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

(Photo of sacramental bread used for the Eucharist courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

"I do not go to Mass to make myself "better." I go because, in the dimmest reaches of my scattered, angst-ridden mind, there is something that wants me to get down on my knees and, in spite of my own suffering and all the suffering around me, give thanks. I go because I am beginning to believe that heaven is not in some other world, but shot through the broken world in which we live."

--Heather King

I borrowed this one off my blog friend Fran's status recently. I had to agree with everything Heather King said, but I have to add one thing to it..."...and the embodiment of heaven shot through a broken world resides in the Eucharistic sacraments--the bread and wine--the Body and Blood of Christ."

If there are two things I go back to again and again in my spiritual core, it's the duty I have to my own Baptismal Covenant, and the repeated promise of renewal in the Sacraments. I think I can turn just about anything into a discussion about the Sacraments. In fact, just recently I somehow managed, in a conversation with my vicar about the church Google Calendar, meander my way into talking about the Sacraments. (The conversation was about putting the dates for "House Eucharist" this summer on the calendar. We got to talking about how the Eucharist is both "same" and "different" in different settings.)

When I'm sitting in the middle of my own brokenness and heartache, what I need most is the Sacraments--not because they magically "do something to fix it," but because somehow, they transform me from a "receiver" to a "giver." Just as the wine is poured into the chalice, I see the need to pour myself out into the receptacle of God's kingdom. Just as the bread is shattered at the fraction, I see my own fractures. Then these poured out and broken items are placed inside of my digestive tract, literally the center of my body--to be made whole again--and not just whole separate things, but whole mixed things with a synergy all their own--the whole equaling more than the sum of the parts.

Then in the traditional Post-Eucharistic Prayer, we ask God to "send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you, with gladness and singleness of heart."

Singleness of heart.

Not multiple rugged individuals. One heart. The heart of Christ.

That's not to say I don't enjoy hearing the Word, that's not to say I don't appreciate good preaching, that's not to say I don't feel good about putting that check in the collection plate. These are all good things. They all have a certain degree of transformative power in their own right. But nothing puts them all together quite like the Eucharist.

I used to think that being in love with the Eucharist meant I had to be a "picky eater." Some of the most contentious discussions I've ever sat through in church had to do with which Eucharistic prayer we were using, or whether everyone ought to be kneeling after the Sanctus, or standing after the Sanctus, or if it was ok we had some do both. (I remember one voice in that discussion, "Well, if I had my way, everyone would be standing," which was countered by, "Well, if I had my way, everyone would be kneeling.")

I used to think I had to choose a side on these discussions. I'll be honest, I like kneeling better. But I am also a prayer book geek, and I know the instruction in the Book of Common Prayer says that the people are to either "stand or kneel," and when the Prayer book puts something first, the preference is the first one. So my liking to kneel is the "least preferred option" in the mind of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music at the time the 1979 Prayer Book was crafted.

But that's the point. Anglicanism has rubrics, but we allow for choice in several parts of the liturgy. The fact is, "We don't all get to have our way." That's what irks me about the "breakaway" Anglicans--the people who left because they didn't get to have their way about gay people and women with collars and/or pointy hats. Many of them even go back to the words of the 1928 Prayer Book to feel like they are getting their way--like the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, back then, had some kind of special gnosis that made that edition of the Prayer Book akin to the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain.

I think about a time a few people expressed their dislike for the short time we used Eucharistic Prayer D. I'm not sure why, but my best guess was, "It was long." Even Episcopal seminaries teach the "ABCD's" of the four Eucharistic Prayers-- I always heard EP-A was "Adoration," EP-B was either "Blessed Virgin Mary" (because she's more prominently featured in this one,) or "Benediction" (because of its emphasis on gratitude), EP-C was "Confessional," and EP-D meant "Don't."

But in reality, EP-D is the closest one we have to the earliest forms of the Eucharist--much of it comes from the Sarum Rite, and is probably the closest one to Eastern Orthodoxy. If we want to play the "let's get back to what the church originally thought," we are talking EP-D. Yet it is the least liked of the four, if we start talking "likes and dislikes," and "what I want."

I don't worship to get what I want. I worship to become who I need to be in the totality of God's reign on earth. If I am getting hung up on standing or kneeling, which Eucharistic Prayer we are using, the quality of the preaching, or some of the ickier messages in the Lectionary, I am missing the point. When I feel like I want "my way" on this, I am too focused on the wrong things.

I remember being a little irked that I have been "put back in the corner" as acolyte. During our interim, as acolyte I was allowed "behind the table" with the presider, looking out at the pews, instead of where I used to be, before our interim, looking from the side at the table toward the priest. It wasn't because I wanted to fantasize about presiding. It was because from that vantage point, I suddenly got a new view of the Eucharist I had never had...that it wasn't something the priest did, it's something that the gathered body of people did. But when our new priest came, we went back to our old spot for the acolyte.

