During the month of July, our church is using a different Eucharistic prayer than usual. For those who aren’t Episcopalian, the Eucharistic prayers are used to consecrate the bread and wine. We offer our thanks to God for His great gifts, and remember the life, death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. There are four Eucharistic prayer options, all of which offer this thanks and remembrance, but each has its own language. (This is my own interpretation of these prayers - I'm sure a theology scholar has something much more substantial to say about them.)
One thing I love about the one we’re using in July (Prayer C, for anyone who is interested), is that it is much more interactive. Most of the other Eucharistic prayers are recited primarily by the priest but this one has lots of responses for the congregation to say. Prayer C also has some groovy language about God’s creation of “interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.” What a great summation of our world – the larger one that includes everything above and below, not just the fragile earth, with whose care we have been entrusted.
But my favorite part of the prayer is the language just before the Lord’s Prayer is said. “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.”
How many times have I gone to worship and asked only for forgiveness, not for the strength to do God’s will? Many times, doing God’s will is hard – we must “love our neighbor” which doesn't mean liking everyone, but it DOES require treating others with respect and charity. Sometimes we have to stop to help someone with a flat tire, even if we’re in a real hurry to get home. Sometimes we have to forgo something we really want because it’s just the wrong thing to do or have, and we know it. Sometimes we have to listen to someone else's opinions without walking away in disgust. But frankly, sometimes it’s easier to sneak out of church without asking for that strength because if we ask for it, we must own the reasons we need it. If we say it out loud (or in our heads in prayer), we’re admitting to our weaknesses.
And how many times have I forgotten to seek renewal because I’ve been too much in the balcony (links to my first blog post ever about living in the balcony) – so engrossed in my day to day stresses and concerns for the other people who are counting on me that I neglect my own spiritual needs?
God is not one-sided. God is not only the one who forgives us (or smites us, depending on your beliefs) when we confess those things for which we must ask forgiveness. God loves us – always – warts and all. Whether you believe that He has a specific plan for your life, or you believe that He gave us everything we need and is now silent, we might at least agree that God gives us the tools we need to succeed and be happy. And I know that the things I need for renewal are there for the taking. I just need to dip into the toolbox God has laid before me to find those things.
Finally, at least for July, I’m going to try to remember the final words of the prayer: “Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.” Maybe I can worthily serve the world – or at least my little part of the world – in His name.