Archive for Holy Eucharist

The Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper

Christ Present, Not Absent, at His Table

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.

Luke 22:19-20

In Roman Catholic and Protestant discussions on the nature and meaning of the Lord’s Supper, Roman Catholic polemicists often criticize Evangelicals for dumbing down the nature of the sacraments by making them mere symbols. They lump all Protestants together as Memorialists: Christians who honor Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross by reenacting the Last Supper meal without faith that Christ is actually present. True some Protestants obey Christ’s command to practice the Lord’s Supper as an attempt to simply remember Christ’s work on the cross (Luke 22:19). These groups or denominations descend theologically from the reformed movement of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). Zwingli adhered to a figurative understanding of the words of Jesus, “This is [signifies] my Body.”

However, the Reformed branches (i.e., John Calvin) and the Wesleyan/Arminian branches (i.e., John Wesley) of Evangelicalism believe that Christ is present in the bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin stated that if Christ is not present then “this holy sacrament [is] frivolous and useless.”

We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both anciently and at the present time—how we are to understand the words in which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament frivolous and useless—an execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to.

John Calvin, A Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper

John Wesley preached that where Christ is present, grace is present, and where grace is present, strength to live the Christian life is present.

The grace of God given herein confirms to us the pardon of our sins, by enabling us to leave them. As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our souls by these tokens of the body and blood of Christ. This is the food of our souls: This gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection.

If, therefore, we have any regard for the plain command of Christ, if we desire the pardon of our sins, if we wish for strength to believe, to love and obey God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord’s Supper; then we must never turn our backs on the feast which our Lord has prepared for us.

John Wesley, “The Duty of Constant Communion”

HT: Euangelion

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You Are What You Eat (Updated)

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Becoming Like Christ at the Table of the Lord

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.

John 6:47-51 (NLT)

The baby boomer generation was the first generation raised with a constant stream of television programming.  Programming that poured into our living rooms depicting perfect families and perfect lives. (Do you remember the advent of “Living Color”? ) The television world of sit-coms and dramas resolved all major relationship problems in thirty minutes to an hour. The perfect world of television idealized life for the Baby Boomer. This explains the Baby Boomer inability to cope with the dogged problems of living in a fallen world.

The Baby Boomer generation was the first generation to be fed a constant diet of fast food: MacDonalds, Taco Bell, and Dairy Queen for all. We were no longer a culture that prepared meals. We ate on the run to re-fuel. Meals were no longer for fellowship or a moment to thank God for his bountiful provision. We became a generation which no longer asked if we will eat, but only what and when we will eat. Many of us lived off hamburgers and french fries and now our coronary arteries display the results. Nutrition class in high school became nap time for many of us.

I can remember many a mom saying, “If you don’t stop eating all those hamburgers, you will just become one big hamburger.” In unison, the mothers around the country declared, “You will become what you eat.” Little did they know how true that warning was for our lives and society.

Indeed, the scriptures declare that, “we are what we eat.” When we partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Lord’s Supper, Christ is present (see Koinonia and the Lord’s Supper). As we partake of him by faith, he transforms us and the whole congregation.

Transformation of the bread and wine by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Transformation of the Christ-follower by the work of the Holy Spirit into the image and likeness of Christ. Transformation of the congregation into the people of God bringing them into heavenly worship of our Triune God by the transporting work of the Holy Spirit.

We are are what we eat for during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

What nourishes and transforms us at bread and wine is the disclosure of the whole story of God-creation, incarnation, re-creation-which takes up residence inside of us as we take and eat, take and drink. For in this symbol a reality is present-the divine action of God redeeming his world through Jesus Christ. . . . We become what we eat-living witnesses to Christ who lives in us.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 146.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

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Heavenly Worship (Part Two)

Every Creature in Heaven and Earth is Worshipping Now

And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages.

