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Archive for October, 2009

Eucharist

BreakingThe following are the notes from a class on the Eucharist for The Anglican Way.


A Few Words on Sacraments

Mysterion (Greek): According the ancient Greeks, there were things in life that were very real even though they were unseen. We know that’s true today. Even in science and medicine. For example, a virus – doctors look at the effects of the virus to determine what the virus is. So in the ancient sense, Mysterion was the physical representation or manifestation of the unseen thing. In the ancient world, the classic illustration of Mysterion was a flag. When you see it move, you see the wind.

Sacramentum (Latin): When the ancient world transitioned from being Greek to Latin and the Gospel was translated into Latin, the word that could be used was mysterium had a lot of baggage because of various mystery cults of the day. Tertullian, a great Christian writer and Latinist, came up with the word sacramentum for the translation of mysterion. This is where we get the word sacrament.

A sacrament is the physical thing that manifests the unseen thing. For example as the Church has understood the broad sense of the word sacrament they have understood that:

Christ is the sacrament of God – he is the visible sign of his father, the living God. It’s why Jesus says to Phillip, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Christ is the sacrament of the Father.

That was fine for the Apostles because they could see Jesus. But once he was gone, he was unseen. So the Church – Christ’s body – has become the sacrament of Christ. If you’re looking for the Father, you can see Jesus. If you’re looking for Jesus, you can see the Church, because Christ promised to be present in his people. Where two or three or gathered in his name, he is present.

We often associate the church with a building. But really the church is something unseen. This building may be called the church but really it’s only the church when we’re gathered here together. So the manifestations of the Church are the sacraments. By the sacraments, we join ourselves to the Church, which is the sign of Christ, which is the sign of the Father. That’s the structure of the sacraments, if you will.

So let’s look at from another angle. There are 2 different kinds of Signs:

  • Visible Signs – Hand Shakes, it’s  a sign of the agreement
  • Effective Signs – Signing the contract, it’s binding.

The effectiveness of the sign is in its ability to cause or bring into effect what has been agreed to. Effective signs accomplish what they signify.

  • It’s the difference between being in love and in a committed relationship versus entering into the bonds of Holy Matrimony. Holy Matrimony changes the status of the relationship.
  • Telling someone you love them and you want to be with them for the rest of your life is nice. But when you appear before a minister and witnesses, make those same vows and are pronounced husband and wife, there is a change that is affected – the two become one in entering into a marriage covenant

In Scripture, you can see how God uses a sign to affect change. For example, Naman the Syrian: 1 Kings 5.

There’s nothing magical about washing in the waters of the Jordan River. There were probably other lepers who washed in the Jordan that day and they weren’t healed.

But when God tells you to do something it happens. It’s not because there was magical power in the water itself. But God can use matter to accomplish his purposes.

When God says something, he can make it happen. “Let there be light.” And there’s light! The idea in the sacramental worldview, is that God has chosen to use material things as vehicles of grace. The things themselves don’t have magical powers. But when effectively and rightfully ministered, they do what God intends them to do. They accomplish what they symbolize.

From the Book of Common Prayer – The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

The basic idea of the sacraments is that in them God does all of the heavy lifting. He says, “I will take care of doing what I intend to do through these things.”

So let’s move more specifically to talk about the Eucharist.

Eucharist

Eucharist – means Thanksgiving. Other names are Holy Communion and The Lord’s Supper, The Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offering.

There are significant Old Testament Connections for The Eucharist

->In the Exodus, what did God use as their final deliverance from slavery and oppression in Egypt?

It was the Jordan River. The waters of baptism have that same emphasis. In Baptism, God does the heavy lifting for us, like he did when the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt. In the waters of baptism, there is freedom, deliverance, and our beginning of a journey towards God’s great promises for us as his people. In fact, the Jordan River shows up in the baptismal liturgy when the water is consecrated.

->What was promised?

