Monthly Archives: July 2007

Considering manducatio impiorum

I’ve come across several interesting discussions over the past several months debating the Reformed vs. the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper. Despite their differences however, I think it’s safe to say that many of the reformers were much closer to one another, despite their differences, than their supposed spiritual descendants, who oftentimes have rejected their foundational theologies without even realizing it. This especially seems to be the case in the United States where a sort of bastardized enlightenment rationalism runs deep and wide under much of our standard American Christianity. And I wonder if in looking at the way the Lord’s Supper was handled in Reformation days, we can offer some hope of rapprochement between the branches of the family in this portion of Christ’s vineyard.

At any rate, here are some of the things I’ve been reading regarding the Eucharist in the reformed tradition–and yes, I place Anglicanism primarily there, following Rowan Williams’ lead in his book Why Study the Past, and note the unique elements of the English reformation and it’s continuity with the medieval period, the development of its doctrine etc…

Below are the two Articles of Religion that relate most directly to the subject at hand:

Article XXVIII. Of the Lord’s Supper

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

Article XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper.

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

In the Lutheran view, i.e. manducatio impiorum, eating unworthily (as in the Roman Catholic and, I assume, the Eastern Orthodox), they believe in what is called manducatio impiorum, the view that those who receive the Lord’s Supper, even if unworthy (in the sense of being an unbeliever or unreconciled to their neighbor etc…, not in the sense of being a sinner), receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This is based upon their understanding in an objective, physical substantial presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

But those Churches originating from within the reformed tradition, either continental or English, also hold to a notion of real and objective presence, often if not always emphasized as a real spiritual presence. This doesn’t mean that the bread and the wine play no role, or that one can gain the benefits of the Eucharist through a purely spiritual experience, but rather, there is seen to be a link between the sign (the bread and the wine) and the thing signified (the body and blood of Christ) so that as one takes and eats the bread and wine after a physical manner, those that have faith also partake of the Body and Blood of Christ after a heavenly and spiritual manner. This is seen in Anglican Eucharistic thought, both in the Articles and in the communion service itself where the invitation with its optional longer ending says:

The gifts of God for the people of God, take them in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

John Williamson Nevin, the German Reformed theologian of the 19th century who created such a stir among folks in his day with his attempt to reclaim Reformed orthodoxy talks about the objective presence in the Lord’s Supper and cites the Heidelberg Catechism (In my opinion one of the most interesting and beautiful of the Reformed documents):

In answer to Question 75, it is said that Christ, “feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth, the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.”

“Quest. 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?

“Ans. It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are not-withstanding, ‘flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone;’ and that we live and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.”

Quest. 79. Why then doth Christ call the bread his body, and the [wine] his blood, or the new covenant in his blood: and Paul the communion of the body and blood of Christ?

Ans. Christ speaks thus, not without great reason; namely not only thereby to teach us that as bread and wine support this temporal life, so his crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink whereby our souls are fed to eternal life; but more especially, by these visible signs and pledges to assure us, that we are as really partakers of his true body and blood, (by the operation of the Holy Ghost,) as we recieve by the mouth of our bodies these holy signs in remembrance of him; and that all his sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours as if we had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction for our sins to God.”

In his explanation of this section of the Heidelberg Catechism, and in way of comparison with Lutheran thought, Nevin says that:

The presence of Christ is not “in, with and under” the bread, but only with it; not for the mouth, but only for faith; and so of course, though this is not expressly mentioned, not for unbelievers but for believers only. It is however in this way, a true presence. The believer partakes of Christ, not only in figure, but in fact; not of his benefits simply, but of his actual life; not of his life as divine merely, but of the substance of his human life, as denoted by his body and blood. The signs not only testify to us the general truth that Christ is our life, but seal this truth to us as a fact actualized along with their exhibition and use. To say that by the participation of Christ’s body and blood the Catechism means only moral union with him, by faith and an interest in the benefits of his death is to charge it with the most wretched tautology…

Article 21 of the Old Scotch Confession (1560) is also interesting in this area:

And thus we utterly condemn the vanity of those who affirm the sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs; no we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted into Jesus Christ, to be made partakers of his justice, whereby our sins are covered and remitted; and also, that in the Supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becometh very nourishment and food to our souls; not that we imagine any transubstantiation of bread into Christ’s natural body, and of wine into his natural blood… but this union and conjunction, which we have with the body and blood of Christ Jesus, in the right use of the sacraments, is wrought by operation of the Holy Spirit, who by true faith carieth us above all things that are visible, carnal, and earthly, and maketh us to feed upon the body and blood of Christ Jesus, which was broken and shed for us, which is now in heaven, and appeareth in the presence of the Father for us; and yet, notwithstanding, the far distance of place which is between his body now glorified in heaven, and us now mortal on this earth; yet we most assuredly believe that the bread which we break, is the communion of Christ’s body, and the cup which we bless, is the communion of his blood. So that we confess, and undoubtedly believe, that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s Table, do so eat the body, and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remaineth in them, and they in him; yea, they are so made flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones, that as the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Christ Jesus (which of its own nature was mortal and corruptible) life and immortality; so doth Christ Jesus his flesh and blood, eaten and drunk by us, give unto us the same prerogatives.

I find the phrase “do so eat the body, and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remaineth in them, and they in him…” because it is so similar to words spoken in Eucharistic prayer I in Rite I of the 79 Book of Common Prayer:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves,
our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living
sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all
others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may
worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son
Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction,
and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and
we in him.

So, I think what is at play in the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed view isn’t so much a difference as to understanding of the effects or even, really the manner of the partaking of Christ’s body and blood, but rather a different understanding of what it means to partake of his body and blood. In this sense, the Reformed take the position that to partake of the Body and Blood is of necessity to receive the benefits of them, tied objectively to the elements of bread and wine. Since the “wicked” or “unbelievers” who take communion cannot recieve the benefits of Christ’s body and blood, but eat and drink judgement/condemnation, then they must not be recieving the Body and Blood at all.

In contrast, those traditions that hold to manducatio impiorum, state that the condemnation and judgment come because the wicked and unbeliever fundamentally do receive the body and blood of Christ, and it is the fact of their unworthiness that leads to negative ramifications. Much of this seems to be based upon what happens to Judas in John 13:26-27. Of course, I’m not sure why this has to support the view that Judas received condemnation through the Body and Blood and not instead of it…. that seems to be the primary distinction. Any thoughts?

Internet Monk: Mainline moment….

Internetmonk,

Whose blog I just visited for the first time (ht: Kyle Potter) has a great post about the fact that the mainline is having a moment–an opportunity. And we are squandering it. Especially you fellow Episcopalians/Anglicans.

This post really resonated with me, coming from a Southern Baptist Background, I know about the opportunity he’s talking about. I also know, first hand, how the Episcopal Church just isn’t equipped to deal with evangelistic opportunity. I went to a University at the heart of our Diocese. No Episcopal campus ministry. None. They said there was one, but it was never visible, never did anything, never reached out, and I, a churchgoing Episcopalian at the time, never saw or heard one peep from it. The only thing that our Diocese did, was to a) rent the campus for a leadership conference and b)co-sponsor a lecture by John Spong. Ouch. Talk about missing the boat.

I’m in a Diocese now that I feel is much more concerned about mission and evangelism, yet we too still have the institutional inertia that afflicts the Episcopal Church elsewhere, underneath all the public conflict. At any rate, enjoy the post, and think about ways that we might reach out to the people he’s talking about.

Yes, my mainline friends, we’re having a moment here. You can see it all around the edges of evangelicalism. It’s there and it’s real. It isn’t easy or automatic, but it’s there. And it is sad to realize that at the very time so many are looking for what you have, you’re mostly squandering the moment entirely.

Your churches could be taking in thousands of evangelicals. That’s right. Those recognizably “churchy” churches of yours, with the Christian year, the Biblically rich liturgy, the choir robes, the still-occasionally used hymnals and the multi-generational, slightly blended worship services, could be taking in thousands of evangelicals.

Of course, you’d have to want them. You’d have to, in many ways, meet them halfway or more. You’d need to talk to them as younger evangelicals, not dangerous fundamentalists. You’d have to reconsider how important it is to you to keep homosexual grievances constantly on the front burner. You’d have to start acting like Biblical morality meant something. You’d have to stop acting as if being mainline is a game where you wait to see how fast the membership dies off.

It’s a moment when you need to speak the language of people who want to hear the Bible; a moment when preachers need to preach mature, Biblical evangelical messages.

Those younger evangelicals are ready for your appreciation of tradition, your more balanced theological method, your commitment to multi-generational churches and your more substantial appreciation of justice issues.

