Prayers of the People – Unity and kingship

The following prayers were used at the Wine Before Breakfast service on January 24. They are adapted from the Prayers of Intercession in the resources from Ecumenical week of prayer. The opening section is adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012 (by Mary Scifres) and the closing section from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers.

O God, our King and Creator,
forgive us when we try to make you in our image;
forgive us when we turn to earthly rulers
for the wisdom and strength
you have already shown us.
Fulfill your purpose in us,
that we may be your people,
your temples upon this earth,
your partners in love and mercy.

Creator God,
today we live with the consequences of actions
that have made life unsustainable for some
and overabundant for others.
Teach us how to responsibly use
the resources you have given to us,
that they would be used for the benefit of all
and with respect for your creation.
Creation cries out to you.
Teach us and show us the way.
[Silent and spoken prayers for creation and those affected by climate change and food insecurity]

Compassionate God, help us repair the harm
that we have inflicted upon each other
and the divisions we have created among your people.
Just as Christ Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples
to birth the community of the new creation,
send your grace to heal our divisions
and gift us with the unity for which Jesus prayed.
Teach us and show us the way.
[Silent and spoken prayers for the church and the university]

Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life,
you embodied justice in your ministry on earth
by the good that you did,
breaking down the walls that divide
and the prejudices that imprison.
Open our hearts and minds to recognize
that though we are many, we are one in you.
Teach us and show us the way.
[Prayers for justice and reconciliation]

Holy Spirit, you create anew the face of the earth.
The summit of the mountains,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the lakes speak to us –
Because we are connected.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrops on the flower speak to us –
Because we are connected.

The voices of the poor,
the oppressed and the marginalized speak to us –
Because we are connected.

Unlike earthly kings,
you, O Lord, are ever steadfast and faithful.
You sent us your Son, Jesus the Christ,
to rule over us, not as a tyrant,
but as a gentle shepherd.
Keep us united and strong in faith,
May we know your presence in our lives
and see you in the lives of those around us.
Amen.

Prayers for God as king

Prayers written by Deb for the January 24 Wine Before Breakfast service focused on 1 Samuel and the image of God as king.

Creator God,
We come before you in heartache and frustration
Because the system just isn’t working.

We long for the ease and confidence
of a society that is just, fair and noble
But the world in which we live
is anything but just, fair and noble.
The system just isn’t working.

In our attempts to right the ship
we have forgotten you
and put our faith in the latest and greatest idea.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent...

We confess that we don’t know
how to meet the suffering in the world
But, trusting that you do,
we quiet our hearts and await
what you are ready to teach us.
Amen.

Give us a King

The following are a few excerpts from a sermon preached by Peter Haresnape at Wine Before Breakfast on January 24.

Growing up in England, Elizabeth was the queen, Maggie was the Prime Minister, Kathryn Janeway was the captain, Margaret was the pastor, and my Mum was in charge. And now, 2023, men seem to be everywhere. We have men prime ministers, men popular entertainers, and even men preachers. And now, a man queen…

A king can symbolise concepts that are hard to grasp. The Crown in right of Canada represents the immaterial presence of authority and power, the power that lies behind the institutions of courtroom, cabinet, and cop. It’s the assertion of sovereignty over vast tracts of land, on the basis that the Crown holds the land on behalf of the Indigenous nations, administering it in their best interests. It’s a complicated legal fiction designed to make it hard for Indigenous nations to have their land rights recognized, and simple enough for the citizens of Canada to believe. A king can be very helpful.

So the people say, ‘give us a king’. And why not? These are the elders of Israel, speaking on behalf of the whole nation. ‘Give us a king’, because Samuel the Judge and Priest and Prophet is old, and his sons are corrupt, and there are no more righteous judges. The days of Deborah and Gideon have gone, the old days when God called leaders to respond to specific problems. They want an end to the uncertainty, a permanent king and army and state, like other nations.

….

In the fullness of time, God sends someone into the line of King David, in the form of a prophet, with the authority of the judge. And this person is plunged into the pain of the world, filled with the Holy Spirit, and tempted with three great temptations – hunger, safety, and power. And he says ‘worship God’. And this person is acclaimed as a healer and a miracle worker, a teacher and storyteller, and he says ‘God’s kingdom is here’. And this person forms an army of outcasts and insiders, and marches on the capital, and says nothing to those who demand his life.

