Sunday, January 30, 2011

That We May Perfectly Love Thee-Robert Benson

This book fell into my hands at a very good time, as so often is the case. I've had it for years, but never read it until recently. Worshipping in a more liturgical setting lately has been fascinating and powerful for this heart, but admittedly I don't understand the meanings behind all of the ceremonies. It has brought to mind for me that the method of our worship is not nearly as important as the condition of the heart bowing before the One worthy of our adoration.
"I am finally far enough along on my journey to have come to see that the variations on the liturgical dance, as well as the variations in architecture and symbolism and form, are not at odds with each other, they are simply different ways of saying the same things." (23)
The Eucharist, The Lord's Supper, Communion, The Table of the Lord-the terminology is not important. Wine or grape juice, wafers or bread, together or separate, in the pew or at the alter-really, doesn't matter.
"It is the place where the Word made Flesh took on an astonishing and powerful new meaning, powerful enough that we come to these places 2000 years later simply to remember the Story and to reenact it as best we can. It is the place where the Story ends and the place where it begins at the same time." (54)
"What really matters is the Story, of course-not how well we know it, but how well we allow it to know us." (55)
Rooted in the heart of our traditions, the Eucharist is more important than a half nod toward the alter, getting through the line quickly and checking this off our list of religious practices for the week. It is foundational to our faith.
"However we keep the feast, we recognize that we gather in some way with those who were in the room with Christ at that 1st Eucharist." (84)
"This is the moment when all 4 corners of our faith collide-Scripture, tradition, reason and experience-and are bound together with the mysterious presence of God." (86)
I thought more about Communion this morning after reading this book. Watching the people prepare it very carefully. I listened more intently to the prayers prayed over it and prayers for the people, including me. I was more aware of the allotted time for personal confession-time to clear my own thoughts and my own soul. It meant more to me than it has before when we said, "Lift up your hearts/we lift them up to the Lord. And there it is, the gift of our hearts, the gift that God wants the most." (72)
And this book made me realize that our spiritual journey surrounding Communion does not get left at that alter, or in that pew. We receive the sacrament of communion to go and be His Body to the world. To be His hands. To be His feet. To be His heart.
I understood what Robert Benson was saying when he viewed The Eucharist in this light of ongoing responsibility both to receive it and to live it. "Sometimes I hate to see it end because I have a feeling that I just made a promise that I am not sure I can keep. I have just promised, as I took the Body and Blood of Christ, to actually go and be the Body and the Blood of Christ." (92)
Today I received communion in my church with fellow believers in the way outlined by this denomination, in this setting, with these prayers for these people. I received the Body and the Blood (in presence) of Christ Himself. It was a privilege and not one to be taken lightly. But outside the doors of my church, down the road at the other churches, in the next town, in the next city, in the next state, to the next country-countless believers had the same experience in their own traditions, with their own people, of receiving Him also. And I can't help but think that if every one of us who encountered Christ at His table today took the call literally to go from there and be Christ to the world-our world would be a better place.

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