But they aren’t ready for the things that have emptied so many of your churches. They will never come if things remain the same. Much needs to change and should change.

{read it all}

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Giving people the right foot of fellowship…

lost1I came across a post tonight on the web site “Church Marketing Sucks,” which has as its raison d’etre the task of helping churches communicate effectively in our technological age. As I was reading their site, I came across a post entitled Grow your church by asking people to leave. This title sounded more than a little disconcerting to me, so I read on to see if I could find something useful behind it. What I read raised some of the issues I’ve discussed before about the way we Christians evangelize and (in)form our faith.

Here’s a selection of the post in question (and I encourage folks to read it in its entirety as well as the comments):

Craig gives an example where he preached on the church’s vision trying to get everybody on board. If people weren’t on board with the vision, he asked them to find another church. He even offered brochures from 10 other churches he knew and recommended. It was a serious challenge and 500 people ended up leaving. Most people would freak out at that thought. Not Craig:

The next week, we had about 500 new seats for people who could get excited about the vision. Within a short period of time, God filled those seats with passionate people. Many of those who left our church found great, biblical churches where they could worship and use their gifts.

Everybody won!

That’s why I sometimes say, “You can grow your church by asking people to leave.”

Craig focuses on making leaving a church a graceful option and a positive thing and not the bitter experience it often is.

While I applaud the fact that Livechurch.tv doesn’t seem beset by that paralyzer of ministry, the fear of “sheep stealing” and is in fact a church that is willing to recognize the movement of the spirit in other congregations, as well as the fact that some places of worship will better equip some people than theirs will–while I think that part of the attitude is great–I can’t get beyond the notion of asking people to leave based upon whether or not they are “on board” with the “vision” of the church. I understand that some people may think I’m standing on thin ice as the Episcopal Priest in charge of a small church plant–where do I get off criticizing anything a large and successful ministry like Lifechurch.tv, with its multiple campuses fast becoming a mini-denomination within a denomination (Lifechurch is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church), is doing? Well, first and foremost I’m a fellow Christian who sees some things within this philosophy of ministry that could be harmful.

Certainly one of the roles–even primary roles–of a Pastor or Priest as a Shepherd is to protect the flock, even when such threats come from within. There may be times when individuals and groups with a congregation are creating a situation of such dissention and division that the only healthy thing to do is to help them see, in a loving way, that their spiritual health as well as that of the congregation would be best served if they found another church home. But something tells me that I would disagree with Pastor Groeschel about when exactly that needs to be done. I certainly can think of very few cases–none of them involving anything short of public and unrepentant actions that cause distress to the community–where I would feel compelled to address the issue from the pulpit rather than in a one on one conversation.

The first thing that bothers me about Pastor Groechel’s statement is that the “vision” of a given congregation is not the Gospel itself, and that if anything is going to drive people away it is the clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–and that Gospel is also the only message that will be life-giving to those who stay, regardless of what supplemental direction the congregation wants to go. The primary task of the Church is to evangelize and make disciples… one of the problems I have with the contemporary church in America–across the board, and not just with either the “contemporary” free church traditions or with the old-line traditional bodies–is that we do a horrible job in actually making people disciples. On the one hand many seeker-sensitive churches seem to have forgotten that Sunday worship is primarily for the believer and is not meant as the primary means of outreach.

I know, I know, this goes against many church growth schemes. But that doesn’t make it less true. While it is true that the most likely a time a newcomer is to visit your congregation is Sunday morning, it is also true that most seekers expect to hear what we as Christians believe–not some watered down, candy coated version blasted through a $100,000 sound system. On the other hand, many historical traditions seem to have forgotten what outreach is in addition to fumbling around big-time with how to actually inculcate the faith.

I’m also concerned–perhaps as a residual effect of Donald Miller’s lecture Free market Jesus, as well as my reading of Dr. Michael Budde’s Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business is buying the Church.–that the influence of a corporate mentality has begun to overshadow the Gospel–when we start talking about telling people that they need to get out of our churches because they aren’t 100% on board with our extra-biblical mission strategy, then we have lost something very important and have begun to treat the Body of Christ like a corporation where members can be hired and fired at will for disagreeing with the direction the leadership wants to take–can you say recipe for egotistical pastors? The only reasons any Church would have for asking anyone to leave would have to be based on scripture, not adherence to a marketing plan–that sounds suspiciously like adding to the Gospel.

