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Week 17

Liturgical Note: remember in the Oblation and Invocation we were reminded that God is the one who instituted the Sacrament and God is the one who sets apart the meal to bless His people. In other words, at every stage of the meal God’s grace comes first. Thus, up to this point in the Eucharistic prayer, our duty has been to focus our faith on what God has done and to ask God to set apart the meal He has commanded us to seek. However, in the final section of the Eucharist prayer, the Prayer of Communion, our attention turns to what we bring to the table. As such, the Prayer of Communion underscores the active nature of the Eucharist and the true fellowship it represents.  Here we respond to Christ’s one time sacrifice, His presence at the table, and the grace He provides at the meal by offering our thanksgiving and service to God and by renewing our dependence on His grace.

 

Notice then the way the prayer is structured: three times we respond to the grace that God has brought by bringing our offerings of praise, service, and worship to God. And three times we turn to Christ to redeem and renew our gifts by that very grace. In other words, our response is both a thanksgiving for and a deep need of His grace.

 

One final point: notice in each case our offerings are called sacrifices. Why? (1) By calling our offerings sacrifices and then describing their nature, the liturgy intentionally distinguishes what we offer at the Table from the one time sacrifice of Christ. In other words, the liturgy makes it explicitly clear that we are not reoffering Christ. Rather, we are bringing our own offerings to God in response to Christ’s grace. (2) By calling our offerings sacrifices, the liturgy indicates their reflective and dependent nature. That is, our sacrifices rest upon and are made possible by Christ’s one time Sacrifice. (3) By calling our offerings sacrifices, the liturgy reminds us that we are giving ourselves to God even as Christ first gave himself to us. In other words, the new life we have received from God we now offer back to Him in praise, love, and service.

 

Communion Prayer:

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.

 

Notice at once that the first thing we offer is our celebration of the Sacrament (described here as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving- Heb 13:15). That is, the prayer of Communion begins by asking God to accept our part in the Sacrament (what we bring to the table). Notice then, what we bring: we bring our faith in what the signs represent (Christ’s one time sacrifice), our desperate need of it, and our thanksgiving to God for providing it. Thus, our celebration is truly an offering (or sacrifice) of praise and thanksgiving. We believe God, therefore we praise Him. We need His grace, therefore we thank Him.

 

Next, notice that immediately after asking God to accept our offering of praise and thanksgiving for the grace He has brought to the Table, we turn to Him for the full benefit of that grace. Not only that, notice we ask this full benefit not just for ourselves but also for the entire body of Christ. In other words, immediately after asking God to accept our celebration of the meal, we turn to Him to provide the very fullness of salvation that is depicted by the meal (2 Peter 3:13/Phil 1:6). Importance: at once, the Prayer of Communion reminds us that the Eucharist is a real time of fellowship at the heart of a real relationship. Therefore, each party brings to the Table what is theirs to offer. Christ brings His presence and healing grace. We bring our faith, needs, and praise.

 

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee;

humbly beseeching thee, that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.

 

Next, our second offering underscores the holistic and ongoing nature of what we bring. Here we offer the whole of ourselves to God as a living and Holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1). That is, we offer all that we are, have, and do to God. Why? God has redeemed the whole of life.

 

Importance: remember the grace that saves you is a grace that really changes you. Therefore, each week you bring the specifics of your life to Christ to heal. As grace begins to heal you, you begin to serve God more and more throughout the week (with those areas that you once withheld from God). Finally, you return to the Lord’s Table the next Sunday to offer God the fruit of that grace and to renew your dependence on it. Such then is the Eucharistic cycle and the full/true meaning of an active liturgy (lives renewed by grace and returned to God’s service).

 

Notice then the vital connection: liturgy is active because grace is active (it really changes us). Grace is active because our relationship with God is active (God saves us into a real relationship with Himself). Thus, the way we worship is based on and is to faithfully reflect the new life God has given.

 

Next, having offered God the whole of our lives, we once again renew our dependence on His grace to accomplish our gift. Notice then, we ask God that we might rightly receive the sacrament He has set before us; that we might be filled with the grace and favor it promises; and that our lives might be renewed by this grace and be drawn deeper into His ongoing fellowship and service.

 

Please note: when we ask that we and all others would worthily receive the sacrament, we are not asking that we come by way of our own merit or righteousness, but rather that we will rightly discern the meaning of the sacrament and our urgent need of the grace it offers (1 Cor 11:27). In other words, to come worthily is realize you own unworthiness.

 

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice;

yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.

 

Next, the third offering we bring is our utter dependence on God’s grace. Notice then the final portion of the prayer reminds us that the life, service, and worship that we bring to the Table are not offered by way of original merit. Rather, our participation and response are wholly based on Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice. In other words, the gifts we give are the very gifts that we have received from His hands. Thus, this portion of the prayer serves to underscore the fact that it is by God’s mercy and grace alone that we have anything to offer or can come to worship and fellowship with Him at His Table. Thus, once again the prayer renews our dependence on Christ.

 

Finally, the prayer concludes with the elevation of the bread and wine. Here the elevation serves as a fitting conclusion and climax to the entire consecration service. As such, it is one of the most important parts of the prayer. Simply put, by elevating the bread and wine at this point in the service we are humbly offering our celebration of the Supper as well as our faith in what it represents to God in worship and thanksgiving.

 

Bottom line: the prayer of Communion underscores the fact that the Eucharist is a true fellowship meal at the heart of a true covenant relationship. As such, each party comes to the Table with what is his to offer.

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