Anamnesis: A Fresh Experience of the Cross of Christ

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.

Luke 22:19

Remembrance is the Greek word, anamnesis. Anamnesis does not only 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 enjoyed all the benefits of the Cross before Christ actually died. Similarly, when we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we encounter afresh all benefits of Christ work on the cross after he died: liberty, forgiveness, renewal, healing, etc.  These benefits and more are imparted to us at the moment we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. All that Christ was, all that Christ did, and that Christ is today is communicated afresh to us when we partake of Holy Eucharist.

It is highly significant that the only regular ritual act instituted and commanded by Jesus sets forth supremely his death. It is his *death*, his body given and blood shed, which the bread and wine were intended to signify. In issuing the command to ‘do this in remembrance’ of him, he intended that his atoning death should be kept before every generation, indeed ‘placarded’ before their very eyes. This according to Paul is the function of preaching. It is one of the functions of communion also.

The ministry of both Word and sacrament makes Christ’s death contemporary, presenting it anew not to God (for the sacrifice itself was offered on the cross once for all) but to men (for its benefits are always freshly available).

John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1970), 119.

Eucharistic Love

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

John 6:54-56 ESV

The Apostle Paul describes the Eucharistic meal as a koinonia (1 Cor. 10:16).The Greek word, koinonia, has a great depth of meaning: 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 and love of God. Whenever we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we experience Christ’s Eucharistic love.

This God adored by multitudes of angels comes to me as love, the redeeming One, the eucharistic One to give me everything, to fulfill me abundantly. To delight me with himself so that even I, so much immersed in this world, do not want anything else, but only His eucharistic love.

Tadeusz Dajczer, The Mystery of Faith: Meditations on the Eucharist (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2009), 10.

Worship That Causes God’s Heart to Beat Faster

Heavenly Worship

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.

Song of Songs 4:9

We have been discussing “Heavenly Worship” (Part One, Part Two). Heavenly worship is the Holy Spirit lifting up the church with the ascended Christ into the throne of God for the worship and praise of God. 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 is praising and worshiping the Godhead with the angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, twenty-four elders, and all the company of heaven. Heavenly worship is Revelation four and five in action: all of heaven and earth proclaiming the greatness, wonder, and holiness of the Father and the Lamb.

We join with the eternal throng in rejoicing over God’s holiness (Rev. 5:8), praising God in creation (Rev. 4:11), glorifying the finished work of the Cross (Rev. 5:9-10), honoring the person and work of the Lamb (Rev. 5:12) and singing gratitude for the unity of the Godhead (Rev. 5:13). Around the altar of God, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of God ‘s presence in eternal worship.

Heavenly worship begins with each individual’s heart filled with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15). This praise starts with a desire to minister to the heart of God moment-by-moment through trust and obedience. Ministry to God does not mean that he is deficient or needy in some manner, but ministry for the sake of bringing God’s heart joy in a world that rejects his love and grace. The Song of Songs 4:9 describes allegorically this heart of worship:

“You have stolen my heart.” The Lord says to the believer, “Your love for me ravishes my heart. You cause my heart to beat faster in delight over our love relationship. “With one glance of your eyes.” You minister to me when you trust me with your life. “With one jewel of your necklace.” With one act of your will to obey and believe God’s Word, my heart is blessed.

Song of Songs 4:9 (NIV)

The translations of 4:9: “captivate” (ESV), “ravish” (NKJV) or “steal” (CEV) or “cause his heart to beat faster” (NASB) are all attempts to define the one Hebrew word which means to bring God great joy and delight because of our love for him.

Jesus’ heart is filled with extravagant passion for His people. It is fantastic that God is filled with emotion. God describes His own heart as overcome with emotions of delight with people He finds unusually attractive. He feels these emotions even toward immature believers. People find it difficult to grasp this truth of the passionate grace of God. The Holy Spirit will reveal this divine romance (Romans 5:5).

Mike Bickle, “The Ravished Heart of the Heavenly Bridegroom”(Kansas City, MO: IHOP), 2.

In faith and obedience, we bless God’s heart through our worship. Day-by-day we bless him by our attitude and actions as we trust him (Heb. 11:6). God’s heart is blessed, when we live lives that worship the Lord by honoring him throughout the week in faith and obedience.

When individuals worship the Lord throughout the week, and then these same individuals gather corporately, the congregation is lifted into the heavenlies by the Spirit of God. Worship is “good” when God’s people are gathered for the one goal of blessing God’s heart in gratitude for his greatness and his grace, then and only then, we are lifted up in the heavenlies with Him. Remember, a trusting heart and a yielded will are the essence of worship–the essence of heavenly worship.

If the sinner gives one look at the uplifted Son of God, he receives love and life more abundant. When the Jews in the wilderness looked at the brazen serpent, they were healed and lived; and the sin-sick soul, in order to be saved, needs to look but once to the Lamb of God that has borne away his sins. As the Holy Spirit points to Christ dying upon the Cross of Calvary, His voice comes to ever soul, beseeching him to “look and live.”

Not only does one look secure the love of Christ, but the glance of one of the virgins of the bride is precious to Him. By one glance of our eyes, by turning our eyes and hearts. Heavenward in prayer and praise, we can hold our dear Lord until He envelops us with His love and presence. When we come to Him in obedience and submission, in love, adoration, and humility, we can hold Him and draw down answers to prayer.

Cora Harris MacIlravy, Christ and His Bride: Commentary on Song of Songs (Asheville, NC: Elbethel, 1916), 253.

Too Precious

Frequent Communion

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:26 NRSV

The Lord’s Supper is precious: an encounter with the living Christ. Grace is poured forth, faith renewed, spirit-encouraged, healing released, and hope restored at the table of the Lord. At the table, the resurrected Christ meets the people of God as the heart of God makes known the love of God in bread and wine.

