Monday, June 18, 2007

Blogs -- Blessing and Curse

Sometimes, I feel guilty for not blogging more frequently. Some of the members of the parish where I preach every other week have kindly suggested that I post my sermons -- but my Baptist upbringing asserts itself in my preaching, which I prepare without writing a manuscript, so I must write the sermon down later, and the written version usually bears about as much resemblance to the original as the average Hollywood movie does to the books they bastardize.

However, in reading other blogs -- and particularly the comments sections attached to them -- I realize that perhaps it is better to err on the side of blogging too seldom. St. James says "for every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God." (James 3:7-9)

If there is anything full of even deadlier poison than the tongue, it is the internet. Far easier to make a comment on a stranger's blog one has never met than to look them in the eye and say some of the things we say. And the very concept of the blog has further eroded the line between public and private. As a means of posting about current events and ideas, it is a wonderful medium -- but as a form of personal communication, it encourages us to make quite public matters best kept between family and friends. It can lead to both narcissism and voyeurism.

I hope and pray that God may preserve us from the sinful havoc this technology can enable us to wreak so much more quickly and widely than before, and may instead inspire us to use it for the greater good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Corpus Christi sermon

“For all who eat and drink without discerning the Lord’s body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (I Cor. 11:29)

What does it mean to “discern the Lord’s body”?

I. Incarnation and Resurrection

In the first place, to properly participate in the Eucharist, it is necessary to discern the Lord’s physical body in the incarnation of God in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully God. In Christ’s life, we are incorporated into the divine life – through faith in Christ, our life is caught up into God’s life, and God’s life becomes intimately entwined with ours. Through his death and resurrection, Christ won the victory over sin and death, and Christ’s victory has won salvation for humankind. The Eucharist makes these realities of the Incarnation and the Resurrection present in a vivid way in our midst, and to receive Holy Communion properly, we must discern the Lord’s body in the incarnate, crucified and risen body of Jesus Christ.

II. Real Presence

Next, it is necessary to recognize that in the Eucharist, Christ is really and truly present. There have been many volumes written about the exact manner in which Christ is present, and different denominations within the Church have embraced different interpretations. However, the precise method of Christ’s present is not the important thing – rather, the important thing is to recognize that when the Christian receives Holy Communion, she is encountering Jesus Christ in the most vivid and intimate way possible this side of heaven. There was a humorous parody book published several years ago spoofing Martha Stewart, and in one section, suggested that when entertaining a bishop, “host canap├ęs” could be prepared. Unintentionally, the author of the book captured a very important aspect of the Eucharistic encounter with Christ – the Eucharist serves as hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in preparation for the heavenly banquet we will enjoy as a result of Christ’s saving work, when we will see Christ face to face.

III. The Church, the Body of Christ

The Church (the body of all baptized believers) is often referred to in Scripture as the Body of Christ, and the third discernment we must make is that as we hear the word proclaimed and meditate on the saving mysteries of the incarnation and resurrection, and as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we are transformed into the body of Christ on earth. We are called to continue Christ’s presence on earth. Liturgists often refer to two main parts of the Mass – the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – but in reality, there is a third part as well, the Liturgy of Service, during which we take what we have received in Word and Sacrament and take it to a world in need.

IV. Christ in the Poor

Christ told us that whenever we feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or visit the sick or needy – whenever we have done these things for the least of our brothers and sisters, we have done them for Christ. And when we recognize the Lord’s Body in the person of Jesus Christ, and encounter Christ in the Eucharist by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we are empowered as the Body of Christ, the Church, to minister in Christ’s name to the poor wherever we find them – be their poverty spiritual or material.

May we always have the grace to properly discern the Lord’s body whenever we approach these holy mysteries. Amen.