Posts Tagged Eucharist

The Historical Development of Lent

Will you practice Lent in 2018? I have practiced in the past; however, it’s admittedly been a few years.

To be honest, Lent (and a strict Christian calendar in general) is something that I struggle to reconcile with apostolic teaching from Paul, who wrote,

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 2:16-3:4).

Paul seems to be instructing that asceticism and calendars are overrated compared to Christ and underwhelming in the battle against the sinful nature. Then, he compels readers to set their minds on their union with Christ in the experience of the gospel; that is, think on heavenly accomplishments rather than earthly shadows for power in the spiritual life.

Before my theological education, I found this liberating. During my education, knowledge of church history, extra-biblical Christian texts, and exposure to a variety of Christians in various traditions caused me to wonder if I was missing out on my historical heritage – I didn’t want to act as if my Christianity was the only Christianity that there ever has been. Having been removed from the academic environment for about 7 years now, I’ve felt pulled in two directions – one existing in my knowledge of the historical expression of the Christian, spiritual life and one existing in my simple, post-conversion liberty found only in Christ and his gospel.

I imagine that some may respond in saying the historical liturgy aims to image the gospel and to orient all of life around it. I can see that, but I can also see how it possibly focuses the mind on shadows of the gospel rather than on the reality itself.

When I turn to the Scriptures for clarity, the only “icons” we’re given are the Eucharist and Baptism. We weren’t given any specific fasts or specific festivals or holy days. In fact, this 2013 article by Nicholas V. Russo casts all kinds of doubt on any solid proto-Nicene Lent tradition. At the most, one can say that the early church employed fasts and certain days as tools to prepare catechumens for Baptism. These lesser things served the people and the true apostolic ordinances.

Today marks the beginning of Lent for many of my brothers and sisters. My hope for them is that they aren’t only living in the shadow but also in the reality of the union we share in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have died. Our life is hidden in Christ with God. I want to know more of this death and life with which I have been united. I’m just not certain that Lent is the way. I’ll remember my Baptism; I’ll sit at the Lord’s table, I’ll hear the word of redemption in Christ; I’ll gaze upon the Head of the church, and try to yield to his Spirit, whose aim it is to conform me to Christ.

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The Supper in The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way

I am blessed to be able to worship on Good Friday (2012) with my friends who are associated with OurCalling. In preparation for this special worship meeting, I have been reading in Horton’s theology on The Lord’s Supper.

He explains and develops the concept of the covenant meal. Let me share with you some excerpts from this chapter of his book.

Clearly, these covenantal actions are not merely illustrations. Yet they are also not a magical transformation of earthly substances into divine substances. Rather, they are performative actions that do what they say. In and through the act of consecrating bread and wine as his body and blood, Jesus hands himself over to death as the sacrifice for the sins of those who eat and drink in faith. He offers them the “cup of salvation” because he will drink the “cup of wrath” to its dregs, a cup that he will dread in Gethsemane but will accept for us (782).

In a covenantal understanding, sacraments involve a giving of gifts from one person to another, not an exchange of substances. Its interest it not in what happens to the signs but in what happens between persons through them, not how Christ is present in the sacraments, but that he is present in saving action toward us. Grace is God’s favor, and the sacraments ratify God’s favor toward us. Their purpose is to reconcile enemies, not to elevate nature beyond itself (784).

The Heidelberg Catechism relates to us,

First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross . . . Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood (785).

Lastly, this may be one of my favorite comments,

Each time the Word is preached and the sacraments are attached as signs and seals, we receive our own answer to Abram’s query, “How can I know that this will happen?” Since God’s presence is not always felicitous (since he also frequently comes in judgment), we need the assurance that he come to us now in peace. The focus is not on what the water, bread, and wine really are whether Christ is substantially present in them but whether through these particular actions Christ is really giving himself to us (785).

Tonight, I hope to lead folks to find the grace of God in the Lord Jesus irresistible because he drank the “cup of wrath” for us and in its place he extends to sinners a cup of grace and salvation in his blood.

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