A Communion Meditation
Pastor Tom Sorenson
June 2, 2002
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
The Christian life is characterized by a most peculiar practice. Once a week we gather in a place set apart for that purpose. That place probably doesnít look much like any other place we regularly frequent. Once we are gathered, we hear and sing music pretty much unlike any music we listen to anywhere else. We listen to stories and other writings that are at least nineteen hundred years old, some of them more like three thousand years old--ancient words spoken to us in a new time. We hear someone dressed in a way no one dresses in any other setting talk about those ancient words, trying to make them speak to us out of the ancient past in our modern lives. Sometimes we partake in what the liturgical theologian Gordon Lathrop calls "the remnant of a meal." When we do, we hear more of those ancient stories. And through it all, with or without the little meal, we speak to One Who we believe is present but whose presence is apparent only to the eyes of faith and is very easy to miss. It is by any secular standard an extremely odd thing that we do here. Indeed, to the eyes of the world, it is an absurd thing that we do here, an utter waste of time.
And yet we keep doing it. Week after week, year after year, generation after generation, through the millennia. Christians have been doing it in the same basic form, as far as we can tell, for the last nineteen hundred years. Why? Why do we do it?
Well, basically, we do it because we have to, because it feeds us in a way that nothing else can; because we know that without our faith we could not live; and our odd, even absurd gathering on Sunday morning keeps that faith alive in our lives as nothing else can. We do it because in our worship service we rehearse our faith, week after week; and that rehearsal, more than anything else we do, sustains our faith. That rehearsal, through its very repetition week after week, feeds our souls as nothing else can.
Although nothing in our Scriptures prescribes exactly the kind of worship service that has become traditional in the Christian churches, Scripture does recognize our need continually to rehearse our faith. This morningís passage from Deuteronomy is a good example. It directs us to take the Word of God into our hearts and souls, to repeat it always, to teach it to our children. Our communal worship together is not the only way we can do that. But in our tradition it is the principal way we do that. For me, it is the most powerful way of keeping the faith alive and real in my life. Maybe thatís why Iím standing where I am this morning. It is primarily through our common worship together that I am able to take the Word of God into my heart and soul and to keep it a central part of my life. Maybe thatís true for you too. I hope so. In any event, our tradition expresses great wisdom when it makes regular attendance at communal worship a central part of the Christian life.
In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells us that the one who hears the Word of God and does it builds his or her house on rock, that is, on a solid foundation that the winds and rains of the world cannot overcome. The main point of the story, I think, is that we are called on to do the will of God in the world. But before we can do it, we have to hear it. We have to learn it. We have to take it into our hearts and souls. For most of us, where we hear it, learn it, and take it into our hearts and souls is in this odd Sunday morning assembly. Without regular worship, building our house on rock becomes a lot more difficult. Regularly hearing Godís Word proclaimed and preached helps create that rock of faith on which we can build our lives.
So, why do we worship? Why do we do this odd, even absurd thing each Sunday morning? It certainly is not because God needs our worship. We donít do it to appease an angry God, the way the ancients sacrificed to the gods to keep them off their backs. No. We do it because we need to. Because it feeds us. Because we need the repetition of the stories and the constant rehearsal of the faith if we are to be Christians. As Jesus suggested in the Matthew passage, to be faithful is to do the will of God. In other words, to be faithful is to let our faith transform us into new people, into Christian people. The wonderful thing about the kind of traditional Christian worship that we do here is that over time it indeed transforms us. It has transformed me. I have seen it transform others. It takes time. Our worship isnít flashy. We donít have rock music, light shows, and lyrics to praise hymns projected on a big screen. In our world today our way of worship is countercultural. And it should be. Christianity, true Christianity, is radically countercultural. It presents a vision of life profoundly different from the one that our secular society sets before us. Regular worship allows that radically different vision to take root in our hearts and souls and there to transform us, change our lives, and set us on a new path. Thatís why we do it.
So this morning I invite you, as we go through the rest of this service, and especially as we partake in the Lordís Supper, very consciously to open your hearts and minds to what we are doing here. Let the symbols of the Communion and the words of the prayers and hymns flood your heart, speak to your soul, and give you what your soul longs for this morning. By the grace of God they have that power. Let this odd, absurd thing we do work its magic on you. That, in the end, is why youíre here and why Iím here. Thanks be to God.