And these rulers crown him, and raise him up, and call him the King, and kill him.

This is God’s solution to the violence of the world. The true King who holds absolute power of life and death, who could summon angel armies and darkness and blight, but who chooses to forgive. This is God’s solution. This is God’s Kingship. And this Kingship undoes every abuse of power and every claim to innocence. This Kingship exposes every tyrant’s pretension and every strongman’s terror. . . .

To read all of Peter’s sermon, see his website.

God as clothing – Sermon on Colossians 3

The following sermon was preached by Deb Whalen at Wine Before Breakfast on January 17.

It all began in the garden. A loving and shrewd God squinting at Adam and Eve.

“Who told you you were naked?”

It’s ironic that Adam and Eve’s first lie was an attempt at covering up their wrongdoing, and they chose to make it about their need to cover up their bodies. And we’ve been dealing with the fallout ever since. Because of Adam and Eve, every one of us, each and every day stands in front of our closet, asking:

“What am I going wear?”

By this point in our lives, as evidenced by all the fully clothed people in the room today, we’ve all learned to dress ourselves, no longer relying on someone else to choose our outfits on for us. Even those of us for whom getting dressed is merely a basic necessity, we’ve figured out at least what doesn’t work. What colours we hate and won’t wear. What fabrics we simply cannot bear because they are a punishment to our skin. And we know generally what size we like to wear, even if it is too big, like some of our most forthright friends and family will insist on telling us. Perhaps some of us have adopted a bit of a uniform, with a number of items in our closet that are in multiples. 3 plain black or white t-shirts, a few button up shirts, maybe one white and another a darker colour. A sweater or a cardigan. A pair or two of jeans. 1 pair of “nice” pants, or a skirt that goes with anything, and a bare minimum amount of shoes. Perhaps you have assembled a wardrobe of pieces that are interchangeable with one another so that when you get up in the morning, the decision making comes down to whatever is cleanest. And then at the end of the week, one load of laundry resets the whole situation and you can begin again on Monday.

But for others, getting dressed is FUN. There’s a creativity involved that allows us to match colours and patterns and fabrics. Even in the winter, a fashion-excited (and weather-savvy) person can check the temperature and think “Minus 15. Right. That means either the black or green cardigan. Am I feeling sleek and mysterious today, or do I need a pop of colour? You know what? It’s going to be grey all day, so green it is. Which means the white button up, and… I can wear my teal plaid pants with the brown boots. Great. I love these boots!” For some, calculating an outfit can be as exciting as redesigning a room in one’s house, or choosing a subject and colour palate for a new painting, and we can spend as much time as we are afforded on exploring all the possibilities. Not to mention the bonus of the endorphin rush that comes with shopping for more and more possibilities.

Each of us in the room will fall at various places along this spectrum of how we feel about dressing ourselves every day. And we might even harbour some judgements about people who approach it differently to us. And I hope you don’t expect me to tell you who is right. I don’t believe in a Biblical dress code, so far as what is appropriate to wear. Because I don’t think it matters. Frankly I am far more interested in WHY we dress the way we do. Because whether the wardrobe you have is styled after Johnny Cash or Moira Rose, it is a sad fact that many people wear their clothes as a means of covering up more than just their bare, cold skin.

Some of us are covering up bodies we hate -or at least bodies we think could be better. Men, women, and non-binary people alike, for so many different reasons, often desire different bodies than the ones we have, and while things like exercise, diet and plastic surgeries can (for better or worse) help us change those bodies, in the interim, clothing allows us to deal with the ways we feel our bodies are falling short.

Brenda mentioned in this week’s email that I spent a long time working in retail -and it’s true. For over 10 years I worked as a bra-fitter, working with people of all shapes and sizes, and I saw, in a very intimate way, how impacted we are by the expectations of how we think we should look. But I actually want to tell a personal story, from long before my bra-fitting years. All the way back to my adolescence.

