“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” – Celebration of Word & Sacrament – Craig Chapel, Drew University

Celebration of Word & Table

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Craig Chapel, Drew University

Claudio Carvalhaes, Preacher & Celebrant


Call to Worship

Portico One:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

We are Native people from all the world and Native Americans, we are Africans, Blacks and African Americans, we are Hispanics, we are Asians, we are whites, we are ethnic peoples of all places.

Waiting for God,

Waiting for someone to arrive, to pay attention, to stop and care

Life here happens even when people don’t vote, even when people don’t think politics matter.

Our lives are always at stake.

Portico Two:

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…

We are from the middle class, and from the lower classes, we are gays and we are straight people.

Waiting for God,

Waiting for each other, for those who will finally see us here

Life does not wait, it happens every second and our precariousness is not easy to be translated.

Portico Three:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

We are the 47%, we are the 1%! Our salaries are much smaller than our political and religious leaders.

Waiting for God,

Waiting for those who are running fast, those who cannot stop, those who can only see what there is in their own mirrors.

Portico Four:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

We are used to be from affluent political and social churches, we are used to be all white, we used to speak only English.

Waiting for God,

Waiting for those who understand that life is about multiplicity, diversity, sharing, redistribution, and that life can only be lived fully when we all have a little and no one has too much.

Portico Five:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

We are those who people don’t often care about: we are children, we are battered women, we are street people, we are people without health care, we are small farmers kicked out of our land by big agribusiness. We are the ones living from the bottom of the social class struggle.

Waiting for God,

Waiting for a community to embrace us, in spite of our shortcomings, of our fallenness, believing that in God we are all the same.

Portico One:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

Waiting for us all brothers and sisters

God is calling us to attend to God’s love

Portico Two:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

Each other,

Listening to God’s voice in the voice of the poor

Portico Three:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

A message of equality, fairness, justice and dignity for all

For God is calling us to live nothing less than that

Portico Four:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

Each other,

Listening to God’s voice in the voice of the poor

Portico Five:

We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

the church

Whose life offers a structure of society where life is indeed for everyone and special care is given to the least of this.

Portico One:

God is calling you! Ubuntu: Alleluia! I am because you are!

Portico Two:

God is calling me! Ubuntu: Alleluia! You are because I am!

Portico Three:

God is calling all of us! Ubuntu: Alleluia! We are because everybody else is!

Portico Four:

Can we hear it? Ubuntu: Alleluia! I am because you are!

Portico Five:

Yes we can and we will. Alleluia! You are because I am!


All Porticoes:

Glory be to God, who calls us from every corner of the earth, to live faithfully the common gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. In Jesus Christ, we all are! Here and elsewhere! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Song/Hymn                          Canticle of the Turning                                              See Insert


Call to Confession

Portico One:

What do we have to confess?

Portico Two:

We have forgotten that this faith is a common gift, as food, shelter, water, land should are also God’s gift to all.

ALL: God have mercy!

Portico Three:

We hear people screaming on the streets and media about the privatization of the state, of what should belong to all and we have stayed mute

ALL: God have mercy!

Portico Four:

We have forgotten to pray, to sing, and to believe that our God can do wonders and miracles in our midst.

ALL: God have mercy!

Portico Five:

What else should we confess?

ALL: God have mercy!


Words ofAassurance

All the porticoes go to the table where the baptismal water is. They touch the water and splashing it they say: “Friends, God looks upon us through the waters of our baptism.”

Then they say 5 times: “In Christ we are forgiven.”

ALL: Alleluia


Bible reading                                    John 5.1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew* Beth-zatha,* which has five porticoes.3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed.*5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath.

Sung Response        We are the ones who’ve been waiting for…

Sweet Honey in The Rock


Sermon                     We are the ones who’ve been waiting for


Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkSN_buNl4Q&feature=related



Invitation to the Table


One: The Lord be with you.

All: And also with you.

One: Lift up your hearts.

All: We lift them up to the Lord.

One: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

All: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

What does this table tell us about God in the history of God’s people?

Let us all say: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.

What does this table say about Jesus?