God promised Abraham the land of Israel – the Promised Land. Some of the Hebrews may have looked at the wilderness and thought, is this the Promised Land? Thankfully, no. But their deliverance into the promise isn’t immediate.

This really corresponds to the Christian life doesn’t it? They had 40 more years. Just like us in our lives in Christ, we realize that we are often living in the wilderness with all its challenges. Our hope is in Christ’s promises to make all things new and to restore Creation. Our hope is ultimately a return to perfect, and intimate communion with God. Walking with God in the garden like Adam and Eve did. But we have a lot of desert to pass through until we are ultimately with the Lord.

As the Hebrews began wandering in the wilderness they needed to be sustained. They needed to be nurtured by physical food but also by food that would assure them that God would make good on his promises.

-> What did God give them to sustain them and nurture them?

Manna. Every morning, they gathered a miraculous harvest of manna.

In the same way that the Jordan River is connected with Baptism – beginning our lives of freedom in Christ – Eucharist is connected with Manna. Bread from heaven to sustain us for our journey.

-> When did Manna stop appearing for them?

It says, that Manna appeared to them the first morning they arrived in the Promised Land and never again once they began eating from the harvest and fruits of God’s great promises. Manna was an advance, a foretaste of what they would have in the Promised Land. That is the role that Eucharist plays. We’ve been saved from our sins, we’ve been promised that we will be with the Lord forever, but we’re not there yet.

Every time we come together, we gather around the table, because we need to nourished by the Eucharist – the Body and Blood. It’s a foretaste of sharing with him eternal life.

So keep all of that in mind. I’m really aiming at the section “What Happens in the Eucharist?” But I want to cover a couple of points before we get there. I want to set it up.

“I am the Bread of Life” John 6:35

It’s pretty cool that we’ve been preaching from John 15. Abide in me, and I in you. There’s immense nourishment and strengthening that comes to us in the Eucharist.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. John 6:56-58

So keep in mind the manna connection, the spiritual food for our lives in the wilderness.

Remembering

Time is a human construct. God is outside of time. Time is something we have put in place. The word Remember is something special in the Biblical sense. Read Exodus 2:23

When God remembered the Israelites. He hadn’t forgotten. To remember something is to TAKE ACTION. Remember.

At the Lord’s Table, we are made present with the Lord that night of the Last Supper when he instituted Communion. And we are made present to the one sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

Rabbis like to say that every Jew was at Sinai. Not that Jewish-ness depends on there is a lineage or legacy as much as that they were present at Sinai when God declared himself to be their God.

God isn’t bound by time.

What Happens in the Eucharist?

  • The PAST  is made present past is made present to us.
  • In our PRESENT present, we are given spiritual food that nourishes and sustains us.
  • We are given hope for the FUTURE future, as we look ahead to Christ’s return and are encouraged by the promise of everlasting life.
  • We JOIN the worship service that is continually going on in Heaven.  Christ, through the Spirit, grants worshippers true enjoyment of his PERSONAL PRESENCEpersonal presence, drawing them into FELLOWSHIP fellowship with himself in heaven in a way that is glorious and very real, though indescribable.

Stop and Ask For Questions

The Problems

Christians have often had terrible debates about Communion. The question for us in this class called The Anglican Way, is how has the Anglican Church handles or considers Communion? Specifically, what do we think and feel about the Eucharist at All Saints Church.

If you read the early Church Fathers you’ll understand something VERY quickly. No one, and I mean no one, anywhere, ever questions that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. There is no question that Christ is really present.

The question which would come later was how did Christ become present in the bread and wine. They wanted to work out the details. It wasn’t an argument about real presence as much as it was an argument about HOW.

Transubstantiation

In the Roman Catholic tradition, it came to be seen that the bread and wine quite literally became the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t at all bread and wine at all. Nature had changed. It was completely and solely the body and blood. The Reformers felt that this led to abuses of the sacrament.

No longer bread and wine but body and blood.