I went to high school in the 90s, and I was a grunge-era, artsy kid. I was a girl who didn’t feel beautiful. I was bigger than the pretty girls. I didn’t fit into any of the trendy clothes at the mall. So I wore baggy jeans and tshirts. That was my uniform. Even at summer camp, because I didn’t want anyone to see my arms or legs. I LOVED being in the water, but I dreaded those few seconds it took me to remove my outer layers and get my bathing-suited self into the obscurity of the water. I was so ashamed of my body.

When I was 17, I got a solo in one of our school variety shows and the number required me to wear a look that was more formal than I was used to. The director told me to bring in 2 or 3 dress options and she and my dance teacher would decide which was best. I had nothing at home, I was sure, that would be appropriate, so my mom took me shopping and we found a few long dresses that would cover up my legs, and were very in style, and even though they made me feel uncomfortable and vulnerable and awkward, I took them to school and shuffled out onto the stage in one dress after the other, while the program director and the dance teacher hemmed and hawed over them, from the safety of the seats in the back.

I can’t remember what I ended up wearing in that show, but I remember as clear as if it were yesterday, what happened next. My dance teacher, Ms. Frid, a gorgeous and toned woman with full, luscious dark hair rolling down her back, waved me to the back of the auditorium so she could speak to me privately. It was just the two of us, and she was careful and kind, but very direct: “I can see that these outfits you’ve been showing us are very different to what you wear from day to day, and that it’s making you a little uncomfortable, so I just wanted to encourage you a bit. You wear a lot of oversized, baggier clothes, and if that’s for the sake of comfort or intentional style, then more power to you. But if you are trying to hide a body that you think is ugly, please hear me when I tell you it is not. What I just saw up there on that stage is a body that is strong and feminine and beautiful and if you want to, you are allowed to show it off.”

Well. It was one of the most vulnerable and important moments in all my life. The idea of being beautiful was so bone alien to me. So I muttered, “Ok thank you.” And then ran to the bathroom where I locked myself into a stall and bawled my eyes out. Part of me was scared, part of me was confused, and most miraculously, part of me wondered if Ms. Frid could be right. Maybe I wasn’t hideous. Thank God I was already in counselling, and had someone to talk to about it. And I am thankful, every day, for that turning point where the voice of the Holy Spirit, through a perceptive dance teacher, was able to break through the walls I’d built up around myself. I was hiding more than just a body behind all those baggy clothes. I was also hiding a lot of anxiety and self-loathing. But still, all of a sudden, that voice reached into the heart of me and asked:

“Who told you you were ugly?”

I had fallen victem to all the voices that surround us every day, telling us we aren’t acceptable the way we are. We need to be smarter. Faster. Prettier. Stronger. Have more followers. Be married. Have children. Play the game. Wow the judges -no matter who you need to step over or throw under the bus. It’s been a long time since I was a teen-ager, and I’m sorry to say that none of these lying, incessant voices have gone away. But I have learned to distinguish God’s voice from the din, because God doesn’t talk like them. God doesn’t need me to do, say, achieve, wear or look like anything in order to be a beloved child in the Kingdom. But the transformation that can happen when we accept that we already belong… it is life-changing. And, in fact, it comes with a functional and gorgeous new wardrobe.

“The Great Spirit has chosen you to be his holy and deeply loved children, so put on the new regalia he has provided for you. Put on the deep feeling for the pain of others, kindness, humbleness of heart, gentleness of spirit, and be patient with one another. Learn to forgive. Be thankful.”

God doesn’t just hold out unconditional, affectionate loving kindness; God wraps us in it. We wear it like a warm coat. And as we come across those who are shivering, naked, and hiding in the bushes, we need to do our best to coax them to come out so we. In turn, can wrap that loving kindness around them. When we’re not worrying over ourselves and whether or not we measure up, we are free to move through the world with an ease that will make any outfit sing, and more importantly it frees us up to care for one another. To beckon and welcome more people to the Kingdom and to put on all this stunning regalia.

This is how the Kingdom gets built. With the very fabric of compassion and empathy. With humility and gentleness of spirit and gratitude. These are things that mark Christ-followers and set us apart from a world that wants us to compete with one another, to cover up our faults, to hide our true selves. God doesn’t want us to hide. He wants us to be transformed. We’re already made in God’s image, what we’re shedding is the façade that we create when we give into the pressures of earthly Kingdoms. We’re becoming more and more like God as we are renewed. More like the selves we were always meant to be. Creation is not something of the past. It is still happening, because God is still at work in us.

