Have you ever done something habitual, totally commonplace, without thinking, and afterward, someone–or many someones–look at you as if you’ve just come back from the moon? This happened to me a few weeks ago… Continue reading
My grandfather died on a Monday. Continue reading
This was a part of my personality that didn’t come out till I left home and established my own nest, but it seems I inherited more than my mother’s penchant for period literature–I’m obsessed with dishware and love to throw a really good party, just like my mom does. Continue reading
At St. Sulpice this morning, enjoying one of the most impressive organs in the world, it was the altar there and reminded me anew: worshiping God in church on Sunday is the most important thing we do all week.
The beautifully and carefully formed gold candlesticks on the altar are impossibly ornate. It’s not my favorite look or style, but even a commoner like me, not at all first in metalworks can see they are excellently executed, carefully formed, beautiful.
Churches in the past weren’t built as “seconds,” metalworkers didn’t donate their mistakes or castoffs or hurriedly constructed pieces to their church, they gave their best. If any, seconds went to their customers, because the only one who could ever offer payment with eternal consequence is God.
In the Eucharistic prayer (said together, with the priests voice, over the bread and wine every Sunday), “we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies” – we are saying that our bodies, our lives, our very selves, aren’t things that we’ll cling to, grasp, spend for our own enjoyment, glory, but pour out for God. We are committing to give our very best efforts to God, just like 17th-century metalworkers.
Our call as disciples of Jesus, then, is to give our best, and to exhort and help our fellow disciples give their best, most sincere, most excellent offering they can.
We are to spur each other on to learning, training, practice, sincerity, and devotion in everything we take on.
Half prepared, or hurriedly completed, or insincerely devoted efforts are not things God wants.
God does not want unstudied worship, distracted bodies, lazy or hardened or impenitent hearts. One way to understand Cain’s unacceptable offering is that God knew Cain’s heart, and it was not sincere, prepared, devoted to true, full worship.
We practice, learn, test, and assess our worship as we do other parts of our lives because we believe our offerings of our souls and bodies, their condition and sincerity, makes a difference to God.
God cares whether we’ve truly, sincerely committed our work and effort fully to his glory–whether we really mean it and live what we pray, that “we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice” to God.
God seeks to work through us as Christ’s body, the Church; all parts working together, working the most intently and sincerely possible, is the only way to fully serve our Lord.
Ian Cron puts so many things so well; here, exactly why I wandered into a Roman Catholic Church seven years ago:
“Much of the liturgy for the mass, filled with its formularies, prayers, and creeds, is well over a thousand years old. I was moved that people were offering up the same words, giving expression to the same truths in different languages and time zones all around the globe that very day. Some were singing the liturgy in grand cathedrals in Europe, and some under a lush canopy of trees in Africa. Some were performing the liturgy in secret house churches in China, and others in prison chapels. Where or how it was said it didn’t matter. Solidarity mattered.
As I pondered the faces of saints captured in stained glass, the frescoes that adorned the walls and ceilings of the nave and apse, it dawned on me that the liturgy was connecting me to a long and ancient line of believers. Time had become irrelevant. We were one chorus, one communion of saints. I was but one soul in the long procession of the faithful that wound its way down and along the hilly landscape of history. I was appropriately small.”
– Chasing Francis, pg 90
There’s an Episcopalian joke I like to tell: some parishioners went to their rector and said, “Father, we want to do a Bible study. What book should we start with?” Their rector, taken aback, but quite pleased, suggested they start with the Psalms; he showed them where it was, near the middle of the Bible, and told them to come back in six weeks and tell him what they’d learned. Six weeks passed, and they came back to his office, rather upset. “Father!” They exclaimed, “The Bible has stolen its material from the Book of Common Prayer!”
Last week one day, the Daily Office Lectionary assigned Philippians 4:1-9; a passage with 3 or 4 separate highlighter marks in my trusty hard-backed NIV Bible from high school.
The passage epitomizes why I became Episcopalian. As I read, or listen to, these words, I hear memory verses in verses 4, 5, 6, and 8—sentences I committed to memory as an elementary or high school student:
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
In verse 4 I hear the lyric to a children’s song I learned more than twenty years ago at home.
Verse 7 is the common blessing offered during Ordinary Time at the end of a Eucharist service:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When verse 8 is read, I hear part of a prayer said during the service in the Book of Common Prayer called, “Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child”—a service I relish offering at hospitals when I visit the newest members of my congregation.
The psalms have become the same kind of patchwork quilt for me—snippets and echoes of other Scripture passages pop up in the psalms all the time, and in turn, the psalms are woven throughout our Book of Common Prayer.
The little red (or black) book that guides Christians of the Anglican tradition in their prayer, worship, and study with God is a puree of Scripture, set to rhythm and mashed up to show through its very being how the God of the Old and New Testaments is made man in Jesus Christ.