Consubstantiation

Martin Luther was ferocious for the real presence, he believed in consubstantiation. Of course, it was the body and blood of Christ. But at the same time it remained bread and wine. The two essences exist simultaneously. Both body and blood and bread and wine.

Receptionism

A third view, which is associated with Calvin, is receptionism. He believed that Christ was present but it had nothing to do with the elements. Christ made his body and blood present separately from the bread and wine. Jesus Christ makes himself more present but it is independent of the elements.

Memorialism

The last view was articulated by a man named Zwingli.  When Jesus says Do this in Remembrance of Me, the bread and wine are just tokens but do not make Jesus Christ more present than he already is.

As Anglicans, the elements are the body of blood of Christ. We take it quite literally. The distinctly Anglican term is “the mystery of the real presence” of Christ in the elements.

There are 4 Institution Narratives:

Matt. 26:26-29: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Mark 14:22-25: And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:17-20: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

1 Cor. 11:23-25: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

What is promised to you in the Eucharist?

As we lift up our hearts to the Lord in the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving with all the company of heaven, God assures me that, in the sharing of the bread and wine and thus proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes, I feed on the body and blood of the Lord in my heart by faith and partake of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and all other benefits of his death and resurrection. For my part, I must repent of my sins, trust steadfastly in the promises of God, love my neighbor and serve Christ in the world.

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backpack_flash65This past weekend I went into the hills with 10 other brothers to hike through the mountains of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC. The Art Loeb trail was the perfect path to take to get up close and personal with God’s good Creation. The leaves were just a point below peak but we dodged some snow and colder weather. We did have some intense rain on Friday night, but we managed. I had to call a couple of audibles in terms of the ‘plan’ which was my plan and clearly not the Lord’s plan. Monsoon rain was in his plan.

The Lord blessed me with great talks and times of prayer with some very broken men.

I will never forget:

  • kneeling with a man on a trail and leading him through prayers of confession.
  • walking with a man coming to terms with his addictions for the first time.
  • talking with a man who began the hike as a Muslim and ended it very close to being a Christian.
  • a bear in our camp.
  • sunset from Mt. Pilot.
  • sleeping underneath a trail shelter and feeling very blessed to be dry and warm.
  • falling into a cold mountain river.

Some thoughts I came away with:

  • I think I’m built for this kind of thing. Walking with guys in the woods and talking about the shape – or misshape – of their souls was like walking on holy ground.
  • Backpacking trips are great for pushing guys to the edge physically and emotionally. It was incredible the willingness of the guys to connect, be vulnerable, and even surrender after a tough hike.
  • 2 nights were great. 3 nights are better.
  • Getting a group of men out in Creation is such a great thing to do to help them reorient their lives.
  • It’s very effective to have guys hike for an hour at a time in silence.
  • Meditating on Scripture while hiking is effective.
  • Press younger guys to lean on older guys for wisdom.
  • Trust the Lord for the weather.
  • Trust the Lord for conversations and friendships.
  • Plan ahead but be willing to flex.
  • Hang out near the back where guys are struggling to keep up.

backpacking01

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Prayer

We’ve been preaching on abiding and prayer. I like this quote from Fr Stephen Freeman:

Man makes a return to the Garden when he turns to God in prayer. The essence of all prayer is communion with God. Prayer, even intercessory prayer, is always about communion with God. We do not pray in order to change God’s mind. We do not pray in order to get things. We do not pray in order to make things happen. We pray in order to be in communion with God, Who alone does what He wills, gives what He wills, and governs the universe without advice from anxious men.

Good stuff there. Abiding and Praying are like concentric circles that are connected and overlapping. Thinking about one is like thinking about the other. Engaging in one necessitates engaging in the other.

I heard my grand father once ask my newly married cousin how he liked keeping house with his new wife. Keeping house. There’s something of abiding in that. It’s dependency and responsibility, intimacy, shared place and experience. There’s a a sense of safety and shelter.

