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Chapter 1 The Church worships 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Gathering – In One Place Hearing – The Word of the Lord Singing – Made free Praying – Speaking with God Eucharist – One Bread Whole people – Continuing Service
Chapter 2 The worship of one church 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gathering – In this place Hearing – Witnesses Singing – With One Accord Praying – Asking for Forgiveness Eucharist – Offering and Passover Whole People – The Church in the Week
Chapter 3 Many different churches 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gathering – Baptised into One Body Hearing – Truth and Judgment Singing – Joyful People Praying – Confession and Release Eucharist – Redeemed Creation Whole People – The People of the Resurrection The Church in the world
Chapter 4 1 2 3 4 5 6
Gathering – Pilgrims and the Nation Hearing – Disciples Singing – The Church in the Street Praying – The Church leads our repentance Eucharist – Creation Redeemed Whole People – Misery and Dignity
Chapter 5 The Church for the long term 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Gathering – The Unity of the Church Hearing – Servants of the Word Singing – The Church blesses Praying – The Church suffers Eucharist – The Ascension of Man Whole people – Glorified by God 2
Chapter 1 The Church worships
1. Gathering – In One Place
Every Sunday morning Christians gather together in worship. What are they doing in Church? What is happening in these worship services? Why do they meet and pray and sing? We are going to look at what is going on in Church. 1. The Church comes together We go to Church. We are called together and we come together. We leave our homes and offices to join this gathering. We are roused out of our everyday existence, drawn away from our computer, car and sofa to join these people. On Sunday morning we leave home and journey through these streets in order to come together with all the other members of our Church. We get up the steps and into the church, go down the aisle and take our places next to each other. As we arrive we start singing. Our service begins with a hymn or a song. We are a pilgrim people who sing on their way, and the first hymn is our song for the journey. We sing because we celebrate as we make our way to the house of God. Rejoice, the Lord is King… The Lord has called us together and gathered us here. He has invited us so he is our host and we are his guests. As we journey out of our homes, down the pavement to church, we are drawn into this gathering and we are glad and so we sing songs of praise that anticipate our worship together: O enter then his gates with praise approach with joy his courts unto praise laud and bless his name always for it is seemly so to do (psalm 100, NEH 334, William Kethe) Anyone can come in listen and join in. The invitation is general, so every church service is public. The whole community around the Church knows that it can go. Imagine that the Church stands in the middle on marketplace, and that it has no walls, but takes place in the open air so everyone can watch and can hear what is going on, or they can keep their distance, as they wish. 2. We come into the presence of God The Lord has called us into his presence. When we say ‘church’ we do not mean this building or this institution or its hierarchy. We mean this random sample of the people from Chapter of town who are gathered together in this
way by the call of God. We can gather because God is here first. God has promised that when two or three are gathered in his name, that he will be present and hear them. We come into his presence. So we sing: Be still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one is here The service starts with the words ‘The Lord be with you’. We reply ‘And also with you’. The Lord speaks to us human beings, and we may hear his voice and reply. The Lord God speaks, we hear and respond, and he hears us and responds to us. The whole service is a conversation, between him and us, between God and man. Every Christian worship service is the worship and service of Christ. It is not primarily our work, but the work of God. What we take to be the words of the Church, and so our words, are first the words of Christ. The songs that we sing are his. This worship is Christ’s worship of God. God makes it possible for us to meet one another and for us to recognise and respond to this summons to come together. The Lord is our go-between, and it is he who brings us together ‘in Christ’. God has called these people together and made them his witnesses: his gospel is revealed by their many voices in worship. God has brought together these very different people. We are called to meet these people who are not like ourselves so every church is a meeting of opposites. We might consider them incompatible with one another. The event is evidence of his power to do so. Each of us is called out of our isolation and mutual estrangement and into encounter with people who are not like ourselves. And we make our peace with them. The peace of the Lord be with you, we say to one another. 3. Worship of God The Christian people worship God. They do not allow their worship or adoration go to anyone else. This is the first thing that makes them different. The Christian community proclaims in its worship that the God of Jesus Christ is the only God. The community sings: Glory be to God on high, and in earth peace, good will towards men… Why do we give glory to God? By giving our recognition to God, we make sure that we do not give our recognition to anyone else that it does not belong to. We do not worship the wrong person. All human beings give themselves away. We worship and adore, and cannot help themselves. We are needy, and want recognition and we throw ourselves on anyone and anything in order to get that recognition. If we do not give ourselves to Christ, we give ourselves away in some other direction, or many other directions. Christians do not give themselves away to other creatures. They do not throw themselves away to any creature. If you direct all your worship to God, and not to any other entity, then you are have not given yourself away and you are
