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Synesthetic Worship


SynesthesiaIsaiah 6:1-8

When Carol Crane was a child in first grade, she mystified
her teacher and her classmates when she wondered aloud why the number five,
displayed in a row of other numbers above the chalkboard was yellow, when it should
be green.

Her question didn’t make any sense to the teacher and was vaguely disturbing.
So Carol learned to keep her mouth shut about such things. She didn’t know then
that there were others like her for whom the ringing of a doorbell resembled a
series of triangles, or a dog bark seemed like a circle with dots around it.

Today, Carol knows that she is gifted (or cursed?) with synesthesia
(sin-es-thee-sia), a condition that affects about 1 in 25,000 persons.
Synesthetes are people who can actually see sounds, smell colors and taste
shapes. When a synesthete hears the sound of a truck backing up, making a
beep-beep-beep sound, he or she might see the beeps as a series of red dots. In
a string of numbers, the 5’s may be experienced as a different color from the
2’s. Circles smell different from squares, and sour foods sound different from
sweet foods.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Regular Communion

“The day of the Lord’s Supper is an occasion of joy for the Christian community. Reconciled in their hearts with God and the brethren, the congregation receives the gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and, receiving that, it receives forgiveness, new life, and salvation. It is given new fellowship with God and men. The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in body and blood at the table of the Lord so will they be together in eternity. Here the community has reached its goal. Here the joy in Christ and his community is complete. The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the sacrament.” (from Life Together)

Think of weekly communion as a rehearsal for life in the Kingdom!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Regular Communion

The Case for Weekly Communion

Communion1Beginning September 9, Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church will offer Holy Communion every
Sunday at all three of our worship services. As part of our movement toward
becoming a church focused on “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the work of
his kingdom,” regular weekly communion provides us with an opportunity to hear
the Word of God read, preached, and sung, and then respond by coming to the
Table to open ourselves and receive the gift of God’s grace, love, and
forgiveness through the Sacrament.

Here
are some Frequently Asked Questions about instituting weekly communion at
TLUMC:

Why are we beginning
weekly communion?

            The
early church partook of the Lord’s Supper when they gathered together, as in
Acts 2:46 where the community “broke bread” in the fledgling churches meeting
in homes. Luke gives us this image earlier in his writing when he says that
Jesus was made known to two of his disciples after his resurrection “in the
breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:28-35). The early church believed that the
sacrament was a means of communing again with the risen Christ, proclaiming his
saving death and anticipating the coming of his kingdom (1 Corinthians
11:23-26). The sharing of the Lord’s Supper (which was actually part of a
larger meal) was the centerpiece of the worship life of the early church along
with the teaching of the apostles and prayer.

            In
our own Methodist tradition, John Wesley understood this pattern of the early
church and urged the early Methodists to hold fast to communing weekly.
Wesley’s primary reason for doing so was because Jesus himself commanded it
(“Do this in remembrance of me.”), but there were other reasons as well. Wesley
believed that the practice of weekly communion reminded people what Christ had
done for them in a tangible way and also gave them a tangible way to receive
the grace of Christ himself for the forgiveness of their sins. As Wesley put it
in his sermon The Duty of Constant
Communion
:

 As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our
souls by these tokens of the body and blood of Christ. This is the food of our
souls: This gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection.
If, therefore, we have any regard for the plain command of Christ, if we desire
the pardon of our sins, if we wish for strength to believe, to love and obey
God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord's Supper; then
we must never turn our backs on the feast which our Lord has prepared for us.
We must neglect no occasion which the good providence of God affords us for
this purpose. This is the true rule: So often are we to receive as God gives us
opportunity. 

            To
put this another way, Holy Communion acts, in effect, as our weekly “altar
call”—an opportunity to respond to the Word, to deal with our sins, to rejoice
in the free grace of God offered to us in Christ, and to remember that we are
part of a community gathered around the table of Christ. We come to the altar
broken and hungry and we leave filled with the grace and assurance of Christ’s
love for us. We rise from the table strengthened for the task of following
Christ as his disciples. 

           In
2004, the United Methodist General Conference approved a study called This Holy Mystery which urged, but not required, United Methodist
Churches to consider reinstituting the practice of weekly communion as part of
the Service of Word and Table. Many churches are rediscovering that this
regular practice adds a depth of meaning and response in worship that preaching
and music alone cannot give.