Rev. 5:13

Often when we think of the Book of Revelation, we think future: second coming, final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth. However, the events in the Book of Revelation have happened, are happening, and will happen (Rev. 1: 8). These unusual and spectacular events happened in the first century to the original recipients of this book, prophecy, letter of John. Revelation speaks today to churches oppressed and persecuted by mighty governments who claim absolute, almost religious, authority over every citizen in their realm. Of course, the Book of Revelation contains insights into eternity which speak of Christ’s visible return in glory and the experience of eternal life in God’s presence.

Revelation chapters four and five reveal to us the the great throne of God. The throne is a symbol of the sovereign majesty of the King. The world may be in turmoil, but God reigns: he is defeating his foes, expanding his kingdom, and overcoming Satan’s wiles. Around the throne, all manner of heavenly creatures, elders, angels, and humans worship and declare their praises of the Holy One and the Lamb.

The door to heavenly worship (Rev. 4:1) is open as we “join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” (1979 Book of Common Prayer, 362) to praise and worship the Holy One and the Lamb for their holiness (5:8), for creation (4:11), for New Covenant blessing (5:9-10), for Calvary’s victory (5:12), and for their Unity (5:13). Around the Table of the Lord, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of eternal worship.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 8, The Council of Vatican II.

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Heavenly Worship (Part One)

Lifted Up With the Ascended Christ

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Rev. 4:2

Heavenly worship occurs during the celebration of the ancient liturgy as the people of God are lifted up to heaven with the ascended Christ as they partake of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship recognizes that the line between the physical reality of earth and its three dimensions and the spiritual reality of heaven and its angelic worship will become blurred as we enter the presence of the Lamb of God , slain yet standing, on the altar of God.

The worship that we experience on earth should be an experience of the worship that is presently occurring in heaven. Not only should heavenly worship be our experience, but our models of worship should reflect those elements of worship used in heaven.

Biblical instruction directs the people of God to worship following the model and practices of heaven. Earthly worship is to mirror heavenly worship in “spirit and in truth” (Ex. 24:9-11; Isa. 6:1-5; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:9-14; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 4:1-5:14).

In order that pious souls may duly apprehend Christ in the supper, they may be raised up to heaven . . . and for the same reason it was established of old that before the consecration the people should be told in a loud voice to lift up their hearts.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36.

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Worship, for the Orthodox Church, is nothing less than “heaven on earth.” The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the liturgy is one and the same—one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the “heavenly places”; in every place of worship when the holy sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation is present, but the church universal—the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself.

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, “The Earthly Heaven,” Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed., Daniel Clendenin (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 12.

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Koinonia and the Lord’s Supper

Koinonia: Sharers in the Life of God

When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:19 NLT

I was raised in a tradition that taught that the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion) was merely symbolic.  By the partaking of the grape juice and the consumption of a cracker, a simple memorial meal was offered to give thanks for the death of Christ. I always appreciated these quarterly services, but I thought there must be something more to this solemn ritual. The spiritual experience of the celebration of our Lord’s Body and Blood had to be more significant than just a service of memory by mental recall.

As a young Christian, I studied Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians faithfully and diligently. In my studies, I found key biblical words which provided deeper meaning to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10: 14-22) than previously I had been taught. Consequently, I realized that large segments of the Body of Christ also made that same discovery and practiced those truths for centuries.

One of those words of significance was the Greek word, koinonia (1 Cor. 10: 16).  Koinonia is translated as share (NLT, NASU, NRSV), participate (NIV, ESV), partake (The Message), fellowship, commune (NKJV), and union (Douay-Rheims). As the reader can see, Koinonia is a word of great depth and meaning. The Apostle Paul is saying that when we receive the elements of wine and bread; we are sharing, participating, partaking, fellowshipping, communing, and uniting with the risen Christ. In Holy Communion, we experience afresh all the benefits of the finished work of Christ and encounter through Christ’s presence sanctifying grace to live the Christian life.

When we drink the Blood of Christ and and eat of the Body of Christ . . .

1. We share in the power of the resurrected Christ. He is risen and therefore alive, and by his power, we are made victorious.

2. We participate in the very life of God. We become receivers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

3. We partake of his grace. Sanctifying grace to live the Christian life: strength and power to respond to every life situation according to the will of God.

