it’s remarkable

 

a sermon, based on Matthew 25.31-46, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the Last Sunday after Pentecost, November 26, 2017

For all who believe in judgment – whose sense of right and wrong is crystal clear, whose moral compass is balanced, whose ethical sensibilities are sharp, whose response to life’s injustices is the hope for an afterlife when all wrongs are made right – here is the definitive Bible passage!

Jesus speaks of a celestial court. “All nations” – the whole earth, everybody – are gathered before him to be judged and divided; the righteous to eternal life, the accursed to everlasting punishment. Everyone gets what everyone deserves! Justice is done, finally, forever, never to be undone!

Christ separating the sheep and the goats, 6th century mosaic, Basilica of Sant_ Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy

But let’s be glad this cosmic judgment hasn’t happened yet and that we are not on trial. For none of us can be assured of acquittal. For we, even with our best intentions, are imperfect, thus fall short of the standard of judgment, which, according to Jesus, is service with our sisters and brothers in greatest, gravest need.

And it’s remarkable, worthy of recognition, that the standard of judgment has nothing to do with doctrine. Surprising given how much we Christians o’er two millennia have fought and died about whose right and whose wrong about what we believe and don’t believe! Yet Jesus doesn’t demand a recitation of a creed or a profession of faith, even in him.

Rather, and it’s remarkable, Jesus identifies service to the needy of this world as service to him, the Messiah of the eternal, living God. Thus, service is not only a cornerstone of human society, it is the code of the universe, the heart of life as God hath made it. We’re not living…being unless we’re serving.

And it’s remarkable how unremarkable this service is. With the exception of welcoming a stranger who becomes a friend or caring for the sick who may be made well, these acts of service hold no promise for lasting transformation. The systemic conditions of which human need is the symptom continue to create need. The hungry, once fed, hunger again. The thirsty thirst again. The naked need clothing again. When the visit is over, the visitor returns to a life of liberty while the prisoner remains imprisoned.

And it’s remarkable that these simple, straightforward acts of service are not intended to be deliberate deeds by which we seek to gain “extra credit” or “bonus points” to balance the liabilities, our sins of commission and omission, on the ethical ledger of our lives. As the sheep didn’t know they were serving Jesus and as the goats, had they known Jesus was in need, would have served him, service is to be spontaneous and unconscious.

And it’s remarkable that the image of sheep and goats is not only an earthly symbol with heavenly meaning, but also reflects an ordinary practice of first century Palestinian shepherds; in the evening separating their mixed flocks that had grazed together during the day, the sheep preferring the chilly night air, the goats needing warm shelter.

In this light, this story isn’t only about eternity, but also now. A story about life in this world. A life in which not only the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned, but all of us are needy, in some way, all the time. Thus, a life in which love and justice call us to reach out in compassion with those in need, for we never can know when we will be the ones in need, praying that a helping hand reaches out to us.

In that light, this story is less about God’s judgment of us and more about our judgments of others and ourselves. Are we, more often than not (for none of us always is any one thing!), sheep who serve spontaneously and unconsciously? Or are we goats who would serve if the task was great enough or the one to be served, in our judgment, worthy enough? Or are we an animal yet to be named who does see those in need, yet refuses to serve?

Which are you? Which am I?

 

 

Illustration: Christ separating the sheep and the goats, 6th century mosaic, Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy 

 

 

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freed from fear…imagine

preaching, 1-22-17a sermon, based on Matthew 25.14-30, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, November 19, 2017

Jesus tells a parable about talents. In his day, monetary units of precious metal equal to fifteen years’ wages of a day laborer. For our day, the root of our notion of our capabilities, our talents that enable us to do something.

Viewed through the worldly lens of economics, this story is about our stewardship of our abilities and our money; using them fully, investing them wisely for which we, at life’s end, will give a reckoning through our legacies and bequests.

Hmmm, maybe.

