Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.
Palmer’s 11:00 a.m. liturgy on Sundays uses the traditional, poetic language of Rite I. Adorning those beautiful words is the music of Healey Willan as we sing “Glory be to God on high . . .” and “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts . . .” Incense is always used at this service, a fragrant offering that, like our prayers, rises to the heavens on the Lord’s Day. And like the 9:00 a.m. liturgy on Sundays, part of the Great Thanksgiving is usually chanted, a sanctus bell is rung to draw attention to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, and the adult choir sings the words of the psalm in addition to the anthems while bread and wine is brought to the Lord’s Table and at the beginning of the administration of Holy Communion. It is not only dramatic but also spiritual.
Today there are three noteworthy additions to that traditional liturgy. The first is the Summary of the Law, which is said near the beginning of the service and recalls the commandment of Jesus to love God and to love our neighbor. The second is the restoration of what are known in the Anglican tradition as the Comfortable Words:
Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.
Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28
God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
This is a true saying, and worthy of all to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
If anyone sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2
These are four sentences from the New Testament that are said after the priest has declared forgiven the sins of the people, including his or her own. For those who are familiar with Twitter, think of them as four tweets that put into just a few words the good news of the gospel of forgiveness and acceptance. Lastly, the prayer that will be used as our general confession is the shorter version that is allowed by the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. So come and be renewed in your faith at 11:00 a.m.
— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector