Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Altar/Table & Rails

It has been quite a while since I issued a new edition of my Sanctuary Sight and Senses bulletin insert.  However, Centenary United Methodist Church (one of the two churches I currently serve as pastor) just moved to celebrating Holy Communion each Sunday during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  Therefore, I used the following insert as a means of sharing with the congregation about that decision.

Altar/Table & Rails  -  The altar rails serve a dual purpose.  They are a place to meet God in prayer.  We gather around them as a people when we seek the Lord in prayer.  We also use them, at times, during an “invitation” or “altar call,” where, after the sermon, a call is given for people with a particular need to come and pray.  In some of our churches with strong revivalistic heritages, the altar rails are referred to simply as the altar. 

The other purpose for the altar rails is really the first and primary purpose.  We gather and kneel at the altar rails when we receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist).  It is in this way that we see their connection with the Altar/Table. 

The Altar/Table is the place where we prepare and celebrate the holy sacrament.  The two candles, there, remind us that Christ is truly present in the sacrament of His body and blood.  This is why the eternal light is often found near the place of the sacrament. 

For Wesleyan Christians, Communion is not just a memorial.  Rather, it is a rich means of God’s grace, to us.  When we come with faith in Christ, we believe that God truly pours out His grace to us; grace to forgive, redeem, cleanse, sanctify, heal . . . to meet our needs and make us more like Christ. 

The Wesley’s viewed this sacrament as the richest means of God’s grace.  Therefore, John Wesley, like the early Christians, celebrated this sacrament multiple times a week and charged all Methodist elders to administer the sacrament every Lord’s Day, which he believed was a biblical practice.  The United Methodist denomination has officially called all congregations to understand that this is, indeed, the norm for the Church.  -  May we come to the Table with faith and thanksgiving, assured that Christ has promised to meet us there!

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