The Eucharistic Liturgy 4

The Eucharistic Liturgy – Part 4

The Dismissal

The Liturgy that we follow Sunday by Sunday consists of four parts, each of which are identified in the service folder in purple capitals printed on the right hand side of the page. We have already looked at the first three parts, which are called the ‘Gathering’, the Liturgy of the Word’ and the ‘Liturgy of the Sacrament’. It only remains for us to look at the final and shortest of these four parts which is called ‘The Dismissal’ or the ‘Sending Out’.


The earlier parts of the service had to do with preparing ourselves to receive the sacrament, and to do with preparing the elements of the sacrament for us to receive them. The climax of the service was reached when in consuming the sacrament we received Christ  into our being and were united with him and with one another in the body of Christ, so that in him and through him, in the unity of the Spirit we might be made one with God.


As wonderful as that climax may have been for you, it wasn’t an end in itself.  

We are strengthened and consolidated in our faith by the sacrament which Jesus himself instituted, as a means to an end. Those who are called by Christ are privileged people in that they are called to join him in his saving work and in his service of others. In receiving the sacrament we are being equipped to participate in that service.


When James and John wanted to grab for themselves the positions of honour by requesting that they sit at the Lord’s right and left hand in glory, Jesus had to teach them that in the Kingdom of God things are different than they are on earth. In the heavenly Kingdom the great do not lord it over others, they become the servants of othersl.


Those who receive the sacrament are nourished and transformed so that they become a sacrament themselves.  A sacrament consists of something that is outwardly visible that has an inward and spiritual meaning. In a sacrament the mundane is infused with the divine. In the case of the sacrament of Holy Communion the bread and wine convey Christ to us. In the case of Baptism, water is the visible representation of the Holy Spirit.


Just as Christ is sacramentally present in the church which is his body on earth, so we who are united with him are called to make him present in the world. We receive Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion so that we might be enabled to take him and his love to others just as the Apostles did all those years ago.


At the end of Matthew’s gospel, just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said to the Apostles:


Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.


The years that Jesus had spent with the disciples and the things that he had said to them and shown them during that time were a preparation. Though the disciples benefited from their experience in the Lord’s presence, that was not the main reason why Jesus had called them to follow and learn from him. Jesus called them and taught them so that when the time came they could witness to others and build the church.  Despite the preparation that they had received  they were still not ready. In order to accomplish the task that they had been prepared for they needed to receive the Holy Spirit, which they did at Pentecost. Jesus had ascended into heaven but in a real and powerful way he remained with them to enable them to continue the work that he had begun.


The Lord is here, his Spirit is with us, and our time together with him in this hour of worship, although it will be a benefit to us, is not primarily to make us feel good. It is part of our preparation to fulfil our calling to be the salt that savours, the light that shines in dark places and the yeast that leaven’s the lump.


Even a small light can be seen from a great distance on a dark-night, and only a little salt or a little yeast is needed for its effect to be noticed and its improvement felt. We were drawn to this service by the Lord’s invitation and we come to be strengthened in faith and to be reassured by our fellowship with the him that we might go out into the world strong in spirit to do his will.


The Dismissal or the Sending Out is a very short section of the service but it is a very important part of it. It is in this section of the service that we receive God’s blessing and commission.


We are not to think of this hour that we spend together  in church as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. We are here to be enlivened and encouraged, sustained and supported, inspired and uplifted, so that we might be able to fulfil the tasks that we have been called to do. What we do in our time together in church is designed to equip us to carry out our commission to go out into the world to love and serve the Lord. Amen.