Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Psalm 4:5:
Offer the appointed sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

Our Advent season in my parish opened with one of the biggest comedy of liturgical and procedural errors imaginable. Eventually, it was downright comical.

Let me go through the list of everything I can remember that went wrong....

1. The organist got her wires crossed and did not show up.
2. I meant to fix the front door of the church (the latch plate needs adjusting) and it kept popping open.
3. Our music director played the piano, subbing for the organist, and he had a bit of a pregnant pause as he hunted for a piece of music.
4. The person who did Prayers of the People goofed and did two stanzas twice.
5. The person who normally does the organizing to pass plates at the offering was gone, and we sort of organized that on the fly.
6. The person who usually brings the kids up to bring the bread and wine was fashionably late with the kids.
7. The acolyte did the candles backwards both before and after the service.

In short, a good time was had by all!

I keep being reminded of something our interim priest told me when I felt nervous about doing things "exactly right" when I am serving as acolyte: "No one person can single-handedly break the Eucharist." I joked that "Well, even a bunch of someones can't break it--and we just proved it!"

So why are there groups out there that keep claiming not just that it can be broken, but are willing to name who will break it?

Yes, those who want to bar certain people (cough, cough, gayslesbianswomen, cough cough) have their reasons. They're scriptural reasons, in their opinion. But I am going to take another tack here.

Does anyone have any evidence that letting these (in their minds,) "notorious sinners" presiding at Holy Eucharist has lessened or dampened or nullified the Eucharist's transformational power?

I've yet to hear anyone who believes and lives Eucharistically say, "You know, I was at my church the other day, and I went up to the altar, and didn't do as much for me as it used to...and you know, I think it's because all those gays and women are out there celebrating it. I think it's just not working like it used to in the church universal."

But here's what we do know...

We know that in the past, people who have committed horrible crimes later on, and people who live secret, dark lives outside of the canons and their vows of the priesthood have presided over God's table, and somehow, the people who had partaken of the sacraments served at that table were still transformed at that very same altar.

When people of that ilk have been discovered or exposed, I've yet to hear a bishop issue a memo that said, "Y'all who ever celebrated Mass with (fill in the name of clergy person) need to show up next week for a do-over of your partaking of the Sacraments, since those ones you got from (fill in name of clergy person again) are null and void now."

I'll be the first to agree that we should hold those who preside at the altar to very high standards. In the Episcopal Church, we ask those ordained to the priesthood to do a lot. We ask them to submit to the authority of the bishop, read and study Scripture diligently, endeavor to minister the word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, and undertake to be a faithful pastor. We ask them to pattern their life and household in accordance with Christ's teaching, persevere in prayer, and offer their labors to God. That's a pretty tall order. We're all going to probably have some differences of opinion on just what that means, and I accept that.

But even on the infinitesimally minute off-chance that these folks are right about these things that they fear about the (cough cough gayslesbianswomen cough, cough) people in question, we still don't have any evidence that their presence at the altar has changed the fundamental nature of what we believe the Sacraments do insofar as their effects on individuals.

For that matter, I haven't even begun to address the moral composition of those of us who come to that altar and participate. We have plenty of sinners at the altar already. Really sinful ones of us, too. Yet none of our personal auras have tainted the Sacraments. So if we don't pollute it, how can anyone on the other side of the altar do it?

Therefore, I keep thinking we are looking for the wrong thing on which to base a family squabble. Not to mention, outside of the family, no one cares. The atheists down the street don't care. The evangelicals across the road don't care. Not in a real sense, anyway. Maybe just in that semi-voyeuristic way neighbors know, the "The Barkleys down the street are fighting again, I heard them out in my yard," sort of way.

So here's my modest proposal. Let's just all keep coming to the table. Defy it to not transform you. And when someone has single-handedly managed to find a way that it breaks the Eucharist, let folks know. I'm not holding my breath.


"Defy it to not transform you."


I got nothin' but a Capital A-Amen for that!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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