Early in my ministry, my first congregation occasionally relieved me of my Sunday morning leadership responsibilities and encouraged me to visit other local churches. Part of this plan was for me to learn from other worshiping communities and bring back what might be transferable from their experience to our congregation. But a significant aspect of this time and space was to simply nurture and feed my own relationship with God (a wise move on the part of this congregation, I might add).
One Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to worship in an Episcopal church. The rector of this church was well known both locally and globally for his teaching ministry and evangelistic crusades. The church was a stunning place to worship. The sanctuary was a place of beauty, space that had been carefully designed to create a sense of awe and reverence. This was my first opportunity to participate in the Anglican liturgy. I was unfamiliar with the flow of the liturgy, the changing body postures and the movement between sitting, kneeling and standing. Many of the spoken prayers, while old, were new to me. Needless to say, it was extremely different from my normal Sunday morning worship experience.
While it was inspiring to hear the Word of God proclaimed by the rector of this congregation, the climax of the gathering came near the end of the liturgy as we were invited to receive the Eucharist. The practice of this congregation was to invite people to walk to the front of the sanctuary and kneel at the rail in front of the communion table. There the priest came to each person and offered to us the body of Christ. Then they brought the chalice to us, the common cup from which we had the opportunity to open our mouths and drink the cup of salvation.
I grew up in the Methodist church that, if you are not aware, uses grape juice for communion. This Episcopal church did not use grape juice. As I opened my mouth and took a large drink, I was surprised by the goodness of God in a fresh and memorable way. In that moment, as the wine invaded my body and warmed my insides, I knew in the depth of my being that there is a good God who loves me so much that he would send his one and only Son to pay the price for my redemption.
When and where have you tasted the goodness of God?
Open your mouth and taste. Open your eyes and see. See how good God really is. (Psalm 34:8)
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, A Movable Feast: Worship for the Other Six Days.