From a heavenly perspective, this story is about our faithful use of divine gifts, as Paul delineates in First Corinthians,(1) among them, faith and discernment, knowledge and wisdom, bestowed by the Spirit, which we are to use for the sake of others and for which we must give an account at the end of time, the Day of the Lord, the second coming of Jesus of which Paul speaks.(2)

Hmmm, maybe.

Today, focusing on two of the four characters, I suggest that this parable is about an elemental aspect of our relationships, all of our relationships, with God and with all others. Not the first two servants, who invest and double their money, make the same speech to their master, who, with the same words, praises and rewards them. They function as literary foils like Romeo and Juliet’s Friar whose patience magnifies Romeo’s impatience or Mr. Hyde whose evil illumines the goodness of Dr. Jekyll or the malevolent Draco Malfoy to the benevolent Harry Potter. The first two servants, in their exacting similarity, highlight the utterly different relationship of the master and the third servant; who, suffering from a case of fiscal paralysis, buries and returns the money.

Parable of the Talents, Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

There is the point of the parable, which, though it may seem, is not a judgment against laziness, but rather is about fear.

FEAR - Scrabble tiles

The third servant imagined that his master was unkind. “I knew you were harsh, so I was afraid.” And acting on his fear, “I hid your talent and here it is.” The master replies, “You knew, did you, that I am as you imagine? If so, then you should have done otherwise.”

The point. Whatever we imagine about God and anyone else will influence our behavior. Speaking for myself, if I imagine God or you to be judgmental, I will be afraid and, in my fear, remain guarded, reveal little, risk even less lest I fail and fall under your judgment. If I imagine God or you to be benevolent and fair, then I am free to take the risk of being open and vulnerable, indeed, to be as loving and just as I perceive God and you to be.

What we imagine, we reflect. What we reflect, we will be and do, think and feel, intend and act.

If this is true – and I believe it is! – then the moral of this parable is this: Resist and reject fear. Risk faith and trust in our interactions with God and others, for there is truest freedom.

 

Illustration: The Parable of the Talents, Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

Footnotes:

(1) 1 Corinthians 12

(2) 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 is the day’s appointed epistle reading.

get ready!

Epiphany 1-22-17a sermon, based on Matthew 25.1-13, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, November 12, 2017

“Keep awake…for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Jesus, identifying his ministry, identifying himself with the coming of the kingdom of heaven, symbolized by a wedding banquet, tells a parable about bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom. Him! Some are ready and invited to the feast. Others are not and are left out.

Parable of the Bridesmaids, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Reflecting on this story, I, as one who came of age in the 1960s, recall the words of a song of the late, great Curtis Mayfield:

People get ready! There’s a train a-coming.

Don’t need no baggage. You just get on board.

All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming.

Don’t need no ticket. You just thank the Lord.[1]

A train’s a-coming. Mayfield’s metaphor for passage to eternity, for which the required readiness is neither the earthly “baggage” of material attainment nor the “ticket” of personal attributes and achievements, but simply, only faith.

This past week, I had a conversation with a dear friend; though I did more listening than talking. Though young (I consider her as a daughter), she’s made what she considers a lifetime of mistakes. In her view, her prospects are unclear and her horizons, what she can see of them, veiled in shadow.

This morning, I step back from the threshold of eternity to focus on this world. This sermon, the fruit of my listening to my friend, is what I want to say, what I will say to her.

This business of readiness is a resonant theme throughout our daily living. We want to be ready. On top of our game. At the peak of our powers. Physically rested. Emotionally stable. Mentally alert. Financially solvent. Conversant with the tasks at hand and confident of having the necessary skills in hand.

I often wish that when we succeed at being ready, accomplishing what we set out to do, proving again our ability, polishing our life’s record of excellence that would be the end of it. But no! Life continues to challenge our readiness, presenting us with ongoing opportunities “to do it again” and, thereby, reminding us of moments when we weren’t ready. Moments that will come again. When confidence falters. When anxiety overwhelms. When we fail.