Even so, I’m afraid to say, clothing is still not optional. One of my favourite writers, journalist Caitlin Moran, wrote an article about women and clothing once and pointed out something that I don’t think you have to be a woman to relate to. She says that when we stand in front of our closets thinking “I have nothing to wear!” what we are actually saying is “I have nothing that looks like who I am supposed to be today!” While we do need to figure out what will be appropriate for the lives we lead from day to day -here on campus, in offices, in churches, travelling around town- I hope that urgency to demonstrate ourselves can be curbed, as Christ-followers, by knowing that the main thing we wear is our strengthening Christ-like character, that regalia God has given to us. It may seem like just a white t-shirt and jeans. Or a vintage dress. Or a jacket and tie. But how you move in those things, the confidence and kindness you show in those outfits, the forgiveness or encouragement you can give to people who don’t expect it, these are what will make people look at you twice and wonder what makes you different. It’s the royal attire we wear from the inside out, giving us our holy beauty. That is what will stop people in their tracks.

Prayers of the People – God as darkness

The following prayers were written by Robert Revington for the WBB service on 29 November 2022. Some text derived from “Darkness Goodness” by Jacqueline Daley and “Cloth for the Cradle: Worship Resources and Readings for Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany.

Lord, who created the universe
and humankind out of darkness;
“light for the day; dark for the night,”
be with us.
We came from the darkness of the womb
and to darkness we will go.

Through darkness
you helped the Hebrews escape Egypt;
Through darkness
you summoned Moses;
Through darkness
the Holy Family escaped Herod;

Through darkness
you allowed the slaves to escape on the Underground Railway.
Our saviour was laid in a dark grave
to bring salvation from our sins.
Darkness brings liberty to the captives.

(Prayers for those who are oppressed in body, spirit, heart and mind.)

Darkness is not evil.
Your people sin in daylight,
as in the stories of Adam, Eve, Cain, David in the afternoon light.
As Jesus was crucified in the morning light.

The greatest sins are not always on the streets at night
but in an office in the daylight,
where the poor are neglected.

We remember your servants
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.,
Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks,
and others whose Black lives shone light on White sin,
enlightening the world to let freedom win
and that black is not the twin of evil.

(Prayers for leaders and people of influence to move the world toward God’s justice.)

In darkness, love ignites, passion soars, and lovers unite.
Prayer and meditation happen in closed-eyed darkness;
the friendly darkness,
where sleep also rescues us from tiredness.
We bless you, Lord of light and dark;
teach us to be still in your deep darkness.

(A moment of stillness and silence.)

Two thousand years ago,
in the town of Bethlehem,
when the world was dark,
and the city was quiet, you came.

And no one knew,
except the few who believed.
As the old song says,
“It came upon a midnight clear”
—a child born, a message of peace to all.

Show us how hope rises in darkness
as it did in Bethlehem,
whisper to us gently in the dark,
and remind us that you are there
even when we do not see you.
Amen.

Prayers of the people – God as friend

The following prayers were written by Amy for the Wine Before Breakfast service on 22 November 2022.

Lord we come to you as your creatures,
your servants, your beloved children, your subjects, and collectively as your “bride.”

And today we are reminded
that you also call us your friends!
In an age of social media platforms,
where a person can have hundreds
or even thousands of Facebook “friends”
even some we have never met,
it’s hard to know what ‘friendship’ even means.
Has the term lost its meaning?

Lord do we even have a sense of what it means
for YOU to call US friends?
You said that there is no greater love than when someone lays down their life for their friends.
That is just EXACTLY what you did for us,
each and all!
This shows your friendship toward us.

How do we show OUR friendship for You?
Through how we demonstrate love for one another. In the way that we endeavour to follow your commandments, the greatest of which IS to love one another as you have loved us!
By how we get to know what you are all about,
and use that as our model for interacting
with the people around us.

Help us create spaces where we can gather
to care for one another;
Spaces where we can share refreshment
of body and soul;
Spaces where we see You in each other,
You, who are the original, Source, purest,
and most perfect Love.
And in creating these spaces,
may we learn from our failures
and pursue healing for things that have gone wrong.

