This Communion service, including liturgy and homily, is inspired by Maurice Sendak's children's classic, Where The Wild Things Are. Worship participants are encouraged to embrace the Wild Things of life, like fear, doubt, and impatience, reflecting on the happenings in the Upper Room during the turbulent uncertainty that followed Jesus' death.
A Call to Worship for Wild Things
Maurice Sendak is most popular for his children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. In this book a little boy is sent to his room without dinner. He has misbehaved of course. An adventure ensues upon entry to his room. He travels to a place where the wild things are. Hideous creatures, wild things of great size greet him with roars, fierce eyes and sharp teeth. But being a wild thing himself (as his mother has accused) he takes no pause and quickly becomes their king. Great havoc is raised at his request and treacherous delight abounds! But in time he longs to be “where someone loved him best of all.” And so he returns, bidding the Wild Things goodbye. In his room he finds his supper waiting for him. And with great delight the narrator informs the reader that the little boy found his supper still warm.
This is a simple tale that corals the wild thing inside of all of us, particularly little boys. One such little boy wrote to Mr. Sendak and Mr. Sendak recollects:
A little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said: 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.
That interaction is a simple way of understanding the Christian table. In the act of breaking bread and drinking from a common cup, Christians hear what Christ did for them, they love it, and they eat it. Just as the little boy returned home to the place “where someone loved him best,” Christ invites all to return from wild ventures of the week, treacherous delights, and numerous missteps to a place where we are loved best. And when we return from great havoc raised, we find our dinner in our room and it is still warm.
Wild Things come! Now is the time to hear what Christ has done, love what was done and feast upon Christ.
Where Wild Things Gather: The Upper Room
We all know what REALLY happened in that little boy’s room. In the creative mind of Maurice Sendak, a great adventure took place. But in reality, that little scoundrel got into trouble. Rightly so he was sent to his room to cool down. And when he did, he fell asleep and had this dream. In reality, his mother was probably relieved he was out like a light. Surely she did not want to wake him, and who would? After all, he was sent to his room for being a Wild Thing. But she did leave him a warm supper to ease a stomach that may wake him with a midnight growl. But she probably prayed he would not darken the door till morning.
Children often let their Wild Things loose. How fortunate are we adults that our Wild Things are so well contained . . . that is, until the beasts become too big, too scary, and too strong.
In John Chapter 20 and Acts Chapter 1 a familiar setting begins to materialize: the Upper Room. Most of us identify it as the place that housed the Last Supper. But after the crucifixion and resurrection, the upper room becomes something more. It becomes a place where Wild Things gather.
In John Chapter 20, verse 19 we are reintroduced to the Upper Room as a room with a locked door. And I suppose I would lock my door too if I feared a brutal attack. But the creature that could not be locked out was running wild and rampant in the Upper Room: fear. The yellow-eyed monster breathed heavily on Jesus' followers. Any minute those who killed Jesus could find them and impose on them horrors from which no lock could protect. The second Wild Thing in the Upper Room is doubt. Thomas epitomizes the emotion with his demand to place his fingers in the nail marks and his hand in the side of the risen Lord. The final Wild Thing lingering in the shadows is impatience. Without the leading of Christ or the empowering of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1 tells us that Matthias is chosen to take the place of Judas, the betrayer.
Fear, doubt, and impatience were emotions too big for the disciples to mask. Jesus had been killed and the Wild Things could not be denied their space. We all have times that bring similar reactions. Life gets too complicated or what was promised is not delivered or danger simply gets too close. Angry outburst, uncontrollable sobs, quick and foolish words are said and rushed decisions are made. The Wild Things are close by and sometimes they get into our room.
But before we chase them out with memorized Bible verses about more pleasant emotions or, worse yet, beat ourselves up for an uncontrollable moment, let us turn our hearts to the Scriptures and to our Wild Things.
I am convinced that fear never left the disciples. After Pentecost, eventually each disciple charted his own path. A few stayed in Jerusalem but the majority scattered and changed the world. Andrew died in Greece; we assume he started churches there. Matthew died in Ethiopia. We have the same assumption about him. So on and so forth the list goes. All of the disciples, excluding John, were martyred. Fear had to be present just as a possibility of death was around every corner. My point is this: great adventures are always accompanied by our Wild Things. Fear. Doubt. Impatience. Those three Wild Things will always be with you. You are human.
What is refreshing about the Upper Room is that it became a safe place for these Wild Things to roam freely. Everyone gathered in the upper room shared their fears and doubts, and were impatient for God to work. These daring followers had a place and people who accepted them at whatever level of faith and belief they offered. This is evidenced by Thomas’s entry after his seemingly impossible demand about the resurrection. The upper room was a safe place to let the Wild Things roam. They caused the disciples to name Matthias, but they also united them be to present when Jesus appeared with them in the Upper Room.
But things changed and the Wild Things were reduced. On the day of Pentecost, fear seemed to be in short order as the upper room door was unlocked and the blessing of the Holy Spirit spilled out onto the street. Thomas has a life changing moment that put doubt on the back burner when the resurrected Jesus suddenly appears. And Matthias is not mentioned beyond being named as the replacement disciple. But another choice for this twelfth disciple role is: Paul. Although never formally named, Paul becomes a disciple in the truest sense of the word.
John 20 and Acts 1 tell a story about the Upper Room as a waiting place. We make the most of our waiting places when the Wild Things are made welcome. Wild Things, like fear, doubt, and impatience are named, explored, and felt. When our emotions are honored we give ourselves the gift of owning them. Our Wild Things do not own us and we ready ourselves for God’s next great move.
When the little boy of Maurice Sendak’s adventure is banished to his room, the adventure begins. When he returns to his room, the meal is waiting and it is still warm. This room is a safe place where the Wild Things roamed in his dreams and he was a Wild Thing himself. As you come to the communion table today, I remind you that this is a safe place for Wild Things of all shapes and sizes. It is the place where Wild Things gather. So Come one wild thing; come all wild things. The supper is still warm.
This is Christ’s table. Christ our Lord invites to this table all who love God, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live at peace with one another.
A Wild Thing’s Great Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you, Wild Thing.
And also with you, Wild Thing.
Lift up your hearts, your havoc and your hopes.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord who offers safe passage home.
It is right to give our thanks and praise. There are no hoops to jump through, no strings attached. The way home has been cleared for us. Come one wild thing and all wild things, the table is set.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
And so, with all your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Confessions of a Wild Thing
We come to your table not alone, Lamb of God. For we each have inner Wild Things. Through the week we have attempted to tame them. We have assumed a good tug on our bootstraps will save us. Forgive us we pray. Give us courage to imitate our Lord and love our Wild Things that we want to hide from the world and ourselves. For in that love is transformation. In this act of eating and drinking, we freely give our Wild Things to you and we freely take the sacrifice and the meal before us. It is still warm. Halleluiah and Amen.
Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven, Wild Thing and all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven, Wild Thing and all!
A Wild Thing’s Great Thanksgiving continued
On the night in which he gave himself up for us he took the bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, grave it to his disciples, and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Drink from this all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer our wild things that they may find a safe passage home. Not only in the eyes of God, but in the depths of our own hearts. We offer this in union with Christ’s offering for us that we may be transformed by following the example of Christ and loving our wild thing. Reconciliation within is possible for the table is set and the food is still warm.
This is the mystery in which we are about to partake:
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.
By your spirit unite us in ministry, that our work shall not be void but shall continue until Christ comes in victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your Holy Church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.