Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



Online Communion Liturgy

We did an experiment this morning with digital communion. It has been a big adjustment for many people of faith to go to online church gatherings.

Many are finally adjusting to online community but were struggling with how we were going to observe the sacraments. How do you celebrate communion online?

Here is my first attempt at an online liturgy for communion. It took 11 minutes and so we are going to refine it down next week to about half the amount of text. In the transcript below (also available as a PDF at the bottom) I went ahead and highlighted the ‘inverse’ elements where the innovation happens.

Please feel free to utilize or adapt this if it would be helpful to you in your context. We will be doing Inverse Communion (the shorter version) next Sunday if you would to join us.

Online Communion Liturgy #Digital #Church

Oh, beautiful and sacred divine, we greet you this morning in the knowledge that all life is in your loving care. For your Spirit’s presence is everywhere at all times filling all things with life and intention.

We give thanks this morning for the reality that in our various locations, separated by miles and social distance, that it is still true that it is in you in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The psalmist reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from your presence (Psalm 149:7) and we confess that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).

We rest in the assurance that we are your children and we receive the affirmation that we belong to you–your spirit testifies in our spirit that we have been adopted into your family (Galatians 4:6) and by your grace stand not just adopted but accepted, approved, and adored (Romans 8:16). You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit who unites us with the saints of the past who have walked this road of faith before us through various trials and tribulations.

Now come Holy Spirit and make us one across the miles and through this media of the digital web that now connects us. Transform, by your spirit of grace, our social isolation and distance into a holy community that is connected to each other by your sacred presence. Be near to us as we are separated from one another so that each of our kitchen tables (and coffee tables) maybe mystically connected in communion to your table which unites us all.

We give thanks for this sacred ceremony in all of the ways it has manifested over the centuries. We give thanks for the ways that this Holy meal has transformed and evolved over the ages from a once a year Passover meal that Jesus took, blessed, broke, and shared with his disciples. We give thanks for all of those who have celebrated this sacrament throughout history in the form of the Lord’s Supper, a Love Feast, Eucharist, Mass, and Communion. We also give thanks for your divine presence in every place that we celebrate being the body of Christ this morning.

We also give thanks for these elements that nourish and sustain us through difficult times. For this bread (or baked goods) and for this cup (or mug) we give thanks and acknowledge that it is through elements like these that our mortal bodies are nourished, strengthened, and satisfied.

We take these as symbols of your provision and goodness and pray that they would be transformed from ordinary elements into signs that point us to the greater reality of your presence in the earth in all places and at all times.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v1]

May these humble offerings be transformed into symbols that participate in the reality that point to into signs of the life to come.

We give thanks for this bread and for the earth from which these ingredients come in humble acknowledgment that we are a part of your loving creation and that as these elements are rooted in the earth that our very life is dependent on the goodness of creation. You created all things good and we are a part of that creation. We pray this morning for those who work in the fields and the farms across to this land and pray that they would know your presence this morning in a significant way during this crisis.

Normally we take the one loaf and we break it to serve the many. In doing so, we symbolize the significance of our unity as the body of Christ through remembering your body broken for us that in you we may be one. This morning we lift up are many pieces through this medium of social media and ask that in you the many would be one. Make this bread to be for us a sign of your presence with us, sustaining us and filling us with good things.

May this symbol remind us that in our brokenness we are to be bred for the world and to care for those who hunger physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally, politically, economically, and environmentally.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v2 communion chorus]

On the night that Jesus took this cup, he lifted it and gave thanks–infusing it with new meaning. This cup represents the life and the love of Christ poured out. This cup symbolizes the heart of God, spilled would love for all creation. We give thanks for what is in this cup in for the earth from which these elements come. We are grateful for the vines and bushes and brambles which give fruit in due season and fill our lives with good things.

Normally during this ceremony, we proclaim that there is one cup in that it is filled with goodness and love poured out for the good of the many. This morning we ask the by the power of your presence our many cups would signify that we drink deeply of the good things of God and that they would help us to remember that we look forward to a day where we shall be together with all the saints for the great Thanksgiving and the banquet feast of the ages in your eternal presence.

May these symbols remind us of the power of transformation. We give thanks for the grapes and blossoms and berries and beans that are transformed from one state into another and that as they are brewed and steeped and stewed that they become elements of refreshment and celebration.

Let them, Holy Spirit, remind us that our lives – like this cup – are filled with your goodness and grace so that our lives may be poured out in service to others. We lift up those in need this morning and those who are pouring out their lives in service to our hurting world at this time.


God of grace and mercy we ask that you transform these humble elements from mere reminders into a symbol of your presence with us and a sign of your life in us as we take these elements into ourselves. Make them be to us the body of Christ – as we remember that we are your body – and the love of God poured out for our good and the good of the many.