Help us create space to bring our cares;
laying it all out to you in prayer.
And oh, we DO have cares on our mind, Lord.
Overwhelmed hospitals, an ongoing pandemic, and the new flu season that is already claiming lives.
Grief, sorrows, regrets, debts, wounds, and worries.
A city that treats our vulnerable and homeless citizens as if they were disposable.

The ongoing travesty of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and of Native communities without safe drinking water.
Violence against those who are different,
fears for the very climate we live in,
and guilty concern about the impact of the everyday choices we make.

The prospect of “Women, Life, Freedom” protesters in Iran being sentenced to death.
Worries about the outcomes of the political representatives we choose,
and the choices they make “for” us.
It can feel overwhelming Lord,
when there’s so much troubling news!

Help us to bring it all to you in prayer.
When we turn our cares over to you,
may we find solace and courage there.

In the expansiveness of your love, comfort, and care. In the streets, in our homes, and wherever we meet with others.
May we meet, see, and greet each other
In your love, your word, your example;
Joining hands with friends and strangers alike.

Treating those strangers as if they are Your own dear friends,
and therefore to be valued by us, and cherished.
Beloved, where we are, you are there.
And you can brighten the darkest night,
when we call on you and you meet us.

Thank-you, Lord.
Amen.

“The Holy in the Common” Sermon on God as bread

The following sermon was preached at WBB on 15 November 2022 by Robert Revington, the ministry’s emerging leader.

Let me begin with a question. How many of you, at some point in your lives, have had a sandwich from the chain Subway restaurants? I have many times and liked the taste. However, Subway has a bit of a reputation for the fact that their ingredients aren’t always what they claim to be. For example, one lawsuit argued that Subway’s tuna sandwiches had little actual tuna, but were a mixture from a variety of animals.1 Perhaps even more damning, two years ago, a court in Ireland ruled that the bread used in Subway’s sandwiches did not legally deserve to be called … bread.2 After analyzing their ingredients, the court found that Subway’s bread had a surprising amount of sugar relative to the amount of flour, and so, it would be more accurately labeled confectionery than real bread.3 Subway released a statement saying that they believed their bread really was bread.4 I think we can agree that in Gospels, when Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” (John 6:35) he didn’t have Subway bread in mind. No. But it is a recurring theme in that Gospel that Jesus uses metaphors to represent himself which point to some of the basic and most foundational things in existence. I titled this sermon “The Holy in the Common.” It’s taken from a line by the British theologian John A. T. Robinson. Robinson wrote that many people today “are more likely to respond to the sacred in the secular, the holy in the common … than in the distinctively religious.”5 Robinson laments that too often, “localizing the holy in the sanctuary in fact for many makes it more difficult to recognize.”6 Robinson also says that the phrase “the holy in the common” is “basically the meaning of the holy communion.”7 There’s something symbolic about that: the coming of God is represented in one of the most common of all things—a piece of bread. It was like that in Jesus’s time. So much so, that in the New Testament, the Greek word ἄρτος means “bread,” but can be used interchangeably just to mean “food” in general; when the Lord’s Prayer tells us, “give us today our daily bread,” it means keep us fed—not just to keep us well stocked in grain products specifically. Jesus chose one of the most common of foods to represent his body. He came into our common history—into the real world. Not just the world that we hear about in church, but in the world where people wait in line when they go shopping at the store, or get put on hold when we make a phone call, or get stuck in traffic. The world where kids have school and someone has to do the vacuuming and do dishes. That world. As the Gospel of John tells us, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The holy can be found among the common because the Incarnate Lord came in common flesh for common people. When Jesus calls himself “the Bread of Life,” he is identifying himself with the essential food we need to sustain ourselves. Because we need him to live. Sometimes, the most common things are the things we need the most.

