What cannot be changed by executive order? I’ve asked that question several times this week. Perhaps a better question is, “What can be changed by executive order?” It looks like most everything. Executive orders have turned America upside down, further irritating the 50/50 split running through the middle of our country. We are a divided people. A vein of anger runs just below our surface. If you could “frack” rage, someone would be very wealthy after these past two weeks.
I believe Jesus issued at least one executive order. Jesus’ order is summarized and presented to the church (and the world) in the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. This is the central prayer of the Christian liturgy and defining moment of the Eucharist. In this prayer, the story of his final meal with his disciples is retold. They are asked and ordered to remember his life by sharing a meal. A Passover feast unlike any other, where broken bread and shared wine are the means by which God’s grace are both recalled and shared anew. This executive order is a liturgy of life. By implementing this order, disciples of Jesus Christ confront the most tangible reality of all, death, with the intangible qualities of goodness and joy. This liturgy does what no other executive order can do: it stops death from having the final word.
The Prayer of Great Thanksgiving begins with these words, “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth”. Jesus’ executive order is good and joyful. No one is hurt, no one is inconvenienced, and everyone is welcomed at his table. It is always right to be welcomed to a table where the only prerequisite to sit down is that there are no perquisites. It is always good and joyful to be called to a seat where, “where we turned away” and “our love failed” a seat was held open, knowing we might want to return.
However, there are also liturgies of fear. I believe these recent executive orders are such liturgies. In these litanies of repression, one will look hard to find joy, goodness, or righteousness. Liturgies of fear are well known tools of state repression, where as both a threat and savior, the state bullies the living and shames the dead. Liturgies of fear do not point the faithful to God. Such liturgies become gods to be worshiped in their own right.
What will we worship? Will our bodies be broken sacrifices to those preaching a liturgy of fear? Or, will we remember that by living our liturgy of life, goodness and joy have already conquered death?