Whenever that happens, then we know how the foolish bridesmaids felt. Whenever we, as they, showing up with oil in their lamps, offer our well-intentioned best. Whenever we, as they, bringing not enough oil for as long as they had to wait, discover our best is not enough. Whenever we, as they, hear that word of rejection, most painfully spoken when looking in the mirror that reflects our guilt in letting others down and perhaps our shame in seeing again the face of less than our best: “I do not know you!”

Now, I do not know whether any of this registers for or resonates within you. Speaking for myself, manifold have been my experiences of this. Thus, I know and again I declare that life continues to challenge our readiness.

But that can be good news. For as long as life lasts, there are second chances. Therefore, the judgment “I do not know you” on our failures, on us is not final.

To behold in life the possibility, the reality of second chances, whether understood as bestowed by the hand of an ever-loving, ever-forgiving God or offered in each new opportunity or both and more, can give us hope and courage to be in the moment, making the best decisions we can, and living with the consequences without that oft self-imposed burden of having to prove how good and right we and our choices are.

A train always is a-coming. It’s called “second chance.” Readiness is having faith, believing that is so and climbing on board when it comes. So,

People get ready! There’s a train a-coming.

Don’t need no baggage. You just get on board.

All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming.

Don’t need no ticket. You just thank the Lord.

 

Illustration: The Parable of the Bridesmaids, James Tissot (1836-1902). Note: Tissot’s painting portrays the five wise bridesmaids who, awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom “became drowsy and slept” (Mathew 25.5), nevertheless, having brought more than sufficient oil, have their lamps lit. I assume that Tissot, in not depicting the five foolish bridesmaids, therefore not following the flow of the parable, wished to infer that they had departed to buy oil for their lamps.

Footnote:

[1] From the song, People Get Ready (1965); words and music by Curtis Lee Mayfield (1942-1999)

what if?

preaching, 1-22-17a sermon, based on Matthew 23.1-12, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, November 5, 2017

Jesus is in Jerusalem for the final showdown with his enemies, truly, the final countdown to his death. With no time or temperament for polite speech, Jesus stands up to the religious leaders, speaking up in the face of their hypocrisy; his message, personal and polemical: “Your leaders have the power that comes with their knowledge and the authority to exercise their power to teach. Therefore, listen to what they say, but don’t do what they do. For they don’t practice what they preach. Rather than proclaiming God’s law of love and liberty, they make rules and regulations impossible to follow. They make public display of their goodness. They expect front row seats. They wear distinctive clothes and answer only to exalted titles.”[1]

This kind of talk could get Jesus killed, and we who know his story know that it did! Nevertheless, Jesus boldly confronted the religious leaders, then addressed the entire crowd: “Don’t go by honorific titles, for you all have honor. Don’t treat anyone as God, for there is only One worthy of worship and that One is not any of you. If you want to stand out, then step down, for greatness is measured in service to others.”[2]

Jesus, speaking to everyone, condemning the status quo of the hierarchy of favor for the few and subordination of the many, pointed to a radical reality; paradoxically though otherworldly intended for this sphere of time and space: the nearness of the kingdom of heaven.[3] A realm of life, a state of existence in which being created by God, therefore already approved, dignified by God removes every need for self-justification, every desire to increase self-esteem by the trappings of title, privilege, and public honor. Yes, in this world, there are titles, privileges, and publicly-bestowed honor, yet these are human inventions. In the kingdom of heaven Jesus proclaims God’s intention that all that is essential, life and dignity, is granted by God in creation and at birth.

In this revelation and my recognition of this revelation, I confess that I feel personally challenged by Jesus’ message. For, despite claiming love and justice as my values, I, sometimes, choosing to follow my preferences and prejudices, chafe under the burden of doing, being love and justice for all. And I have a vocation, by its nature, given to the public display of goodness; regardless of how I may feel. And I wear distinctive clothing. And I sit, perhaps arguably, in the best seat in this house. And I have a title in front of my name. And fearing the risk of the loss of what I have, sometimes I don’t stand up and speak up in the face of wrong.

