Last Sunday I visited St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Seattle. The Rev David Marshall (no relation) presided and gave the sermon. My determination of a good sermon includes whether I can remember it on Monday. Some Sundays I have not been able to recall the message of the sermon on my way home from church! Fr. David’s sermon stays with me this Thursday morning. I need to share it with you. Actually, I will share with you what I remember about last Sunday’s sermon on this Thursday. It may surprise the priest by being different than his intended message, but that is part of the risk of life and faith.
Fr. David used the metaphor of a wine connoisseur for our thoughts about our liturgy. As a connoisseur of anything, a wine connoisseur knows many details about wines. She/he has knowledge about the differences in wines from different countries and regions, perhaps even different years for the same wine region. Understanding the uses of the different wine glasses for different wines helps the connoisseur to enjoy the unique benefits of each wine. The proper storage of wines as well as the proper methods of opening and tasting wines is also part of the knowledge of a wine connoisseur.
If the wine connoisseur encounters a thirsty person, one who is “dying of thirst” would the wine connoisseur take the ailing person to the wine cellar and describe the various vintages? Or, would the caring person offer the ailing one a large glass of fresh water to begin to quench the thirst? Water would be the appropriate and needed drink for a dehydrated, thirsty person.
Likewise in our denomination, Episcopalians are, in many ways, liturgy connoisseurs. We know the details of good liturgy, only the raw basics of which include when to sit, when to stand, and when to kneel. Will you offer the host for intinction at the mass? Will Communion be offered at stations? Reading prayers or spontaneous prayers? It is “Aayy-men” or “Ahh-men?” Only one is acceptable in refined liturgy.
Then, as liturgy connoisseurs what should be our response to a visitor to the Episcopal Church? Do we require that they learn all of the liturgy before they can participate? Do we offer them a fine wine or a drink of water to quench their thirst for a taste of God’s loving presence?
I’ve been “chewing on” this bit of wine during this week. I wonder what your thoughts are about it.