not lost. Your identity is secured, and you are no longer desperate to receive any recognition from any source or at any cost. Christians are not giving glory to God. They are simply giving glory back to God. We are sending the glory that we have received, back to where it comes from. We are simply acknowledging receipt of from God, and returning it to him so that it may be renewed by him. The point is only not to hold on to glory for ourselves and not to pass it on in any direction to which it does not belong. 4. Salvation I cannot establish my identity for myself alone. I may try to tell the world who I am and what I am worth, but the world may disagree and offer me a lower account of what I am worth. I may defy the world when it disagrees with me, and may try to force the people those around me to accept my high estimation of myself. But I have to find someone who can affirm that I am who I say I am. We have to receive our name from others, and if this name and identity are truly ours it has to come from within a relationship of love and freedom and mutual knowledge. Others tell us what we are worth. God knows you and loves you. It was he who called you into existence in the first place. He knows who you are, and has all the recognition and respect and love for you that you will ever wish for. He has always had this love and respect for you from the beginning. He glories in you, and gives your own true glory. Of all the jumble of things you are and might be, he is able to recognise what belongs to you and what does not. The glory that God has for you is the identity that establishes you and secures you finally and forever. It is your salvation. As long as you prefer to fight those who love you and know who you are, your identity is in danger. But when you receive your identity from the one who loves you without reservation, you enter the communion in which you known and cherished. Outside that communion there are only endless threats, and you are bound to make your own efforts to secure yourself against them. When you come in to that communion, you change from being no one to being someone. Your identity is established, and so you are saved. We are given our identity, and the healing that enables us to receive that identity, and frees us to acknowledge what we are given is good and wonderful. Then we are able to be glad and thank God for this identity. That is why we say:
It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King, almighty and eternal God, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
5. Fellowship This gathering of people turns up and sing these things together. These people are fundamental to what is going on here, for they are the Church. The Christian community is made up of people who turn up. However surprised
they are to find themselves here, these people gathered here in this worship are the gathered people of God. God makes the Church different from the rest of the world. He makes it holy. God calls these people together and he makes them holy, and so different from the world. He maintains the difference between the Church and all other institutions, and does so for the sake of the world. This community that is not exactly like any other, which means that there is always a question about its identity. It is not obvious who they are, or that they are different, or why they should be different. All this is a issue of faith. The Church is holy, the Church says, in faith. The rest of the world can see how unholy these people are. We ourselves can see how unholy we are. But these people are the Church, and the Church is holy. We cannot look over these people to find the holiness of God elsewhere. These people have the promise of the resurrection, indeed they are the pledge of the resurrection, for hidden in them is the indelible mark of God that says that they are holy. God has assembled this company of people to pass this recognition and love on to you, so you can receive it. We may well feel uncomfortable when we say that this people is different or that this people is holy. Who is comfortable about saying that they are one of the holy? We may well want to play down this difference between ourselves and the rest of the world. But we are not allowed to do so. The difference between the Church and the world, is fundamental. Because the Church is distinct and different from the surrounding world, it is visible and it is therefore the witness of God to us. He dedicates them to this purpose and prepares them for it. They are being sanctified, that is, made holy, in order to be his witnesses to the world. The Holy Spirit brings us into the communion and love of God. Communion and love are one and the same. We are brought into a circle of love, and within this love we are opened up to love, and this love enables us to subordinate ourselves to one another. Since we have received the love of God, which is without end, we can afford to love each another. We do not need to drive hard bargains and calculate pay-offs because in this communion we can find forgiveness, release and new starts. This single fellowship is the communion that we know as the community of the Church. Of course it takes time to discover any of this for ourselves, but then that is what time is for. The love of God comes to us in the form of a specific fellowship of those being made holy by God. For us this fellowship starts with these specific people gathered in this congregation. Salvation is a place in this fellowship, with them.
2. Hearing – The Word of the Lord
Christians are gathered together in order to hear the Word of God.
1. Scripture as address When we are together in Church the bible is read. God has promised to speak to us through Holy Scripture. Every time we meet, the bible is opened, read and the gospel is heard. It is read out, loud and clear, so we can all hear it. God addresses us. God calls and Christ answers this call. We can hear God because Christ has heard him for us: he is the one who hears God. Because Christ heard and has answered, Abraham was able to hear and to answer. Abraham’s yes to God brought into being a whole people, the people of God who could hear that call and answer the same way. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Moses and David could answer because Christ had heard God and given their answer for them. Peter and John and the other disciples were able to answer because Christ heard and answered for them and enabled them to hear and answer too. God has called and man has answered. 2. Scripture is read The lesson is read slowly and clearly. Week by week Scripture presents us with the whole dealings of God in Jesus Christ. There are three readings, from the Old Testament, and from an epistle and from the Gospel. In the Old Testament we hear the testimony of the people of Israel, through their patriarchs and prophets who anticipated God's action in Christ. We respond to this first testimony from this first group of witnesses, or to the voice of God which they bring us, by singing a psalm of praise to God. Then comes the epistle in which we hear from the new churches that came into being as the witness of Israel spread across the gentile world. These first Christian communities give us their testimony, and we greet this second reading from the epistle with a hymn. Then comes the Gospel. Jesus Christ himself is the gospel, the fulfilment of the promise made to Israel and then to the world. As we read from three Chapters of the bible we hear from three groups of witnesses. In the words of these witnesses, passed on to us as these the words of Scripture, God speaks to us. God’s Word comes to us whether or not the bible has been well read; it comes to us through the clear and confident or the stumbling and selfconscious delivery of the reader or minister. Scripture, read in Church is the act of God, speaking live to the world, and making himself heard here and now. 3. The words of God God speaks and man hears. He knows us and can tell us who we are and who we may become. He asks us if we are ready for the identity of the people of God, as this is set out for us in Scripture. All Scripture, and nothing else but Scripture, gives us this vast account of the identity of the people of God. This Particular passage that is read out to the assembled people, is the Word of the Lord for today. The words of this Particular reading is what the Lord says to us now.
