Nov 25

Thanksgiving All the Way (A Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve)

Christ Jesus is our reason for thanksgiving. Christ rescues us from ourselves, opening us up to the new creation that he brings through his reign, opening us up to true life which is found in him and nowhere else. From the earliest days, the response of those who have been set free in Jesus Christ is to give thanks, gladly, joyfully, freely. Eucharisto: I give thanks. The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice, chairete, and to make their requests known to God “with thanksgiving,” meta eucharistias. And the writer Justin Martyr, one of the first witnesses to Christian worship outside the Bible, tells us that prayer and thanksgiving were always a part of the regular Sunday worship services; in fact, Justin says that the Christian name for the bread and wine that were central to Christian worship was Eucharistia, the Eucharist, or what in some of our churches is called Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Long before there were Puritan pilgrims, or Abraham Lincoln, or turkey and gravy, followers of Jesus knew to call the most important food we share our thanksgiving meal. Continue reading

Mar 31

Four Questions

At the Seder, or Passover meal, the tradition is for a young child to ask four questions, four “whys” about the night and its special meaning. The idea, I think, is that the celebration of Passover is shrouded in mystery: the mystery of how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, the mystery of celebrating the event 3000 or more years after it happened, the mystery of a night set apart. Continue reading

Aug 16

Eucharist: Spiritual Food

The Eucharist, the meal of holy communion at the heart of our worship here at Centre, the meal really at the heart of all Christian worship, has infinite dimensions. From the elements of bread and wine to the people who gather around the table, from the prayers we offer as we prepare for communion to the eternal Triune Lord who meets us here each time, the mystery of Eucharist unfolds unendingly for us, a foretaste of the eternal feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.

This month I’ve felt called to preach on just five dimensions of Eucharist, and in each sermon I’m using a simple three-sided pattern: on one side, the words of Jesus from John 6; on the next side, the Old Testament lesson; and on the third side, some words or actions from our own weekly service of holy communion. So two weeks ago, we grappled with the importance of confession before thanksgiving as we heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” as we listened to Nathan confront King David, and as we reflected on our saying a prayer of confession each Sunday. And last week we paused to remember that the grace we receive is costly grace. The Father draws all who come to Christ, Jesus tells us, but we are drawn by a wounded love the does not pretend there are no consequences to our sin. David’s own son Absalom died as a consequence of David’s sin. And in our prayer of Great Thanksgiving we are reminded that Eucharist is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of our lives, our praise, and our thanksgiving, in union with Christ’s offering for us in his self-sacrifice upon the cross. Continue reading

Aug 04

Eucharist: Confession and Pardon

This morning we begin a 5-week sermon series on the Eucharist. Each Sunday in the month of August we will consider different aspects of this holy mystery, of this great sacrament. But before we can really even begin, we need to ask a question: what is the Eucharist?

The word itself comes from a Greek word for what Jesus does in John 6:11, which we read last week; before the feeding of the 5000, John tells us that “Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” The Greek word for “give thanks” is eucharisto, and from very early on the church called the meal it celebrated together the Eucharist, the meal of thanksgiving. Other names for this meal include the Lord’s Supper, which is what Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 11, and holy communion, which is what we usually call this meal at Centre. Even for us, though, the central prayer of holy communion is the Great Thanksgiving. That’s when we begin, “The Lord be with you/And also with you; Lift up your hearts/We lift them up to the Lord; Let us give thanks to the Lord our God/It is right to give our thanks and praise.” And then we give thanks to God the Father for Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Continue reading