August 14 – Communion Conversation 5

Next week the service will include both “Word” and “Sacrament”. We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion. Of course the Church has celebrated this supper since its beginning. HOW we do it has changed a little in the various ages, although the words we say have changed very little.

Our church’s service book encourages us to vary the patterns from time to time so that we do not fall victim to a rigid format that can swallow up its meaning.

  • You will be invited to come forward to participate.
  • There will be five stations at the front, each with bread and wine.
  • Take the bread first, then dip it in the wine, then consume.
  • After communing, return to your pew.
  • For those who do not have the mobility to come forward
  • There will be a team that will come to you if you are on the main floor.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving will sound a little different, too. Two parts that are usually said will be sung together. The one is the:

Holy, Holy, Holy, which we sang at the beginning of worship today.

The other is the ten-word confession that we sang as the chorus to our first hymn: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

The supper together represents a time of literal and spiritual community. As we’ll see in the sermon next week, Jesus was committed to taking food together as a way of enjoying Christian community.

August 7 – Communion Conversation 4

We return to Communion conversation today in preparation for the celebration in two weeks.

This morning we sang together the Sanctus, a word that means “holy”. We know that this part of the prayer dates back at least to the year 200. It’s even older though, because it comes from Isaiah’s vision and call. When Isaiah saw the angels around God’s throne he heard them singing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of his glory.

We are preparing to deal with God, just as the prophet had done. These words will be sung by us at Communion, as they are in many churches — Protestant and Catholic — and as they are in the Jewish worship service.

The Sanctus is then followed by a part of Scripture that comes from the Gospel. It’s called the Benedictus, meaning “blessed”. Jesus mounted the donkey on Palm Sunday and the crowd began to chant: Hosanna to the Son of David! And then they sang a line from the 118th Psalm: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

The prayer reeks of biblical and ancient influences. It’s something we might miss if only half listening. It takes on a sacred sense when we recognize the centuries-long connection of people enjoying God.

July 31 – Communion Conversation 3

In three weeks we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  We are using these weeks as a kind of Preparatory Service.  At the heart of the service is the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. If you have an Anglican background you know it as the Eucharistic Prayer. It is based on Jewish table blessings that Jesus used to use with his disciples. It is a recital of God’s saving events in history.

The prayer moves through the story of salvation, starting with the creation and ending with the redeeming work of Jesus. Earliest forms of the prayer are found in the first century. There is a section in the prayer, called the Epiclesis. In it, we return thanks for the gifts of bread and wine, and for the gifts of our lives and our work.

We invoke the presence and action of the Holy Spirit among us and over the symbols of creation, praying that the life-giving Spirit will renew in us and the church all the benefits of the sacrament, uniting us in the body of Christ, empowering us to be Christ’s agents in the world.

Then, finally, we offer ourselves as a worthy sacrifice of praise to our creator.

It is a wonderful treat to be together in faithful and obedient Christian community.

July 24 – Communion Conversation 2

On the third Sunday of August we will be celebrating Holy Communion, using a slight variance on the traditions at Grace. Communion happens in the third step outlined from last week, the climactic movement of a worship service. Our lives with God tend to move, like a pendulum, from God’s Grace to our gratitude…   grace…   gratitude. .

On some Sundays, we Presbyterians celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We refer to that as “the Great Thanksgiving”. We always try to follow the four-fold action that Jesus followed whenever he shared food with others.

  • He took the bread
  • He gave thanks
  • He broke the bread
  • And then he gave it to those present

The words of institution are read as found in 1 Corinthians. Those who are present are then extended the invitation of Christ to partake in the supper. The gifts are presented. Traditionally this means that the offerings of the people are brought forward as an act of worship. Offerings include our money, our prayers, the bread and the wine. Both these elements come from the harvest of the earth. The gifts are received and the final steps of table preparation are made.

Next is that beautiful Great Prayer of Thanksgiving, which we’ll appreciate together next Sunday.

July 17 – Communication Conversation 1

From the beginning, the church has called its people together on the Lord’s Day to worship God. Our ancestors gathered to hear Scriptures read and interpreted, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Each Sunday is a little Easter. What we do is patterned after the way we understand God’s initiative.

Throughout the church’s history there has been a four-fold pattern to that worship action.

  • Step 1:  We recognize that we are called to worship. With human voice we utter the invitation of God.
  • Step 2: Read Scripture, then proclaim it into our lives.
  • Step 3: Called the Great Thanksgiving, this is where the service comes to its crowning climax. We recognized the goodness of God, and then we give thanks for it. That’s our response!  The normative way is by celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. Often we elide that by offering the prayers of the people, which include thanksgiving.
  • Step 4:  Dismissal into the world where we will live a life of service, fed by this act of worship.

On the 21st of August the session has called for an extra service of Communion. On the Sundays preceding we’ll be teaching again how we are fed in this supper, given us by Jesus.