Saturday, August 27, 2011


I will go to the altar of God.
To the God of my joy and gladness.
Tomorrow morning at St. John's we are doing an "instructed Eucharist" at the later service. We did this last fall at the early service and it was very well received. Cradle Episcopalians along with newcomers to our tradition told me how much they enjoyed learning more about our Eucharistic liturgy. I talked about a lot of things, everything from the theology behind what we do, to why we have certain rubrics, to why people bow and when most do it. And—surprise, surprise—people enjoyed spending some time talking about what we do each week.

And so, of course I'm looking forward to something people enjoy... but it's more than that. The idea of taking our time going through Holy Eucharist, with me being able to share the moments and import of each section of the liturgy... well I don't know many things as a priest which would make me happier.

Back when I was discerning with the Diocese of Northwest Texas whether or not I was called to presbyteral ministry, one of the key sign-posts was my love for Holy Eucharist—and my desire to be close to it. I still remember that first Sunday as a Eucharistic Minister, back at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX. I remember standing there, just a few feet from the altar, I almost fell over from the power of being so close to this holy meal.
Give judgment for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my strength; why have you put me from you? And why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?
Some Sundays, when I arrive at the church, I'm worn out. Maybe it's been a long week, or a weekend that wound up being more work than rest, but I pull myself out of bed at 7am and by the time I get to the parish I don't feel much more alive than I did when the alarm went off.

And sometimes that weariness runs deeper. As though over the past few days or weeks God has gently put me from him, teaching me perhaps love through absence. Or strength through weakness. Or life through death.

But by the time I'm in the sacristy, as I slowly put on each layer of clothing, I feel more strength, more comfort. As I say the pre-service prayers with the other ministers, I feel grace wash over me. Just the fact that I'm allowed to ask God to defend me, to stand up for me... well, for someone who is better at apologizing than standing up for myself, it's rather challenging.

And when I'm tired, when God feels far, I say those pre-service prayers, getting ready to go to the altar of God with my fellow Christians and the liturgy begins to ring true. "Why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?" I think to myself.

I just don't know.
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
But as we approach the celebration of Holy Eucharist, we approach the making present of the God who does indeed stand up for us. We approach the making present of a God who did not consider it sufficient to watch us struggle down below. We approach a God who descends with fury and abandoned love, to pitch a tent among us.

And if I can get there, if I can get to that holy hill and to that dwelling, I will give thanks. I promise I will.

Just to reach out and touch, to smell, to taste... it all will remind me that the dwelling of God is never as far away as it seems.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? And why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
So tomorrow, I'll get to talk with my brothers and sisters about why I love Holy Eucharist. I'll be able to share the profound joy I find in each and every moment, as we rehearse lines passed down to us through centuries. Like a mother's lullaby, teaching ancient truth to a weary child. Like basic arithmetic, discovered ages ago and then taught and rediscovered a new with each generation. Over and over God's people learn once again that God is very near. Very close.

There's no need to be weary.

There's no need to feel disquieted within.

Our God is not far off.

Our God is here.
Lift up your hearts.
We life them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

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