            I
truly believe that weekly communion is an essential part of growing disciples
who seek not only to have knowledge about Christ but who also seek a regular
opportunity to receive again the grace of Christ.

How will we physically be able to share
communion each week with such a tight time window between our services?

            We will be adding two stations to our
regular communion service for a total of four stations. We will also adjust the
timing of the rest of the worship service to accommodate for weekly communion
(including a more concise sermon!). We also see this as an opportunity to get
more people involved in leading worship with the addition of more communion
servers, including some of our senior high youth. We will train our servers and
ushers to facilitate the process while allowing ample time for people to pray
at the altar after they commune if they feel led to do so. We will also add a gluten free option at one of the stations for those who need it. 

If we serve communion every week, won’t
that make it feel less “special?”

            Most
people eat supper every day. Sometimes that meal is a special occasion,
sometimes it feels pretty ordinary. Whether it feels special or ordinary,
however, we recognize that the primary purpose of supper is nourishment! We eat
meals because we need them and because we also see them as an opportunity to
gather with others around the table whenever we can.

            Holy
Communion nourishes us weekly with a diet of God’s grace, which all of us
desperately need. Sometimes the meal will feel quiet and solemn, sometimes it
will be eaten in the mood of celebration. Sometimes we’ll be communing beside
old friends and sometimes we’ll share the meal with people we are meeting for
the first time. As we commune weekly, I believe that you will begin to see it
as something to anticipate all week as you spend time with God on your own. As
we come to the table on Sunday, we come anticipating the promise of God will be
made known to us in the breaking of the bread once again: Christ has died,
Christ is risen, Christ will come again!

Who is allowed to partake of
communion in the United Methodist Church?

            Our
communion liturgy tells us up front: “Christ invites to his table all who love
him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one
another.” To put it another way, anyone—regardless of their age, their status,
their church background—is welcome at the table so long as they come out of love
for Christ and with a repentant heart that seeks God’s grace and forgiveness
through Christ. John Wesley believed that the sacrament was an opportunity for
those who may be seeking Christ, even for the first time, to come and
experience his saving grace in the breaking of the bread, thus we do not
exclude anyone who seeks Christ. In this sense, again, communion is a weekly
“altar call” that extends an invitation to all to receive Christ and all his
benefits. It is an “outward sign of an inward grace” that reminds us of what
Christ has done for us, what Christ
can do in us, and what Christ will do
for the world.

As we
begin weekly communion, I want to urge you to come to the table each week
expectantly, seeking Christ and his grace. This small article is by no means
the entire witness about weekly communion, but I hope it will provide you with
an opportunity to consider how you will approach the table each week. I will
share more about the theology and practice of the table each week as we gather
together.

            May
we know Christ through the breaking of the bread!

Sources:

You can
find a copy of Wesley’s full sermon The
Duty of Constant Communion
here.

You can
read the full text of This Holy Mystery,
the United Methodist study on Holy Communion, at this link

For Happiness Sitting in Church Beats Shopping at the Mall – MSN Health & Fitness – Depression

Can money buy happiness? No, and neither can spending money, suggest researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel. Their as-yet-unpublished study took a look at consumer shopping habits over the last three decades and compared it to participation in religious activities, and found that, among women, money makes us much less happy than going to church.

via health.msn.com

Further evidence that the accumulation of stuff isn't the route to happiness. From MSN: "A new study suggests that a decline in religious participation, and an increase in shopping opportunities could be making us miserable."

N.T. Wright on Worship – Lent Day 23

"People often quote Oscar Wilde's dictum that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. We live in an age of cynics where 'worth' means 'price' and 'price' means money and money means power. But the gospel of Jesus Christ put worth back into the world, worth beyond price, worth beyond worldly power; for the gospel of Jesus Christ summons us to worship, to worth-ship, to lay our lives before the one true and living God, to worship him for all he's worth. Give to this great and loving God the honor, the worship, the love due to him; celebrate the goodness, the worth, the true value of the created order, as his gift, his handiwork; and allow that celebration to lift your eyes once more to God himself, to his glory and beauty." 

Wright, N.T. For All God's Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997, p. 13.