Christmas Midnight 2016

Wonderful words from John’s Gospel. For me it marks the beginning of Christmas when I hear ‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory’.

But what difference does it make? What do those famous words actually mean in the rough and tumble of our world? I struggled with this the morning after the Berlin murders. When twelve people were killed by a lorry smashing into a Christmas market. It was an horrific despicable act, of hatred and terror, aimed with tragic irony at the European nation which has done the most to rehome refugees. Looking wider we might well wonder, the bombings in Syria, the forgotten conflict in Yemen – do they seem to make a mockery of peace on earth and goodwill to all?

It makes me ask does the faith of John’s gospel actually have anything to say? Or are those beautiful words just helping us retreat into a safe Christmas bauble, a comforting gingerbread house from which we emerge (hungover) a day or so later to face reality?

As I’ve looked at this reading again, I’ve found much more than Christmas cliché. I’ve found a real and genuine hope that takes the brokenness of the world seriously but refuses to be overcome by it.

St. John tells us that there is truth, there is light. There is hope, goodness and love. They are rooted in the character of God from the very beginning. Realities grounded in him. They are fundamental to the creation of all things. So we are not directionless. Goodness and love are not a matter of opinion, of one’s person’s word against another. When darkness strikes we see all the more clearly what is right and true.

We know that in our hearts, don’t we? We all recognise truth and goodness when we see them. Even the existence of evil testifies to the primacy of good, because those who commit evil usually do so as a means to an end. Think of the policeman who shot the ambassador in Turkey – he shouted ‘remember Aleppo’. Those who do wrong like him, often do so because they are seeking a distorted, derivative idea of the good. So evil does not extinguish good – instead it points us to good.

Yes, there is darkness, and its power is sometimes very great. If we are honest with ourselves we know too that the darkness reaches into each one of us and spoils the goodness of creation. In our own strength we cannot be what we ought to be. But St. John calls us to hope. In verse 5: ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’.

Here John’s gospel points to Jesus. When I want to know what good is like, I look to him. I see Jesus’ compassion for the hungry and poor. His burning desire for justice and willingness to spend himself for the good of others. There is great beauty and challenge in his teaching, high aspirations but also loving forgiveness for those who have fallen short.

Above all though – and I think this is most compelling when we think about the suffering of the world – Jesus shows us that God is willing to be vulnerable. He lived and died on this earth as one of us. He suffered everything this world could throw at him: poverty, exclusion, pain. So whenever we are in that place, he can comfort us. He promises the final victory too because he absorbed all the evil and sin when he died on the cross – he allowed the darkness to do its worst on him and so exhausted its power. As they were crucifying him, he prayed ‘Father forgive’. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

We today can therefore live in a genuine hope. We can recognise the darkness in the world, but not allow it the victory. So if we wonder ‘how can we celebrate at Christmas against the background of Aleppo?’ I would respond: to quench the Christmas spirit would be letting the darkness win. Don’t switch off the fairy lights, or put out the scented candles, but do give to support those in need. Do give to Doorway for the homeless in Chippenham, and do enjoy your turkey!

Because to do so is to live in hope. This is why Christians who are refugees will be trying to celebrate Christmas with whatever they have. As they do so they bear witness that the light will one day conquer. We too can choose to live in the darkness or walk by Christ’s light. Of course the lights we carry in our lives may seem small or dim. We may wonder how our light can possibly make a difference. But a multitude of stars can make a constellation, and a thousand candle flames a great blaze of light. At Christmas God in Christ committed himself to this earth in hope. Will we too walk in his light of hope this year?


Eucharist 4 – mission

A snail made its way into a police station. He said to the desk sergeant  “I’ve just been mugged by two tortoises.” “Gosh” said the sergeant “what did they do?” “I don’t know” said the snail “it happened so fast”

We live in a world which is changing rapidly, and in unexpected ways. Apparently if you put a single pound on an accumulator bet at the beginning of the year that the UK would vote to leave Europe, Donald Trump would be the next US president, and Leicester City would win the Premier league – you would now be four and a half million richer.

The pace of change can be bewildering, perhaps especially for the church, which at times seems to be playing a belated game of catch up.