As Scripture is read, we hear the words of Christ. We hear: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest (Matthew 11.26) and ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14.6) and Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14.27) Take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16.33) Christ calls us, summons and invites us, encourages and warns us, and we are the people who may hear him. The Word of God has gone out into all the world. This Word is the seed sowed, each word dropping into the earth. Now the farmer, the Lord, waits to see what harvest he will get (Mark 4). The Word goes out and will not return to him empty but will accomplish what he desires (Isaiah 55.11). The word dwells with us. 4. Judgment and Forgiveness The Word knows us. He knows us truly, loves us without reservation and so he is our best judge. He speaks directly and specifically to us. He tells us that our place is both lower and higher than we imagined. He tells us not to be panicked by our situation, not to lash out to make ourselves enough space, or to take for ourselves the resources that we judge that we need. From Scripture we learn that we are not masters and may not make others our servants. Christ is Lord, and it is good news for us that he is so. He tells me that you are not my servant and that I am not your master, and that I may not subordinate you to my purposes. He releases us from the burdens we place on one another, and from our panicked grip on one another. No matter who has imposed it on us, he can cut us free of our load, and so we can put it down. Christ tells me to get off your back. He tells me that I have acted like a little tyrant, and that I may do so no longer. He tells me that I know this but have been in denial but that I may not deny it any longer. I must concede that it is so, and that my abuse of others and negligence of them, and my selfdelusion about this, may not continue. I must acknowledge that this is so. The poor are released. The harsh and uncaring masters are taken off their backs. This is a relief, for both the poor and those who have been their masters. But it is also a traumatic event. The Word of God comes to us as judgment and so as a shock. 5. The sermon The gathered community of the Church hears the word of God as it is given in the reading of Scripture and that Scripture is opened to us by the sermon. After Scripture, there is a talk or a sermon. This tells us what we have heard in these three readings of Scripture and shows us how they are connected. We learn that Christ is the fulfilment of the promise made to the specific sets of people who appear in those Old and New Testament readings. The sermon reminds us of last week’s readings, so that through the weeks we see the continuity of the Word of God. We are following the people of Israel in the Old Testament, and following Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. The
people of Israel point forward to him and confirming that he is the one that they were waiting for. Scripture gives us the narrative of the events that make up life of Israel, that are now integrated in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that we may now take our place in his narrative, so that this is not just a story about other people set in the past, but also about our own future life with Christ. The sermon tells us that we may become Chapter of this new testament, which is the ever-new testimony of God to man. The sermon may tie in other elements of the service, by pointing out here a verse of the hymn, there a sentence or response. It points to what we have said and sung in the service in order to show how they all give us our identity within the people of Christ. It can point out events in the life of our community, in the Church year, in the parish and the borough, and events at national and international level. By integrating these into the narrative of God's people it shows us how we may also become witnesses of God to the world, and of the world to God. 6. The name of God We have heard Scripture and Scripture opened to us by the sermon, and in affirmation of all this, we say the Creed. We stand and say: We believe in one God the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth God has called us. He has given us a name and he calls us by it. He calls us ‘my people’ and each of us ‘my beloved’: we receive our Particular Christian name from the Church in baptism. ‘Father’ is a name. It is the name that Jesus uses in addressing God. For us it is Chapter of the longer name, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ which refers us to the whole event of Jesus, and the whole people of Israel, with God. Jesus reveals this name which is both complex and simple. It must always disturb us that the name of God is strange. All the pressure is to look round for another less unilateral and controversial name, one on which we can all agree. But the only name that can protect us from one another is ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. This name has been secured in the Creeds. It has to be taught and learned, just like all the rest of this faith. Not everyone knows this, or agrees with it or likes it. It is not too obvious to need saying and that is why we have to say it, and that is why we gather here, to be faithful witnesses in our turn, who give thanks to God for all that exists. We who confess it in public worship do so with our hearts in our mouths, and this is just as it should be. We are the community that, by God’s grace, is able to say:
This is the Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
3. Singing – Made Free
When Christians come together they sing and give thanks to God. 1. Singing Christians sing because they can. We have been freed to do so. God has addressed us and so opened the lines of communication. Like calves let out of their stalls after a long winter’s confinement we kick up and frolic about, enjoying our new freedom. The whole Christian body feels it, and song is how the whole body expresses our joy at this release. We sing: This is the day that Lord has made Let us rejoice and be glad in it
From the Prayer Book we sing: O Lord open thou our lips And our mouths shall shew forth thy praise
We sing sentences and acclamations:
The Lord be with you And also with you And Christ is risen He is risen indeed, Alleluia And Let us bless the Lord Thanks be to God
These Christian acclamations have come down to us from the beginning. They are our sound bites. So if you ask us to say in the simplest terms what we stand for, we can do so. We can confess the whole mystery of faith in one line:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again
