Clergy Corner – August 10, 2020

Joyce shared this with me this past week. It was written by Fr. Tim Schenck, rector at St. John’s the Evangelist Episcopal Church, Hingham, Massachusetts. He wrote this after his sermon on the feeding of the 5,000. You can learn more about his writing at this link:

Waiting and Fasting

This past weekend’s gospel reading about Jesus feeding the 5,000 included some very tangible echoes of the Eucharist. The same four-fold action that happens in front of the large crowd mirrors Jesus’ movements in the Upper Room. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the gathered assembly. At a moment when many are still fasting from Communion and participating in virtual worship, the story of the feeding of the 5,000 engages a deep and soulful yearning.

In my sermon, I shared a few things I miss about receiving the Eucharist. I’ve supplemented this list and offer them to you below. I’m sure you have others from your own experience and context.

–>I miss the altar guild reverently placing the chalice and paten on the altar and veiling the vessels with care and devotion.
–>I miss young acolytes struggling to light the tall candles, especially when they’ve recently been replaced with new ones.
–>I miss our Verger racing around before the service making sure we have enough wine and wafers to feed everybody.
–>I miss the unspoken action of the Eucharistic table setting during the offertory anthem.
–>I miss saying a quiet prayer as the server ritually washes my hands before the Great Thanksgiving.
–>I miss that brief silence – just a beat – after I raise my arms in prayer and gaze out upon the congregation before the words pour forth.
–>I miss consecrating the elements at the altar, using the ancient manual acts that are both so familiar and meaningfully mysterious.
–>I miss momentarily losing my place in the altar book and then quickly and, usually seamlessly to the naked eye, finding it again.
–>I miss the well-worn cloth strips used to mark the book, which I still never trust anyone else to set.
–>I miss the silent choreography with and among the other clergy at the altar.
–>I miss looking out at the congregation and seeing the familiar faces of people I care so deeply about as I elevate the silver vessels.
–>I miss looking out at the congregation and seeing the familiar faces of people I care so deeply about as I elevate the silver vessels.
–>I miss communicating the altar party, especially the wide-eyed look of the newest acolyte.
–>I miss offering the sacrament first to the choir before they return to their pews to sing the communion anthem and lead the Eucharistic hymns I never get to sing, but often hum along to as I go from one side of the rail to the other.
–>I miss offering the gifts of God for the people of God.
–>I miss the pride our ushers take in orchestrating the orderly movement of parishioners from pew to altar rail.
–>I miss seeing outstretched hands at the communion rail, some covered with magic markers, others covered with wrinkles, and most somewhere in between.
–>I miss the very real presence of Jesus in my own life that only comes through the reception of the Eucharist.
–>I miss fulfillment of the deepest yearning of my soul.

We wait. We fast. Yet Jesus abides even in the wilderness. And I take solace in that.

Obedience: When I read messages like the one from Fr. Tim, shared above, it is a bit intimidating. I think, wow, what powerful insights this guy has. I wish I had thoughts that deep! I wish I could think like that! I wish I could write like that! I’m envious of his gifts. I like to think I’m not much different from most other people. I know that I should not covet another person’s gifts. I should just enjoy and celebrate them. I have to remind myself, that I am a child of God and that I have committed my life, through baptism and ordination, to serve God. If I’m not a polished writer, God still loves me. If I’m not a polished preacher, God still loves me. What I am called to is obedience to my calling to love and serve God regardless of the level of skill at which I am able to perform those duties. We all need to remember that God celebrates our efforts to use our gifts or to develop a gift. God is only disappointed when we fail to make the effort to use our gifts (talents) regardless of our fear of failure. Each one of us must to do what we can to share the good news of Christ without letting our perceived short comings deter us. So, let us each walk humbly with our Lord, and seek ways to serve God by sharing the love of God; while, remembering that we are called to be be faithful in our efforts ….not necessarily successful.