4. We fellowship with God and all his saints as the congregation enters into heavenly worship (Rev. 4 & 5).

5. We commune with Christ enjoying afresh his love, grace, and covenant promises.

6. We are brought into union with the heart and will of God. Our hearts are “righted” as we receive Christ the Body and Blood of Christ. By partaking, we submit to his Lordship afresh conforming our hearts and wills to his designs and purposes.

In summary, the Apostle Paul describes our Eucharistic meal as a koinonia. Koinonia means sharing, partaking, fellowship, communing, and unifying participation in the life of God. When we drink the Blood and eat the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ: we commune with Christ, we share in his resurrection, we partake of his grace, we fellowship with God and his saints, and we are brought into union with his heart and will. In short, we become partakers—people who share in the very life of God.

Daily communion and participation in his holy Body and Blood of Christ is a good and helpful practice. Christ clearly says, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.” Who doubts that to partake of life continually is really to have life in abundance? For myself, I communicate four times a week . . .  on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on Saturday, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of a martyr.

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea (375 A.D.) cited in What the Church Fathers Say About  . . . ed., George W. Grube (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1996), 8.

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Anamnesis: Christ Is Present

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Christ is Present

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 NIV).

Remembrance is the Greek word, anamnesis. Anamnesis does not mean memory by mental recall, but the fresh experience of a past event by reenactment. This mysterious work of the Holy Spirit brings the evening of the Last Supper forward in order that the people of God may experience the crucified and resurrected Christ afresh. At the Last Supper, the apostles realized all the benefits of the Cross before Christ actually died. In the same way, when we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we encounter afresh all benefits of Christ work on the cross: freedom, forgiveness, life-transformation, etc.  These benefits are imparted to us at the moment we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

I believe music-centered worship has indeed become a common way of thinking about the presence of God. However, it is an extremely limited understanding of God’s presence. . . . The church has always believed not only that God is everywhere but also that he is made intensely present to his church at worship. God is there in the gathering of the assembly, in song, in Scripture reading, in prayer, and especially at bread and wine. Jesus told his disciples that there is a way to remember him (the force of anamnesis is “to make me [Christ] present”). He is right there at broken bread and poured-out wine.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 133-134.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week


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Great Receivers Love Holy Eucharist

The Eucharist Crushes the Barriers of My Heart

When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you (emphasis mine). Do this in remembrance of me.”

1 Cor. 11:24

Great receivers love grace. Grace being Jesus in them to live the Christian life in joy, holiness, and power. In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus gives us sanctifying grace to strengthen us to live the Christian life. Great receivers know that Christ as grace is present in the Lord’s Supper. They hunger to partake. They know that Christ is available now by the power of the Holy Spirit in the elements of bread and wine. In his Body and Blood, Christ blesses them with physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal. Great receivers run to the Eucharist for they know that there at the altar they will meet Christ.

In the sacraments, we acknowledge in faith that whatever happens to Christ also happens to us. Baptism plunges us in to the waters of his vicarious human life, uniting us and identifying us with his humanity. The Lord’s Supper feeds us with Christ, participating in his perfect human life, death, resurrection and ascension in the bread and wine.

Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 51.

To choose Jesus is to allow grace to crush the barriers in my heart. Those big barriers of trust in my own abilities and self-confidence need to collapse. If my trust is in myself, I am self-centered, not Jesus-or Eucharist-centered.”

Tadeusz Dajczer, The Mystery of Faith: Meditations on the Eucharist (Orleans, MA: Paraclete Press, 2009),17.

HT: Jesus Creed

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The Eucharist: The Heart of Christian Worship

The Sacramental Question

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

I Corinthians 10:16

John Williamson Nevin makes a most remarkable yet true statement–our view of the Eucharist (i.e., Lord’s Supper) shapes and forms our understanding of Christ, church, theology, and church history.

In other words, a low view of the Eucharist lessens my understanding of the incarnation as Christ present in a material world. A low view of the Eucharist lessens the value of the church for we fail to see the continuous, sacramental, historic nature of the Church Catholic. A low view of the Eucharist makes theological reflection purely intellectual separate from the prayer life of the church. A low view of the Eucharist disconnects table fellowship from the communion of the saints both present and past.

