we certainly wouldn’t emphasize the broken places AND make them even more beautiful and valuable than they were before.
Friends, on World Communion Sunday, I look around this sanctuary—and I see many open seats. It’s hard not to notice—especially after worshiping all these months in our smaller, more intimate chapel. Yes, some of the seats are open for our members who haven’t yet returned because of the pandemic. But many are simply open, reflecting a time long ago, when our faith community was much larger. When you look around, you probably remember the people who used to sit in them and are no longer with us anymore.
The open seats don’t discourage me one bit! I see them as waiting to be filled. We have plenty of room for seekers and believers. Do you know what I mean by seekers? Folks who don’t know Jesus or aren’t sure about him and haven’t accepted him as their savior. But we can’t wait for them to show up. We have to go to them and be intentional about inviting those outside our circle of friends, family and faith and make them feel welcome when they come.
Many people in our community don’t know they have a place at the table—a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come in the Kingdom of God.
You know who I miss the most at this table? You know who I long for? More young people. When we have more children and youth here, our worship has more energy and joy!
In Christ’s time, children were not seen as important. We can tell that by the disciples’ reaction to Christ’s words in the gospel of Mark today. And in our society, sometimes the voices of children aren’t heard. I pray that our congregation is one who listens and responds to their opinions and ideas, needs and desires, hopes and dreams, and concerns. After all, this is THEIR church, too.
Jesus turns his society upside down and challenges modern notions when he teaches that the faith of children is actually THE model for adults. When the disciples are shooing away the mothers seeking a blessing for their children, he is indignant. Indignant! “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
On this special day when we remember and give thanks for the Body of Christ, so much larger than one congregation or denomination and found in every nation, we come to the table as simply God’s redeemed children. We come as the beloved. We come not because we must, but because we may. We come with a little faith, wanting a little more. We come not because we are strong, but because we are weak. We come seeking a blessing, like the mothers with their children in the gospel. And to see the One who is a glorious reflection of God and exact imprint of God’s very being, as Hebrews says. The one who is the pioneer of our salvation, made perfect through SUFFERINGS.
Brothers and sisters, Christ understands our sufferings better than anyone else! There’s no one who knows and loves us more. We come to be united, strengthened, and made bold to share the good news! That Jesus, by the grace of God, tasted death so we wouldn’t have to! He is our source of hope and strength, who “sustains all things by his powerful word.”
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. Is that ever overwhelming to you? Don’t let it overwhelm you. And don’t be dismayed by your own brokenness. You are infinitely valuable to the Lord. We can’t rush the work of transformation—to be made whole and holy. We have to trust our Creator, the Divine Artist, and be patient.
Fellow co-laborers with Christ, keep reaching out with his love so the banquet table in the Kingdom of God will grow. Remember what Jesus said about children—how the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. And, “Let them come to me!”
With eyes of faith, I invite you to see how lovely and beloved you are, right now, as broken shards and yet, by the grace of God healed, whole, and holy. I invite you to imagine how beautiful the Body of Christ will be when the Lord, gathers us all together in a final, divine work of art. Like the broken shards of kintsugi, joined by veins of silver and gold, we will be more precious and beautiful than before.
Let us pray. Holy God, who created us in your image, thank you for Jesus, your Son, who offers himself and new life to us as we celebrate Communion with Him and all the world. Thank you that he is our source of hope and strength and tasted death for us so we wouldn’t have to. Stir us to gratitude for what you have done for us and for our salvation. Help us to see ourselves with your eternal eyes and not be dismayed by the broken shards of our lives and the brokenness in the world around us. Give us a vision for the beautiful work of art you are making of us, a slow process, a divine process, a mystery waiting to be revealed in your timing. In Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.