It’s amazing how just a few words can change everything. Think about the words “I love you!”, “Will you marry me?”, “I do!” Not a lot of words, but when they are spoken, they change everything about a person’s life and relationships. There are words like that in scripture and our liturgy. “God so loved the world.” “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!” These few words change everything about our relationship with God.
We began using the new ACNA liturgy last week. Most of the word changes in the new prayers are minor as the authors of the book take us back to the historical worship of Anglicanism. However, one addition is significant. It’s just a few words, but they change everything. They are found in the Prayer of Humble Access, which we say towards the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. I love this prayer and am thankful that it has been part of our worship tradition at Immanuel for many years. However, I have always been bothered by one part. The early part of the Eucharistic prayer speaks to the work of Jesus in redeeming us and restoring our relationship with God through the forgiveness of sin. Then, we get to the Prayer of Humble Access and pray “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.” Yet we are worthy! Not on our own, but because of what Jesus has done. To correct this disconnect, the writers of our new prayer book have added the line, “Apart from your grace.” And these four words change everything. Apart from Jesus, we are not worthy to come before the Father because we are tainted by sin. But because of Jesus, we can “come with confidence before the throne of grace.” With these four words, this prayer brings together the reality of the gospel. We should not presume our worthiness to come into the presence of the Holy God of the Universe. We are sinful, broken creatures. However, because of Jesus’ work on the cross for us, God’s grace and forgiveness covers that sin and we are now children welcomed by the Father into his presence at any moment. May God use this liturgy, and the simple yet powerful words it uses, to assure us of his grace.