2. The Lord sings We sing because Christ sings. Every Christian worship service is the worship and service of Christ, so what we take to be the words of the Church, are his words. This service and worship is Christ’s love song to God. The hymns and songs we sing echo the songs of the Father and the Son. With these songs and hymns we are able to join in the Son’s worship and hear the Father’s reply. In our worship we overhear their duet and even participate in it. The service is the service of Christ. It is his service to God, and it is also his service to us. Christ stands at the front, while we stand behind him and sing along with him. We are the column that follows along behind him, and what he sings this column picks up and repeats. Christ not only leads us, but he carries us. The Holy Spirit is the power that enables us to participate in Christ’s worship and so to be carried along behind him. So Christ takes us with him. Christ sings and prays for those who cannot do so for themselves. He sings the songs of lament for mankind. He sings them so we can hear and sing them too. So we have the privilege of lamenting with those who lament, of
crying with those who cry, and of singing songs of gladness with those who rejoice when their laments have been heard. 3. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit Jesus is Christ. ‘Christ’ means anointed. Jesus has been anointed king and lord. The Holy Spirit does this anointing, making Christ king for us, so that he is our king and our Saviour. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus known, as our Lord. He also keeps him beyond the reach of our knowledge and of our power. In the incarnation, the Holy Spirit put Jesus into our hands as this man, first as this infant and then as this man who is our Lord and our servant. But then he raised him, taking Christ out of our power again, so that the meaning of this anointing becomes clearer. Now we have been put into Christ’s power, so that he knows us, but we do not know him, at least not on our own terms. When the Spirit gives him to us, we may know Christ and confess that he is Lord; but when the Spirit does not do so, Christ is absolutely beyond us and unknowable to us. The Holy Spirit brings us into the presence of Jesus Christ and makes us Chapter of his company. He always glorifies Christ, so that in this company we may know Christ, and know him as Lord, and as our lord. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is a communion of love: in it each of us subordinates himself to every other. The Spirit brings all opposites and all rivals together and brings them together around Christ, in love and in mutual service. In the holy communion of this fellowship, the Holy Spirit, who always glorifies Christ, and allows us to do so to. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, sing and make our response to God. The words of the Son and the breath of the Spirit become our breath; their speech and life animates us and enables us to ask for what we need and give thanks for what we have received, and to pass it on to one another, so teaches us how to speak to one another. So we sing: Be still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one is here… Be still for the power of the Lord is moving in this place. He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace… The Holy Spirit brings us here before all these other people and holds this community together, making it one body. 4. The gifts of the Spirit Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire; thou the anointing Spirit art, who dost thy seven-fold gifts imChapter (NEH 138) The Holy Spirit brings us Christ and reveals Christ to us, bit by slow bit. He conceals Christ from us so that we may receive only as much of him as we are ready for. He gives Christ to us in the form of intangible packets of holiness. We know these as those various characteristics that we call the gifts of the Spirit. These are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,’ in the list that the Apostle Paul gives us in his Letter to the Galatians (5.22). As we are brought together by the Holy Spirit, our character is redeemed and transformed so that we are changed from in-turned beings to people who can love. So we sing: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me Altogether these gifts relate to this communion, that is, this entity of love into which we are drawn around Christ. We are being made members of a holy communion. We love, and therefore we are able to exercise patience or longsuffering – because Christ is patient and long-suffering with us, and we forget how to be anything but patient with each other. Altogether these gifts of the Spirit describe Christ. They also describe us we will be, joined with him, and bound together in love in this holy communion that is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I suppose we could as well call it the ‘fellowship of Christ’ or the ‘fellowship that the Holy Spirit gathers around Christ’. For this reason we say: Through him you have sent upon us your holy and life-giving Spirit, and made us a people for your own possession. We sing: Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost, taught by thee we covet most, of thy gifts at Pentecost, holy heavenly, love. Love is kind and suffers long, love is meek and thinks no wrong, love than death itself more strong; therefore, give us love. The gifts of the Spirit build the body of Christ. That is, the gifts the Spirit gives you are to be exercised by you in service of the rest of us – so the fruit of your gifts may be shared by us. Bound together by this love we are together equipped and prepared to be servants of the world. And we say:
It is right to give him thanks and praise
We give him this thanks and praise when the whole congregation, made up of all the most contrary and unlikely elements, this and that age-group, class, ethnicity and lifestyle, is present. When the whole congregation is present it is Pentecost, and we are animated by the Spirit to sing and pray. But it is for the sake of the world we are being made this public event of the gathering and reconciliation of all Chapters of the world. The Lord God creates this universal Spirit-filled gathering that we call the Church, and this service of true worship. This worship starts before we arrive and continues after we have left, and it goes on uninterruptedly out of our earshot. For Christ lifts the world to God. We are caught up into this act of
his, so we are involved in this lifting up of the world to God. It is an extraordinary thing, that we are the people who may say:
Lift up your hearts We lift them up unto the Lord
4. Praying – Speaking with God
Christians gather to pray and intercede. Since God has spoken to this people, they may now speak, and purposefully. God is expecting us to speak. We may say what we like and we may ask him for what we want. We may speak on behalf of others, and we may acknowledge our own insufficiency and neediness. Christian worship makes us an articulate people, who pray and speak up for one another. 1. Jesus prays All our prayer is formed by the prayer of the people of God that we have received in Scripture. We learn the story and songs of the people of Israel in order to know what to say when things go wrong. They passed on to us the psalms and prayers to use for every eventuality, the psalms in Particular give us the prayers, the survival skills, we need. We learn how to pray by reading Scripture and repeating the words we find there. Jesus prays. Luke tells us that he ‘withdrew to deserted places to pray’ (Luke 5). His disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’ (Luke 11.1-2). This has been the form of our prayer ever since. Jesus speaks up for us and says what we do not know how to say for ourselves. He carries our prayers to God. This makes him our spokesman and representative, that is, one of us, speaking for us. Jesus prays to God as to his Father, and teaches us how to pray, so that we may also pray ‘Our Father’ with him. He prays so that we can hear and follow. Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." (John 11.4-42) Jesus has come to teach us to speak to God with all directness. ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’ 11.9-10. ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.’ (Luke 6. 38) In Christ, God is in conversation with man, and as a result, man is in conversation with God. Bringing us into the conversation so we may speak with God is what the incarnation of Christ has made possible. 2. Praying people Because Jesus prays, we may do so too. We can pray because have been given the name to call and have the promise that God will hear us when we pray. The whole Christian service of worship is prayer. Nonetheless, one part
of it is called ‘the intercessions’, in which we pray for the Church and the world, and thank God for his goodness. We pray together and for ourselves. There is nothing sophisticated about this. We may pray for success, at school, at exams, at work, for success and promotion, for love, health and wealth, for all our worthy and unworthy desires together. There is no reason to be self-conscious. God hears, but no one else does. We pray for those who are most important to us. Perhaps we start with our families, then friends, then the people we know at work. Then perhaps we pray for the patience or courage to sustain us through the challenges we face. We may pray for those gifts of the Spirit, so that we may have discernment to make the right decisions in each of these places, for example. We ask the Lord what we should do within each of these relationships. 3. Man hears God Jesus prays. And he teaches us the prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer. We pray to God whom he calls Father. This is the one we pray to, and this is the name we have for him – Father. God has spoken to us, and now, because he has spoken, we can speak. God does not simply speak to the world but having spoken, he listens and waits for it to answer. God listens, for he is our Father. We may speak to God. We can ask him whether he is faithful, to us. We may raise prayers and petitions. We speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. We speak for those who only know how to place the blame or who are consumed by resentment. We may indeed blame God for everything that is wrong. We protest, but we do so in hope, and so we hope and to expect more from others than it so far occurs to them. We are embarked together on an apprenticeship in love, and we are able to accept that this love is accompanied by difficulty and pain. The Lord listens. He speaks gently and patiently to the world and so to us, and he waits for us to answer and to become his Chapterner in conversation. He intends that we not only hear him but that we hear each human creature. God intends that we should hear one another. We are to be listening creatures, who can respond to the prayers and requests that we make of one another. We must learn how to give a hearing to everyone who calls us. Anyone, no matter how humble or far away, may expect to call anyone, no matter how important, and get a hearing from them. In our intercessions we are learning to pick up the many voices of the world. We amplify in Particular the voices of those not heard by any one else. We are learning to represent and speak up for those who get no other hearing. We speak for them and pray for them until they are able to speak for themselves and to join us in prayer. We are the people who represent others and this representative function is what is meant by the priestly office of the church. The Lord expects us to tell him what is wrong, and what is unfair. To point out to God that many people await justice and that there is great evil is a faithful, 14
not faithless, thing to do, and it is what God waits for us to do. We may, and must, identify what is not yet good. In our prayers we ask God why things are the way they are, and we lament when things are not right. So the Church laments, and it can only do properly in faith hope and love. Our prayers and protests are quite different from resentment. We can ask God how his project of life with mankind can possibly work. We can do so in faith. That is, we can ask, because we are certain that he is worth asking and that there is an answer worth having. 4. Learning how to pray We learn to pray. Prayer has structure. We may praise God, look forward to the kingdom in which we will share. We may ask for his provision. We may ask for the forgiveness of sins and release from all trouble. The most obvious structure is given by the Lord’s prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
5. Eucharist – One Bread
Christians gather together, hear God's Word, pray and worship God. These four elements are Chapter of every Christian service. Every service in which Christians gather and worship God, is Chapter of the one eucharist in which God gathers and redeems man. 1. Thanksgiving
He took bread and gave you thanks
Eucharist means thanksgiving. God is with man. We receive our life from him, and when we are able to acknowledge this we give thanks. In Christ we are able to see that God is our God. Each event of worship is given to us by God, and all our worship is a giving thanks. The eucharist is the whole Christian worship service, nothing left out. In each service Christ ministers to us, so we express our surprise and our delight at finding ourselves served by him. The eucharist is the event in which we are in his company, in fellowship with the Lord, and so in this communion that is holy. In Particular it is the fellowship for those who have been given no Chapter in any other fellowship.
