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Week 13

Liturgical Note: Notice at once the liturgical rhythm that frames the entire liturgy- Throughout the service the liturgy is constantly drawing the believer to God’s Word for examination and repentance; and then back to God’s Word for assurance and pardon; and then back to God’s word for holiness and renewed living; all the while praising God and thanking Him for His mercy and goodness towards us. Importance: the liturgical rhythm found throughout the service models/demonstrates the very rhythm to be found in your own prayer life and quiet time. Why? It is the very dynamic of the Gospel itself.

 

Location- Notice where we are in the service. The believer has been prepared to come to God’s Table. He has heard God’s Word read and proclaimed, he has repented of his sins, and he has been assured of God’s mercy and grace. Form this point on our attention turns to the Table.

 

Importance: notice it was during the Offering that we set the Table and got it ready for Communion. Why? (Why not have it set up prior to the beginning of the service?) First, the actual setting of the Table underscores the fact that the meal we are about to partake is not just a symbol. Rather, it is a real meal that provides real (spiritual) nourishment. Likewise, it is a real time of fellowship between God and His people. Second, setting the Table provides an important illustration and visual reminder of what we are doing throughout the whole first portion of the service. During the first portion of the service we are preparing our hearts for fellowship with God at His Table. Notice then, by the time we reach this point in the service, the Table is set and the preparation is complete. As such, we draw near to the Table to partake.

 

Sursum Corda

The Lord be with you

                    And with thy spirit

                    Lift up your hearts

                    We lift them up to the Lord

                    Let us give thanks unto our Lord God

                    It is meet and right so to do

 

A] The name “Sursum Corda” is taken from the first line of this ancient refrain, which translated from the Latin reads “lift up your hearts”.

 

Note: in most ancient liturgies the Sursum Corda is preceded by the Salutation (“The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.”). Importance: remember the Salutation is not just a polite way of saying, be quiet. Rather, it is a prayer that God will be with each of us as we undertake the corporate work of worship.

 

Therefore, as the Salutation asks God to be with each of us (priest and laity alike), it provides a crucial reminder that the bread and wine are not consecrated (made a Sacrament) by incanting a formula of words over them. Rather, consecration is the work of the Holy Spirit working through His appointed means. As such, it requires the ministry of both priest and laity together. How? God works in conjunction with the ministry of the priest and in response to the prayers of the whole people. Notice then, the priest is a shepherd of prayers. That is, he focuses, collects, and guards the propriety of the congregation’s prayers (Deut 12:5-14; 16:5-6). In turn, the congregation seeks from God the very gift He has instructed them to seek. Bottom line: the bread and wine are consecrated (made a Sacrament) by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the ministry of the priest and in response to the prayers of the whole people.

 

Notice the result:  the Liturgy is not important because it is a magic spell that results in consecration. Rather, the Liturgy is important because it focuses and unites the prayers of God’s people and at the same time insures that our prayers contain all the vital points that Scripture prescribes.

 

B] From the earliest recorded Eucharist services, the Sursum Corda has marked the beginning of the consecration and thus the Eucharist proper. As such, it establishes the approach and the mindset we are to have as we come to the Table.

 

Think of it this way: at this point in the service it is as if we are standing outside the doors to the royal throne room of our Heavenly Father. As we wait to enter the inner court, the Sursum Corda serves as the Sergeant of Arms. It reminds us of where we are going and the proper protocol once we are there (kind of like if you were to go to see the queen, an attendant would be there prior to your going in to remind you to turn off your cell phones, don’t chew gum, and wait for the queen to extend her hand before you offer yours).

 

Notice then the first thing that the Sursum Corda reminds us is that as we come to the Table we are entering the Holy of holies of God’s presence (thus in a few moments we will join our voices with those of Angels and Archangels and the whole heavenly court). Therefore, the Sursum Corda reminds us that as we approach the Table, we are to lift our hearts from common things and set our focus on God and the sacred time of fellowship we are about to enjoy.

 

Second, the Sursum Corda reminds us that our proper response to God and the Salvation He has given us is to be one of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. In fact, the word “Eucharist” by which the entire Communion service is known means “thanksgiving”. As such the Sursum Corda sets the tone for the entire Eucharist celebration.

 


Note: this picture provided by the liturgy is not merely liturgical poetics. Rather, Church is literally heaven on earth. Notice then, the heavenly court described by the liturgy is the very picture presented to us at the Table.

 

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

 

Revelation 5:6 And I saw a Lamb as if slain standing between the throne (of God) and the elders (the Church)

 

Not only that, this heavenly court (or garden sanctuary) is already filling, reclaiming, and subduing the earth.

 

Habakkuk 2:14 "For the earth will be filled with the (direct) knowledge of the (Shekinah) glory of the LORD (presence), As the waters cover the sea.

 

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and He shall be God with them

 

Already we are being transformed into citizens of God’s Kingdom. Already God’s plan for creation is unfolding.

 

2 Peter 3:13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

 

Notice then, it is this very reality, which will one day fully and finally transform the whole of existence that is already ours in Christ and already enjoyed at the Table. Church is literally heaven on earth.

 

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