Similarly, when the preacher G. H. Lang visited the Middle East in 1928, the meaning of another of Jesus’s metaphors in the Gospel of John was brought home to him in a striking manner.8 It was a hot June day; the temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit.9 The sort of day that gets you all sweaty, leaves your tongue dry, and makes you long for a sip of cool water to quench your thirst. Lang visited an ancient well “and drank of its cold and clear water.”10 It was refreshing on such a hot day. But it wasn’t just any well. It was the site of the story in John 4, where Jesus meets the woman of Samaria. Here, Jesus speaks of how he offers living water (John 4:10). Jesus says of the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Drinking of the water in that same well on such a hot day made Lang understand that story in a new way. And he reflected that as wonderful as it was to get those sips of water on a 102 degree day, it was nothing compared to what Christ offered: living water from which one would never thirst again.11 We see again that Jesus is identifying himself with something pure and almost elemental: the water we need to live. There’s something hard to beat about having something in its pure, elemental form. I have liked drinking orange juice for many years and always thought Tropicana orange juice was particularly good. But until recently, I didn’t know what I was missing. When I was studying in the U. S. earlier this year, after going to an American grocery store chain called Trader Joe’s, for the first time in my life I tried freshly-squeezed organic orange juice. It was like I’d never had orange juice before! It was so pure and tasty and natural. If Jesus had made a metaphor about orange juice in the Gospel of John, he would have said: “I am the freshly-squeezed organic orange juice.” And he would not have said, “I am orange cocktail made from concentrate.” Because it’s not the same thing—especially once you’ve had the real thing. A little like Subway bread compared to the warm, fresh baguettes I had some mornings when I went to France.

I’d like you all to take a look at a picture. This is a painting from around 1850 by an Englishman named John Everett Millais. It’s called Christ in the House of His Parents; it shows the young Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other members of the Holy Family—including a young John the Baptist carrying water.12 And it’s dense in biblical imagery in the background—like the Good Shepherd and Jacob’s Ladder. Surprising as this might sound, when this painting first came out, it caused a scandal. It was considered irreverent, even though this wasn’t the author’s intent. There were a lot of different reasons people reacted this way, but here’s one: in Victorian England, people were scandalized by how, in the painting, Joseph’s carpentry workshop wasn’t spotlessly clean—and this was the Holy Family! You can see scraps of wood all over the floor. Shocking, isn’t it? Now, you’d expect that this is what you’d find in a real carpenter shop where people did real work. But sometimes, the world of the Bible is treated as unreal—and not the world of common things.

In fact, an American Presbyterian theologian named Robert McAfee Brown once went to a church conference in the Philippines. He went to a worship service that used a Filipino dialect called Tagalog. Although Brown didn’t know the language, he discovered “that the Tagalog word for ‘holy’ was banal.” At first, he was put off by that, because in English, if something is “banal” that means it is uninteresting, unimportant, or ordinary. But when Brown reflected on it further, he realized that for these Filipino churches, “the ‘holy’ was not located in some far-off place, but in the very midst of the banal, the ordinary, the apparently unexciting—the places we North American folk would not be likely to notice.” Brown writes: “Even the coming of the Messiah into the world was an example of banality: Jesus was a nobody from the boondocks.” He concludes: “I count this interpretive key one of the major theological discoveries of my life.”13

Similarly, if you read the Book of Colossians, you’ll discover an interesting thing. The early chapters of the book talk in great, cosmic terms and speak of how the whole universe is under Christ’s dominion. In Colossians 1:15-17, Paul writes of Jesus that

he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

But we need to remember that when Paul says, “all things,” he means “all things.” Even the little things of everyday life. In the later part of the book, Paul gives rules for how people are to live at home or treat the people around them—for example, how husbands and wives are to treat each other, how children ought to obey their parents, but parents ought to treat their children well. Today we might think that Paul stresses the authority of the husband too much for modern tastes or not like how he has to tell slaves to follow their masters. Still, there’s an underlying point here. As the Bible scholar Luke Timothy Johnson writes, in that letter, Paul went from talking about these great cosmic ideas to something more grounded: the household.14 As Johnson says, “this illustrates Paul’s point made throughout: instead of seeking the ‘extra’ or ‘higher’ things, Christians should look to their own community and their present experience of God, for there they will find the manifestation of everything they so fervently desire.”15 In other words, when Paul said that “all things” come together in Christ, he meant the cosmos and the rulers of nations—but also the things of everyday life.

