Open Communion

A psalm for the fifth day at Morning Prayer is the 26th, which includes these lines:

“Give judgment for me, O Lord, for in have lived with integrity;/ I have trusted in the Lord and never faltered….

I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,/ that I may go in procession round your altar.* (vv.1,6)

I admire the Psalmist’s self-confidence, but I do not share it! My spiritual life has lots of faltering, and if innocence is the basis on which I approach the altar, my Sunday mornings will be freer than they now are. Who then is the ‘I’ who can say these words?

The answer is the ‘George’ who lives based on the forgiveness Christ has won for us, the one clothed in His righteousness. The only one who hasn’t faltered is Christ. So when we read psalms with these stringent requirements of holiness we are at once daunted and emboldened. There is after all a reason that in his parables Jesus had such an emphasis on decisiveness and chutzpah.

Somewhat lost amidst other matters at General Convention was a call for a renewed debate about ‘open communion.’ This phrase refers to offering communion to the unbaptized. The argument on its behalf is a serious one: isn’t our faith based on sheer grace, unmerited gift? What claim do we have over our unchurched neighbor? Aren’t we all equally creatures of God, made in His image? Yes, indeed.

But we should at this point listen once more to those verses of the psalm. As we listen, we need to be honest with ourselves. We are indeed equal, equally unable to approach the throne of unalloyed holiness, truth, and love on our own. After the seraphim sing the words ‘holy, holy, holy’ we sing in the Eucharist, Isaiah says “woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amidst a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6). We all need to be brought to this altar; we need what St. Athanasius imagined as an asbestos vest before the fire of God’s love. If we are to go there, we need to be Christ’s own, which means we need baptism and then the Christian life of grace. What is open is Christ’s offer to every human being of that grace.

The debate about open communion is valuable because it clarifies the most basic matters in our faith. It also, implicitly, gives us our marching orders. The unbaptized and the baptized seem alike to us in part because we as a church have not always assumed the latter needed earnestly to be taught and formed on the basis of who they now really are in Jesus Christ. The answer is not lowering the bar of receiving communion, but rather raising the bar of catechism and spiritual formation.

Peace, GRS+

Remembering

When the Holy Eucharist is celebrated there is a place in the Canon of the Mass where we recall our Lord’s words of Institution, “On the night before he died for us…….DO this in remembrance of me,” In theological language we use the Greek “Anemnesis,” to remember. Its essence is more than simply remembering something that occurred a long time ago. Rather, it is calling to the present an event from the past in such a way that we are enabled through the Holy Spirit, to participate in that event in the here and now. It is a dynamic remembering and it brings a deeper meaning to our experience in making our communion.

 We don’t do well in the modern age with remembering. It seems we live in and for the moment neglecting lessons learned in the past. We do this in relationships, politics, history, you name it - we just simply choose to forget. This in and of its-self is not so bad, but when it comes to our relationship with God it can become a disaster for us spiritually. It is no wonder many have lost their way, go astray from the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ - we forgot! We forget God!

In his book “Sacred Journey for a Peaceful Warrior,” Dan Millman recounts the story of a little girl and her special request of her parents. “Soon after her brother was born, little Sachi began to ask her parents to leave her alone with the new baby. They worried that, like most four-year-olds, she might feel jealous and want to hit or shake him, so they said no. But she showed no signs of jealously and she treated the baby with kindness-and her pleas to be left alone with him became more urgent. They decided to allow it.”

“Elated, she went into the baby’s room and shut the door, but it opened a crack- enough for her curious parents to peek in and listen. They saw little Sachi walk quietly up to her baby brother, put her face close to his, and say quietly, “Baby, tell me what God is like. I’m starting to forget.”

What a story, what a thing to ponder. Perhaps we can learn from Sachi’s quest to “know God.” If we believe that all life comes from God, that each of us has our beginning and end in and through God, then is it possible we had knowledge of him at birth. IF so, think of how much time we have spent in forgetting him, overcome by “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Think of all the opportunities we have squandered to be with God, to be touched by him, to be reconnected to him because we have been pre-occupied by things in this world.

Beloved of the Lord, God desires for us to be with and in him, to know him! He created us with this in mind. It is supposed to be natural for us to know him in everyway that we are able. As we continue our journey through the liturgical year let us do so being mindful of our need for knowing God. Through our prayers, our worship, our study of Holy Scripture, let us be intentional in our desire for knowing God.

I think little Sachi was on to something, don’t you?   “Baby, tell me what God is like. I’m starting to forget.”

God bless and keep you,

 

Bishop Paul

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