I’m not alone. All of us, as communal creatures hardwired to be in relationship, want to be acknowledged, greeted and treated with respect. Perhaps most, if not all of us like places of honor and the best seats. And surely all of us have had moments in our lives when we thought, believed, knew something wasn’t right, yet said, did nothing; and, as we live, moments such as these again will arise and confront us.

I think of our current times; our airwaves filled with news of sexual harassment, thus bringing to light words and deeds of a long and wrong past that the purposeful silence and ignorance of many has allowed to continue unto this day.

But what if we, in this world still wedded to hierarchy and favor for few and subordination of many, with hearts, souls, and minds, embraced and embodied, preached and practiced Jesus’ message? What if we clearly beheld ourselves to be as God has created and redeemed us: earthly vessels overflowing with heavenly love? What if faithfully, truly believing that, we lived to give without reserve, served without desire for recognition, spoke and acted in the name of Jesus in the face of injustice?

If so, then the kingdom of heaven that Jesus proclaims would not only be near, it would be here.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Matthew 23.2-7, my paraphrase

[2] Matthew 23.8-11, my paraphrase

[3] Jesus inaugurated his public ministry with the following proclamation that formed and framed all he did and said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4.17).

any questions?

a sermon, based on Matthew 22.34-46, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, October 29, 2017

From the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem on that occasion we annually commemorate on Palm Sunday,[1] he has been embroiled in one fight after another with Pharisees, Sadducees,[2] and Herodians,[3] chief priests, elders, and scribes, all, through serious questioning and subterfuge, seeking to discredit him. They have challenged his authority[4] to preach and teach in God’s Name and to act as a prophet, driving the usurious money changers and sellers of animals from the temple.[5] Jesus, in turn, has confounded them with parables that expose their duplicity[6] and, in one stunningly scathing declaration, beginning, “Woe to you,” condemning the unrighteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.[7]

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Our gospel passage depicts the last gasp challenge of Jesus’ adversaries before being silenced, daring to ask no more questions. A testy lawyer proposes a test, “What is the greatest commandment?” A tough, trick question. By this time, the written code of God’s Law numbered 613 commandments; 365 “thou shalt nots” and 248 “thou shalts.” The lawyer, in effect, dared Jesus to choose wrongly and thus shame himself in the face of the people. Jesus, always standing on a higher plane, summarizes all of the laws; first and foremost, “Love God.” then adding a necessary corollary for all who dwell in time and space, that is, in relationship with others, “Love neighbor.”

A lawyer questions Jesus, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Now, we, who breathe the ether of life in this world, often equate love with our emotions; how we feel. Even more, our degree of loving often is based on the scale – and our often unconscious determinations – of our likes and dislikes. Still more, given our fundamental human self-interest, our recognition of love often is rooted in our awareness of the benefits we derive.

I know or think I know these things based upon years of pastoral ministry listening to others speak of their lives and loves and a longer number of years coming to know myself. To wit, I love Pontheolla because of who I have become through her. I love fine food and wine because they satisfy not only my hunger, but also my palate. I love good writing because it speaks to my intellectual curiosity and stretches my imagination.

Ah, but the love of which Jesus speaks, indeed, the love that Jesus is and demonstrates is never inwardly self-focused, but always outwardly other-focused on God and neighbor. And Jesus’ love does not emanate from emotion, but rather is a work of the will, the power to choose and to choose constantly. For this reason, Jesus’ love calls us, he calls us to love with our hearts, souls, and minds; all that we are, for it takes all that we are to be constant.

Jesus calls us to act benevolently, first toward God who first loves us, then toward all whom God hath created; yes, our families, friends, and acquaintances, those within our associations of birth and choice, those we like and the like-minded with whom we agree and strangers and those we don’t like and with whom we disagree, even those who have harmed us who we might call “enemy.”