Phillip Yancey calls prayer, “keeping company with God.” There’s abiding in that.

It is in prayer, coming into the presence of God, where we can assure ourselves that we are saying YES to our Lord’s invitation to Abide in John 15. It is in prayer, whether it’s in your home, over laundry or dishes, in the car during the commute, or at work at a desk, prayer needs to be happening in our lives.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, says, “Prayer is a heart-to heart talk, forever active on God’s part, forever slow on our part.” Abiding.

There is always a call from God. He is always initiating and connecting. And we respond by praying.

The Anglican Catechism – which contains a systematic teaching of the Church – defines prayer as, “responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.”

So many times, I think most of us don’t make progress in the prayerful life because we get hung up on prayer as a task rather than seeing it as an essential way to know God. Or we focus so much on the words and on prayer itself that we miss that it is to be the channel through which we abide in Christ. We have a short sighted view of what it’s to be about. To focus on prayer as prayer and not as the way to “keeping company with God” is like driving a car focused on the windshield and not on the road.

It is crucial that we pray because abiding in Christ and he in us, is the pattern of the Jesus life. Christianity is not a copy-cat faith. We don’t live the Christian life based on the details of Jesus’ life or from vague memories of how Jesus Christ lived it out. We do it day by day through prayer, receiving the life and energy we need to do for our world what Jesus did for his. To bring Glory to the Father.

My schedule is full. My life is busy and often cluttered. There are so many needs to respond to. But here is the point: Prayer does not offer me a less busy life. It offers me a less busy heart – a heart with room for Christ to abide.

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Enter this door
As if the floor
Within were gold,
And every wall of jewels all of wealth untold;
As if a choir in robes of fire were singing here;
Nor shout, nor rush,
But hush…. For God is here.

-|-

Engraved on the doors of some old churches of the Church of England

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This week I’m kicking off a 5 week sermon series on prayer. First, I’m not so great at the sermon series thing. I’d prefer to spend time in weekly faithfulness to the Lectionary. Not to say sermon series are from the pit or anything but they can feel so arbitrary.

We’re doing a series on prayer. Prayer is such a crucial topic but is it what we are prophetically called to proclaim during this season in the life of our church or is it simply something that was slated to be preached on when a schedule was created in the spring? Enough on that.

The point is, I’m kicking this series off with the great promise of Jesus from John 15:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

We often get hung up as Christians on that what’s and how’s of prayer. What is prayer. How does it work? How should I pray? Important questions. After all, this was behind the question by his disciple in Luke 11:1. What this series wants to focus on is the why. Why do we pray?

At the heart of why we pray is what Jesus promises in John 15 – abiding. Abiding in Jesus. In. Me in him and Him in me. In. Intimacy.

In the midst of trying to kick start this sermon the past couple of days, I’m realizing how I haven’t been abiding very well lately. I’m weary. This has been a rough stretch. I’ve been putting a lot of work into areas of ministry which are not life-giving. I’ve been attacked. I’ve been betrayed. I feel ignored. It has been a frustrating time.

As I’ve come to regular times of hourly prayer or the office, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of noise. It’s been hard to find any space for thinking or study or writing. I know the desire for the contemplative life can often be driven by a selfish desire to be left alone. But If Christ is abiding me, I don’t sense his presence. If anything, I feel fit for pruning and the yard fire. I’ve been difficult to live with. I’ve been angry. It’s been difficult to pray. I’m sitting here as my wife my two sons talk to me all at the same time (nevermind that I’m trying to journal) and the dog is barking.

Sigh….

At times, I love to accept the invitation to my own pity party. So, Lord, you have to have mercy on me.  I remember that you are indeed the Good Shepherd. You have good intentions for me. I do pray that as I prepare this sermon for your glory and your people that you can push through the crust and reach in and touch me. Pour into me. Fill me I can’ t make this happen on my own.

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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