I've not played Friday Five for months, but Sally's questions today played so wonderfully into my experience at "On Fire" that I couldn't resist...
This Friday Five stems from some questions that have been running around my head and heart recently and are squeezing their way out through my blog here and again here
So I'd like to ask you some simple questions about the sacraments:
1. What does the Lord's supper/ Eucharist mean to you?Pretty much everything!
To know that God loves us so much that He trusts us with Himself in that fragment of bread and sip of wine...to know that as we eat we are transformed by the life of God within us, that this food makes US part of HIM, rather than becoming, like other foods, part of us...
that as we bring our broken, hurting selves to kneel, offering all that we can, we receive in exchange God's own self...
to recognise that as we gather at the altar we do so with the whole Communion of Saints, those "with whom in the Lord Jesus we forever more are one"
2. How important is preparation for this, and what form does it take?
As a priest in a busy parish, preparation is too often a matter of sorting out crises with the rotas, ensuring that there is someone to act as crucifer, that the intercessor of the day is both present AND aware that Mrs X has died...this means that I come upon the heart of the Sacrament almost unexpectedly...am dependent on the provision of the liturgy to do my preparation for me. Thankfully it does this well (after all, it's what it's designed for) but nonetheless, the difference in the experience when I was able to spend time this past week specifically and consciously preparing was, to put it mildly, mind-blowing.
3. What does baptism mean to you?
For me, baptism is our very first response to the overwhelming love of God in which we live and move and have our being. Sometimes, we seem not to move beyond that first step...but baptism, if you like, gives us a passport that we can present at any time in our lives. Too often in my current context I know that families have no expectation that baptism will change anything in terms of their way of life, that there's almost no chance of my re-encountering the babies I baptise by the dozen before they turn up 5 years later in Reception class ...and sometimes that makes me anxious. But since Baptism is above all an out-pouring of God's grace, I continue to ignore that anxiety, knowing that it's His gift to those children...and that one day He will enable them to enjoy it.
4. How important is preparation for baptism and what form does it take?
I've a rather schizophrenic approach here. Given the low expectations of most baptism families, I do try hard to help them recognise what a big step this is...we watch a DVD together, I talk about a two-way "contract" and ask them to tell me how the Church can help them to keep their part of the bargain, as a way of fulfilling ours
(People of God, will you welcome this child and uphold her in her new life in Christ?)...but I think that is really just to salve my conscience...I know I'd not refuse baptism to anyone, regardless of lack of preparation, because it is so much about God's action...God's gift...so in the end, preparation becomes irrelevant.
5. A quote/ poem/ song that brings you before God in a sacramental way, and helps you to engage at a deeper level
Well, surprise, surprise...it's George Herbert again :) This is at the heart of my faith, and at the heart of my Sacramental theology, so I make no apology for returning to it.
Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning If I lack'd anything. "A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here"; Love said, "You shall be he." "I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear, I cannot look on thee." Love took my hand and smiling did reply, "Who made the eyes but I?" "Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame Go where it doth deserve." "And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?" "My dear, then I will serve." "You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."So I did sit and eat