Yet often in its history, Christians have been at the forefront of change, doing their utmost to usher in a better world. Think of the Evangelical Clapham Sect who led efforts to abolish slavery and child labour in Victorian times. The social impact inspired by Christian faith can be very personal and local – like the Methodist revival which changed drinking culture in working men or the current work among self-harming teenagers. Or it can be more like a revolution – it’s a well-documented fact that the demonstrations which brought down the Berlin Wall had their origin in a prayer meeting in St Nicholas church Leipzig.

Christian faith changes the world. As we go out of that door our faith makes a difference. It affects our relationships, our values and impact, our prayers – and if it doesn’t we have to ask what’s the point? The end of the Eucharist sends us out with the words: ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’. It’s that serving we’re thinking about today in this final sermon in the series on the Eucharist. How does the Eucharist join us in God’s mission? How does the Eucharist affect our communities?

In our first reading from Romans 1:1-7 St Paul sets out a massive vision which we’ve followed in our Advent journey. Paul describes the amazing acts of God: how the Old Testament prophets promised the coming of a Saviour; how Jesus came as both man and God. Last week we reflected on the depths of God’s love shown when Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice for our sins. We also thought about the resurrection – in v.4 – and our call to be saints.

But this isn’t just something to make us feel great. Paul doesn’t stop there: how wonderful this is, let’s sit back and enjoy God’s love! No, in verse 5 he says: ‘we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.’ In other words, having received this great blessing we share it with the world. We have forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, teaching on the right way to live, God’s Spirit to transform us, the Kingdom of God to build! What an amazing gift to bring the world!

And our worship equips and strengthens us to do this. The word of God read and preached changes our understanding, renews our minds and motivates us to action. Prayer and song focus our hearts on God, build a connection with heaven and ground us in God’s reality. Ministry time – fellowship and prayer for one another can be profoundly healing, restoring spiritual health and psychological wholeness. At its best, worship enables us to connect with God, connect with one another, and so connect well with our communities.

Of course, all of these things are open to the non-communicant – and that is a very important point. Nothing we’ve explored so far is exclusive to the Eucharist, and indeed there are many good reasons why outreach through worship is often non-Eucharistic. The Early Church kept the Eucharist secret, and for many today it can still be a mystery.

Indeed, the way the Eucharist is often celebrated is not exactly the material of revolution. Unchanging liturgy and regular observance emphasise the idea that communion is about ‘rations for the journey’ – enough to carry us spiritually through the week. That is true – we need God’s regular blessing, but there is so much more to which he calls us.

The Eucharist is more than bread for the journey. It is fuel for the revolution. For the wounded, worship can be a refuge from an unpredictable world, but ultimately the Eucharist should be healing and reconciling so that we can re-enter the world with radical engagement. The Eucharist gives us continuity with the past, but also transformation.

Transformation is right at the heart of the Eucharist. Look at the offertory procession, why do we do that? If you think about it, we could perfectly well start off the service with the bread and wine next to the altar and indeed many churches do that. But the offertory procession does have a symbolism: the bread and wine of human labour are taken and transformed by God’s spirit to be a blessing to us all. Someone made that bread, bottled that wine and their efforts represent our own self-offering and commitment to be transformed by God.

Remember our gospel reading? St Joseph the worker is willing to be offered, broken, in effect shared for God’s glory. He offers himself, accepting God’s costly call. It will feel like being broken – imagine the gossip, the innuendo, the humiliation – has Joseph lost his self-control? Or is he raising someone else’s son? Joseph’s talents, his parenting will be lavished on Jesus. How much was Jesus inspired by Joseph? What did he learn from him? And so Joseph will in the end, through Jesus’ ministry, be shared with us all.

The Eucharist speaks of Christ’s obedience to God, of his self-offering and brokenness, of bringing healing to the world. We too are called to follow that pattern. To offer ourselves, where we are, our concerns and joys, the fruits of our labours.

To be willing to be broken and shared in that strange dance of self-denying yet ultimately fulfilling love.

