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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Introduction to the Eucharist



Here's Nazarene Article of Faith #13...

XIII. The Lord’s Supper

13. We believe that the Memorial and Communion Supper instituted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essentially a New Testament sacrament, declarative of His sacrificial death, through the merits of which believers have life and salvation and promise of all spiritual blessings in Christ. It is distinctively for those who are prepared for reverent appreciation of its significance, and by it they show forth the Lord’s death till He come again. It being the Communion feast, only those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints should be called to participate therein.

(Exodus 12:1-14; Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; John 6:28-58; 1 Corinthians 10:14-21; 11:23-32)

Like baptism, there is no way to work through this very important topic in a reasonably sized blog post.  The Eucharist simply takes more time and space than this will allow, and, therefore, it will likely become a series of interrelated thoughts and ideas at some point, much like my current work regarding baptism.  For today, let's consider a few main points.

The Eucharist as a memorial... 

In Luke, Jesus does tell the disciples to do this... to take this cup and this bread... in remembrance of him.  The Eucharistic meal is a memorial.  And yet, I think we might lose sight of exactly what we are memorializing.  We say that this is a declaration of Christ's death, but we immediately turn to the benefits for believers, and I don't think we often take the time to consider the depth of the words of Jesus as he instructs us to partake in this meal, not simply as a reminder of life and salvation and spiritual blessings but as a reminder of his body and blood.  The Eucharist should first touch the depths of our beings that understand what it is to mourn, and yet we seem quick to move toward the celebration.

The Eucharist as a communion supper...

In an earlier guest post, found here, the idea of the Eucharist as unifying for the body of believers is explored.  I would encourage you to click over to that post and to consider how practicing this meal brings us together.

The Eucharist as a sacrament...

I'm struggling with the word "essentially" in our definition.  As Protestants, we generally recognize two sacraments, the Eucharist and Baptism.  If we're going to do that, let's really commit to it.  The Eucharist is not "essentially" a sacrament.  The Eucharist is a sacrament.  It is instituted by Jesus, there is an outward sign (the bread and wine... or juice), and grace is imparted through participation in the Eucharistic meal.  But it's this grace (or lack thereof) that is really bothering me most about our definition in the article of faith.  As Wesleyans, we believe in prevenient grace (how many times are we going to come back to this), and yet we seem to have made the Eucharist into an exclusive ceremony by declaring that "it is distinctively for those who are prepared for reverent appreciation of its significance... only (for) those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints..."

If this is a means of grace and we believe in prevenient grace, then there is no possible way we should ever exclude someone from the table.  Perhaps we should take a clue from Jesus who allowed even Judas to participate in the communion feast. 

L.

2 comments:

  1. What a great guest post you link to there. :)

    Regarding the word, "essentially," it is not meant in the colloquial way that we use it, as if to mean, "basically." Instead, it is used here in its technical sense to mean, "in essence," or, "referring to the basic, fundamental nature of a thing." So, the word is not used to mean that it is *almost*, but that it is fundamentally so.

    Also, I appreciate your comments on fencing the table. Good words.

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    1. Thank you for these thoughts on the word, "essentially". This is actually quite ironic to me, because I use the word "essential" all the time, and it never even crossed my mind that the word essentially was being used in this way here. It is definitely helpful to think of it in the way you have described, but I think there should be some minor editing to the article to make it clear to everyone. Instead of saying that the Lord's Supper is essentially a New Testament sacrament, it would be much more clear if we stated that it is "essential as" a New Testament sacrament.

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