Sermons from St Faith's   

Corpus Christi

Fr. John Reed,

Thursday, 20th June, 2019

The Church Army College in Westcombe Park was one of the few theological colleges in the Church of England that admitted students of all theological and church traditions.  Evangelism is the calling of the whole church, whether you claim to be Evangelical, Charismatic, Anglo Catholic or just plain middle of the road Anglican.  Debates around styles of worship and theology were often spirited and not always polite. But after a year we all learned that we needed to live and worship together in our shared calling.

Some years later I stayed at the college on a conference. Opening the wardrobe in a study bedroom to hang up my coat, I saw a sight that partly offended me, but then made me think about the motivation of the person who had done this.  There was a Priest's wafer stuck to the door frame with the words 'worship me' scrawled on a piece of paper below.  Was the term= time resident of the room an Anglo Catholic trying to make a point about the body of Christ being present in the bread?  Or was it someone of an evangelical persuasion pouring scorn on the perceived idolatry of some parts of the church?

 When we receive the body of Christ and the blood of Christ what are we doing? Or more importantly what is God the Son doing - in receiving we are taking part in something that is bigger than ourselves and the people around us and the part we take within it.

The passage from 1 Corinthians uses the very language from the last supper in the Gospels. But we know that Paul’s letter pre-dates the writing of the Gospels, so it is a close representation of the practice and belief of the early church.  At Baptist Churches, when they share communion, this passage is often read out before the bread and the wine is passed around. But unlike Anglicans they read the rest of the chapter. Verse 27: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A person ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup of the Lord.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement upon themselves.”  You have to conclude that St. Paul was sure it was a very serious matter to take bread and wine, which had eternal consequences.

When the question is asked, how often should I receive communion my advice to Confirmation candidates is always: as often as possible.

Many years ago Michael Henshall the Bishop of Warrington, wrote an article in the Diocesan newspaper lamenting the growth in Eucharists - Eucharists for every reason under the sun on every occasion. And maybe he had a point that familiarity was liable to breed contempt. But instead of having less Eucharist we should be advocating more preparation. More devotion to receiving our Lord in bread and wine. 

In days of old people would fast before the service, and then upon arriving in church would kneel down and pray quietly. Some would open their prayer books to pray the collect for purity:

Almighty God to whom all hearts are open
All desires are known
And from whom no secrets are hidden
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
By the inspiration of your Holy Spirit
That we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your name
through Christ our Lord.

When Common Worship came into being this prayer could be found in the section entitled preparation, but sadly it was lost in many churches in the mists of time.  Instead we choose to discuss the latest news as we arrive or busy ourselves with organising  all the other important things that make up the life of the church.  We are in the presence of Christ, the light that burns in the Chapel of the Sacrament proclaims this truth. We come with other members of the body of Christ to partake in a shared meal with Christ.  As St. John puts it “those who eat my flesh and blood abide in me.” Abide or live in Christ, abide as in the grafted branch of the grapevine that will bear fruit. To draw our nourishment from Jesus the source of life eternal. And like a deep well of living water we think we have to work hard to draw upon it.  But our Lord says come as you are “take eat this is my body that was given for you. This is my blood that was shed for you.”

Meaning of Sacrament... Hidden
Ready or not you tell me, here I come!
And so I know I’m hiding, and I know
My hiding place is useless. You will come
and find me, you are searching high and low.
Today I am hiding low, down here below,
Below the sunlit surface others see.
Oh find me quickly, quickly come to me.
You know my hiding places. I know you,
I reach you through your hiding places too;
Feeling for the thread, but now I see-
Even in darkness I can see you shine,
Risen in bread and revelling in wine.

Malcolm Guite

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