The Blessed Sacrament

I’m of the opinion as a struggling preacher that the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament — whatever name you’re familiar with — is the best sermon ever preached! Every time it’s the gospel strained clear, good news for every poor soul who comes.

For all the good the Protestant Reformation did now five hundred years ago, I often have sensed, and do now more than ever before, that when we replaced the communion table with the pulpit at the center of worship, we got it wrong! Up until that time, for the first fifteen hundred years of church history, the Eucharist was the primary means by which people encountered or experienced God. It was only after the Reformation that the locus of God presence (at least for us protestants) was transferred to the Word.

The results of this move are worth considering. When we elevate the pulpit at the expense of the altar, it’s easy to cease being “friends” who share the same experience, and instead become “students” with “teachers” who teach us varied and different interpretations of the Word. This is at the heart of so much of our debates and schisms in the Church today, our loss of the Blessed Sacrament and our blessed Savior’s love as our primary and shared experience. Further, when the pulpit takes primary place, we become spectators, consumers of a Word directed at us, rather than participants who come to a feast of grace. Worship is to be primarily evaluated, along with us preachers and teachers, and none of us can preach or teach better than Christ Jesus, who spreads a table, and says with love, “My body, my blood for you.” Love of all loves.

Gerard Straub writes: “Saint Francis of Assisi experienced the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Love in which God became his spiritual food. He needed the refreshment of Love’s presence the way his lungs needed air. Nourished by Love, Francis was able to love in turn all of creation. As Christ’s Body and Blood became one with Francis’ body and blood, Francis was able to become Christ to everyone he met.” (The Sun and Moon Over Assisi).

I am grateful that our own sanctuary space has the pulpit, albeit a bit elevated, off to one side, letting the altar remain in the middle. Maybe it’s time the Word and its telling, the sermon, fully point us and lead us to the Sacrament again. Maybe it’s time to share the sacrament every week, because we know that we can never get enough of the redeeming love and presence of Christ — and because we know that with that taste of grace in our mouths, leaving, we can’t help but love each other more.

What do you think?

Love From Here

Peter Hawkinson

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