As we come to communion I think there are several applications for today. Firstly, let’s keep the big picture in front of us. Everything that we do as Christians is to glorify God. The purpose of the church is to share in God’s mission. Let’s keep that at the forefront of what we do, the ultimate goal of all our activities.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that we drop everything that we’re doing and start something else. But it does mean that the ethos of offering and being shared in God’s mission should pervade everything that we do. A couple of years ago our PCC developed a vision statement for this church, a hope of what we would like to be. It is

A holy place at the heart of the community, open to all.

We can do that, in a way which is centred and grounded in God.

Secondly, let’s ensure that our Eucharistic worship connects with our community. Communion can be evangelistic, if we celebrate in an appropriate way. It need not feel exclusive or distant. As another example, it’s perfectly appropriate for our intercessions to include national and local concerns. It’s right to pray about Syria – it’s right too to pray for this village. Who will pray about the future of preschool provision in Sherston if not Sherston’s church? We do not tell God what to do, how to answer our prayers (still less preach at him), but we do offer up particular instances and people to our loving Lord.

Finally, may we be drawn in to the movement of the Eucharist. As God invites us, may we respond to him in love and receive his grace. May we be strengthened through his spirit to love and serve the Lord. Amen.


The Eucharist and Who I Am

One day a gorilla escaped from the zoo, prompting a huge search of the district and appeals on radio, television and in the newspapers.

A few days later they found him in the city library sitting at a desk with two books spread out in front of him.

The gorilla was deep in concentration. One book was the Bible; the other was written by Charles Darwin.

The zoo keepers asked the gorilla what he was doing. The gorilla replied: “I’m trying to figure out whether I am my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”

Who am I? The question of identity lies at the heart of films like the Bourne trilogy and plenty of books too. Many people spend their lives in search of a secure identity, others decide on an off the shelf identity to adopt, like the teenager who suddenly becomes a goth. Many of us devote a lot of time and effort to creating an identity for ourselves and projecting it for others – how many Facebook profiles do you think give a real impression of their owners’ lives?

If we take our identity from others and allow the world around us to define who we are, we end up confused and often disappointed. But if we listen to what God tells us about our identity, we find security. As we continue our sermon series on the Eucharist, we’ll reflect today on what Holy Communion tells us about who we are. What is our identity in the sight of God? The answer is truthful, at times challenging, and always full of glorious hope.

If we look at our Luke reading, Chapter 22 verses 14-20 we find that our identity is rooted in Christ’s death for us. The reading takes place at the Last Supper – it’s the Thursday before Easter and Jesus has come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the traditional Passover meal. He gathers with his disciples in an upper room, and as the meal reaches its climax Jesus does something unexpected.

He knows that he will shortly be arrested and condemned to death the next day. So he takes the bread and says ‘This is my body, given for you’. Then he takes the cup of wine, saying ‘This cup poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’.

In doing this he began the tradition that became Holy Communion, and we say those same words as we gather round the table even today. For centuries Christians have debated their precise meaning: do the bread and wine actually mysteriously become the body and blood of Jesus? Or do they represent his body and blood, symbols reminding us of his death on the cross? Or is the answer somewhere in between? We’re not going to resolve four centuries of argument in one sermon, so let’s focus on the underlying meaning.

Jesus talked of his body and blood, given for you. He says that he gave his blood for us; he gave his body, dying on our behalf. If you’ve ever had a blood transfusion, you’ll know how one person’s generosity can give life to another. As the father of a child who’s had a kidney transplant, I am forever grateful to the unknown woman who in her death allowed her organs to be given up and shared for those in need. What a profound gift that is, how could I ever say thank you enough, apart from going on the register myself?

Christians believe that Jesus gave his body and blood on the cross in love so that we might live. Christians depend on Jesus and his self-giving life, just as the transplant recipient depends on the organ.

But for the disciples, with their background in Old Testament inspired Judaism, a very different image would come to mind. Imagine a man who has wronged his neighbour. Something has happened, which cannot be undone – perhaps there has been a fight. Now he is making the long journey to Jerusalem, with a year old lamb in tow. There’s not many in his flock, this lamb represents a sizeable portion of his livelihood, but the sin is serious and he genuinely desires reconciliation.

