Sermons from St
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