Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mystic Sweet Communion

"Last Supper" by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, 1896

In 1866, Samuel John Stone, an English Cleric, composed a set of hymns on the Apostles' Creed in response to a controversy between two South African bishops who had appealed to higher ecclesiastical authorities in England. Stone's set of hymns, Lyra Fidelium, included one based on the ninth article of the Creed, "the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints." The hymn is known as The Church's One Foundation.  It is included in our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship 654. Here is the fifth and final verse:
Yet she on earth has union with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
Oh, blessed heav'n-ly chorus! Lord, save us by your grace,
that we, like saints before us, may see you face to face.
Last Sunday we explored the topic of Church. This week's topic, Communion, is related. Communion is a loaded word. How we use it greatly determines what we mean when we use it.  When we speak of receiving communion, are we intentional about, or aware of the broader scene? In other words, when we kneel at the altar rail and receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, are we aware that we are surrounded, connected, and embraced? What is mystic sweet communion of which Stone writes and we sing?

When we consider that communion is both celebration and rehearsal, it would be good to have an idea what we are celebrating and for what we are rehearsing. This may be easier to grasp when we acknowledge that there is an "already-and-not-yet" aspect of our faith. For example, the Kingdom of God is both already here (in our midst) and not yet (thy kingdom come). When we gather together on Sunday mornings in worship, what is communion? What does it do?

If, by now, you think that what I've written so far has lead you down the road of frustration, or has caused confusion, please know that you are not alone. This is all really rather difficult to understand. Yet, each of us -- all of us -- get to believe it. That Christ is present, that the hosts of heaven join with us and we with them, that we're all in this together -- this is mystic sweet communion.

You may think and believe otherwise. So, let's talk about it together.  I'm looking forward to our time with  one another on Sunday. Take a moment to invite a friend, relative, or neighbor to come along with you.  All are welcome and guests are expected!  Meanwhile, stay in One Peace!

"The Sacrament of the Last Supper" by Salvador Dali, 1955

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Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost 
October 20, 2013

Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, 
you are always ready to hear our cries. 
Teach us to rely day and night on your care. 
Inspire us to seek your enduring justice 
for all this suffering world, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

Genesis 32:22–31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1–8 

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