At the temple, the costly sacrifice is made on the altar. As the lamb dies, the man feels a weight of guilt lifted off his shoulders. The price is paid, sin’s death has died, and he can go home sombre but forgiven.

Jesus’ disciples interpreted his death like that. He was the Lamb of God, who freely gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Christ was the Passover lamb, dying so that God’s people could be delivered from evil. Jesus himself spoke of his death as being a ransom – a price paid so that the captives could go free. Shortly before dying he gave us this ceremony so that we could remember his body and blood given for us.

So the Eucharist tells us we are forgiven. The first step in our identity is as redeemed sinners, those who have been loved by God so much that the ultimate price was paid. What amazing worth we have in his eyes! If you’re ever tempted to wonder if you count for much, then remember this: Christ died for you. You are immensely valuable and hugely loved

As we celebrate communion, remembering this will surely create love and gratitude in our hearts. As we reflect, we can experience his forgiveness, being set free from guilt and things that bind us. We’ll remember what Christ did for us and dedicate ourselves to his service in thanksgiving. Nothing could be too much to offer him. Our identity is not trapped by the past, or defined by our mistakes- we are forgiven!

But this is not the whole story. Sometimes the emphasis on forgiveness can be overdone, so that, paradoxically, we end up thinking too much of our failings. Churches which forget the next step can end up making people look inwards, focus on their mistakes, even becoming guilty that Christ died for them. That is not at all what he intended.

The second part of our identity is also found in the words of the Last Supper: this is the new covenant in my blood. Covenant means agreement and Jesus is talking about a new beginning, a new life.

In other words, when we accept Jesus into our lives, we become children of God. Trusting in Jesus we are born again. We have a new identity as sons and daughters of God – the Bible calls us saints.

So as well as being forgiven sinners, we are also children of God, saints in the making. This is really important for Christian living because it invites us to become what we are. We are already children of God – let us live out our identity. Christian living isn’t about raising ourselves to some impossible level, but allowing God’s Spirit to make us what we actually are. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 3 verses 17 to 18.

St. Paul says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom might not be a word we associate with religion – isn’t it about laws? But this is the freedom to become the Real Me. The person God intended me to be, the person I’m designed to be. Not the Me that society pressures me to become, or the Me the advertisers sell to, or even the Me who tries to live up to people’s expectations. But the freedom to be the Real Me living God’s way, following God’s call, becoming more and more myself as I get closer to him.

I’m a gardener. If I want to plant cabbages I know that I need firm soil with lots of manure. That’s what helps cabbages fulfil their potential. If I planted carrots there, it would be a disaster. They wouldn’t push through the compacted soil, the high fertility would make them fork and twist. Similarly God doesn’t want you to try and be anyone else. He wants you to thrive in the identity and environment he has given you.

At the same time as we become more ourselves, we also become more like Jesus. There’s a remarkable image in that Corinthians reading, as if by looking in a mirror we catch sight of Jesus image, and as we look at him the light reflected transforms us by our focus on Christ.

Perhaps it’s like those children’s toys that glow in the dark. You have to put them in the light for a while until they somehow glow with their own radiance. Similarly as we spend time with Jesus, as we look to him, we begin to resemble him. When we worship God, when we spend time in prayer, we find our identity is rooted more and more in him, and then our actions are transformed.

At the confirmation service last month Bishop Lee described how he had met Desmond Tutu. Apparently the most striking thing about Tutu is that he is totally happy being Desmond Tutu. He’s the most comfortable person in his own skin that Bishop Lee had ever met.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be like that. Not to become like Desmond Tutu – that wouldn’t work!! I want Jesus to shape my identity so that I am totally comfortable with whom I am in his grace. I want to be rooted in Christ, not moulded by others. It’s not easy though.

We define ourselves in so many ways: by the sins with which we battle, or mistakes from long ago. We’re tempted to find identity in success and fear failure, to gain credibility from qualifications and position. We even allow the gifts of God: parenthood, marriage, work to become the core of identity and try and make them carry a weight they cannot bear.

So it needs a positive effort to secure our Christian identity. We need to remind ourselves regularly that we are forgiven. We need to see ourselves as saints in the making. We need actively to remember that call to be like Jesus. We must consciously reject the false identities with which we are labelled, and assert our identity in Christ. Let us pray now that we may be rooted and grounded, built up in him.

