Re-Member: A sermon by the Vicar for Epiphany III

The following is a sermon offered for Year B – Epiphany III, January 25, 2015, @The Advocate, by The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar

A friend of mine showed me the website for his church.

Where we at the Advocate have embraced Core Values of Compassion Justice and Transformation, this church had Proclaim, Exalt, and Serve.

“Whew!” I felt. That sounds exciting, but also kind of exhausting.

I mean, I have my moments… driving on I 40 with Amy Grant or the Kings College Choir on the stereo, belting it out: “PraiseYear B – Epiphany III January 25, 2015 The Advocate The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck A friend of mine showed me the website for his church. Where we at the Advocate have embraced Core Values of Compassion Justice and Transformation, this church had Proclaim, Exalt, and Serve. “Whew!” I felt. That sounds exciting, but also kind of exhausting. I mean, I have my moments… driving on I 40 with Amy Grant or the Kings College Choir on the stereo, belting it out: “Praise my soul the King of Heaven!!” But I don’t think I personally can regularly sustain proclaim and exalt. Thank goodness some folks can! Yet…. there it is, right there in today’s Collect: “Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation….” And then there is the baptismal Covenant: “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” “I will!”, we boldly say, “With God’s help”. Our bishop, Michael Curry, has taken the opportunity over the past two years to encourage the people of the Diocese of North Carolina to “Go!” (exclamation point). He gets the word from Jesus telling his disciples to “Go to Galilee!” and he has developed this theme to include pretty much all that we do to make the Way of Jesus known in the world, all that we do in the name of the church, outside of the church. This certainly jives with our Epiphany themes – let the Light shine throughout the world, y’all. Today’s Gospel is a little more appealing to introverts, though certainly no less challenging. Rather than “Go!” Jesus says follow me. I don’t want to split hairs too much here about the visceral distinctions between being told to Go! (exclamation point) and being bid to follow. But I want, in true Anglican style, to suggest a Via Media, a middle way. Rather than “Go!” or “follow”, I wonder about “re-member”. ——————– Last week in our discussion about the first two chapters of Verna Dozier’s “Authority of the Laity” we talked about whether we identify ourselves as religious people. Dozier’s little book was written in the early 80s, after the publication of Fritz Ridenour’s How to be Christian without being Religious, but before being religious had taken on as many negative connotations as it does today – what with the evolution of the catchy phrase “spiritual but not religious”. As we considered our identities, we began to realize that our identity — as religious or not, as Christian or not, as minister or not, shapes the way we relate to the world. If we identity ourselves as religious, we may then feel religious and act religious. If we identify ourselves as Christian, and mindfully enter the world identifying ourselves as Christian, it could actually change the way we relate to the world. Even more, if we see ourselves as Christian ministers in that world. We say this in our liturgy week by week, of course. We are dismissed at the end of the liturgy with the words, “Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord”, or “Let us Go forth in the Name of Christ” or “Let us go forth in Peace and in Power.” “Thanks be to God!” we respond with cheer. At the Advocate this dismissal loses some of its power because we don’t very much go forth right after being encouraged to go forth. Rather, we usually stay for that extension of the Eucharistic Feast, our shared meal. We go forth from this place at varying times. And by the time we go forth, that sense of going out into the world with boldness sent by Jesus, is likely to have been lost. Though we may very well be feeling good about our life in this community. Which is a good thing, mind you. One solution we came up with last week is to maybe have a sign made to go by the side of the sidewalk between the chapel and the parking lot. The sign would have the words of one of the dismissal sentences painted on it: “Go in Peace” or “Go in Peace and in Power”. —————— But I wonder if we might take a few steps back in the liturgy, back to the Eucharistic rite. Specifically, to the words of Jesus, repeated by priest at the altar, just before the elevation of the elements: “Do this in re-membrance of me.” or “Do this to re-member me.” You will note that when I say these words, I don’t appeal to a nostalgic kind of sweet memory. “Ah, remember Jesus? …” Neither to a bitter, challenging, “Never forget!” Rather, I try in English to transmit the idea of a word that connotes actually to make some thing or some one present again. To re-member them. The reason we partake of the bread, and/or the wine, is to re-member Jesus. To make him present, to make him known, in and through us. “Do this, in re-membrance of me.” When we go forth, therefore, from this place. We are not being sent to will ourselves into a better life or to muster ourselves to be able to proclaim the faith. Rather, when we go forth from this place we go forth with Jesus, in Jesus through Jesus. As John’s Gospel reminds us: He in us and we in him and him in God so we’re in God. All very co-mingled and lovely. Kind of like a Celtic knot. As those words ascribed to St. Patrick proclaim: “Christ be with me, Christ within me.” This concept is reinforced and amplified at the end of our Eucharistic Prayer, after the bread has been broken. The priest lifts the paten and chalice and says, “Behold what you are.” and the people respond, “May we become what we receive.”. This exchange, though not in the Book of Common Prayer, derives from the writing of St. Augustine of Hippo, who, in the fifth century, wrote of the distribution, when the priest offers the consecrated bread and wine: When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.” Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true! listen .. to what Paul says about this sacrament: “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.” [1 Cor. 10.17] One bread,” he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the “one body,” formed from many? Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread. And then Augustine goes on about the wine: ….what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. …. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. So when priest lifts the paten and chalice and says, “Behold what you are.” and the people respond, “May we become what we receive”, It is, at once, a personal and a collective hope. Behold the Body of Christ! May we become the Body of Christ! And when we receive and go forth from this place, we are not going forth individually, by ourselves. We go forth with Christ, re-membering him. And it’s not just me and Jesus or you and Jesus, either. No. We go forth as members of the Body of Christ, who have become what we received, we pray. If we indeed believe and “inwardly digest” this faith, imagine what difference it could make in how we then are present to the world at large and to the individual people who are in it. Imagine what difference it could make to each of us, in you. “Behold what you are!” “May we become what we receive!” I’m thinking maybe that sign between the chapel and the parking lot might simply say, “Re-member”. Amen. my soul the King of Heaven!!”

