Our family has recently made a change in our church membership. We’ve moved from our first real church home as a family, Edgemont United Methodist Church, to a new chapter in our Christian journey at Trinity Episcopal Church as I work on discerning a possible call to the Episcopal priesthood. So far, we’ve been attending the Saturday evening service that is offered as part of the Canterbury ministry at UNA, which is led by the campus chaplain, Callie Plunket-Brewton.
Tonight during the Eucharist, I was struck by two lines in particular from the service. After the priest prays the blessing over the bread and wine, asking God to make them be for us Christ’s body and blood, she prays:
Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace…
Later, after we have shared in the Holy Communion, we pray together:
Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart…
In these two short sentences, we are reminded why we share the holy meal – that we might serve; whom we are to serve – namely God (the you in the prayers); how we are to serve – in unity, constancy, and peace, and with gladness and singleness of heart; and we pray for God’s help in the form of strength and courage to accomplish our service.
The first of these prayer fragments reflects three crucial tenets of our service to God. The very word we use to describe the meal we share, Communion, calls to mind the first of these tenets: unity. This blessed Sacrament unites us with brothers and sisters throughout the world today and through time to the beginning of the Church. It has been our constant practice since Jesus instituted it before he died. And when we partake of it in remembrance of Him, we find the peace for which we later pray.
After eat the bread and drink the wine, we pray for strength and courage to serve. I haven’t often thought that it would take strength and courage to serve. Service that is freely offered is rarely refused. How much strength and courage could really be needed? But to serve God with gladness and singleness of heart – that might take some real strength, and to do it in a world that is less and less inclined to look favorably on such a motive could take courage. When we aren’t serving for our own credit, but rather God’s glory, we might need some of that strength and courage. In order to push out all those other motives that prompt us to serve – to make ourselves feel good or look good, or even just to get into heaven, we might need some of that strength and courage. In order to have our heart singly focused on God and not our own desires, I know we will need that strength and courage.
I don’t know why those two lines jumped out at me tonight – maybe it’s because I’ve started on the real path of discernment. Each day I take another step that makes it more real. Each day I question whether or not I want to put my wife and children through the trial of the process and the uncertainty of the whole thing. Each day I wonder if I’ll be able to even get through it all before I’m too old to have enough energy to serve God as He deserves to be served or to have an effective ministry. Those seem like pretty good reasons to me for two little lines in the prayers to speak. Now I just have to really listen.
And so I pray, sanctify me that I may faithfully serve you in unity, constancy, and peace, and send me now into the world in peace, and grant me strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.