Before there was a New Testament or creeds as we know them, Christians gathered together for worship very similar to today’s form that we know as Holy Eucharist. As we read in Acts, Christians gathered together for the ‘breaking of the bread and the prayers’. The drama of the Holy Eucharist has from the days of the early Church been the central event in Christian worship and provides a pattern for Christian living. It is designed to teach us, feed us, and inspire us.
But worship may not always be inspiring or meaningful. It may seem confusing, boring and repetitious. In our worship, there is much ritual and intentional pattern, but ritual without meaning becomes idol worship. If a pattern is not understood, it adds nothing. A narrated service helps make clearer and more obvious the drama which is taking place. With understanding we are better able to know and experience God’s presence in our worship.
The Eucharist is the only service Jesus himself instituted and commanded us to continue. Eucharist means “thanksgiving” — and we give thanks for God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. The service is also called “Holy Communion” because it is a principle way of communing with and having fellowship with God. It is called the “Lord’s Supper” because its focus is the meal with Jesus Christ. It has origins in the meals the disciples had with Jesus, especially the Last Supper and Miracle Feeding of 5,000. Every Sunday is a “little Easter” because every Eucharist is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate — because our worship should be joyful thanksgiving.
We call this our liturgy – which means “work of the people”. Everyone has a role in the service – you are people gathered for worship – a congregation, not an audience. We are a celebrant community – offering praise and thanksgiving. The priest cannot celebrate alone. Eucharist is always an event done in community, and at least two people must be present. But to take it further — God is the primary actor. When we are gathered — two or three or more in His name — God in the Holy Spirit is with us. God is working in us and through us.
The service is divided into two parts: the liturgy of the Word of God and liturgy of Sacrament. This balance reflects our understanding of how God communicates with us, both through Word and Action: in Scriptures, and in the Word made flesh; in the Word preached, and in the bread and wine.