We praise you Holy God, infinite in power and majesty, yet somehow always God-with-us! Out of your outlandish creativity sprang forth the created order–hills and rivers, bluebonnets and cedar trees, grackles and armadillos–and all of humanity, as varied in color as our south-western hills, human beings made in your image and likeness. And all of this you called “Good.” To us, your earthen creatures, you granted water and coffee beans, corn and pinto beans, skins and wood for the making of instruments, a spark of your divine creativity with which to gladden one another’s hearts with song and story, humor and art, and all other manner of nourishment, and even granting us the crowning gift of your creation: Sabbath rest.
In your divine order, you called Abram and Sarai from their Iraqi homeland. You led them on their migrant way and with these imperfect immigrants you established your covenant, promising them that they would become a blessing for all people. You were to them, as to Hagar, the God who sees, the God who provides.
You did not abandon your people when they became economic refugees in Egypt, to escape famine. You heard their cries when they were enslaved by wicked rulers, sending to them Moses, himself a political refugee adopted by the very people who sought his life as a baby. This Moses you called out of political exile, and sent him to Pharaoh with a message of liberation: let my people go! With a mighty arm, you led forth your migrant people, giving them the gift of the Law; teaching them never to forget that their parents were wandering Arameans, and never to mistreat migrants and strangers among them.
You showed us faithfulness through the covenant love the immigrant Ruth for her beloved Naomi, from whose descendants, one day, would come your Christ.
Even when your people turned toward human kings rather than your divine leadership, you did not abandon them. Instead, you sent to them your prophets, with words of warning and rebuke, of comfort and hope and restoration. Through their mouths you called us all to let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a ever-flowing stream. Time and again, we failed to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. But you remained faithful.
And when the time was full, you became incarnate among us as Jesus, descendant of Tamar and Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, Jesus, the child of Mary, revealed to us this Epiphanytide as your savior sent for the whole world.
For this your great faithfulness, with the heavenly choirs and the faithful of every time and place, the people sing (Holy, holy, holy…)
Blessed be Mary’s son, Jesus. He came to us under occupation, and became an infant refugee, fleeing with his family from a tyrant who wanted his death. Out of the midst of the cries of Rachel weeping for her children, you saved his life, and once more, out of Egypt, you called your son.
As a man, fully human, fully God, Jesus walked among your people, healing, teaching, and proclaiming the inbreaking of the divine reign of God. Jesus called us back to your ways of justice, identifying himself with those whom we mistakenly call the least of his sisters and brothers.
Yet, he was despised and rejected by the Roman occupiers, and by those who claimed your faith but who colluded with their injustice. Betrayed to them by his friend, Jesus was arrested and tried, crucified out of envy, charged with treason, and laid in a borrowed tomb.
But You, Holy God, in your faithfulness raised Jesus from the dead, breaking forever even the power of death and hell. You have established him at your right hand, from where he will judge the living and the dead. Through him, you offer the free and unearned grace of salvation to all who believe, the ability to be reconciled to you and to one another.
On the night before his arrest, Jesus sat at table with his friends. Taking the common loaf, Jesus blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body.”
After supper, he poured the cup, passed it among them, and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and humanity, sealed in my blood.”
Yes, Holy God, how great is the mystery of faith! (Christ has died…)
Pour out, O God, your Holy Spirit among us, as we gather around this meal.
As we break this bread and bless this cup, draw us into communion with your Christ: refugee and political prisoner, prophet and savior of the world. Nourished by this meal, may we continue our call to prophetic discipleship. As you make us one with Christ, unite us also with all your people, your beloved people of Syrian and Yemen, of Abraham’s homeland Iraq, and its neighbor Iran, your people of Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, and all of our other siblings of faith, of every race, gender, class, age, sexuality, ability and age throughout this whole world that you so love.
By your Holy Spirit, call us to faithful risk-taking as this new age dawns, grounded in you as branches of Christ’s vine, reconciled to you and to one another, called to do Christ’s holy, and at times disruptive, ministry in the world until the day when your divine reign shall come, and we by your grace shall be drawn up into you forever.
(lift) Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ…
Margaret Aymer serves as Associate Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, Austin, TX. Previously she served as Associate Professor of New Testament at Interdenominationl Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. Aymer has published four books: James: Diaspora Rhetorics of a Friend of God (Sheffield Publishing, 2014), Fortress Commentary on the Bible (with Gale A. Yee, Fortress Press, 2014); First Pure, then Peaceable: Frederick Douglass Reads James (T&T Clark, 2008), and Islanders, Islands and the Bible: Ruminations (Semeia Studies, 2015) with Jione Havea (Society of Biblical Studies), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. Aymer has served the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) broadly. She has served on the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations since 2010, moderating the six persons who write the Bible Exegesis Ordination Examination for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She was a member of the Committee on Preparation of Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 2010-2011, training sessions (governing bodies) of local congregations on the ordination process and their responsibilities therein. Aymer was also a member of the General Assembly Task Force on Civil Unions and Marriage (2009-2010), and she served as a steering committee member for the Committee on Theological Education Consultation on Racism from 2004-2008.