It definitely inspires the sort of market-centered mentality among other Christians that another mega Church pastor, Steven Furtick was complaining about recently. I mean, isn’t Groeschel just expressing the ecclesial version of this attitude:

The other day, a lady said something to my wife that made me sick to my stomach upon hearing about it. Literally.

She was talking about how she visited Elevation with her family over the summer.
So far, so good…

In fact, she continued, they have visited “just about every church in Charlotte, looking for the church that’s perfect for us.”

Uh oh…
My wife doesn’t have much tolerance for church hopping Southerners.
Neither do I.

Then the woman made one of the most absurd comments I’ve ever heard from a churchgoer, even here in the Bible belt. That’s saying a lot.

“I wanted to let you know that there’s one praise song, I can’t remember the name of it, that ya’ll do better than all of the dozens of churches we’ve been to in our church shopping quest.”

Ma’am, if you’re reading:

Doesn’t what Groeschel seems to advocate–and I freely admit that this is from a shred of a quote taken from a site that’s not affiliated with his ministries, so it could be completely misconstrued–seem a whole lot like Churches going people shopping?

The final thing that bothers me–and the most important–is that 500 people left his church. 500. Did they find other churches where they “fit in” better? Possibly, but what a condemnation of a congregation that it had no welcome for them. And how many never found another congregation to welcome them, another place to praise the name of Jesus. For how many, possibly wounded by less than Christ-like Christians in the past, was this the last straw, the last brick in the wall separating them from a loving community of Christ-followers?

Makes me think of something our Lord said:

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:5-6).

{read it all}

Sermon For Proper 10C: Go and do likewise.

Sermon for Proper 10c
St. Francis’ Church
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37; Psalm 25 or 25:3-9
Title: Go and do likewise.

Have you ever wondered what it would really mean to follow Jesus today?

I know sometimes I used to think about it and I’d think it’d take a lot of work…

Like super-human effort…

I had this mental list of what I really needed to do and I knew that if I really got done with all of it I would be living a faithful life…

I would’ve been a sort of cross between a monk and a super-hero too, but I had this idea….

And the odd thing was, that as long as I had this idea that I had to accomplish all these amazing things for God…

I didn’t get any of it done…

So how can we be faithful

How can we serve Jesus without trying to be some sort of spiritual super-hero—which we can never really be?

This question becomes even more urgent when we take a look around us and see some of the things that happen on a daily basis, some of the things that we do to one another,

The horrible way many of the weakest and most needy among us are treated for no more reason than they have no way to stand up to the way the world is…

I read an article several months ago about a case of something that has evidently become an increasing problem in larger cities such as Los Angelis: it’s called “homeless dumping.”

Basically this is what happens when a sick homeless person is treated at a hospital and discharged before they are well.

Since they aren’t healthy, they can’t really get themselves anywhere, and since they are homeless they don’t really have anywhere to go, so they end up being “dumped” somewhere on skid row…

The LA times reported that there are more than 10 hospitals being investigated for over 50 cases of homeless dumping by the LA county attorney.

One of these—Hollywood Presbyterian—has been investigated for a situation in February when a 54-year-old homeless paraplegic was discharged from the hospital and later found wearing a soiled hospital gown and with his colostomy bag still attached, crawling in the gutter near a skid row park.

In the article “Police said that as onlookers demanded help for the man, the driver for a van company working for the hospital applied makeup and perfume before speeding off.

Hospital officials acknowledged that some procedures weren’t followed. They said they have made changes and will make more.”

I’m thankful that they are making changes and pray they’re effective…but notice the name of the hospital—Hollywood Presbyterian.

That hospital like thousands—maybe millions—of others founded by Christians since the time of Constantine when Christianity became a legal religion, was founded because Christians wanted to follow our Lord’s command and “Go and do likewise…” in caring for the sick, the injured and the forgotten.

And many, many Christians still get involved in healthcare because they want to help people, to heal people…

There are several people in our own congregation—Shelly and Linda for example, who I know have hearts for those who are in need of help.

I know that my mom, who’s also a nurse, does what she does because she believes in helping people…

But why is it that even as individual Christians are still fulfilling the call, are still stepping into vocations to help and serve others, that the Churches have largely abandoned the institutions they founded and for many years funded?

Why have most hospitals in the Catholic Hospital system been sold?

