Preparing The Table

A friend of mine was in charge of Altar Guild at church and I would go and help her.  My daughter, Ivey, was around five and she loved to go.  She was intrigued by the white gloves we wore.  It was not long before Ivey was in the pulpit preaching!  Long after Barbara and I were finished we would sit in the pews listening to the sermon!  I never thought much about it at the time but I am thankful that she was exposed to the changing of the Altar Guild and that she paid such attention to Communion.  Even though some of it did not make sense to her at that time - those acts and words were embedded.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19, “‘Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’”

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A small band of dedicated volunteers are responsible for preparing our gathering spaces for corporate worship.  They change the large banners on the walls, change the parament (liturgical hangings on and around the altar and the cloths hanging from the pulpit and lectern) colors according to each liturgical season, decorate and undecorate the Chrismon trees, hang the wreaths, pull the stamens out of Easter lilies so people do not sneeze (who knew?!), fill the candles with oil, purchase the bread and juice for communion and then set the table with those elements.  These are just a few of the things they do to honor and glorify God.  

I talked to one of our Altar Guild servants and told her I needed a story to bring awareness to this ministry and hopefully get more volunteers.  Here is what she shared with me:  

“Knowing we need volunteers for Altar Guild I decided to look for a story to help with this important ministry. After reading Jill’s blog highlighting other ministries I began wondering how Altar Guild shows God’s love to others outside the church.  Then God brought a story to mind along with an invitation for me to share with you. 

I thought of one of our Altar Guild members who joined PVUMC about two years ago. She is married but her husband doesn't attend church. She and I lift him in our prayers every time we go to God. He is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Always ready and willing to help. He consistently reaches out to his neighbors when they are in need, but let me tell you what he does here at church. This man doesn’t feel worthy. He doesn’t yet understand that none of us are worthy or deserving. He comes to help change out the wall banners. He fills the candles. He helps change the paraments. He goes to the store and purchases the bread and juice. He helps set the communion table. He loads the fruit and vegetables we use to decorate the altar for Thanksgiving in his van and delivers them to the Good Shepherd House the day after Thanksgiving Sunday. He helps put the small white candles in their plastic holders for Christmas Eve services. Yes, he does these things and many others because his wife is a member of the Altar Guild and he is supportive of her. But I believe that through our prayers for him, and because he is experiencing what service to God is and how his wife performs these acts with reverence and how she considers it an honor to prepare the elements for communion, we are carrying him to the cross, one step at a time. We are laying him at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to enter his heart. A quiet ministry can be effective too. The Bible says in Matthew 6:6 ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’”  

None of us are worthy. Scripture tells us that.  Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  But here is good news!  Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  All we have to do is believe that Jesus died on the cross for us.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This is another way of how the Holy Spirit is moving here at PVUMC!  Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  We were made to serve and to show others the love of God.  Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  If you would like to be a part of this Altar Guild team please contact Mark through the church office.  They need your help and so does God.  You never know how God will use you! 

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