This is #36 in Crossing the Threshold series.
Years ago I was involved with a prayer group for a Christian school. Every year before the year began the school held what could be described as a holy convocation; administrators, teachers and families would come together to consecrate the year to the Lord. The headmaster would cast his vision for the year and principles and teachers would share what they hoped would spiritually take place in their respective schools and classes. Last but certainly not least everyone would unite in prayer.
However a day came when a new headmaster arrived. He was a godly man I have no doubt but it seems that no one told him about the convocation. So a “back to school” festival was planned, which looked more like a picnic and trade show. Tables were set up in the gym where every club and sport was represented. Teachers were in the classrooms so parents could visit and see where their child would be. The campus was filled with people but no one was connected; each was doing their own thing. From that day the school took a different turn. Something precious and powerful had been lost.
I tell that story to illustrate how much the true meaning of Christian worship has been lost over the years. The whole concept of leaving the world and entering the Kingdom as I shared in the last post has disappeared. Most church goers if they were told that truth today might well say “What Kingdom”? But I have to say that the loss of the Sacramental portion of the service and its meaning is to me the greatest loss by far.
I am not getting into Catholic verses Protestants debates over what takes place in the Lord’s Supper, as I have already recommended N.T. Wright’s wonderful book The Meal Jesus Gave Us which discusses the Eucharist in great detail and a balanced way. What I want to share which has been lost is that it is at this point in the service of worship that the church enters into heaven. The Sursum Corda is the Latin meaning of “Lift up your hearts” the salutation offered by the minister to the congregation; with their response being “we lift them up to the Lord”. As Simon Chan writes in Liturgical Theology; “In this dialogue the liturgical journey reaches another critical point. The Sursum Corda signals the church’s ascension to heaven” (pg142).
After being gathered out of the world and immersed in the whole story by the word portion of the service (sermon, scripture reading, creed, and prayers of the people) the individuals have been shaped into a corporate body. The body of Christ now ascends into heaven to be united with him, sitting down at his table to share in the life of the New Creation to come.
As Galadriel spoke in the opening lines of the Lord of the Rings……. “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”.