So, let’s admit it. Jesus’ love is impossible for us. For how can we, sensate creatures, who know most (all?) of what we know through our physical senses, love God who is intangible Spirit? And how can we love our neighbors as ourselves, as we wish to be loved, for our neighbors, even our nearest and dearest, being other than we, at some point, are bound to do unto us as we would not desire, and so, too, we toward them?

Ah, here is the genius of Jesus in linking these two commandments. Our love of God is made manifest, real, tangible, visible in our love of neighbor, and our love of neighbor whom we can see is to love God whom we cannot see.

Any questions?

 

Illustrations:

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

A lawyer questions Jesus (Un avocat interroge Jésus) (1886-1894), James Tissot

Footnotes:

[1] Matthew 21.1-11

[2] Matthew 22.23-33

[3] Matthew 22.15-22

[4] Matthew 21.23

[5] Matthew 21.12-13

[6] Matthew 21.28-32. the Parable of the Two Sons; Matthew 21.33-45, the Parable of the Vineyard

[7] Matthew 23.1-36

of loyalty & love

a sermon, based on Matthew 22.15-22, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, October 22, 2017

Charles Dudley Warner,[1] essayist, novelist, and friend of Mark Twain, among his many bon mots was noted to have said “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” The expediency of self-interest has the magnetic power to draw together folk who otherwise stand apart, indeed, who otherwise can’t stand each another.

The Pharisees and the Herodians Conspire Against Jesus (Les pharisiens et les hérodiens conspirent contre Jésus) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

The Pharisees, devoted to the Law of God, detest the oppressive Roman Empire. The Herodians, a political party of King Herod, the puppet ruler of Judea set on the throne and kept in power by Rome, are loyal to Caesar. These two strange bedfellows, at best, begrudgingly tolerate each another. Yet they agree on one thing. They despise Jesus, whose proclamation of “repentance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”[2] poses a threat to their religious and political status quo. They set a trap, first with deceitful flattery, “Oh, Jesus, you’re so sincere, truthful, and impartial”, then the zinger, “Is it lawful to pay Caesar’s tax?” Gotcha, Jesus! For if you say “lawful”, the people, who hate the Roman Empire and the burdensome tax, will hate you, and if you say “unlawful”, you will be guilty of sedition against the Empire.

But Jesus, more than wiggling out of a well-laid trap, takes the matter, as he always does, to a higher level of meaning. But first he says, “Show me the coin used for the tax.” Jesus’ pockets are empty. He doesn’t have a coin. The Pharisees and Herodians do. Thus, Jesus, by the very fact of their possession of the coin for the tax, exposes their entanglement in the exploitative economics of the empire. I can hear Jesus say, “Gotcha!”

Regarding the higher level of meaning, I do not believe that it is either the separation of politics and religion or the importance of obedience to the government. The issue, simply, profoundly is this: To what, to whom do we owe our greatest loyalty, our greatest love.

Caesar_s Coin (Moeda de César) (1790), Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837)

Jesus looked at the coin, which bore Caesar’s image and title. Thus, it belonged to him and to pay the tax is to return to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. However, long before Caesar, indeed, at the dawn of creation, this was, is, always is God’s intention: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”[3] Thus, we, bearing the image, the likeness of God, in all that we are and all that we have, belong to God. Thus, in all of our living, we return to God what belongs to God.

In our daily living we deal with manifold competing, at times, conflicting loyalties, and Jesus calls us alway to discern, to be clear – and to act accordingly – that our greatest loyalty, greatest love is to the One in whose image we are made.

 

Illustrations:

The Pharisees and the Herodians Conspire Against Jesus (Les pharisiens et les hérodiens conspirent contre Jésus) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Caesar’s Coin (Moeda de César) (1790), Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837). Note: I love Sequeira’s depiction of the encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees and the Herodians. As I view and interpret the painting, Jesus, literally center stage, elevated above the one handing him the coin for the tax, and with his right hand pointing upward, gives visual testimony that he, in his teaching, is about to take the matter to a higher level.