Eucharist 2 – who we are


1 Corinthians 11:20-27 and Luke 14:15-24

A couple in their 90s die suddenly in a freak accident. Up till that point they had been in excellent health, due to the wife’s interest in health food.

When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, with beautiful kitchen, swimming pool, lovely view. As they “oohed and aahed”, the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.

“It’s free,” Peter replied, Remember, this is Heaven.”

Next they went out back to see the championship golf course next door. Each week the course changed to a new one representing the greatest golf courses on Earth. The old man asked, “What are the green fees?”

“This is heaven,” St. Peter replied. “You play for free.”

Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out. “How much to eat?” asked the old man.

“Don’t you understand yet?” St. Peter asked. “This is heaven. It’s free!”

“Where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods?” the old man asked timidly.

“That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get ill. This is Heaven.”

The old man looked at his wife and said, “You and your stupid bran muffins. I could have been here twenty years ago!”

When Jesus talks about heaven, how does he imagine it? He certainly doesn’t talk about harps and clouds at all. As far as I’m aware he mentions Paradise just once – to the thief on the cross who puts his trust in Jesus right at the end of his life. Because he turns to Christ he is forgiven and will be in Paradise.

But mostly the image Jesus uses is a banquet. ‘Blessed is the person who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God’ says a dinner guest piously. Jesus has just said something challenging and it seems that the guest is one of those people who tries to defuse tension by saying something that all can agree on. But Jesus isn’t going to let an opportunity pass.

He responds by telling a parable about a banquet. How lucky indeed those will be who eat in the kingdom. So make sure you respond to God’s invitation! Don’t take it for granted, says Jesus!

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus talks about feasting in the Kingdom of God. You and I are invited to a glorious celebration, a wedding banquet thrown by God. And I don’t mean the sort of party where you make polite conversation with people you’ll never see again while wishing you had three hands because you’re standing up and it’s impossible to eat canapes from a plate while holding a glass of imitation Prosecco.

No, God invites us to abundant joy. To celebration and fulfilment. To the whole company of the redeemed. Not the smug nuclear family of the Christmas adverts. This is a celebration that involves the full communion of the saints – all those who have belonged to Christ. The vast breadth of people from every race, nation and language who have accepted Christ will be there. It will make the Olympic opening ceremony look tame by comparison. We are invited. God calls each one of us today to make a response – to say yes to him, be forgiven, and then live his way…

This feast, this gracious invitation from God, this inclusive celebration is symbolised and foreshadowed in the Eucharist. Holy Communion is a picture of God’s heavenly banquet. Here God invites us to come to his love feast. To join in celebration with all those others he has called. Today we will explore what the Eucharist says about us. How it symbolises the diversity of God’s people. How it calls us into fellowship with one another. How it creates a new Kingdom community.

Isn’t it interesting that in the Gospel reading from Luke several people refuse the host’s invitation? And they do so for individualistic reasons. The activities they do instead are not about community: they are solitary and could be done anytime: inspecting a field, trying out oxen. Even having a new wife begs the question ‘why not bring her along and share your joy?’

Are the people rejecting the invitation because they turn away from others? Now of course, for an extravert who likes being in a crowd it is easy to be the life and soul of the party. For a bookish introvert a party can be a fearsome thing. I don’t think Jesus is talking about that – not least because the things the introvert may be concerned about such as looking stupid or being rejected, those fears are not issues in heaven.

No, the ungrateful guests are rejecting the host and his character. They don’t want to be part of his celebration. They prefer to be independent rather than receive blessing from others. They don’t want to share with the guests he has invited, community holds no attraction for them, the openness, even vulnerability that fellowship requires is a step too far.

It reminds me of the old style 8 o’clock. When I was a curate about two dozen came to prayer book communion. There was plenty of room in the choir stalls but several people preferred to be miles away from anyone in a church that could seat 800. There was quite an emphasis on ‘making my communion with God’ – but rather less on communicating with one another. I knew a chap who even used to leave before the clergy had reached the door so that he didn’t have to speak to anyone.

