September 1, 2009

The Problem

As I read and re-read the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman, I can't help but think that perhaps as a Church, Episcopalians (and those we've trusted to write our liturgies) are shooting ourselves in the foot. Read again the Collect for Sunday -

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always risist the proud who confide in their own strenght, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

NB - I am not a 1928 Book of Common Prayer Guy

But, look at the way we've changed how we approach God between 1928 and the most recent liturgies published for use.

1928 (Rite I) - And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.
And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.

1979 (Rite II) - We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.
Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

Current (Enriching our Worship I) - Now gathered at your table, O God of all creation, and remembering Christ crucified and risen, who was and is and is to come, we offer to you our gifts of bread and wine, and ourselves, a living sacrifice.
Pour out your Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Body and blood of Christ. Breathe your Spirit over the whole earth and make us your new creation, the Body of Christ given for the world you have made.

Can you see it? We've gone from hoping against hope that God will even deign to hear us, to offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, to full on gathering at his table. I wonder if we wouldn't find ourselves in a much different place if humility and boasting only of the mercy of God were the order of the day rather than pride in our place as "chosen" in God's kingdom.

Lot's of inside talk today, sisters and brothers, I'm sorry about that. A better post tomorrow, I pray.


matt said...
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matt said...

I agree with you that our perspectives on worship have changed from hoping against hope that God will deign to hear us to taking our place at the table. However, your argument seems to be that pride has replaced humility. While I agree that a sense of reverence and humility seems to have waned through the new incarnations of the Eucharistic prayers, they're not altogether lacking. If we are ones who are gathering at the table, wouldn't make sense that we are gathered not by our own actions and desires, but those of God? In the Eucharist, isn't it Christ who bids us draw near? If it was a mere pride in being the chosen, I don't think EOW would mention us offering ourselves as living sacrifices, nor beg God to breathe forth a new creation.

Can there be such a thing as humble confidence? If there is, is it a good thing? If it is good, how close are we to achieving a healthy balance of humility and confidence? I don't believe we're there yet and there may in fact be too heavy an emphasis on the confidence.

spankey said...

Thanks for the thoughts Matt. I think you are right in stating that the ideal is that we gather at the table by Christ's bidding alone, but I get the sense in our 2009 American culture we don't see it that way. Even if EOW was aimed in that direction, it seems to me that the language makes it too easy to forgo any sort of humility and instead see ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder with God at Table rather than giving thanks for the invitation to even be a guest at God's table.

As we enter the throne room, our first inclination should be to throw ourselves at the feet of the King and wait to be invited to stand. Instead, I think that we've decided, with much hubris, that we are entitled to be in the Holy Presence.