• Agnus Dei - Lamb of God

    In my second post of this series, on Confession, I mention the Agnus Dei for its use of the Latin phrasemiserere nobis which means "have mercy on us." 
    This portion of the liturgy is sung immediately before the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. It is an interesting placement for these words considering it is inspired by John the Baptist's words immediately before he baptizes Jesus (baptism being another sacrament). 
    These final words that we vocalize before receiving forgiveness are repetitive, yet profound. We name Jesus as the Lamb of God (just as John the Baptist does). We acknowledge that He takes away the sin of the world (just as John the Baptist does). We ask for His mercy. We ask for His peace. That mercy and that peace is grounded in the reality that Jesus is the one who takes our sins away. He takes away the sin of the world on the cross. He takes away the sin of all those gathered around the altar as they partake of His body and His blood for their forgiveness.
    These final words spoken before the meal begins are like the music that is played to introduce an baseball player or a professional wrestler. These words and this music introduce Jesus as He comes down and dwells with us in bread and wine. The Agnus Dei is Jesus' entrance theme. 
    And much like Jesus, it is gentle, humble, and powerful. And it leaves us with what we ask for - His mercy peace.
  • He Came Seeking Fruit

    Jesus tells a parable of an vineyard owner who wishes to cut down a barren fig tree, the vinedresser intervenes on behalf of the tree to help it bear fruit. Jesus is the Vinedresser. He is chopped down in our place and through His death and resurrection be bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Pax Domini - The Peace of the Lord

    This brief moment in the liturgy is the place where I hear the most mistakes in the congregation, no matter where I have attended or led worship. 
    The pastor says or chants, "The peace of the Lord be with you always."
    And the congregation wants to say or chant "And also with you" or "And with thy spirit" but alas! The correct response is simply: "Amen."
    (People are thinking of the Salutation which says "The Lord be with you." "And also with you.")
    In many congregations, this moment passes quickly and we're straight into the Agnus Dei. But there are some congregations where a wonderful practice still exists - the sharing of the peace.
    I can't remember the last time I was in a congregation that passed the peace at this point in the service and not before the opening hymn or Invocation, but I am a huge fan of this placement of the passing of the peace. 
    The Lord's Supper is all about unity, unity with Jesus and unity with those who participate in the Lord's Supper with us. Being at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ is unity. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus isn't being hyperbolic. He's encouraging people to travel 160 miles round trip to reconcile before bringing their gifts to God in Jerusalem. How much more important is reconciliation and peace before communing together, before uniting ourselves to Christ and each other in the Lord's Supper?
    This peace of the Lord which passes all understanding (not just human understanding...all understanding) is bestowed in this brief liturgical moment. This peace is amplified and spread from the Lord to His people and through their relationships. 
    This moment in the service is like the moment when the nine members of Fellowship of the Ring are chosen at Rivendell inThe Lord of the Rings. Members join from five different races of Middle Earth for a common purpose. They unite themselves in fellowship. And Lord Elrond tells them, right before they set out on their quest, "May the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!"
    Such a blessing is merely a shadow of the blessing we receive as the peace of the Lord is bestowed on us and shared among us as we set out in the truest Fellowship: the Lord's Supper.
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