I can see how such a service could provide a place of refuge for those who have been deeply damaged. It can hold them in a safe place but it’s contact with others which gives the chance of greater healing. Being willing to share your pew, offering the peace, staying for coffee after the service are much more than just being sociable. They are God given means of grace, ministries by which we can welcome one another, build relationships and support fellow Christians on the journey of faith. Meeting is a way that we can encourage one another in living out the gospel in the coal-face of Christian living: at work, home, school.

For God’s mission in the world is not done by the clergy, it’s carried out Christians in the front line – by the lay people. It’s lay people who have contact with other folks through their work, school, home or social interests. You can be the light of Christ for them, show his love, speak of him. It’s your work that makes a difference for the Kingdom in the world.

The job of the clergy is to resource the wider church, to support through ministry of word and sacrament the laity who are on the frontline of God’s mission.

So think of how we can support one another in our work for the Kingdom. That time after the service is potentially a real blessing. It’s not just for the clergy; it’s a chance for all of us, the whole body of Christ, to share in real ministry. Ministry belongs to everyone – the whole people of God.

Stay if you possibly can. Speak to different people. What about those you know well? Can I challenge you to raise your game? Go a bit deeper: what’s are you doing this week? What did you think of the sermon? And be willing to open up yourself, for it’s as we share with one another that trust and support grow. That does require us to step out and make the effort. But if we can kneel at the rail and open our hands to receive the presence of God, surely we can stand and recognise his presence in one another.

In the parable the host throws open his doors. He invites those who are truly vulnerable, the disabled and rough sleepers, people despised and rejected because society believes they have nothing to offer. The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, recently spoke of seeing a peer of the realm and a man recently released from prison kneeling side-by-side to receive the sacrament. Humility before Christ removes all pretensions to status; in His presence we are all equal: sinners redeemed and saints in the making.

When the God’s people can embody this grace, it is an incredibly powerful witness. Which is why St Paul is so frustrated in the reading from 1st Corinthians. Imagine how revolutionary it would have been in Romans times for slaves and masters to share communion together! That symbolism would undermine the whole institution of slavery.

But the Corinthians weren’t practising equality. Their Eucharist took place in a meal, and it seems that it wasn’t so much Bring and Share as Bring and Scoff. The idle rich arrived early and ate their banquets. When the slaves had done all their tasks, there was nothing left for them to eat. ‘Do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’ says Paul. Because of their disunity, it is not really the Lord’s Supper they are eating. Division means they are not recognising the body of Christ. It is a kind of blasphemy when they say they’re celebrating the Body of Christ in bread and wine but not recognising the human Body of Christ right in front of them.

It’s so important that we act on division quickly. If you’ve got an issue with someone there are several things you can do. Firstly, don’t grumble about them to everyone else but approach them directly. The most destructive thing to relationships is an undercurrent of grumbling that never gets addressed. Secondly, best not to send emails or even letters – they are so easily misunderstood – but pluck up your courage and speak face to face. Thirdly don’t accuse or lose your temper, but speak honestly, owning the emotions you feel. ‘When you did that I felt hurt because…how can we stop that happening again?’

We share the Peace because Jesus told us to be reconciled with one another before we approach God in worship. Hopefully sharing the peace reflects good quality relationships that do exist – but if there are problems may it also be a reminder that we need to sort them out.

Perhaps this episode explains why the church moved away from celebrating the Eucharist as a meal. It can be very powerful when we do – perhaps we ought to more. We have celebrated a Maundy Thursday supper – are there other times when the church can gather for Eucharist in a meal? Perhaps this is something we should do as a Gauzebrook Group, overcoming the isolation that can creep into rural life.

When people share communion together it can be an incredibly powerful symbol of reconciliation. We are who are many are one body because we all share in one bread. The Eucharist both expresses the unity of the God’s people the church – and creates it. When we share the bread we are united in our common dependence on Christ. When we drink from one cup we acknowledge that each one of us is here because we have responded to his love poured out on the cross. As we kneel together we affirm our equality in God’s sight and as we rise we look forward to that heavenly banquet. In the meantime, let us go and be Christ’s body in the world. Amen.