Footnotes:

Charles Dudley Warner 91829-1900), photo c 1897[1] Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) (photograph c. 1897). The saying ostensibly was adapted from a line in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

[2] Matthew 4.17

[3] Genesis 1.26

An Instructed Eucharist: Rite II, Part 2 – The Liturgy of the Table

Epiphany, Laurens, SC, facade

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany

Laurens, South Carolina

The mission of Church of the Epiphany is to celebrate the light of Jesus Christ, proclaim the Gospel, deepen our faith, nurture and encourage all people

The 20th Sunday after Pentecost, October 22, 2017

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Introduction

This morning’s Instructed Eucharist, covering the second part of the service, the Liturgy of the Table, is intended to give us a greater understanding of the Holy Eucharist, “the principle act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.”[1]

The word eucharist means thanksgiving. The essence of Christian worship is giving thanks to God for creation and especially for the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

The early Church established the Eucharist based on Jesus’ actions on the eve of Passover; the annual Jewish celebration commemorating the liberation of the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage. Moses, at God’s command, told the Hebrews to place the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts as a sign to God’s avenging angel to pass over their households. Death was visited on the Egyptians and the Hebrew people were freed.[2]

Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion coincided with Passover. The Church proclaims that Jesus is our Passover Lamb, whose death liberates us from bondage to sin. So the Apostle Paul declares: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.”[3]

At that Passover meal, Jesus took, blessed, and offered to his friends bread and wine; symbols of his coming sacrifice of his body and blood on the cross. Thus, we call the Holy Eucharist[4] a sacrament; the bread and wine being “outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace”[5] of communion with God in Christ. Although a bishop or a priest presides at the Eucharist, Jesus is the chief presider and all the people are celebrants.

The Liturgy of the Word

Processional Hymn 544 – Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Opening Acclamation, Book of Common Prayer, page 355

Collect for Purity

Gloria in excelsis – Glory to God in the highest                      Hymnal 1982, S – 280

Collect of the Day – Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading – Exodus 33.12-23

The Psalm – 99

Second Reading – 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10

Sequence Hymn 493 – O for a thousand tongues to sing

The Gospel – Matthew 22.15-22

Sermon – Of Loyalty & Love

The Nicene Creed, BCP, 358

Prayers of the People, BCP, 392

Confession, BCP, 393

Absolution, BCP, 360

The Peace

Announcements

The Holy Communion or the Liturgy of the Table

Narrator: The Offertory Sentence calls us to bring our gifts to the altar. God provides grain and grapes. We produce bread and wine, which we now offer to God that through the Holy Spirit they may become spiritual food and drink. We offer our money as a gift of our life’s labors to support the mission of God’s church.

Presider: Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offerings and come into his courts.

Narrator: The choir sings an anthem. In the words of the hymn, “When in our music God is glorified and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as though the whole creation cried, ‘Alleluia!’”[6] music is another offering of our praise to God.

The Offertory Anthem – Amazing Grace/Pachelbel’s Canon

Narrator: The altar is prepared. Water is added to the wine, reflecting Jewish tradition meant to promote temperance. Water also is a symbol of baptism.

In the Great Thanksgiving, we pray that Jesus feed us with the spiritual food of his body and blood to strengthen us for the ministry of service in the world. In the Sursum Corda, Latin for “lift up your hearts”, we give voice to this joyful expectation.

Presider:  The Lord be with you.

People:    And also with you.

Presider:  Lift up your hearts.

People:    We lift them to the Lord.

Presider:  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

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

Narrator: The Proper Preface expresses the theme for the season or the day.

Presider: For you are the source of light and life, you made us in your image, and called us to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Narrator: Thankful for God’s blessings, we sing the Sanctus, Latin for “holy”, joining our voices with the heavenly hosts, who ceaselessly sing God’s praise,[7] followed by the Benedictus, Latin for “blessed.” The crowds in Jerusalem greeted Jesus with these words during his triumphal entry; an event we commemorate on Palm Sunday.[8] So we now, in our anticipation of his coming to us in this sacred supper, sing these words.