Why is the most Christian element about many hospitals—besides the Christians who may work there—their name or their letterhead?

I think I have a practical answer—the rising costs of healthcare and administration coupled with a decline in the resources that originally enabled Churches to run these organizations have led to their sell off…

But that doesn’t answer the spiritual question of why we, the Christian people, have allowed things to get to this point…

And Hospitals are not the only place this pulling back, this narrowing of ministry is happening…

Did you know that modern Prisons were also originally founded by Christians as a more humane means of punishment at a time when almost everything—I’m only slightly exaggerating—was punishable by death?

And yet, with the exception of a few strong Prison ministries like Kairos, Christian ministries rarely reach behind bars.

Have we forgotten what it means to love our neighbor?

To go and do likewise?

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Sermon for Proper 8C: Where are your Oxen?

Proper 8c
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21; Galatians 5:1,13-25; Luke 9:51-62; Psalm 16 or 16:5-11
Title: Where are your Oxen?

I thought it would be appropriate to begin today by just introducing myself to you briefly, as a congregation.

So who am I?

My name is Joseph B. Howard, a name that I share with my dad, JB, who happens to be here today visiting with us—though I’ve always been called Jody. I was born and raised in Asheville North Carolina and I attended the University of North Carolina, Asheville, after which I went to the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee TN where I graduated in 2006.

While in seminary I met my lovely wife Anna who was a teaching assistant at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, and we got married shortly after I graduated from Sewanee. For the past year I served as a “Curate” and assistant at Trinity Church in Winchester TN.

That of course only tells part of the story. I’m going to leave out a lot of details that I’m sure I’ll share at some point along the way, but I want to hit some of the highlights.

I was raised a Southern Baptist though my family fell out of Church attendance when I was fairly young. Growing up in that environment I heard a lot of sermons about the importance of accepting Jesus into your heart as the means of salvation.

I know that I didn’t really understand everything behind it, but when I was around 7 or 8 I remember being in bed one night saying my prayers and it came to my mind that I had never specifically asked Jesus into my heart and I suddenly felt this overwhelming need and desire to do so. The thing is, I had never really felt like Jesus wasn’t there, but I felt like I needed “more” so I prayed a prayer asking Jesus to come and live in my heart, and I believe that he did, because all of the anxiety I remember having felt at that moment was gone and replaced by the sort of feeling of wellbeing and care.

That’s one major turning point…

My family still wasn’t attending church regularly as I grew up, and by the time I reached High School I started to feel a real need and desire to find a church home. I had gotten involved in a young-life group at that point and felt a real need to go deeper, so I started to look around at different churches.

It wasn’t really until my first year of college that I found a church where I felt like God was really present for me in worship.

And it was at the same time, during those first years of college that several things came to a head.
I was looking for a church
I had some teenage angst
I saw things in PI work…

All of this worked together to bring me to a point of recognition that I am not good, it is Jesus in me who is good.

I couldn’t avoid any of the things I’d been so judgmental about on my own—in fact, I’d probably jump into them with both feet if not for Jesus…

“Where but for the grace of God go I…”

So now you know a little bit more about me and where I am coming from… and I pray that over the next several weeks I’ll have the opportunity to hear more of your stories and how you’ve come to call St. Francis home.

You should know that I’ve been thinking all week—longer than that actually—about what I should say to you all this morning.

About how much time I should spend on introducing myself to you and giving you an idea of where I am coming from, telling you about my background, and how much time I should spend digging into our scripture lessons this morning.

And, as often happens when I first read the lectionary text, I thought to myself—“Oh boy, what do any of these readings have to do with this being the first day of a new ministry… how can I work these in…” and “what could God possibly have to say to St. Francis from his word this morning, how do I know without knowing them better, what’s in this for a community like St. Francis’?”

And then it hit me…like a ton of spiritual bricks…

I’m sitting here wondering what our readings have to do with the start of a new ministry…and our Old Testament reading is about Elijah calling Elisha…

I was wondering how I could see the way the readings might connect with what you have been going through at St. Francis when I haven’t been here to experience it with you…and our Gospel reading is about how we as disciples are to follow Jesus—something that we all need to hear and be reminded of again and again.

So then it occurred to me that the Holy Spirit is at work, and there is indeed a message here for us this morning wherever we are in our walk with Christ.

If I had to pick one word to summarize all of our readings this morning, it would have to be “faithfulness…”

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