Sacramental light

O Lord our God, in your holy Sacraments you have given us a foretaste of the good things of your kingdom: Direct us, we pray, in the way that leads to eternal life, that we may come to appear before you in that place of light where you dwell for ever with your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As many folks know, the Fourth Sunday in Lent is considered a lighter day - refreshment Sunday, complete with rose vestments for those who have them, just a little lightening up from the heaviness of the Lenten season to give us new energy going into the last two weeks of our 40-days.

And so our collects this week have changed in tone again, so that this week our prayers center around the sacraments, as we will see as we move through this week in our devotions using the weekday collects.

In the Episcopal Church, we recognize two sacraments - baptism and Eucharist - and five sacramental rites: confirmation, reconciliation of a penitent, marriage, ordination, and unction (or last rites). Our view of sacraments is that they are necessary for all Christians - baptism and Eucharist. The sacramental rites are open to all but not required. 

So in today's prayer, we are speaking of baptism and Eucharist as that which is a foretaste of the good things of God's kingdom. A bath and a meal, if you will, which for many of us can truly be a taste of heaven under certain circumstances. And in this prayer we are looking toward eternal life, characterized by perpetual light - that place of light where God dwells forever with the saints - and asking God to guide us in this life, having had a glimpse of the heavenly life in our experience of baptism and Eucharist, so that we might become one of those saints that surrounds God in eternal light and life.

It is important to remember also that heavenly life with God is our expectation and our desire and that God desires this for us as well. The forgiveness of sins - the blotting out of sins that is assured upon confession of them - makes this possible. But does our prayer suggest that we have to do something to get to that place of eternal life? That we might not get there? 

When I was young and in a different tradition, the threat of eternal damnation was always at hand. You don't know if you'll get to heaven - you might be good and then backslide (a favorite word in some traditions) and then your salvation will be yanked away! Fortunately, this is not the way our tradition sees it. God desires our salvation and makes it possible for everyone, not just "saints on earth." 

But it is possible that someone may turn away from the grace that is offered. It does have to be accepted. Call this free will if you will. So we are asking today for direction and guidance so that we love what God is offering us (having gotten a glimpse through our baptisms and our experience of the Eucharist) and decide to accept it.

If we have some time today, then, it would be good to read through our services of baptism and Eucharist, to remember the promises and the story of God's saving grace and love for us in our earthly life (especially since during this year we may not have experienced either of these sacraments in person).

Blessings for this week.