All: 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.

All may kneel or remain standing.

Narrator: The priest recites the Christian story of God’s love in creation, our disobedience and consequent bondage to sin, and God’s persistent love in offering Jesus to live among us and to die for us to redeem us.

Presider: Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

Narrator: The priest affirms that Jesus fulfilled the purpose for which he was sent.

Presider: He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.

Narrator: The Words of Institution or Consecration are found in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples[9] and in the historically earlier writing of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.[10]

Presider: On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper, he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Narrator: Our redemption by God through Jesus Christ is a mystery; not fully knowable by reason, but believable by faith. In worship, we also recognize that we enter another dimension; stepping out of secular time[11] into God’s time or holy time.[12] In the Memorial Acclamation, we recall the past, claim the present, and hope for the future.

Presider: Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith.

All:         Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Narrator: The Anamnesis, a Greek word meaning remembrance, connotes something more than recalling a past event, but the calling of the past into the present. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enter the life of God’s kingdom; not yet fully, but no less truly.

Presider: We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O God, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Narrator: Remembering Jesus’ redemptive work, in the Oblation we offer the bread and wine to God.

Presider: Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Narrator: In the Invocation we ask God to send the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine that Christ may be present. We also pray that the Spirit strengthen us for continued service, now and unto eternity.

Presider: Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

Narrator: The Great Thanksgiving concludes with a Doxology, a prayer of praise. The priest elevates the bread and wine symbolizing the completed act of consecration. We respond with the Great Amen; the only “amen” in the Book of Common Prayer that is printed in capital letters. Having participated in the retelling of God’s act of salvation in Jesus Christ, the appropriate response is the assent of a loud “AMEN.”

Presider: All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever.

All:  AMEN.

Narrator: The Lord’s Prayer expresses the essence of our being open to God.

Presider: And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Narrator: The Fraction or the Breaking of the Bread is a visual symbol of Christ’s sacrifice in his body broken on the cross and, in the breaking of the bread to be shared with us, that we are members of his body.

Presider: Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

All:          Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.

Narrator: The Invitation welcomes all to receive – and expresses the intent of receiving –  Communion.

Presider: The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

Communion is administered.

Communion Hymn 325 – Let us break bread together

Narrator: In the Post-Communion Prayer we again thank God and recall that we have been strengthened for service.

All: Eternal God, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Narrator: The priest pronounces the Blessing, making a sign of the cross; a final reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.

Presider: The blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon you now and always.

All:         Amen.

Recessional Hymn 522 – Glorious things of thee are spoken

Narrator: The Dismissal declares that the liturgy is complete. We are to go into the world offering our lives in love and service to God and to others.

Presider: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

All:          Thanks be to God.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, page 13

[2] See Exodus 12.

[3] 1 Corinthians 5.7-8

[4] The Holy Eucharist is known by a variety of titles, each focusing on an aspect of its meaning or arising out of its historical development. The Lord’s Supper affirms that the meal belongs to no Christian assembly, but to Jesus, who offers it to us. The Holy Communion affirms that through this meal we are brought into union with Jesus and one another. The Mass is derived from the Latin dismissal in the Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy, “Ite, missa est”, “Go, the mass is ended.” The Divine Liturgy emphasizes that Eucharist is a communal act of God’s people responding to God’s love in Jesus by offering themselves in worship.

[5] The Book of Common Prayer, The Catechism, The Sacraments, page 857

[6] The Hymnal 1982, #420, verse 1; words by F. Pratt Green

[7] Revelation 4.8

[8] Matthew 21.9, Mark 11.9, Luke 19.38, John 12.13

[9] Matthew 26.26-28, Mark 14.22-24, Luke 22.19-20

[10] 1 Corinthians 11.23-25

[11] Chronos

[12] Kairos