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Remember!
A Service of Communion

Dennis Bratcher

The following Service of Communion is centered around readings from Scripture.  The theme of remembering is taken from the paired "salvation history" Psalms 105-106, which contrast the faithfulness of God with the forgetfulness of His people.  Yet, the Psalms lead into a renewed hope and prayer that God will again Remember, and call His people to remember God's remembering!  The first part of the Service, climaxing with the Litany of Penitence (and the placing of Ashes if this is used), takes on a somber mood that is appropriate for Lent.   However, that mood should not be carried through to the Communion, since the taking of Eucharist ("thanksgiving") is always a celebration of grace and hope!

This service is presented as an Ash Wednesday service, made more effective by the use of ashes placed on the forehead of worshippers as a symbol of unworthiness and repentance.  The celebration of Eucharist in this context not only serves to underscore the terrible consequences of sin looming ahead at Good Friday, it also points to the hope that we have in God's grace and the possibility of a new future that lies ahead on Easter Morning!  However, the service is easily adapted to a Maundy Thursday service where the theme of remembering usually plays a central role.

The Scriptures should be read slowly to allow worshippers to reflect on the story as it unfolds.  If there are proficient readers, the verses may be read antiphonally.

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Remember!

A Service of Communion for the Beginning of Lent

As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup. . .

. . .Remember!


Order of Service

Prelude

Call to Worship (Psalm 105:1-5, 8)

Leader: O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, proclaim his deeds among the peoples!

People: Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works!

Leader: Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

People: Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!

Leader: Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.

People: He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.

Invocation

God Remembered Noah (Genesis 7:15-19, 21, 23, 8:1-3, 9:12-15)

Reader 1: (7:15) They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.  (16) And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.   (17)  The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.  (18)  The waters swelled and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the waters.   (19) And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered . . .  (21)  And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every human being . . .  (23)  Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark .

Reader 2: (8:1) But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; (2) the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, (3) and the waters receded from the earth continually . . . .

Reader 1: (9:12)  And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:   (13) I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (14)  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, (15) I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

God Remembered Abraham (Genesis 19:24-29)

Reader 1: (24) Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven;  (25) and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground . . . (27) And Abraham went early in the morning . . .  (28) and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace. 

Reader 2: (29)  But God had remembered Abraham, when He destroyed the cities of the Plain, and sent Lot out of the midst of the destruction . . . .

God Remembered Rachel (Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24)

Reader 1: (1) When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die!"  (2) Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?". . . 

Reader 2: (22) Then God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her and opened womb.  (23) She conceived and bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach";  (24) and she called his name Joseph, saying, "May the LORD add to me another son!"

God Remembered Israel (Exodus 1:8-11, 13-14, 2:23-25, 3:7-8)

Reader 1: (1:8) Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. (9) And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.   (10) Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they . . . join our enemies and fight against . . . ."  (11) Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ra-amses . . . . (13) So they became ruthless in imposing task on the Israelites,  (14) and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field . . . .

Reader 2: (2:23)  And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God.  (24) When God heard their groaning, He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  (25) And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition . . . .

Reader 1: (3:7) Then the LORD said, "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, (8) and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . .

God’s People Called to Remember (Exodus 12:51, 13:3-5, 8; Deut 15:15)

Reader 1: (12:51) And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

Reader 2: (13:3) And Moses said to the people, "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten.  (4) This day you are to go forth, in the month of Abib.  (5) And when the LORD brings you into the land . . . which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month.  (8) And you shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.'

Reader 1: (Deut 15:15)  You shall remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you . . .

God’s People Forget (Jeremiah 3:19, 2:31-32, 3:21-22)

Reader 1: ( 3:19) I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations.  And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.

Reader 2: (2:31)  And you, O generation, heed the word of the Lord.   Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness?  Why then do my people say, `We are free, we will come to you no more'?  (32)  Can a maiden forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?  Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Reader 1: (3:21) A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel's sons, because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the Lord their God.  (22) "Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness."

Yet God Remembers, and Forgets! (Hebrews 8:8-1-12)

Reader 1: (8:8)  The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;  (9) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. 

Reader 2: (10) This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.   (11)  And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  (12)  For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

Litany of Confession (Psalm 106)

Reader 1: Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them;

People:  Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wonderful works; They did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.

Reader 1: Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Reader 2: But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. They had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert.  They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt.  They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.  Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings.

Reader 1:  Many times he delivered them . . .

Reader 2: . . . but they were rebellious in their purposes, and were brought low through their iniquity.

Leader: Nevertheless he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry.  He remembered for their sake his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

People:  Deliver us, O LORD our God . . . that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!

[Ash Wednesday: Application of Ashes]

[If this is being observed as an Ash Wednesday Service, the use of ashes at this point in the service is a powerful biblical symbol of both repentance and grace.  The placing of ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead of each worshipper is a mark of human mortality and failure.  Yet it is also the mark of a willingness to come in humility before God, to confess our failures, and to ask for forgiveness and new strength.  This act of contrition also expresses faith in the grace of God who calls us to accountability for our sins, yet who also extends grace in the willingness to "forget" those sins for a new beginning.  It is this dimension of movement from the past to the future, the movement from failure to second chances, the movement from the old to the new that marks the beginning of the journey through Lent toward Easter.

The prayer offered here with the placement of Ashes should be penitential, yet also call people to faith in the renewal that comes by bowing before God with a penitent and seeking heart.  The prayer can lead into the celebration of Eucharist by noting that we do not end in failure but in renewal.  This helps keep the spirit of Lent focused on repentance, but does not mire it in negativity and a preoccupation with sin and failure.  The Celebration of Eucharist should not be mournful but joyful, a celebration of God's grace. See A Service of Worship for Ash Wednesday for a liturgy of the imposition of ashes]

Invitation to Eucharist (John)

Leader: We have confessed before God and each other that we are a needy people. We have confessed that we have failed, and forgotten God. And yet we have heard that God has remembered us! Christ our Lord has invited to His table all who have confessed their sins, and who desire to have Christ formed in them.  Let us give thanks together that God has remembered us, and yet has forgotten our sins!

Reader 2: Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. . .because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink."

Hymn "Blest Feast of Love Divine" (sung to "Blest Be the Tie")

Blest feast of love divine! ’Tis grace that makes us free
To feed upon this bread and wine, In mem’ry, Lord, of thee.

That blood which flowed for sin, In symbol here we see;
And feel the bless-ed pledge within, That we are loved by thee.

Oh, if this glimpse of love, Be so divinely sweet.
What will it be, O lord above, They gladd’ning smile to meet?

Sacrament of Communion (1 Corinthians)

Leader: On the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed, he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. Then he said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this as a means of remembering me."

In the same manner also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Prayer of Response

ALL: O Lord, forgive our forgetting.  Remember us, O Lord, as we remember you.  For as you remember, we have hope!

Postlude

Scripture Readings are adapted from The New Revised Standard Version, Copyright © 1991, Oxford University Press.

-Dennis Bratcher  Copyright © 2014, Dennis Bratcher  All Rights Reserved
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