Prayerful Reflections on the World Council of Churches Assembly

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013 from 4:45-5:30pm in Hunthausen 100, come hear Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor reflect on his recent experience of the World Council of Churches assembly in Busan, South Korea.

His reflections will be set in a prayerful context using liturgical and musical resources from the assembly.  You will be treated to slide show, too, and a brief exercise in the assembly’s form of “contextual” Bible study.

This time of prayerful reflection will take the place of the previously advertised Lutheran-led worship service on November 20.  STM’s Lutheran liturgical chaplain, Rev. Jan Ruud, and students, did more than enough work in connection with the worship service on November 13 following the Denominational Outreach team cluster meeting.  Thanks!

World Council of Churches: Worship Thoughts – (absence of) Meal

Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor posting live from South Korea:

This will be my last daily post. I begin the journey home tomorrow morning. I have sensed for several days that this final post would have something to do with the fact that the largest of ecumenical Christian gatherings will NOT be celebrating Holy Eucharist / Communion / the Lord’s Supper together. But now that it comes to it, I don’t have single, clear point – just a collection of observations.

The World Council of Churches is constitutionally committed to making the God-given unity of the church of Jesus Christ visible – including full eucharistic fellowship. The absence of such unity around the table echoes throughout this assembly. It is lamented by one and all, yes. It is explained by some, with statements about the conditions under which we might join together at the table.

For me as an Anglican, whose weekly and high holy day worship unfailingly involves the meal, I feel a hole at the heart of this gathering. Surely, this must count as a high and holy occasion. Without the bodily, noncognitive, elemental act of eating and drinking together, our worship is all the more likely to drift by default in a disembodied, verbal and cerebral, abstract direction. All the more essential, therefore, that when we worship ecumenically in the absence of a shared eucharistic meal, we go out of our way to find common nonverbal and embodied actions to bind us together. A bishop from Sri Lanka made a strong case for footwashing being an appropriate stopgap substitute for shared eucharist. For me personally, walking that green path of pilgrimage in the worship hall, participating visually in the procession of the assembly’s one book of scripture, and the use of drumming and dancing to call us into worship have helped – if only a little – to feed my body in the absence of the meal at Christ’s table.

Today’s worship symbol: soil and food – a basket of dirt and a basket of rice and persimmons – placed at the fifth of the stations along the path. The accompanying Bible text was the story from 1 Kings 21 of Naboth and his ancestral vineyard that was expropriated by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. A story about land; one directly relevant to the loss of land by indigenous peoples around the world today to colonizers, corporations, and developers. But the story involves a series of NOT eating moments. Ahab is depressed when Naboth refuses to sell him his vineyard and the king refuses to eat. Jezebel urges: eat something and act on your prerogatives as king. Together, the royal couple calls a fast – a public, ceremonial gathering – and place Naboth at the head table. (Who has a table of honor on an occasion when people will NOT be eating together? Is it a fast or a feast?) At table with the leaders of the city, Naboth is falsely accused of having cursed God and king; he is hauled away and stoned to death. Ahab gets his vineyard. Not my favorite Bible story! The passage this week I’ve had the most trouble “bringing home,” as we’ve been saying in our contextual Bible studies. Maybe that’s the point. There is something troubling about a story of destructive NOT eating together in the context of the churches’ absence of eucharistic fellowship.

And so I simply close with the first and last verses of the final song I will have sung with my Christian sisters and brothers here in Busan:

How long will we sing? How long will we pray?

How long will we write and send?

How long will we bring? How long will we stay?

How long will we make amends?

Until all are fed! we cry out; until all on earth have bread.

Like the One who loves us each and every one, we serve until all are fed.

On that green, green grass they gathered long ago

to hear what Jesus Christ said.

What they had they shared, some fishes and loaves,

they served until all were fed.

~ Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor

World Council of Churches: Today’s Top Ten List

Dr. Mark Taylor posting live from South Korea:

Wonders fill each day, each hour, here in Busan. My top ten list just from the past 24 hours.

10. My favorite kimchi, so far, turned out to be “spicy intestines,” not cabbage.

9. Giving a “Seattle Chocolates” bar as a gift to an Ethiopian pastor (coffee from Seattle seemed inappropriate since his people invited the drink!).

8. Receiving a holy card of St. Mark the Evangelist from the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Zimbabwe (him not remembering my name until after he had bestowed the gift).

7. Favorite word: Ichbezogenheit, from our prayer of confession prayed in German: “self-centeredness,” yes, literally, “tied-up-in-I-ness.”

6. Favorite line from prayer (while a chorus of drums sounded): “Listen to the heartbeat of the people; listen to the heartbeat of the earth.”

5. Favorite name of a Christian denomination: Makhane Yesu – a dwelling place for Jesus (I drive by one of their congregations at Green Lake, but never knew what the name meant).

4. Favorite quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s talk: “When we look to God, our eyes go out to God’s people and God’s world.”

3. Favorite quote from the President of the Pentecostal World Fellowship’s talk: “Whoever is not against us, is for us” (Gospel of Mark).

2. Most ironic: The eighth century Hebrew prophet Amos visited the assembly and proclaimed in a loud voice: “God wants justice not applause.” People applauded him.

1. Most revelatory: the microphones and sound system for this morning’s bible study on Amos, “let justice roll down like waters,” only worked when the facilitator came down and stood in the middle of the assembled crowd.

~ Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor

World Council of Churches: A Small-Big Gathering

Dr. Mark Taylor posting live from South Korea:

The World Council of Churches General Assembly is big! Think a United Nations of churches and Christians. 5,000 or so participating. Greetings read from Pope Francis and from Ignatius, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Greetings from the Korean government delivered in person by Prime Minister Chung on behalf of President Park.

But the assembly is also small. I sat this morning with two Scotswomen, a Japanese man, and a Swedish woman in a Bible study. We discussed the first portion of Genesis 2 in its context and from our personal, theological, and cultural contexts. We noted that while the creation story in Genesis 1 is about separation (light from darkness, dry land from water), the one in Genesis 2 is about weaving things together. In Genesis 1 human beings are to rule the rest of the world; in Genesis 2, they are to tend the garden.

We were asked what this all might mean in terms of encouraging and protecting life in our “home” settings. My thought: How quickly for privileged North Americans, “tending” can become “dominating.” How quick we are to plow, fence, grade (degrade) the earth. We live so disconnected from the rest of creation – not woven together, as if we were the only life that counted. We are so pro-active in shaping the world to our needs and wants. Maybe before “tending” the garden, I (we) need to “attend” more: look at the world, listen to the earth, water and air/spirit of Genesis 2 let them just be, unadulterated by human desire. For the story in Genesis 2 is bottom up, not top down. The dry ground is watered by a mist that rises up from below. The first human is shaped from the very ground itself. “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” (the assembly theme), from the ground up.

~ Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor