In our Collect for today we ask God to grant us so to hear (the scriptures), read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. When we think of scripture, reading scripture, marking scripture, we think of going to the Bible. And, yes of course, the Bible is our primary source of scripture. But did you know that the Book of Common Prayer is also full of scripture? All of the Psalms are in there and in morning and evening prayer we read the Canticles, which are little songs from the Bible.
We have had a wonderful variety of services over this last week. Last Sunday we welcomed those who have chosen or re-chosen to become a part of The Episcopal Church. Yesterday we had both a funeral and a wedding and today we will welcome our newest Christian through Baptism.
All of these services are so special to us because of the words we speak. The words give comfort, joy, meaning and reminders to us. We get these words from the Book of Common Prayer. The prayer book was originally written in England by Thomas Cranmer and is almost 500 years old. Although, if you’ve ever …
- Pledged to be faithful to someone “till death do us part”
- Or, mourned to the words “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
- Or hoped for “peace in our time,”… then you’ve been shaped by Cranmer’s words, maybe without even knowing it. His words are used by other denominations and even in the secular world.
How many of you are life-long Episcopalians?
How many came to the Episcopal Church from other denominations?
Well, regardless of how you got here, after this sermon, you’ll probably be glad that at Holy Trinity, the entire service is printed in the bulletin. Episcopalians are known for their book juggling and their liturgical calisthenics – you know…we sit to listen, stand to sing, and kneel to pray. And, without the bulletin, you would need not only the prayer book, but also a hymnal, a leaflet for the scripture readings, and a leaflet for announcements. So, our bulletins help us to be a little less scattered and they help those who are new in our midst be able to fully worship with us without knowing the page number. But, what our bulletins corral into one document all comes from the prayer book.
The Book of Common Prayer is the primary symbol of our unity. We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer.
Today I’d like you to get the prayer book out of the book rack and page through the Sunday service with me. Our services are full of symbolism and I’d like to share some of that with you.
Let’s start on page 354. This is a whole page of rubrics. Rubrics is the Latin work for red. Instructions used to be printed in red. Now they are in italics and they tell us the who and the how of everything.
Pg. 355 – Eucharist is a Greek work meaning thanksgiving. In the Eucharist we offer our thanks to God for his great gifts to us, remembering especially the life and death and resurrection of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s important for us to remember the Eucharist is not something that only a priest does; it is something we do together. A priest cannot celebrate the Eucharist alone; there must be at least one other person.
Another name that is used for our services is “liturgy.” Liturgy means worshipping together. So, in the liturgy it is important that we make our responses in a good, strong voice.
There are two parts to the Eucharist. The first is “the Word of God,” found here on pg. 355. This includes (1) the opening prayers, (2) lessons from the Old and New Testaments appointed for the day, (2) the Church’s statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, and (4) the prayers of the people. The second part of the Eucharist begins on pg. 361 and is called the Holy Communion during which bread and wine are offered, consecrated, and then received by God’s people with thanksgiving.
The first part of the Eucharist, “the Word of God,” is very ancient. It comes to us from a time before the birth of Jesus. The Jewish people came together to hear God’s word, to sing songs, and the pray together.
Page though and comment on 355/356. The very first rubric offers some choice on how to start the service. We begin with hymn and procession.
The procession reminds us that the People of God, through time and history are moving toward God’s Kingdom – – following the Cross of Christ. Being a Christian (or even being Episcopalians) is not just a onetime thing. We are always returning, again and again, to God.
Pg. 357 – The celebrant now leads us in a special prayer. This short prayer is called a COLLECT because it collects our thoughts for a particular time or season of the Church’s year. To find these, flip to pages beginning at pg. 211. You’ll see the church year, beginning with Advent and on through, laid out with a prayer for every Sunday. Today’s collect is on pg. 236.
Now, back to pg. 357, where we read the lessons and psalm and the Gospel. Wherever we are in the church, we turn to face the Gospel book and reader. The Gospel Procession teaches us that it is our responsibility to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ into all the world. Making the Sign of the Cross at this time asks God’s blessing on our minds, our words, and our hearts.
Pg. 358 – The Nicene Creed most clearly states the Church’s teaching of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Creed expresses the faith of the whole Church. The word CREDO means I believe. But credo does not mean “I agree to the literal-factual truth of these statements.” Rather, it means “I give my heart to.”
Pg. 359 – Prayers of the People. We now turn our attention to Christ’s Church and the world. Together, we pray for the Church, for world leaders, for ourselves, and for the departed. The whole church, past and present, is united together in prayer. To find these, turn to pg. 383. There are 6 forms of these, but if you look at the rubrics, you’ll see that as long as you follow the form of the prayers of the people, that you can create your own prayers. Now flip to pg. 394. These are called concluding collects which the priest would say to “collect,” or sum up, the prayers of the people. At Holy Trinity, we generally say the Holy Trinity prayer at this time.
Pg. 360 – Confession is a very important part of prayer whether we do it privately or in church with others. We all need God’s forgiveness, and we know that he will forgive us when we come to him in faith and love and true repentance. After all have made their confession, the Priest says the words of forgiveness, assuring us that God has forgiven all those who have made a sincere confession of their sins.
The first part of the service is now completed. We greet one another joyfully in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation and in the love of God, exchanging the PEACE with one another. THE PASSING THE
PEACE is a very ancient way for people to greet one another. Jesus taught us that we should love one another as sisters and brothers, and that we should forgive one another as God forgives us.
We now begin the second part of the Eucharist (thanksgiving). This part of the service includes (1) our offering of bread and the wine, (2) the prayer of thanksgiving and the consecration of the bread and the wine, (3) the breaking of the bread, and (4) the receiving of communion.
In the early days of the Church, worshipers brought their own bread and wine to the service. The deacons chose what was needed for the consecration, and the rest was set aside for the poor. The bread and the wine along with money and food offered at the Altar represent our lives, our work, our recreation, our families and our community. In other words, we offer to God all that we have and all that we do. This is called STEWARDSHIP.
Pg. 362/363 – We have been following Eucharistic Prayer A, but here are 4 Eucharistic Prayers, A-D. The Eucharistic prayer reminds us of God’s love for us, that we turned away from him, and that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to share our human nature and to live and die as one of us, so that we might be brought back to God. We are also told of Christ’s death on the cross, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world, and we are reminded of the Last Supper and the words Jesus spoke over the bread and the wine. Finally, we ask for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and that we might faithfully receive the precious gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in the form of Bread and Wine.
In a very real way, the Holy Eucharist is a drama. It reenacts the offering of Christ and makes it real in our lives.
Now go to pg. 364, The Breaking of the Bread – At the first Eucharist and in those of the early Church, it was necessary to break the loaves or cakes of bread so that they could be distributed for Communion. For many this breaking of bread has a special meaning: it has become a reminder of the breaking of our Lord’s Body on the Cross. To symbolize this the celebrants breaks the bread saying “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” … to which the people respond: “Therefore, let us keep the feast.”
The gifts we presented to God in the offertory (our stewardship) are now returned to us. Because God has accepted them, they are changed. They have become the spiritual Body and Blood of Christ. Through them we receive God’s Power, Love, and Strength . . . his very life.
After communion, we say together the prayer of thanksgiving on pg. 365. Then the priest gives us God’s blessing.
The procession now leads us out into the world around us so that we may do the work that God has called us to do . . . wherever we may be: in our homes, in our schools, in our work and in our play. We have been fed with spiritual Food. God has given us the strength to live our lives as faithful followers of Christ our Lord.
We conclude the Eucharist where we began, in the midst of life, in a world where there is suffering and need. Just like what we heard in our Gospel today, Jesus speaking to his disciples (and to us) about the trials that happen to all of us simply because we are in this world and we choose to follow him. We hear of trials like our heated election, wars in the Middle East, earthquakes due to fracking, fires in North Carolina, Hurricane Matthew’s destruction of Haiti, and on and on. And there are those unknown trials like car accidents or heart attacks or cancer. But we are centered, as Christ was, in a life to be lived and shared – our opportunities to testify. The Eucharist is the work of the people of God together. It is not a service confined to Sunday morning. Rather, it is a way of life. It is the essence of life itself.
I hope many of you will come upstairs so we can continue the conversation on how to make the Book of Common Prayer your personal prayer book.
Believe – Brother, Give Us a Word, Br. David Vryhof, Society of Saint John the Evangelist
Praying the Daily Offices
- On-line BCP: http://www.bcponline.org/
- Daily Office readings, Year 2: http://satucket.com/lectionary/index.htm
- Holy Women, Holy Men: http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/the_calendar.php?k=3
- Live, on-line Morning Prayer: https://dailyoffice.wordpress.com/
- Forward Day by Day, Morning Prayer: http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/daily_prayer.php?d=17&m=3&y=2016&office=MP
- The Mission of St. Clare, Morning Prayer: http://www.missionstclare.com/english/
- Evensong, live broadcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tp7r
- Podcast: Morning Prayer from The Episcopal Church in Garrett County