G. K. Chesterton writes that when Jesus chose the leader of his movement, he picked “a shuffler, a snob, a coward—in a word, a man.”16 It was Simon Peter. Chesterton adds:

All the empires and kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian church, was founded upon a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.17

In essence, Jesus chose to make the rock of his church not a great man, but a common man. Likewise, the minister Peter Marshall reminds us that “Jesus liked people—all kinds of folks—red blooded folks … for he himself was red-blooded.”18

And another important thing also comes in common forms: love. Throughout history, there are so many stories and poems about love. We might think of descriptions of young, beautiful people in a meadow on a sunny day. Yet, I would submit to you this: sometimes, love is most pure when it’s least glamorous. What, then, is love? Love is what makes a parent get up in the middle of the night to bring a bowl to a child who has thrown up and then clean up after them. Love is pushing someone in a wheelchair around a hospital floor, and giving them something to lean on for support to help them walk. And love is visiting someone in a nursing home when they may not always know who you are and won’t remember that you came.

Where does this leave us? Jesus came in a common form and we commemorate him in the breaking of bread. He came in the humdrum existence of everyday life. Sometimes the most holy things are found in the most common places, because the most common things are the things we need the most. As with bread, and as with love, let us remember each day, that, the holy is in the common. What could be clearer evidence of it than this: the Good News that the Son of God came down in human form to save us common people? Amen.

1 Tim Carman, “The Subway Tuna Lawsuit Is Back, Alleging That Samples Contain Chicken, Pork, and Cattle DNA,” The Washington Post, 10 November 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/11/10/amended-subway-tuna-lawsuit/.

2 Sam Jones and Helen Sullivan, “Subway Bread Is Not Bread, Irish Court Rules,” The Guardian, 1 October 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/irish-court-rules-subway-bread-is-not-bread.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 John A. T. Robinson, “Where May I Find Him?,” in Where Three Ways Meet: Last Essays and Sermons (London: SCM Press, 1987), 165-66.

6 Ibid., 165.

7 Ibid., 165-66.

8 G. H. Lang, An Ordered Life: An Autobiography (Shoals, IN: Kingsley Press, 2011 [1959]), 200.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 For the discussion which follows, see Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church, vol. 2(London: Adam & Charles Black, 1970), 62; 67-8.

13 See Robert McAfee Brown, Reflections over the Long Haul: A Memoir (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 263.

14 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 355.

15 Ibid.

16 G. K. Chesterton, Heretics (London: The Bodley Head, 1905), 60.

17 Ibid., 60-61.

18 Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter: The Story of Peter Marshall (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951), 301.

Prayers of the People – God as bread

The following prayers were written by Alicia for the WBB service held on 15 November 2022. The theme was God as bread.

God who gives, we pray to you for bread each day.
You taught us to pray like your people in the desert, receiving what they needed each day and no more, learning to depend on you.

Jesus, bread of life,
you turn our eyes from daily bread to living bread.
Give us this bread always.

God who came down from heaven,
we thank you that you care about life in this world, 
that you are our staff of life.

God who promises to raise us up at the last day,
we praise you for the hope of resurrected life.
Give us this bread always.

(Pause for silent meditation and praise.)

Jesus, living bread,
we are hungry.

Provide for those who have little to eat,
whose budget is tight,
who must often go without.

We pray especially for your blessing on the work of the Common Table among the homeless and vulnerably housed in Toronto.
Help us to be your hands to the hungry,
baking and sharing daily bread.

(Prayers for those struggling in the city, the country, and the world in a time of economic difficulty.)

Jesus, living bread,
we are hungry.

Provide for those who lack
wholesome spiritual food,
who long for strength and meaning,
who seek life that lasts.

We pray for this ministry
and others in the university,
that you would use us to bring words of hope
and life to those who need them.

Help us to come to you and feed on you,
and hold out that food to others.

(Prayers for the university and the wider culture it feeds, for those lost and needing spiritual food.)

Living God,
those who feed on you will live because of you.
We ask you today and every day:
give us this bread always.
Amen.

Opening prayers – God as bread

The following were the opening prayers for the WBB service held on 15 November 2022. The prayers build on the service’s theme of God as bread, as well as the opening song: “Falling at your feet” by Daniel Lanois.

Gracious God, we come to you
stumbling and falling down,
bringing with us our needs and imperfections.
You invite us to surrender ourselves to you,
to trust in your good and holy will.

We come hungry for renewal and justice,
thirsty for joy and restoration.
Give us the bread of life.
May we taste and see that you are good.
Amen.