Let us all say that: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

What does this table say about the movement of the Holy Spirit to help us re-create a new old church?


Words of Institution

These are the gifts of God to the people of God. Let us feast!


Lord’s Prayer          W & S 3071



Having lived this community of love here, we leave from the table and into the world… (extemporaneously continue the benediction)


Theme: We are the ones waiting

RATIONALE: The idea to be developed is faith as waiting and doing at the same time. If we can get 10 students/people to participate I was hoping we could have things happening in the 5 porticos of the city (based on the text), that is, 5 places around the sanctuary where couple people could be doing things, repetitive gestures like putting blocks together, working on the land, drawing a new world, dancing together, holding each other’s hands. The Eucharistic table is the pool where we can be healed and go from to work for a better world.

Sermon – “We are the ones who’ve been waiting for” – Gospel: John 5.1-9

BIBLE TEXT – John 5.1-9

1. After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.


Dear Brothers and sisters, may the peace of Christ be with you.

I am so happy and honored to be here at Drew for this conference. I am in awe with so many of this faculty. People that I learned so much from. I remember coming from Union in New York to take classes with Dr. Catherine Keller whom I repute as one of the most brilliant and precious theologians we have in this country. Or coming to hear our beloved Dr. Ada María Isasi-Díaz.  Rejoicing to meet Dr.  Otto Maduro, whom I read Maps for the Feast while I was still a seminary student in Brazil.  Having discovered Dr. Traci C. West and Dr. Stephen Moore. Being in awe with Dr. Virginia Burrus, and worshiped together with our fantastic preacher Dr. Gary Simpson. Having read Dr. Heather Murray Elkins “Holy Stuff of Life.”  And now knowing that Dr. Kate M. Ott is teaching here. I had the privilege to study with her at Union. Our difference is that while it took me 6 years to finish my PhD she did it in what? a year an a half or two years… J  Now in worship with these students, Tanya and Mark whom I admire so greatly. So, this school is very special to me.  Thank you Thank you all for coming.


I hope our worship experience today will be a blessing to us, a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ and perhaps a model for us to engage our liturgical practices with our prayers, our beliefs, theologies and our ethical living in the world.


Our conference asks: Can we embrace the possibility that our Christian faith can play a powerful and influential part in building a just future? And I add,

Can a Christian faith that engages race, growing poverty, diversity, corruption, systemic oppression, rampant capitalistic individualistic values and polarized political battles make a difference when the church that we have is not what is used to be and to do?


In our current political battle, we, the church of Christ, do not have the same power, influence and structures we used to have. We are not under the same sense of trust and influence we once had. While the role of the state is at the center of our current civic debate, in our ecclesiological grounds we have to deal more and more with a culture, as the recent Pew Report says, where people are seeking neither God nor churches the way people used to do even though they say they are religious or spiritual.


Since I arrived in this country I have heard reports on the loss of members, diminishing of churches and the struggles to survive. In my church, the Presbyterian Church, PCUSA, 60% of the churches have less than 100 members.  Churches are not growing that much and the average age of our members is 56 years old. Those news have always made us all so scared that we all tend to work more from a place of fear than a place of trust!


I believe we need a break through. I believe we must stop saying we are dying and say that we are already dead, thanks be to God!  What we need is not yet another survival kit or a brand new 7 strategies for renewal.  Instead, we must learn and assume that many of these forms of church we are living now are dead and that we must grasp to a radical hope in God for a future yet to come. But for now, we must announce our death.


There is a powerful story of the Native American Crow people that is helpful for us to think about ourselves as the church. It is the story of Plenty Coups perhaps the most important chief of the Crow nation. Right before he died he told this story to a white man called Frank Lenderman in Montana in 1885. It goes like this:


Plenty Coups refused to speak of his life after the passing of the buffalo, so that his story seems to have been broken off, leaving many years unaccounted for. “I have not told you half of what happened when I was young,” he said, when urged to go on. “I can think back and tell you much more of war and horse stealing. But when the buffalo went away the hearts of my people feel to the ground, and they could not lift it up again. After this nothing happened. There was little singing anywhere.

Besides, “He added sorrowfully, “you know that part of my life as well as I do. You saw what happened to us when the buffalo went away.”