Holy Spirit we asked that by the power of your presence that we too would be transformed from the many into the one that the world may hear of your love and the good news of redemption for all creation. Until we eat and drink together again enjoying with all the saints throughout the ages and around the planet may every plate and every cup help us to remember your great love for us and for all living things.

We partake of these elements together through the medium of this digital communion and ask that you would unite us in heart and intention so that in every place and at all times your presence is manifest on the earth.  We make ourselves available to this great mystery of the ages – through the mediating presence of this online medium – that we are connected to each other into a holy communion of the people of God – a royal priesthood of all believers.

In God the many are one.  In Christ the loved of God is poured out for the good of the whole world. By the power of Spirit, the medium of these elements and the media of this digital space is transformed into a sacred ceremony of communion and thanksgiving across the miles from here unto eternity.


Let us celebrate together!  Thanks be God who transforms our humble offerings.

  • Christ’s body broken for you – the many are made one and transformed into the body of Christ.
  • The Cup of God’s love poured out for you – to fill you with good things as you pour out your life for the good of many and the transformation of the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


If you have questions, comments, or suggestions email

Digital Communion Liturgy [PDF]


The Church of Us vs Them recap

If you are looking for something to watch (or listen to), we have been having a blast in Sunday School.

We are going through the book “The Church of Us vs Them” and it has been really challenging.

 The Church of Us vs Them week 5 recap

Enjoy the video below or listen to the audio podcast here

Social but not Spiritual Distancing

I hope that are able to connect with you community during this time. If you need some encouragement, I want to let you know what I am telling my local congregation.  Please feel free to join in.

It is important during this time of social distancing that we stay spiritually connected.

Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am for our  Words Make Worlds series.

Or tune in on our Youtube channel or FB live from 10:45-11:15 for part of the service (and the message)

Then on March 22 and 29  we will be digital only. A liturgy will be provided so you can follow along at home and participate on Zoom (download the app)   Time for #DigitalChurch.  This will be our meeting room [link]

This week’s word: Either / Or

Our topic will be about how faith transcends, transgresses, and trans-forms our society

I hope that you will join us online. Please email me at with any questions




Why Us vs Them

I am preparing to lead a 3-month book discussion of The Church of Us vs. Them by David Fitch for the adult Sunday school at my church.

My plan is to pair the chapter in the book with a different book, school of thought, or historical movement. Some of these include The Argument Culture by Deborah Tannen, The Peaceable Kingdom by Stanley Hauerwas, and the Anabaptist tradition.

Here are the 7 conversations that I hope will come up in the next 3 months:

  1. The church is supposed to be an alternative way of life – a prophetic and subversive witness to the world – that critiques the ways of the world and provides an alternative way of being in the world. She works best as a minority position within the larger culture and is not designed to be in charge or in control of culture.
  2. Neither the Republican or Democratic party can fix the problem of society. The Democrat and Republican parties are two sides of the same flawed coin. They are not the solution to the problem – they are manifestations of the problem.
  3. The church is not a middle way between these two camps (compromise) but it supposed to be a third way (alternative) to their ways. What we call ‘the church’ is so saturated with both Empire and consumerism that it is completely impotent to confront the ‘powers-that-be’ – which crucified the Prince of Peace (as a scapegoat) – and these powers continue to make life worse for most of humanity.
  4. The American ‘church’ is in bed with the systems of this world that reinforce racism, sexism, poverty, and militarism – 3 of those 4 things Martin Luther King Jr. called the ‘triplets of evil’.
  5. There is a way of living, which Jesus modeled for us and taught about, that leads out of the muck-and-mire we find ourselves in and opens up the hopes and potential of a different way of being in the world. That is the good news of the gospel (evangel).
  6. The church has the potential (capacity) to be the most beautiful and profound vehicle (venue) for unleashing human flourishing and peace. She does this by resisting evil, acting in love, and advocating for those who are vulnerable or on the margins.
  7. The kingdom (or kin-dom) of God is actually within reach but the church has compromised and been corrupted by being in alliance with Empire and the systems of this world. What we call ‘church’ is a shadow of what is supposed to be. Us vs. Them thinking is a symptom of that disease.

Here is a quick video (5 min) to introduce the topics:

Let me know your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

Bad Bible Reading

I am having so much fun this Summer challenging assumptions. Every Sunday morning we tackle a different difficult topic.

This past week was ‘bad readings of the Bible’, especially as they relate to God and hell.

We used Matthew 10:26-31 and the parallel passage in Luke 12.

Below is the YouTube link to the Vermont Hills’ page. You can also listen to the podcast audio if you prefer or watch it on FB.

Let me know your thoughts, comments, concerns, or questions

Change the Past, Present, and Future

I just wrapped up a 3 week series on change with a sermon called “I would prefer not to”.