2. Bread of Life As the service has proceeded we have heard Scripture, sung songs of praise and prayed. Now the bread, wine and water are carried up to the altar. When he has received them, the minister prays the eucharistic prayer of offering: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the Bread of Life. The minister prays that, whatever we bring, the Lord will take it from us; that is, whoever we are and whatever condition we are in, the Lord will receive us. Christ lifts man to God and God receives man from Christ. God has taken hold of man, holds him now, and will hold him finally in an eternal relationship. In this eucharist Christ offers all mankind back to God and sustains man in the communion of God. Our eucharistic prayers celebrate the past, and the present and future action of Christ for us. At the same time Christ offers all creation back to God, and God receives it and affirms it so that all creation is sustained within their holy communion. In this prayer and act of elevation we have a snapshot of the eternal relationship of man to God: we are lifted up to God and we are received by God. The eucharist is an offering from Christ to God, and in communion with Christ, it is also our offering, of ourselves. We offer ourselves as his body, that is, as Christ, to God. These elements of bread and wine represent all creation, and they represent us in it. Since they come from Christ they are received by God. As we are received we are redeemed and made holy. We are being offered to God and made present to him. In the eucharist Christ is making us present to God, and presenting us to God, and God receives us from him. The eucharist is also an offering made, and a gift given, to us. At the Passover supper celebrated with the disciples in that upper room, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. So here and now, he brings us in, sits us down, breaks this bread and gives it to us. He feeds us and waits on us. The food he offers us comes from this creation that he has prepared for us and placed us in: creation is this garden which he has laid out for us. Piece by piece he gives us this creation, breaking it and opening it for us, and serves us himself. And he not only serves us at this table, but he also eats with us, and by this act he makes us his equals. We are not left out, but invited to sit down at his table, so that, though unholy, we are made whole simply by being near him. He gives us these instalments of this creation, he gives us his service and he gives us his own company. In all this, he gives us himself. So, as we say in the eucharist, happy are those who are called to his supper. 3. Our Passover The words of eucharist remember the past event of the passion of Christ. We remember that our Lord, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples In the eucharist we remember the incarnation, the passion and death of Christ. We remember the Last Supper in the upper room and the chain of
events that followed it. Supper with the disciples was followed by the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest and trial, his being scourged, stripped, dragged out of the city, out of all human society, and put to death on the cross. We call all this the ‘passion’. The passion tells us how deep the incarnation is: it goes down all the way to the bottom. It shows that God really has met man and is with him, and that since not even death can undo it, this is irrevocable. The passion is the unchangeable fact of God’s being with man and therefore of his dedicating and giving himself to man. The incarnation is the meeting of God with man, and the passion is the incarnation in miniature. Jesus is about to be handed over. To show that in this way God is handing himself over to man, Jesus hands this bread over to his disciples. As this bread is in their hands, so the Son of God is in the hands of man. Christ is about to be broken and divided up, so he breaks and divides this bread. He performs this handing over and being broken up in miniature, in this way showing that this happens only with his knowledge and consent. With the bread and cup of the Last Supper Jesus demonstrates what is going to happen. It looks as though it is by his own power that man is taking Christ into his hands to do something appalling to him in which Jesus is simply the victim. But, by playing this all out before hand, Jesus shows that though man’s violence is let loose, man is not master of this event at all. It is Christ who gives the instruction to ‘go and do what you are going to do’, to Judas (John 13.27). He took this role in it for himself, so in these events in which he seems most passive, he is also entirely willing and active: he is actively passive. It is not man who is in charge – not Judas, not the crowd, not the Sanhedrin or high priest or Pilate – but Christ. Christ breaks open this bread, tears pieces off and so divides it and hands it over to his friends. He breaks and divides and hands over. He opens, hands over and shares himself. What we are handed here is not this or that thing, but Christ himself. God places himself in our hands, so God is really given and man really receives him. Our time here and now in this eucharistic service, is superimposed on that moment then. All the events that follow the Last Supper, the Mount of Olives, the garden, arrest, passion and crucifixion, are played out in that supper. The entire incarnation and passion of Christ are on display in this meal. The eucharist is the events of the passion, and the eucharistic service superimposes these events of Christ’s passion on our time. These two times are playing in parallel for, in the eucharist, our time and the time of that Last Supper are both brought into synch with the master fly-wheel which is Christ’s time. As a result we are able to follow Christ, and watch this offering and giving of God to man, from a distance. His passion is the frame into which all the events of our life fit, so that included within the events of his life, the events of our lives are raised and redeemed. As we say in the eucharist: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ Dying you destroyed our death Rising you restored our life Lord Jesus come in glory
4. One body Christ has opened himself for us. He is the bread that divides and shares itself out. But this division and opening is not the only thing going on. He gives himself because nothing else in all creation can give him to us. Nothing else can break him open, for nothing in all creation can even leave a mark on this indivisible loaf. This eucharistic bread, the ‘host’, is a larger version of the wafer we receive individually at communion. But imagine that this ‘one bread’ is a large unleavened Middle Eastern loaf, a giant round pitta bread. Each of us brings something to the eucharist, whether we are aware of it or not. Imagine that as we reach the altar each of us empties our pockets of whatever fragments have accumulated there during the week, each crumb representing some relationship or event in which we have been involved. We are these fragments. Now imagine that we put them together in a bowl and at once these fragments turn into a single loaf of bread. The power of God that brings them together and combines them into that single loaf. When this eucharistic bread is held up by the priest, it gleams, so that you can see it even from the back of the Church, perhaps even from outside the Church. God has called us from all corners of the world, and gathered together to make