After that nothing happened, he says.  Plenty coups knew that the way that his people used to live was not possible anymore.

They relied on the hunting of the buffalo but with the stealing of their lands, hunting became impossible. Besides, the white people were killing the bulls as well. The war between tribes and horse stealing that used to give the tribes a sense of self and dignity could not go on anymore. Whites organized treaties between nations and what was once the spring of their lives now it became a forbidden act. How could they live if there wasn’t any war to fight, any horse to steal and any buffalo to hunt? The buffalo went away and their hearts fell to the ground.


Plenty Coups didn’t fight for the old ways of being a nation anymore. Instead, he engaged in a radical hope that made him believe that in spite of this death, his people would come up with a new life. However, it was not because the buffalo went away, or that the hearts of his people feel to the ground or because there was no singing anywhere that Plenty Coups gave up. He went on to fight for the rights of his people in Washington and engaged in public ceremonies with the government, arranged schools for his kids with Catholic missionaries and went on holding to a future that he had no idea what to expect.


He would have been very surprised to know that in 2005, the Crow hip hop group Rezawrection got the Native American music award in Los Angeles. Crow historians started to look at the past and saw that ages ago, they were also farmers and most of the Crow people went on into agriculture. Many of them also went to schools and good lawyer, teacher and doctor degrees. They found a way out of no way.


We also say that God will make a way out of no way, don’t we? But it is only when we acknowledge that many of our own ways of being church are dead that resurrection will come our way. It is only out of our death that God will bring life anew!  Don’t we feel that a part of what we use to believe about the church is now dead?


That sense of church we had, that kind of programing we created, that mission statement we once thought would encompass our entire faith, that training we use to give, that community admiration around our church that we could rely on… Kids that use to love to come to church and would never miss Sunday schools because of soccer practice, our services filled with people like every Sunday like our Easter and Christmas services now. There is something that is not there anymore… Our buffalo might have gone away…


Yet, we are reticent to assume it. Our church strategies have dropped to the ground and we are waiting for a messiah to save us! We are trying to find ways to save that which is dead. But friends, let us accept that we are dead in many ways and that Jesus Christ will bring us new life! We must learn that WE are the ones waiting for God IN and trough each other and once we trust that God will be there for us in and through each other, we will resurrect! We will rehearse new ways of life together, even if we don’t know what we are doing.


Here is when the political comes to our religious task. In spite of our loss, of our fears and our death, the city, our polis, needs our work, our constant work.  The work of these amazing artists/students here at the 5 porticoes representing the porticoes around the Sheep Gate of our text, has to do with our living in the city.


We do repetitive gestures throughout our lives and the life of our cities depends on the repetition of our daily gestures, including our prayers and singing. We must keep signing and praying in a land where what we use to have is not there anymore. It is our task as the church of Jesus Christ to do the work of the Christ inside and outside of the church walls, at the porticoes of our communities.


We must make sure that these daily gestures of life can continue to be done and that the church, the city and the state is there for all. This is the civic duty of our faith. As Christians, we must make sure that everybody will have a piece of land to farm, a house to air their laundry, health insurance to have a good body so we can dance and food for all to have the strength to keep building a new city for citizens and strangers.


See, our text today says that there is this sick man waiting for healing for 38 years! It seems that his city had people that thought that the state was not for everybody and that each person should be responsible for his/her own life. It was as if they were living in “America,” the land of the brave where everyone has ALL of the opportunities to take care of their own lives.

But if you can’t take care of your life, than that is your problem, not somebody else’s. It was exactly this way of thinking and living the political life that made this man wait for 38 years to find someone who would take care of him and place him at the pool. This man depended on somebody else, like anybody does!  But nobody was there for him.


“The sick man answered Jesus: ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’” Nobody was the keeper of his life, nobody made a way for him, nobody fought for his own chance and his misery went on for 38 years.


We seem to be living in the same kind of society today. At that time the state was something that belonged only to few people. Health insurance was only for few people. Access to opportunities was only for few people. Like that time, when we are unable to distinguished truth and lies, as Dr. Tracy West said last night, the immigrant, the people of color, the women, the children, and all of the poor, will have to wait for healing and for random opportunities to live well.


