Friday, November 7, 2008

Gracious Acceptance

Every now and then, familiar words in scripture or liturgy stand out and speak with new force and meaning. That's been my experience with a phrase in the post-communion prayer we typically use on Sundays and for the daily Eucharist. Here's the prayer in its entirety:

Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and you have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.


As with so many of the prayers in The Book of Common Prayer, there's a lot to unpack here. But what stands out for me today is the phrase: "you have graciously accepted us."

Sometimes it's hard to believe that's really true.

For some Christians I know, the question remains open as to whether or not God accepts them. After all, if they've sinned and haven't repented, what hope can there be for them? They live in anxiety and perhaps even fear of what awaits them on the other side of death. An assurance of salvation eludes them.

In stark contrast, this post-communion prayer affirms that we aren't merely tolerated by God, or even just accepted ("sure, okay, you can tag along"), but graciously accepted. And so this phrase suggests to me that God genuinely desires us, that God wants to be in communion with us, that God is our friend, that God is the One we can fully trust as benevolent and merciful. That's the God we see in Jesus Christ, and that's the God we worship in our Prayer Book liturgies.

And so this post-communion phrase reaffirms what for me is one of the most powerful statements in The Book of Common Prayer: "The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble" (BCP, p. 298). What more ringing affirmation that we are accepted as living members of Jesus Christ could there be than one which says that no matter what we do or fail to do, God remains faithful to us and gracious toward us? And that the truth of our gracious acceptance is grounded in our baptisms and reaffirmed with every reception of the Holy Eucharist?

"You have graciously accepted us." That's a phrase worth praying over and over again until its truth sinks deep into the marrow of our bones.

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