Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Taking Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church

(from Chapel on the Green this summer)

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who are baptized to take communion.  It doesn't matter if you are Roman Catholic or Baptist or any denomination at all.  ALL the baptized are welcome.
If you are not baptized, then just ask, and you will be baptized, brought into the fellowship of Christ's body and then take communion with us.

Blessed are all those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb!

At St. Peter's Episcopal Church, the communion bread is baked by a parish family.  We also have (gluten free) wafers for those who cannot eat the bread. (Just let us know!) All are welcome to receive both the bread and the wine.
“It is the life of Christ and our life, blended together into one life. As we drink the cup, we drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we also drink our cup. That is the great mystery of the Eucharist. The cup of Jesus filled with his life, poured out for us and all people, and our cup, filled with our own blood, have become one cup. Together when we drink that cup as Jesus drank it we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Sadly, sharing in the Eucharist and breaking bread together in Jesus' name has become too ruled by law and not by the Spirit.

As we live into the spirit of Anglicanism here at St. Peter's, I think of words written about Elizabeth I who in so many ways helped shape our understanding of the faith that we have inherited as Episcopalians (Anglicans).

It is according to Sir Francis Bacon that Elizabeth I believed that what people do is what matters, our saying common prayers together and not our assumptions about other's opinions or beliefs. Bacon sets out this view of Elizabeth: "Her Majesty, not liking to make windows into men's hearts and secret thoughts..."

In Elizabeth I own words about taking communion:
'Twas God the Word that spake it,
He took the bread and break it;
And what the word did make it;
That I believe and take it.
A prayer to use before receiving communion:

Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be know to us in the breaking of bread; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

A prayer for after receiving communion

O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy passion: Grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Final Thoughts:

It begins as a seed in the field. The earth nurtures it, the rain nourishes it. The farmer works to bring the grain to harvest; he collects it and separates it from the chaff. A baker then grinds it and kneads it; the dough is baked until what was once seed becomes bread.

In the vineyard, the grapes on the vine are cared for as if they were precious gems. Blessed by the sun and rain, the grapes are collected by the gentle hand of the vintner and then pressed and stored. In God's good time, at the perfect moment, the precious liquid becomes wine.

Bread and wine, gifts of the earth, the work of human hands.
Bread and wine, now placed on our altar.
Bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, lovingly given to us in the Eucharist.

But the bread and wine is more than holy gifts for God’s holy people; they are parables of what it means to become God's people, to help bring about the Kingdom of God.

Like seed, we are transformed from grain to flour through the creative love of God. The seed first planted in baptism - farmers and vintners - in the form of parents, spouses, teachers, pastors, friends - have nurtured us and formed us. We struggle to finally grow up; we stumble along the way. Like grain that is baked into bread, like grapes that ferment into wine, we change and become complete not in spite of what we suffer but because of what we suffer and receive. We are kneaded in the water of baptism; we are re-created in the fire of the Spirit.

And like the many grapes that are pressed together into the unity of the sweet liquid that fills the chalice, our prayers and sacrifices, our acts of generosity, our work of reconciliation and forgiveness, our sacrifices for one another in imitation of Jesus (who is both the vine and winemaker), makes us "church" - the wine of the sacrament of unity with God and one another.

What we see on this table is ourselves. We are bread; we are wine. We are called to be the sacraments we receive. [Adapted from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo]
Behold what you are. May we become what we receive.

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