Each of us is uniquely made and infinitely cherished
Peter Seal, 28 June 2020
Romans 6: 12–23; Matthew 10: 40–42
It’s quite a curious experience to preach to a camera. You don’t get the normal interaction of response; you just actually, to be honest with you, can’t tell how it’s going. You have to take a guess at who may be watching, who may be listening. What I do know is that some of you come to join us each week from beyond our Sunday congregation. I just want to say to you: you are especially welcome. It’s really good to have you as part of this virtual worship.
It’s such a gift, isn’t it, that the internet enables us to be joined in ways that we would never previously have imagined? Wherever you are today, in this celebration of the Eucharist we belong together, all of us, and without exception. Each of us is uniquely made and infinitely cherished. From our beginning to our end we belong to Jesus, our Lord, our Saviour.
In today’s gospel the Lord says to us, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me’. In this part of Matthew’s gospel Jesus is talking to his disciples. He’s teaching them about what to expect as they seek to live out their lives as his followers.
It’s always heartening when any church community is described as ‘welcoming’. In a sense, that’s the basic minimum that any group of people who call themselves Christian should be like. It’s interesting to note how today’s gospel continues: ‘Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward’.
Do you know, this is rather endearing. Jesus is describing his disciples as ‘these little ones’. Here we have a fond, a tender, picture of Jesus’ relationship with his closest friends. Feeling that you belong to a church community, that you really are welcome, opens up the possibility of feeling Jesus’ fondness and tenderness to you, and to each of us. And this isn’t at all soft or fluffy, do you know; it’s deep and it’s enduring.
In these unusual Covid times, as we worship online, I’ve found the Eucharist come to life for me in a new way, and I want now to try and explain.
I’ve realised afresh that the Eucharist is not a performance, let alone a show or, worse still, a form of entertainment. It’s much more an ongoing drama in which we all have a part to play. The Eucharist takes us back to that first Upper Room. And then it’s alive and real in the moment that you or I are in now. And it reaches forwards beyond our dying and yes, into eternity.
In each celebration of the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, Jesus the Lord is truly present. We meet him in Holy Scripture. From our Bible readings the Lord becomes a living reality. He becomes so much more than a figure of history, a figure of long ago. He becomes a friend in our daily lives.
And then we meet him in the Holy Communion itself. In the forms of bread and wine, Jesus gives himself to us again, and again, and again, Sunday by Sunday, world without end.
One of our challenges is to learn how to pray the Eucharist, how to pray the Eucharist. This is really important. We’re challenged to become an integral, active part of the words and actions; indeed, to play our part.
When the priest leads a celebration of the Eucharist, she or he is not doing something for others to simply watch and listen to. Thanksgiving involves active engagement. The priest, whoever she or he may be, leads a celebration of the Eucharist; they’re not doing something simply for others to watch and to listen to. Thanksgiving involves engagement. The priest simply presides at the celebration. That means we are all celebrants. My encouragement to you today, and at every Eucharist, is to try and get inside the words, and the silences, and the actions. By God’s grace, we all become intimately and intricately welcomed into the mystery of the life of Jesus. A life, thank God, which is ever new, and constantly renewed.
At every Eucharist try and get inside the words, and the silences, and the actions. By God’s grace, we all become intimately and intricately welcomed into the mystery of the life of Jesus.
What all this means is that our worship isn’t just a remembering of what happened 2,000 or so years ago. Our worship is much more than a nice spectator sport. The power of what we do when we open our hearts and minds to the Lord affects us deeply in the here and in the now. Jesus is present in the tantalising miracle of this moment, of every moment; which actually is all we have.
So the Eucharist is a drama, in which we all participate. It has a shape, it has a purpose. There’s a trajectory of movement. There’s a progression, from the initial welcoming and greeting right through to the dismissal, ‘Go in peace’.
As the Sunday Eucharist ends that’s when our new week begins. That’s when Monday morning takes on a Spirit-filled meaning. By God’s grace we can all expectantly reach out into whatever lies ahead.
Today’s gospel reminds us that this includes offering a cup of cold water, or the equivalent, to whoever needs it. The words of the dismissal, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’, connect us with the great theme of Beyond Ourselves. We go then from the Eucharist to live out our lives with poor and vulnerable people very much on our hearts.
Today’s Eucharistic Prayer includes these words. They pulled me up short.
God of mercy and grace, we praise and thank you in spirit and in truth;
for you have asked everything of us
and at the same time you have given us everything you ask of us.
Here is a great insight. God is the source of our lives. God is the sustainer of our lives. God gives us all that we have. God doesn’t ask anything of us that he hasn’t first already given us.
Our lives, quite simply, are a giving back to God, through our love, commitment and service, of all that we have already received. When we come to believe this more deeply, everything changes. Suddenly, perhaps dramatically, we realise more clearly what our lives are all about.
In conclusion: what I’m trying to describe is a love affair – a love affair in which God takes the initiative and is always hoping, indeed longing, for a response.
God loved each and every one of us from before our conception.
God loves us through the ups and the downs of our earthly life.
God will love us in our dying and our journeying into the new life of heaven.
Embraced and wrapped in the love of God, we are safe. We have nothing to fear. All is well, or shall be well … and in the meantime, there’s still lots of life to be lived. Amen.