Sermon: Corpus Christi
June 10, 2012
Fr. Dow Sanderson
One of the interesting things about names in the Holy Scripture is that they are both descriptive and prescriptive.
Isaac... Yitsak.. is both born of laughter... and is a delight to his father (and mother)
Jacob... the supplanter...certainly lives up to his name.
And you shall call his name Jeshua... Jesus... for he shall save his people...
And I tell you, you are Petrus... Peter... a Rock... and upon this Rock I will build my Church.
Time and again... we see that the NAME that is given indicates in advance the life, the personality, the traits that will be lived out...
In the romanticism and imagination of my heart, I would like to think that it was Dr. Porter who named this parish Church of the Holy Communion.
But in truth, it was already named when he arrived in 1854, Bishop Christopher Gadsden, I suppose, having named the little congregation in 1848.
I wonder what was on his mind when he chose the name? The first parish ever in the Diocese to be named for the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar... (and there is still...after all these year... only one other, Church of the Holy Communion in Allendale, and it did not receive that name until 1903).
And so, in God's providence, it was appointed that this congregation should be the one to blaze a pioneering trail...
The first to insist on weekly (and then daily) celebrations of the Holy Eucharist...
The first to adorn the Eucharistic mysteries with all the honor and glory they deserve in music, beauty, vesture and gesture...
The first to teach and proclaim and live the truth of the Real Presence, that Christ is HERE, in our very midst... veiled under the forms of Bread and Wine....
How many lives have been touched and changed and made new, walking into this place?
And on this Feast of Corpus Christi... as we march ever closer to two hundred years of ministry in this place, how may we each contribute to and pass on with renewed faith, the gift that we have received?
One way, I think, is to keep ever before us the understanding that the Eucharist is not a commodity (and we live in a culture that attempts to treat everything as a commodity!)
The recent tempest (that we all heard about on the news and read in the paper) concerning the priest being banned from celebrating mass in the Charleston County Jail because of his use of one ounce of wine, transported dutifully in a TSA approved container... illustrates the point quite well).
On one hand... it was a sad and silly controversy to begin with... but on the other hand, how often do we have the Holy Eucharist on the front page of the paper?! That, in itself should be seen as gift and opportunity!
Of course, all manner of people weighed in with their opinions. Some thought the dilemma could be solved by simply substituting grape juice for wine (which we know, of course, is a complete impossibility).
Others, thought the trouble could be avoided if the priest would bring the Reserved Sacrament, under the form of bread only...( rightly understanding that Jesus cannot be divided... that in receiving Communion in One kind, we receive the whole Christ)...
That solution is at least closer to correct.
But both notions miss the mark of what is intended. The Eucharist isn't just something we take like an aspirin for a headache or an antibiotic for infection.
If that were the case, we could just have you all zoom by a drive in window, just like at the Bank or McDonald's (tragically, that is actually done in some places!)
Or we could just have a priest or Eucharistic Minister greet you in the narthex... you wouldn't even have to come inside.
Rather, the Eucharist is an action in which we participate. We each have our roll and work to do. We each are here to offer ourselves, our souls, our bodies, in union with Our Lord's eternal pleading of His Sacrifice before His Father's throne.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit... and Blessed be His Kingdom, now and forever.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann puts it quite well when he says of those words...the destination is announced at the very beginning of the journey (before we even start!)... GOD'S KINGDOM is the destination... and the Eucharistic journey is our means to that Kingdom...
As we embark, Sunday by Sunday on that journey, we would do well to remember that everything that we do teaches others.
I have been in some celebrations where the priest handled the Blessed Sacrament with no more concern than the coffee pot in the morning's breakfast ritual. If casual disregard is the notion intended... well then, job well done.... That is the notion received.
I have been in some Eucharistic celebrations (far from here!) where in the congregation there is little reverence...idle chat... coming and going at most inappropriate moments...yawns and fidgeting... (and that by the grown ups!). If utter boredom is the notion intended... well, that too can be accomplished and communicated.
But, oh, what a difference it can make when we are in love with Jesus... and when we remember that the Eucharist is not a THING but a person! Doesn't it help to remember that the Eucharist is alive? Doesn't it astound you that you and I are invited... welcomed... encouraged... to step forward in faith and take into our very own hearts the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Living Christ?
What a gift! Indeed, we are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under his Table... because it is the property of God to have mercy.
Have you ever thought about that phrase?
The property of water is that it freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212. That is what it does... that is its nature... that is its property... it cannot NOT do that!
And likewise, the property of God... the nature of God is that he has mercy on us and loves and welcomes us into his Presence.
That is what should be front and center... in our hearts, in our minds,,, in our attitudes... in all that we do... as we worship on this wonderful Holy Day of Corpus Christi.
And if we do that well... then the things that we teach and witness to, both consciously and subconsciously... will point others to that throne of grace...
Indeed, we will have announced the destination... even as the journey begins... Blessed be the Kingdom of God, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. +++