Brenda was a faithful church goer, and today was no exception. Her world had been rocked by professional failure, which she internalized deeply as personal failure. Her faith in God nurtured her slowly back to try new possibilities for using her gifts, but she had not found the success she once knew.
Church was an extension of Brenda's prayer life. At home, she had a favorite prayer spot - on a Lazy Boy chair in her basement. Brenda's darkest days of unemployment and identity crisis were wept over in that chair. She ranted to God. She begged for new meaning and restored position.
The daily readings of the Episcopal Church enhanced Brenda’s prayer time. The lectionary and church calendar provided a rhythm for her life that otherwise seemed to be out of whack. She found strength and hope in the readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospel and the writings of the Apostles. The seasons and special Holy Days provided diversion for her thoughts as well as learning she enjoyed.
Sunday morning continued this rhythm within a community of believers at Trinity Episcopal Church. After slipping into a pew, she lowered the kneeler with a slight thump, settled her knees onto the cushion, and resumed her praying. At certain times in the service, kneelers corporately thumped into place as everyone moved into humble position for Prayers of the People or for the Eucharistic prayer before communion.
On this Sunday, Father Tom told the congregation he had been asked by newcomers, and by some long time church members, why some people stand rather than kneel during the prayers. He explained that in the traditional Rite One, based on the Prayer Book of 1928, the wording assumes penitence - the worshipper as a penitent, humbled and unworthy before God. Kneeling is expected.
However, in Rite Two, the more modern service prayer, the wording is more victorious and joyful.
"Jesus' sacrifice sanctified us, and we can boldly stand in God's presence!" Father Tom proclaimed with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. "So, some people stand for these prayers, but kneeling is perfectly fine if that is what you want to do. Please think and pray about this. Like sheep, most Episcopalians can be heard dropping their kneelers into place at the same times in the service. Listen for your own call to worship as the Spirit may lead you. All are welcome here to find God and experience His communion."
Brenda had never thought about this. Kneeling was how she prayed in church. She liked it. She was glad for the kneelers.
Suddenly a new realization flooded her mind. She did not feel worthy to stand.
"Oh, that's silly," Brenda thought to herself. "I know I am sanctified. I am righteous by the blood of Jesus. Just stand up when the time comes for the Eucharistic prayer, Brenda.”
The choir sang a beautiful offertory anthem, leading to The Great Thanksgiving, the communion part of the service. Everyone stood as the priest began, "The Lord be with you."
The congregation continued standing to sing the Sanctus prayer, with opening words adapted from Isaiah 6:3, describing the prophet's vision of the throne of God surrounded by angels:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
"Here it comes," Brenda anticipated, "the place to decide, do I keep standing or kneel? Why is this such a big deal? Why do I feel so unworthy?"
Tears welled up from a heart she thought had healed. Brenda stood confronted by a fresh wound of guilt, as if a scab had been suddenly ripped off.
"Stand or kneel? Stand or kneel?" Brenda frantically considered.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump, thump. Kneelers were falling around the sanctuary. Brenda looked at the worshippers around her, following their traditional way, "like sheep," and being fine with that.
What would she do? What could she do? "Jesus, help me."
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