Every second Sunday my church holds a special service so that things are kept interesting and the congregation can participate more fully. Often the sermon is presented by a member of the body with music, images, and stories from their life's lessons. Last Sunday my church held an "Instructed Eucharist." Obviously this is one in which the congregation is instructed on something. In this case it was the Eucharist itself and what all different parts of it mean and how they work together. It was an exquisite service, full of symbolism and love for the meaning behind and in the things we use during it and what our actions represent. Even better it enabled the congregation to participate more closely in the Eucharist as we were gathered around the Lord's table during the meal's preparation.
The writer of this excellent teaching was our new Assistant Rector, Matt Wise. Last summer, he was our "summer seminarian" and the young man who gave me guitar lessons. He recently graduated from seminary and is now doing his internship as a deacon until he is officially ordained as a priest on December 13th. Matt has a real love of liturgy and is responsible for many of the changes that are occurring in ours. I think his heart thinks in visuals of what something means and how it can play out.
I walked in late, just after the service started, and sat down in my early service front pew. Matt was sitting right in front of me on a tall stool with his notes on a podium. That was kind of cool. I've always liked sitting at the front of the class near the teacher. I hadn't missed much because the words that caught my attention were at almost the very beginning of the running commentary that continued throughout the entire service. They were:
In some ways, our liturgy is a drama enacted each time we gather with the hopes of drawing us all closer to one another as we together encounter the presence of the risen Christ among us. To help us experience this co-union or communion, we use many symbols. Symbols are signs that participate in the reality that they represent. A symbol works on us at a visceral level and the symbols we use in the Eucharist follow a pattern and form a ritual. Rituals help us experience and express things that cannot be easily verbalized.
After that my attention was pretty much locked to the explanations, my curiosity peaked. Fascinated I followed through the entire service every word that was spoken by either Matt or our Rector, Robert. I'd like to share this sermon with you so I invite you to go here and read the entire service teaching. It has a lot of good things in it.