this one bread. The priest who stands at the altar holds up this single loaf. This loaf is us, in Christ. We are the first batch of the new creation. As we say in the eucharist: Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread. 5. The indivisible divides himself Two things are going on at once. The first is that that loaf is that community, and that community is the indivisible Christ: we are him and he is us. The loaf is the Church, that is to say, all the other Christians. We must grasp them and cling on to them. Joined to each other, we are integrated into this body that is Christ’s. The second thing is that this bread has to be opened for us so that we can also receive it. We cannot open it by ourselves. So Christ, the loaf himself, breaks it open for us. The indivisible shares himself out and distributes himself to us. As we eat from it, its strength floods into us, and makes us pure, indivisible and unbreakable. The Holy Spirit, the indivisible and indestructible, divides and distributes himself to us, making us one and making each of us united and distinct persons. He gives us many gifts and packages, which both make us a single indissoluble people, and increases the holiness and uniqueness of each one of us. These two things have to be said about the bread of the eucharist. As we say in the service: We break this bread to share in the body of Christ 6. The gateway Now there is a third thing that must be mentioned. This loaf is our way into the future world. This loaf is the ‘eye of the needle’, so small that no created thing can get through it. But the Holy Spirit passes through it to us. Of course the Holy Spirit brings this loaf into being into the first place: God made it, as he
makes all things, for us. Since we cannot pass directly through them, all created things are barriers which we can only pass by going around. But for the Spirit who created them, all created things are a mesh through which he may freely pass. Any and every material thing is a doorway of the Spirit. But for our sake it is only these specific things, bread and wine, that have been nominated to be this doorway, because Christ used them in this way at the Last Supper and commanded us to follow him in using them in this way. Secondly, the Christ passes through these eucharistic elements and out to us, and passes into us and percolates around within us. Some of that future world comes to us through this gateway now, and empowers and accompanies us now. These specific elements of creation through which the Spirit comes, bring Christ to us, and identify him for us. We meet Christ here, where this Scripture and this worship, and that eucharistic elements of bread and wine are. So we pray: Gather into one in your kingdom all who share this one bread and one cup We have said that every act of worship is God's gift to us. We are invited to share in Christ’s worship of the Father and so to share the experience of the whole company of heaven. Secondly, in this service Christ ministers to us. The Lord gathers his Church around him and serves them. When we celebrate the eucharist, we are gathered by Christ and he waits on us at this table. We become his holy people. We now participate in this prayer, so we are able to pass the whole world back to God who will redeem it and renew it for us. This is the reason why With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we proclaim his great and glorious name.
6 Whole People – Continuing Service
The Christian people is gathered to be the Church of God. It asks for judgment and it receives it, and it receives mercy and it gives thanks for it. It prays and sings. The process of our sanctification does not happen in isolation from the Church, so the service of worship is not a prelude to a more real private process going on in the individual Christian. This Particular community is, for our sake, Chapter of the communion of God. 1. The whole service Let us take a look at the service as a whole. As the people arrived they were greeted by the gospel. Christ led them up the aisle of the church to the altar where they were received from him by God in the eucharist. Then Christ leads them down the aisle of the church and out into the world, in order to travel through the world as envoys of Christ. To see this action at its very simplest, just imagine that a large round loaf is raised above our heads, and that we all move towards it and become Chapter of it. This is the first movement that we see in the service. At the climax of the eucharist the minister holds up the loaf as Christ lifts up his people. In his 19
hands we are that loaf, the body of which he is the head. There our future with him is made briefly visible. Then in a second movement, this people stream out from that loaf into to world. 2. Sending out At the end of the eucharist the priest turns to the congregation and says: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord The last stage of the service is the ‘dismissal’, which means simply ‘commission’. We are made the envoys and apostles of Jesus Christ. We are given a mission and sent off to carry it out. We have to speak to all in the person of Christ, exercise his mercy, judging for ourselves where gentle words and where hard words are needed. But we also have to say that the service does not come to an end. The service is carried out into the world. Each Christian is the Christian worship service, live, and in the person of each Christian, the worship service is carried out into the world. Each Christian is the whole worshipping assembly in miniature. In the week the members of the body take the service and communion of God out through the world. So we pray: Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory At the end of the service the congregation gathers around at the back of Church to talk through forms of ministry that this service now takes us to. It takes us visiting, bringing communion to people in their homes, taking people to visit other members of their family. It takes us to school, to the night shelter, to hospital and prison visiting, fair trade campaigning and to the youth group and summer camp. This is what we are talking about over the coffee and biscuits. All of these are out-workings of the service. Each Particular form of service teaches us something about the service of Christ, and in each case we have to thank whoever we encounter for being Chapter of his service to us. Each of us is the Church, and speaks for the whole Church. We speak by blessing, thanking and talking talk up whatever we possibly can. In the offices in which we work we ask our colleagues to act with as much generosity and imagination as they can, to judge well, for the widest good and for the long term. We intercede and petition for those who have received no hearing. We do not complain, but we lament when sections of this society remain unheard, and we point out that when some are unheard our society as a whole is impoverished. 3. Uninterrupted service We have said that we are brought together to take part in the one celebration that takes place uninterruptedly before the throne of God. When we come together, we are brought into the unbroken time of God. This week’s service is not ultimately separated from next week’s service by six weekdays, for secular time does not divide what the Spirit holds together: Christ does not go off-duty, but is forever our servant, always here for us. The six weekdays are an out-working of the unbroken service of Christ and his body for the world.
