We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
Serving in the liturgy (Gk., leitourgia, ‘the work of the people’) can involve something that looks simple – but has deep meaning. Once while hitchhiking home from a community college class, I had an encounter that stayed in my mind. A fellow student picked me up, an older guy from my class. He said he used to be a nuclear warhead mechanic – but retired. “It’s time for somebody else to play god.”
At the holy Table, we work with elements much more powerful: the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, in the gifts of bread and wine at the Eucharist. We, who serve at the altar, clergy, acolytes, and Eucharistic ministers, take in our hands the offerings of the people, as they are transformed by the Spirit of God into the presence of the Lord. We offer them: “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven; the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
What we have in our hands is Life itself. As we take part in the thanksgiving, we bring into the present the great event of Christ – his life, his death, resurrection, and ascension, and we proclaim that self-offering, until his coming again.
In ourselves we are not worthy; it is in the very sacrament we take in, that we are made worthy. What we are doing at the altar is holy. It is the transformation of bread and wine, and of ourselves, into offerings giving glory to God – and transforming the world.
Take Jesus in – and live. Take Jesus in – and have grace enough to share in abundance. Take Jesus in – and proclaim the good news.
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)