On the other hand, a high view of the Eucharist recognizes that Christ is present in the Body and Blood. A high view of the Eucharist leads believers into heavenly worship joining with all saints and angels in praising God. A high view of the Eucharist joins worship, prayer, and theological reflection into one united whole. A high view of the Eucharist values the historic church by building on its strengths and learning from its weaknesses.

As St. Irenaeus wrote:

Again, moreover, how do they [heretics] say the flesh will end in corruption and not receive life, that flesh which is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord? Therefore let them either change their opinion or cease to assert such things. Our opinion is in conformity with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our opinion . . . Just as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but rather the Eucharist consisting of two things, the earthly and the heavenly, so our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection to eternal life.

Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book IV

As the Eucharist forms the very heart of the whole Christian worship, so it is clear that the entire question of the church, which all are compelled to acknowledge–the great life problem of the age–centers ultimately in the sacramental question as its inmost heart and core.

Our view of the Lord’s Supper must ever condition and rule in the end our view of Christ’s person and the conception we form of the church. It must influence, at the same time, very materially, our whole system of theology, as well as all our ideas of ecclesiastical history.

John Williamson Nevin, The Mystical Presence, preface.

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The Eucharist: Humility Before the Lord’s Table

The Lord’s Supper Reminds Us How Sinful Sin Must Be

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1 Cor. 11:27-29

Holy Eucharist is the act of giving thanks through the partaking of the Lord’s Supper; commemorating the death of Christ by participating in Christ through the elements of bread and wine.

Right reception of the Lord’s Supper has a ‘humbling’ effect on the soul. The sight of the bread and wine as emblems of Christ’s body and blood, reminds us how sinful sin must be, if nothing less than the death of God’s own Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from its guilt. Never should we be so ‘clothed with humility,’ as when we receive the Lord’s Supper.

J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, “Going to the Table”, 152.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

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The Sacraments: A Promise Only God Can Make

“If You Partake of the Bread and Wine in Evangelical Faith, then You Meet Christ.”

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:16

The sacraments of baptism and Eucharist are signs/symbols ordained by Christ for the strengthening, encouragement, and uplifting of the people of God into the presence of God. Scripture proclaims that the Holy Spirit takes material objects; water, bread, and wine, infuses them with grace, so that by the partaking of them, we are made holy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these outward physical signs/symbols lead us into the experience of inward spiritual truths of the Christian life. These signs/symbols do not represent something that are absent, but convey the truth they represent: forgiveness, union with Christ, covenant, etc. A sacrament actually communicates what it symbolizes. The only condition for receiving this sacramental blessing is faith in Christ and repentance toward God.

Every sacrament, by definition, contains and manifests a promise of salvation. That is what a sacrament is. The sacrament of baptism contains a promise of salvation at its inception, and the Supper contains a promise of salvation related to perseverance. What God began God will complete. These promises are apprehended with the heart, whenever someone receives them in faith.

Faith alone, sola fide, is not only alone with regard to works. We are justified by faith alone, but never by a faith that is alone. This is the issue of faith alone related to works, which is an important issue. But there is another sense in which faith is never alone. Faith is never self-originating. Faith is something that is always responsive to something outside of itself that God offers to us. And God offers salvation in two principle places—the first is in the preaching of the Word, and the second is in the presentation of the sacraments. And so baptism and the Supper cannot justify you any more than hearing a sermon can. If you hear the sermon in faith, then you meet Christ. If you partake of the bread and wine in evangelical faith, then you meet Christ.

Because a sacrament must contain a promise of salvation, it follows from this that only God can institute a sacrament . . . because He is the only one who can promise salvation. This is why there are only two sacraments—if we could promise salvation by ritual means, we could generate as many sacraments as we wanted. But we have no authority to issue promises of salvation. We must be content with the authority we were given, which is the authority to believe promises of salvation.

Doug Wilson, Blog and Mablog website, Pastor, Moscow, Idaho.

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