The first week we asked “Can the past save us?” The answer is ‘no’.

The next week talk about “the Life of the Ages” which is so much more than eternal life. We looked at how Jesus updated present religious practices in his time.

This past week was a 4-layered experiment with responding to change.

The videos are here – you can also listen to the podcast audio if you prefer (below)

Past (can it save us?)

Present (Life of the Ages)

Future (I would prefer not to)

Podcast Audio

Theopoetics of Transition

I had the pleasure of being on the Theopoetics Podcast to talk about my transition away from evangelicalism.

I retired from evangelism early this year but have not really had the chance to debrief that with anyone. My friend Tim reached out to offered me the space to do that publicly.

It was a wonderful experience and we covered a LOT of ground. The 1/4 was about the past but then we moved into the present and the future.

The episode is called Theopoetics of Translation (episode 13)

Please listen and let me know your thoughts. 22382211_1012141218928936_5950252956256749811_o


Can the past save us?

Here are my sermon notes from the past week – video below

Will the past save us ?

I weekly hear well-meaning people romanticize the ‘early church’ or simple primitive

I study this all the time: Books covers

We even have something like this happening in our country right now: red hatIMG_7802

This has been a major theme for me in the past decade

The future of the church is not Europe’s past

We have set sail and are coasting in to uncharted waters.

Look at our institutions:

government is broken with congressional gridlock, banking crisis and scandal (too big to fail bail out of 2008), military spending is exponential but stuck in 2 endless wars because how do you win a war on terror, even religion … just look at our denomination [even the Quakers split last year] the UMC is about to, this is why some people are attracted to converting back to Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, or Anglicanism. It has a fetish appeal. Our seminaries are buckling.

Democracy, Capitalism, Nationalism, Religion.

We live in unprecedented times.

It is incredible and exhilarating and overwhelming to many. You can begin to see why some folks are attracted to going back to the way things were. It would make sense – it would be simpler and easier if we all just settled down and went back to the way things were.

Here is the problem – you can never go back. Because the past isn’t where you remember it was and even if you got there – it simply isn’t there anymore. It is gone. Time moved on

And the past won’t save us. Our future is not to be found in the past. Backward looking and past-oriented systems and mentalities will not prepare us for what is coming.

Things have changed. The landscape is changing. We live in fluid times and a liquid culture. It is time to sell the farm and becomes sailors. We won’t need bigger barns when the tide comes in – it is time to tear down the barns and use the wood to build some boats. We are floating in the new age.

The past will only sink us.

The Danger of ‘Re’ words.Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.54.46 PM

But have no fear!  God knows what (S)he is doing! God will get us through! Faith will get us through by God’s grace.

OK – so even if you are not as enthusiastic  as I am about the future, which is fine (not many are) you need to be aware of dangers in romanticizing the imagined past.

SO what do we do?

 Easy – Christianity is built for this! We have an incarnational gospel that is infinitely translatable to any language, culture, and time. God didn’t just work in the past. God is working in the present here and now.

We can bring about a preferable future by partnering with God’s spirit in the present moment. The infinite and timeless God is calling from the future into each moment providing us opportunities to say ‘yes’ and open up potentialities that were not always available in the past. This present moment is pregnant with possibilities for goodness and justice that don’t come embedded with the need to re-create, reinforce, and re-instantiate the layers of racism, sexism, and hierarchy inherent in past systems.

This is one of the unique aspects of Christianity that is different than other religions. We have a built in contextuality and translatability that gives us flexibility. All we have to do is repent and divorce ourselves from the marriage of religion and power – or to release the safety of empire and control.

That is what we are going to talk about next week: why things seem out of control.

For now let just say this: the past won’t save us. The future of faith is better than Europe’s past. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. God is at work in the world by Christ’s spirit. God is wanting and willing to work in and through us here and now. All we have to do is join God is the work that we were built for – and uniquely gifted and graced to do!

Inverse Preaching

The ‘We Make The Road By Walking’ series has been intense and interesting.

I am trying something new. Since everyone is reading the same chapter of the book each week, there is no sense in my just repeating that information or providing a slightly different take to supplement it. That is what I have historically done.

I am attempting ‘inverse preaching’ which is to take the idea and turn it inside out to see if it looks any different … or maybe it falls apart.

So for instance, at the start of the series I took the common thought (often attributed to Augustine) that ‘darkness doesn’t exist, it is simply the absence of light’ and inverted it to ask:

What if there is no such thing as light, but it is only the absence of darkness?

I take common wisdom like ” Jesus loves you” and says Jesus doesn’t love you as an individual – Jesus loves whole groups.

Here are the last 4 sermons (video) but you can always listen to the audio podcast as well [link]

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

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