But I don’t think I personally can regularly sustain proclaim and exalt.

Thank goodness some folks can!

Yet…. there it is, right there in today’s Collect:

“Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation….”

And then there is the baptismal Covenant:

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?”

“I will!”, we boldly say, “With God’s help”.

Our bishop, Michael Curry, has taken the opportunity over the past two years to encourage the people of the Diocese of North Carolina to

“Go!” (exclamation point). He gets the word from Jesus telling his disciples to “Go to Galilee!” and he has developed this theme to include pretty much all that we do to make the Way of Jesus known in the world, all that we do in the name of the church, outside of the church.

This certainly jives with our Epiphany themes – let the Light shine throughout the world, y’all.

 

Today’s Gospel is a little more appealing to introverts, though certainly no less challenging. Rather than “Go!” Jesus says follow me.

I don’t want to split hairs too much here about the visceral distinctions between being told to Go! (exclamation point) and being bid to follow.

But I want, in true Anglican style, to suggest a Via Media, a middle way.

Rather than “Go!” or “follow”, I wonder about “re-member”.

——————–

Last week in our discussion about the first two chapters of Verna Dozier’s “Authority of the Laity” we talked about whether we identify ourselves as religious people.

Dozier’s little book was written in the early 80s, after the publication of Fritz Ridenour’s How to be Christian without being Religious, but before being religious had taken on as many negative connotations as it does today – what with the evolution of the catchy phrase “spiritual but not religious”.

As we considered our identities, we began to realize that our identity — as religious or not, as Christian or not, as minister or not, shapes the way we relate to the world.

If we identity ourselves as religious, we may then feel religious and act religious. If we identify ourselves as Christian, and mindfully enter the world identifying ourselves as Christian, it could actually change the way we relate to the world. Even more, if we see ourselves as Christian ministers in that world.

We say this in our liturgy week by week, of course. We are dismissed at the end of the liturgy with the words, “Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord”,

or “Let us Go forth in the Name of Christ” or “Let us go forth in Peace and in Power.”

“Thanks be to God!” we respond with cheer.

At the Advocate this dismissal loses some of its power because we don’t very much go forth right after being encouraged to go forth. Rather, we usually stay for that extension of the Eucharistic Feast, our shared meal.

We go forth from this place at varying times. And by the time we go forth,

that sense of going out into the world with boldness sent by Jesus,

is likely to have been lost. Though we may very well be feeling good about our life in this community. Which is a good thing, mind you.

 

One solution we came up with last week is to maybe have a sign made to go by the side of the sidewalk between the chapel and the parking lot. The sign would have the words of one of the dismissal sentences painted on it:

“Go in Peace” or “Go in Peace and in Power”.

——————

But I wonder if we might take a few steps back in the liturgy, back to the Eucharistic rite. Specifically, to the words of Jesus, repeated by priest at the altar, just before the elevation of the elements:

“Do this in re-membrance of me.” or “Do this to re-member me.”

You will note that when I say these words, I don’t appeal to a nostalgic kind of sweet memory. “Ah, remember Jesus? …” Neither to a bitter, challenging, “Never forget!”

Rather, I try in English to transmit the idea of a word that connotes actually to make some thing or some one present again. To re-member them. The reason we partake of the bread, and/or the wine, is to re-member Jesus.

To make him present, to make him known, in and through us. “Do this, in re-membrance of me.”

When we go forth, therefore, from this place. We are not being sent to will ourselves into a better life or to muster ourselves to be able to proclaim the faith. Rather, when we go forth from this place we go forth with Jesus, in Jesus through Jesus.

As John’s Gospel reminds us: He in us and we in him and him in God so we’re in God. All very co-mingled and lovely. Kind of like a Celtic knot.

As those words ascribed to St. Patrick proclaim: “Christ be with me, Christ within me.”

This concept is reinforced and amplified at the end of our Eucharistic Prayer,

after the bread has been broken. The priest lifts the paten and chalice and says, “Behold what you are.” and the people respond, “May we become what we receive.”.

This exchange, though not in the Book of Common Prayer, derives from the writing of St. Augustine of Hippo, who, in the fifth century, wrote of the distribution, when the priest offers the consecrated bread and wine:

When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.”

Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true! listen .. to what Paul says about this sacrament: “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.” [1 Cor. 10.17] 

One bread,” he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the “one body,” formed from many? Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread.

And then Augustine goes on about the wine:

….what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. …. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew.

This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated.

So when priest lifts the paten and chalice and says, “Behold what you are.”

and the people respond, “May we become what we receive”,

It is, at once, a personal and a collective hope.

Behold the Body of Christ! May we become the Body of Christ!

And when we receive and go forth from this place, we are not going forth individually, by ourselves. We go forth with Christ, re-membering him.

And it’s not just me and Jesus or you and Jesus, either. No.

We go forth as members of the Body of Christ, who have become what we received, we pray.

If we indeed believe and “inwardly digest” this faith, imagine what difference it could make in how we then are present to the world at large and to the individual people who are in it. Imagine what difference it could make to each of us, in you.

“Behold what you are.”

“May we become what we receive.”

I’m thinking maybe that sign between the chapel and the parking lot might simply say, “Re-member”.