EPISCOPAL WHATS? AND WHYS?
When some people first walk into an Episcopal Church, they wonder where they are and what the folks are doing. There is a silence as people kneel or sit to talk with the Lord as His children coming to meet as a family to worship our Father.
Then they are faced with the Book of Common Prayer. Dont these people know how to pray without a book? Whoops! They are all doing something together. I wonder how I can join in with them. The purpose of the Prayer Book is just that. We come to worship as one family. There is a difference between doing the same thing in the same place at the same time. and doing it together.
The words in the books are not the worship that we bring to God. They are the ritual. They are words that we have decided to use to keep us together as we converse with Our Father. The actions of standing, sitting and kneeling are not the worship. They are the ceremony. If we are going to do something together, we have a way that we agree to use together.
As we use the ritual and ceremony, we enter into Liturgy. That is the work of worship. We come into the presence of God, and engage God in the dialog of prayer. It is corporate prayer as we pray in the words of the book. We adapt it to be personal even as it is corporate. We bring ourselves to Him as His own individual child in a family of children. It is personal prayer as well as corporate prayer.
We are a Body. We are one Body in Christ. We are the flesh that He wears to bring His love to those for whom He has died. Our worship involves coming to Him with our brokeness, and inviting Him to bring in His life, to dwell within us that we may become His presence for those to whom He sends us. Since we are one in Him, we worship as one body, and we use the Book of Common Prayer.
Our worship is centered in two sacraments. A sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. instituted by God and given to us as a means of receiving the grace He wants to give us.
The first sacrament is Holy Baptism. The Church from the earliest days has used Baptism as a means of incorporating people into the Body. It is the outward sign of an inward act of God which gives us new birth in the Spirit of God. It is not our completion. It is a new beginning. It is the new child, born of the Spirit that needs nurture and nutrition.
When the new babe is born within us, we need to feed it the new life of Jesus Christ that He gives to us in the Bread of Heaven. Holy Communion is the worship wherein we bring that babe to the altar to lift it up to the Lord, and the Lord gives to each one, His Body and His Blood. He gives to us His life to fill all of the space available within us.
It is helpful for us to prepare our hearts before we come to the altar to receive Jesus into our lives in a more complete way. We are to look aver our lives to see what it is that we need to offer Him for His healing love. That is an intentional part of our offering at the time the offering is taken.
We bring also those of the family of God with whom we are communing. We are not simply making an individual communion. Paul tells us that we who are many are made one in our participation in the One Lord Jesus Christ. ICor 10:14-17
We are also to bring our enemies to offer them to God for His blessing. When they are blessed and become what God intends them to be, they become our friends. The best way to eliminate our enemies is to make them our friends.
STAND - SIT - KNEEL
The formula we use for posture in the church is to place our body in the position that our spirit seeks to find. We stand to praise, we sit to listen, and we kneel to pray. When we are praising God in song or reciting the Creed, we stand. When we listen to the Gospel, we stand in praise of the Lord who is the Good News. When we are listening to other readings, or the sermon or announcements, we sit to listen to the Word being spoken. When we pray, we kneel before the throne of Gods grace in recognition that His love is awesome, and we realize that He gives it to us freely.
THINGS YOU MIGHT SEE
When some people come into the church, they will put one knee to the floor (genuflect) to reflect the honor they have for the altar where we gather to meet God. Others will bow to do the same thing. Each one should make their decision about how they acknowledge coming into the presence of God.
Some will make the sign of the cross, from time to time to remind themselves that what they receive from the Lord is not what they deserve, but a gift of His grace through the Cross. We are not worthy, but He is a God who loves His children, and has prepared a way for us to receive the blessings of that love. It is through the Cross that we are given what He wills us to receive.
Some of the places that are appropriate are when we invoke the Trinity, whom we would not know except for the Cross. When the priest pronounces absolution or forgiveness, which we would not have except for the Cross. As we are about to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, His very life, which we would not have except for the Cross.
The actions that are used are not demands that we conform to someone elses idea of worship. They are expressions that enable us to enter more completely onto the worship and make it our own. The worship of the Church is not complete until we are gathered together in the unity of His love, and we have forgiven one another as He has forgiven us. We come willing to be made His body for the world for which He died.
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