I have set the service out through this pattern of gathering, hearing, singing, praying and eucharist. There is a logic to those stages which reflects the way in which Christ comes to us and takes us to the Father. But the eucharist is not always the explicit climax and end of the service. The service may build up to a time of healing ministry, in which there is an extended confession, people are prayed for and there is a process of identifying our wounds so that the healing process can begin. Or the service will end on the sermon which either teaches the Church, or if people have been invited to hear the gospel for the first time, which may call people to repent and be converted to Christ. All these praying, healing, teaching and preaching ministries are aspects of the eucharist, that is, of the one indivisible ministry of Christ to us. In all these different forms of service, Christ serves us and ministers to us. 4. The people of the resurrection In Christ God comes to man. God has anointed Christ with man and crowned man with Christ. This is what has happened in the resurrection. Man is with God, and God is with man. Christ is always accompanied by the Holy Spirit who keeps him just the beyond the threshold of our vision, so that Christ is not available to us as the single individual of Jesus until we are finally made holy and ready to receive him. Jesus of Nazareth is ascended, and now, just as the whole glory of God was poured into the single body of Jesus, that same glory of Jesus is being very slowly poured into us, the people gathered together as this Church. Just as the head has been raised, so the whole people will be raised, and this community is already the anticipation and the pledge of the resurrection. So, as we say: ‘We look for his coming in great glory’. When Christ comes, all mankind will arrive with him. Now Jesus sends us these people. They are his first gift to us. We have to receive from him and take them as those he has chosen to give to us. These people are Christ’s. They are not separate from him, and Christ does not allow us to grasp them without him. There is no way to him except through life lived with these people. We must be humbled by receiving Christ with every single one of these people whom he sends ahead of him. They have all have something to give us which they received from Christ. So we sing: Unnumbered they whose candles shine to lead our footsteps after thine (Common Praise 217). We receive one another from Christ. Christ waits for us to consent to receive all those he gives us. The Holy Spirit humbles himself before each one of us and waits for us to drop our resistance. His patience will outlast us. Christ’s resurrection comes to us in this hidden way, one person at a time. As we are ready, our refusal of one another is stripped off us. When we cease experiencing all these other persons as a burden, but are happy to receive and delight in all others, we will share the freedom in service of Christ. 5. Worship and delight
In these talks I have been pointing out what the whole Christian Church says in its worship. It is the Christians who offer this very high view of man in communion with God and with all men. They do so publicly every time they meet. We not only say these things, we sing them. The agreement of our individual testimonies is evidence of the truth of what we saying. In the Christian worship service we are watching the Lord at work. He is working, and we have been appointed his witnesses. We are able to wonder at man, the creature of God, and wonder how we are going to receive him. We are being called into a great company. The whole world is invited to participate in this great assembly and both to watch and take delight the world but also to take Chapter in his work. Before us the Lord reconciles the apparently irreconcilable, and brings all things into communion so that they become willing, ready for each other. Our particular congregation is Chapter of the communion of God. It is that Chapter of the communion of God that is visible to the world, and which is therefore witness to God for the world. We sing: Ye saints, who toil below, Adore your heavenly King. And onward as ye go Some joyful anthem sing; Take what he gives And praise him still, Through good or ill, Who ever lives! (Baxter) Jesus Christ is calling, gathering, ushering all humanity along towards the Father. He overcomes all rival masters to bring the whole human body together. In Christ, each of us joined to every other. So we are brought together in one place, and so made present to one another. The Church is the companionship of God making itself felt here visibly, audibly and tangibly. This is a huge claim. It does not make us comfortable to make it, but we cannot not make it. If this community does not make it, our society is left exposed to many other destructive claims. The holiness and distinctiveness of the Church from the world is the great gift that God gives the world. We are being built together into a holy fellowship with a holy people. This is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That is why we say to one another :
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
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