I admit, I don't like it as much, being in the "old spot." But I got the opportunity to see it from the "new vantage point," and that memory has not left me, and I have come to realize individual priests have individual preferences, and that's all it is. Every priest has his or her personal piety that must be attended to in order to be authentic to his or her sense of who they are as an ordained person--it shouldn't be compromised. As the presider, that is his or her right, just as how, when I'm the driver of the car, I get to put the heat or the A/C how I want it--because I hold the life of the passengers in my hands. The presider holds the spiritual life of the gathered body in his or her upraised hands as the Holy Spirit's conduit at the Eucharist, and what he/she wants (if they are healthy) is not a whim or a power thing--it's just a preference as to how they see the Eucharist. I came to understand that's okay, as long as none of the rubrics of the Prayer Book are being violated. It's just "who they are" as a priest and the experience of how they were trained.

Sure, "My favorite Eucharist" is a certain way, with certain types of music and certain types of prayer, and with things arranged in a certain fashion. But as long as I'm getting consecrated bread and wine, I'm getting what I need, and I've come to realize that what I need to be doing as part of fulfilling my Baptismal Covenant is not entering in these nit-picky discussions with other parishioners. I am happy to state my opinion and show up anyway, whether I get "my way" or not. I've decided part of fulfilling my Baptismal Covenant is to listen to what bothers others, and be compassionate, but not necessarily to take sides. To know the rubrics and make it clear that "if it's in the rubrics, I'm good with it, because I get what I need in the Sacraments."

In short, I found out "why I worship," by letting go of "what I want in worship," and accepting I always get what I need.


Oh what can I say... Wow, you really say it all here. I love that your focus on what "I" want and what "you" want etc detracts from what being the Body actually is. And I am glad that by sharing Heather's brilliant quote I helped with a little inspiration!

I will try this again now that I'm at a real computer at work. I am taken by how different we can be for all our similarities. You seem to have a different relationship to rules than I have. For example, you say you choose the less preferred kneel over stand. Me? I say sit if you feel like it...or need to. When we were talking the other day about the formation of a community and you were explaining that you would want it officially part of an organized church and I felt differently. It's as if you in your "bucking" need that strong foundation to buck against. (Mind you not passing judgement at all just seeing the difference)

I think I am further along the Protestant scale than you. However, I also favor the Eucharist and could do it every day which is a bit Anglo-Catholic. I also love the liturgy. However, IMHO you start with the prayer book, assign the various roles to members of your community - presbyter to you, deacon to you, preacher to you, etc. These roles can be shared by all (with practice) no magic hands needed. Think of taking turns in the kitchen...this week you will cook, you will set the table, you will pray over the food, you will clear...

I really like the way you described the taking in of the bread and wine too.

Peace and prayers for Goran.

Actually, Renz, your assessment of "needing strong rules to buck against" is a very accurate assessment--one that my spiritual director has pointed out as one of the more interesting parts of my personality (and I've blogged about this, too)--He calls it "pushing at the fences." I think I described it more or less in an earlier post, "It's not a very good boundary if I can push it over." It's kind of how I assess what is and what isn't worth it.

If I were to guess where that comes from, it comes from growing up around people who had no perspective between "good" boundaries, "stupid and arbitrary" boundaries, and "hidden, secret, and weird" boundaries. I never knew when I was over a line or when I wasn't, and tired of the wrath I got for no palpable reason.

And, as my spiritual director has pointed out, being within the clearly defined boundaries brings out my most spiritually imaginative self. I tend to expend too much energy creating the boundaries rather than having fun in the pasture, when they are not well defined.

That said, my pushing at them has the power to create change...over time. But again, where I do my best work is not in pushing down the fence, but convincing people we need to buy the adjoining pasture, and then we can ALL take down the fence.

"That said, my pushing at them has the power to create change...over time. But again, where I do my best work is not in pushing down the fence, but convincing people we need to buy the adjoining pasture, and then we can ALL take down the fence."

So. Very. True.

I feel the same exact way - as if you did not know that.

What you describe also has to do with child development - your needs in this stage may never have been properly met. It's why kids act out = they are pushing the walls to define their safe zone. You never had a safe zone.

For me I see rules as simple guidelines that have only a tangential relationship to reality. So many folks in our culture end up worshiping the rules over the content or intent or spirit of what is at hand...

And yet, I am not for completely throwing out the "rule book" as it were. I love the BCP and the associated other texts to enrich our worship. Liturgy has "rules."

Perhaps it has to do with growing up outside the mainstream culture even within my own family. When you are gay (even in this modern age) you are existing outside the rules from the onset. You have to pretend that you are following the rules to get along until you can declare yourself and state "F*ck your rule book" and then you tear it apart and save the pages you want to use for yourself and write some new pages as well.



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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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