December 14, 2020
A Liturgy of Longing
Through our liturgy, we express who we are and what we believe. This is most profoundly done in the Eucharistic rite, in which we come together as the Body of Christ, we receive the Body of Christ, and we become the Body of Christ, more and more. In this season of COVID, that expression and formation has been interrupted. We are finding ways to adjust, certainly. And we are grateful for the technologies that allow us to gather, to watch, to listen, to be formed in our faith. But as the season of COVID stretches out, we find ourselves to be a people of longing – longing to be together, longing to worship God in song and movement, longing for the Sacrament of the Body of Christ.
In many ways, the season of Advent couldn’t have been better timed this year. For while the season includes themes of preparation and anticipation, it also holds space for longing and waiting and weariness. As the Church of the Advocate gathers on Zoom this Advent, we include a Liturgy of Longing. The liturgy was adapted from a blog post by James Koester, of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE), The Sacrament of Our Longing. Through it, we acknowledge our longing and our thirst, and we realize our oneness with all the people of God who thirsted before us. Wherever we are, we drink a cup of water, and we are reminded of God’s promise to be with us and to give us something to drink.
A Liturgy of Longing
The people gather online. Each household has a small pitcher or glass of water and a clay cup. (in the case of the Advocate, the cups were made by people of the Advocate for the people of the Advocate and were all crafted from a single block of clay). If this liturgy is part of the Sunday morning worship without a Eucharist, it takes place after the Peace.
Leader: In these COVID times, we are not able to normally and joyfully gather together in person. Instead we are gathered online, through a technology that allows us to be together audio-visually at least. And that is good.
And while we wait for the day when we can be together in person again, we gather as a Community of Longing. It is in that longing that we are united to God, who longs to be with we who are God’s people. It is in that longing that we are united to Christ and to one another.
Symbols of that longing are thirst and water. For it is thirst that embodies our longing. And it is a need for water that unites us to every living creature, and to God.
Leader: It is our longing for water that unites us to the People of Israel wandering in the wilderness.
People: Give us water to drink.
Leader: It is our longing for water that unites us to the Psalmist.
People: As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.
Leader: It is our longing for water that unites us to the woman of Samaria.
People: Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty.
Leader: And Jesus replied, Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
People: Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Leader: It is our longing for water that unites us to Jesus on the cross.
People: Jesus said, I am thirsty.
Leader: Our longing for community and Sacrament unites us one to another, throughout time and space, and brings us to our knees.
People: Your kingdom come.
Leader: The posture of God’s people from time immemorial is a posture of longing, not so much for what was, but for what will be. It is in this posture of longing that we find blessing.
People: Jesus said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst… for they will be filled.
Leader: Even in that moment of bitter complaint in the desert, God did not abandon God’s own people. Neither does God abandon us today.
People: The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and … take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go… strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’
The people pour water from a pitcher or large glass into their clay cups.
Leader: We may not be together, as we once were, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we may not be together, as we once were, in the fellowship of physical community, but we are together as a Community of Longing. And God’s promise to the longing people of God, is that God is Emmanuel, God with us.
People: Give us water to drink. Your kingdom come. Blessed are those who thirst … for they will be filled.
The people drink.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving:
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Leader: Let us pray.
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.
In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit,
and we are made one with one another and with you.
We thank you, abundant and merciful God, that you will not leave us comfortless, and when we are thirsty, you give us something to drink.
People: Thanks be to God.
Composed by The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck and Alice Graham Grant
Adapted from the Baptismal Rite of the Book of Common Prayer and the essay, The Sacrament of Our Longing by James Koester, SSJE, of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. (for more information about the SSJE visit ssje.org)