Thursday, June 25, 2009

“Everything the Lord has said, we will do” - A sermon (edited) preached by Deacon Alan O’Brien on the occasion of our Patronal Festival on 14 June '09

Here we are this morning gathered as Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. What a truly awesome responsibility it is to be the Body of Christ in this time and in this place! We are truly blessed to be able to meet together Sunday by Sunday to worship and adore our loving God who gives us life and to whom we owe so much for all we have received at His hands.

The Holy Communion is an act of supreme love. We need to be people of love to all God’s people in this hurting world in which we live. We need to seek out the marginalized in society so that they can be embraced into Corpus Christi. That means our family in this part of the city and all Christian communities around the world need to gather in all those who feel that they are being neglected by the communities in which they live. We are being challenged to do ‘everything the Lord has said’.

The various names that have been given to this central act of worship help us come to a better understanding of these holy mysteries. For some it is known as the Eucharist, that act of Christ’s praise and thanksgiving in which we join in Sunday by Sunday. For others it is known as the Lord’s Supper, the commemoration of Christ’s prophetic acceptance of his death on Good Friday. For some it is known as the Holy Communion, the fellowship meal which binds all of us together as the Body of Christ. Others know it as the Holy Sacrament, which is then for them the pledge of Christ’s real presence among his people. Whilst for others it is the Mass, the identification of ourselves with Christ’s once and for all act of sacrificial obedience which he eternally presents to his Father in heaven.

Just how do we live out this command to be Corpus Christi?

By looking at the various names by which we celebrate Communion week by week, I believe that we can get some insight into the manner in which we can truly be Corpus Christi.

The Eucharist: we are called to be a community of praise and worship and thanksgiving. As we meet weekly we have much to be thankful for. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving and so one of our major focuses on a Sunday must be one of thanksgiving and this through our praise and worship. We daily need to thank God for all the many blessings which he bestows upon us. We must give thanks for our life, and that we should do as we awake every morning and as we retire to bed every evening. We must give thanks for our families and friends and especially those who are our family in this place – God’s family who have been given to us to care and to nurture. Our praise and worship must be such that it brings glory to our God in whom we place our hope and trust. We need to people of prayer and so daily we need to offer up ourselves to God and in his service. ‘Everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

The Lord’s Supper: As we celebrate this day as the Lord’s Supper, we remember Christ’s prophetic acceptance of his death. We too are called to be prophetic witnesses in the world at this time. We need to be people who will be prepared to speak out against the injustices that are practiced against all God’s marginalized people. We think of those who are suffering as result of HIV and Aids and the lack of treatment which is given to them by the clinics. We think of those women who suffer as a result of rape and struggle to get the justice system to work in their favour. We think of those women whom I read about last week in the paper who struggle to get their maintenance from the courts, the very courts which awarded them the very necessary maintenance, but which now are totally lacking in compassion for them. We need to be the prophetic voice which calls all people to care for ‘their neighbour’ and that we know can be any one who comes and asks for our assistance and so ‘everything the Lord asks of us, we will do’.

The Holy Communion: Our celebration of the Holy Communion means that we are bound together by this fellowship meal. The Holy Communion began as a meal and as we know it has its roots in the Jewish meal which is celebrated Friday by Friday in a Jewish home. It is around a meal that one is able to enjoy the company of others. Just think back to the times in your own life when something important has been celebrated, it has normally been done within the context of a meal. It is important that as the family of God, we meet together around a meal. Later on this morning there will be a meal that will be shared together by the members of this family, God’s family – Corpus Christi. It is important that families at home take time to sit down at the family table and have a meal together. I think that in this modern or post-modern world in which we live, we have lost the ability to share experiences around a table and enjoy a meal together. As our diocese begins to focus on building houses into homes, so we need to reclaim this element of family life for ourselves. It is one of the aspects that we can control within our homes. We need to make time to be together and to share a meal together. We need to be able to share our hopes and our joys, our thanksgivings and our concerns, within the context of a meal. Our Holy Communion in its structure allows us to do just that, as we meet around the altar week by week. Our communion binds us closely together so that we will become one. Think of those beautiful words from that modern hymn: Bind us together Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken…’ And so ‘Everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

Holy Sacrament: Our Holy Sacrament means that Christ is truly present amongst his people. Christ is present in the here and now because of us. As St Teresa of Avila said: ‘Christ has no hands, but yours; he has no voice, but yours …’ We are therefore called to be Christ in and to the world. We are being called to be Corpus Christi, in and to the world. Again a modern hymn comes to mind: ‘Brother/sister let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you…’ So we are called to be servants, to serve those in our families, in this family; to serve those with whom we interact on a daily basis; those who are marginalized in society, those who I have mentioned earlier on in the sermon, they are the people to whom we have to be Christ. We need to be able to show Christ to others so that they might be drawn into this wonderful caring and compassionate group which we are. There has to be outward looking otherwise we will become too concerned with our own needs and not the needs of those who so desperately want our love and care. Are we being Corpus Christi? So we must do ‘everything the Lord has said’.

The Mass: In the Mass we identify with Christ’s obedience. Here we have been given an example that we have to show forth obedience in our lives. We are called to be obedient to God’s call on our lives. There are many passages in the scriptures which tell us that we have to be obedient, as the words from Psalm 40 tell us: ‘…my ears you have marked for obedience… and in the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will…’ How fortunate we are that we have the example of our Lord before our eyes who was obedient to what his loving Father called upon him to do in his life. Once again the challenge: ‘everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

And in conclusion I believe that if we allow ourselves to take each one of these in turn, we will be able to become more of the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, to all God’s people in the different world’s in which we live.

‘Everything that the Lord has said, we will do’ these words need to become a vital part of how we interact and engage with the world as we share God’s love that He has given to us and which he commanded us to share. And so as we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist today, may our Lord be always at the centre and heart of our church and also at the centre and heart of the lives of each one of us as we become Corpus Christi. Amen

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