We must change that brothers and sisters, the same way that Jesus did. Jesus did care for this man. He knew how to differentiate truth from lies!  For him, the common pool was for all! But since no one was there for this man, Jesus had to show up. And to show us the way. For this is OUR movement as well.  We don’t go to the streets alone for we aint’ Jesus Christ to heal everybody!

But we go to our local government houses together! And together we will change things in our societies and in the lives of many people. Because Jesus said that where there are two or three together I will be there! Our movement is always together, offering the healing of Jesus Christ! In church and on the streets!


There are 47% of the population in need of the state right now to care for their lives and we, the church of Jesus Christ will remember the common pool at Sheep Gate and will make sure the state will be there to provide for those who cannot take care of their lives. For the sake of the common good brothers and sisters! For we are each other’s keepers.


This man represents the majority of the people in the world in need of some kind of help. At these porticoes, where race and justice, economy and religious values, society and the role of the state are all at stake, our political actions matter and do not stop. Because life does not stop. With full or half-empty churches, we have no choice but go to these gates and the common pools to work for the poor in the name of Jesus!


See, when we become like the people who lived around that sick man that didn’t see this man’s pain, we know that we are not able to distinguish truth from lies. For 38 years, nobody saw or cared for his needs!  Isn’t it like us today? We need to remember each other about our social and religious commitments time and time again.


Like the people of the first century, we also tend not to pay attention to things as well. Let me give you just one example. Let me ask you this: why do we have some people in our churches receiving more money than others? Is it fair that some pastors get more money than others? Why? Why do we assume that this is the way things are?


And I will respond saying that it is because we learned to think that churches are like any other business. If your business goes well you offer a pastor a better salary. If your business don’t go well than you are out of the market of the good pastors. Is this the Kin-dom of God brothers and sisters?


I don’t think so! In the kin-dom of God church leaders, seminary leaders, religious leaders, pastors, everybody get the same salary. Than, it would be your call for a location or a specific ministry that would make you decide to go and not the salary package you will receive. For it is just not fair that some pastors receive 100 thousand dollars while MANY others are scraping for 15 per year.


Aren’t our eyes tainted? WE can’t see it anymore. The same way we can’t see the racial overtones of this election, the racism that still runs through every vein of this country, the class struggles of our society. And than we wonder if we are really dead… Our hearts fell to the ground and we don’t even know it!


Ah sisters and brothers, we must recognize our racial, ethnic, social and class divide and try to find ways, multiple ways, to respond to our challenges. Following what Dr. Tracy West said last night, we must distinguished truth and lies, hold fast to what is true and witness to truth by contributing to the well-being of our racially and religious plural communities.


And we can start here, at the worship space. We need racially and religious plural churches that pray out loud about the misery of our people, that denounce the rampant capitalistic privatization of the common good, that ask forgiveness for not being able to see people in search for healing.


We need racially and religious plural communities that will engage in redistribution of resources and care all the way for its members. I mean paying bills, sharing spaces, redistributing our money.


We need churches that will be involved in real matters of life and death than dealing with the petty juvenile worship likes and dislikes of its members.


We need people to continue to pray and do the work of Christ in the city. Like these students! We need people who would speak in public squares about a just and Christian dignified life! We need liturgical practices that will foster real bonds of community. We need to go back and again to the common pools where the lame and the needy are waiting for us, and be those who will care for them!

That is when we will see that our hearts will be lifted up, our singing will make sense both to God and for the world and we will be able to foster a new religious and political life that will embrace our differences and attend primarily to the poor. Than, and only than, we will see that we are resurrecting!


We are the ones who have been waiting for. We are waiting for ourselves, brothers and sisters, because it is when WE show up that God shows up too! Did you see that when Jesus showed up God showed up and healed that man? That is our work. Together! We are the ones waiting for each other! And we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will transform this nation and this world in the name of Jesus Christ!  And all the people of God said? AMEN!


Let us start at this altar/table/communion, holding fast to what is true, sharing bread wine, healing and transformation for the sake of the common well being of our people.

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