We do not receive these things as common bread or common drink, but as Jesus Christ our Savior who became incarnate by God’s Word and took flesh and blood for our salvation.

Justin Martyr, Apology

It’s silly to think that at one time we thought that if we took communion on a weekly basis we would somehow take it for granted, and the experience would become routine, even mundane. Yet, the opposite occurred, the more we partook of the Body and Blood of Christ, the more we yearned for his intimate presence, the more precious the receiving became. At the Lord’s Supper, we met the living Christ who was never boring, but was always a grace-filled God encounter.

Like many others, I had grown up with the idea that bread and wine, Communion, taken too frequently would grow old and become a mere ritual. But personal experience has proven just the opposite. I have found the Table, like the Word, to be a satisfying means of nourishment and spiritual growth. Far from becoming routine, it has become like an intimate relationship.

Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 53.

HT: Robert Webber Quote of the Day


Flee to the Eucharist

Finding Rest and Peace in the Sacraments

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 NLT

The Apostle Paul describes the Eucharistic meal as a koinonia (1 Cor. 10:16).The Greek word, koinonia, has a great depth of meaning: 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. Whenever we share in the life of God, we are encouraged to trust Christ, to love others, and to hope in God (1 Thess. 1:3).

I am continually comforted and ministered to by Christ at his Table. I often counsel students and friends who are facing difficult times in their lives to “flee to the Eucharist.” Bread and wine are God’s signs . . . of grace and love toward us. . . . [Those] who have taken this advice have talked to me later about the healing they experienced through these symbols of God’s ministry.

Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 11.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

Eucharist on a Handkerchief

Jesus in the Bread and Wine

When he [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24:30-31

Fr. Walter Ciszek was truly a saint of God. Called by the Holy Spirit to be a missionary to the Communist state of the Soviet Union, Ciszek deliberately entered Russia for the purpose of reaching prisoners with the gospel of grace. From 1939 and 1963, he toiled in various prison camps of the Gulag. Ciszek’s memoir, He Leadeth Me, was my Lenten reading two years ago, it is a book I will read again and again.

The quote below is a beautiful depiction of Holy Eucharist being provided in the most difficult of circumstances to prisoners who count the Body and Blood most precious.  No beautiful vestments, no towering cathedrals, no gorgeous vessels, etc.,  just the precious presence of our Lord and Savior in the bread and wine.

When I reached the prison camps of Siberia, I learned to my great joy that it was possible to say Mass daily once again. In every camp, the priests and prisoners would go to great lengths, run risks willingly, just to have the consolation of this sacrament. For those who could not get to Mass, we daily consecrated hosts and arranged for the distribution of Communion to those who wished to receive. Our risk of discovery, of course, was greater in the barracks, because of the lack of privacy and the presence of informers. Most often, therefore, we said our daily Mass somewhere at the work site during the noon break. Despite this added hardship, everyone observed a strict Eucharistic fast from the night before, passing up a chance for breakfast and working all morning on an empty stomach. Yet no one complained. In small groups the prisoners would shuffle into the assigned place, and there the priest would say Mass in his working clothes, unwashed, disheveled, bundled up against the cold. We said Mass in drafty storage shacks, or huddled in mud and slush in the corner of a building site foundation of an underground. The intensity of devotion of both priests and prisoners made up for everything; there were no altars, candles, bells, flowers, music, snow-white linens, stained glass or the warmth that even the simplest parish church could offer. Yet in these primitive conditions, the Mass brought you closer to God than anyone might conceivably imagine. The realization of what was happening on the board, box, or stone used in the place of an altar penetrated deep into the soul. Distractions caused by the fear of discovery, which accompanied each saying of the Mass under such conditions, took nothing away from the effect that the tiny bit of bread and few drops of consecrated wine produced upon the soul.

Many a time, as I folded up the handkerchief on which the body of our Lord had lain, and dried the glass or tin cup used as a chalice, the feeling of having performed something tremendously valuable for the people of this Godless country was overpowering. Just the thought of having celebrated Mass here, in this spot, made my journey to the Soviet Union and the sufferings I endured seem totally worthwhile and necessary. No other inspiration could have deepened my faith more, could have given me spiritual courage in greater abundance, than the privilege of saying Mass for these poorest and most deprived members of Christ the Good Shepherd’s flock. I was occasionally overcome with emotion for a moment as I thought of how he had found a way to follow and to feed these lost and straying sheep in this most desolate land. So I never let a day pass without saying Mass; it was my primary concern each new day. I would go to any length, suffer any inconvenience, run any risk to make the bread of life available to these men.

Walter Ciszek, S.J., He Leadeth Me (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995).

HT: America

A New Reality

His Seal Makes a New Community

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal (Greek: arrabōn) on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Cor. 1:21-22

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin is one of my favorite figures in church history (1909-1998). You may not have heard of him: bishop in the Church of South India, street preacher, theologian of the post-modern age, lover of the sacraments, Holy Spirit led and directed, and missions pioneer.

Gratefully, I had the opportunity of meeting Bishop Newbigin about year before his passing. I attended a special missions conference held in Newbigin’s honor at Beeson Divinity School. This conference would be his last formal speaking engagement before his passing. In our conversation, Newbigin was gracious, unusually anointed of the Holy Spirit, and a fine conversationalist. Officially, he spoke twice that day and continued to be a powerful preacher of the Word though blind and weak.

This quote is a little longer than I normally post, but these thoughts from his seminal work, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, are quintessentially Newbigin.

This presence of a new reality, the presence in the shared life of the Church of the Spirit who is the arrabōn of the kingdom, has become possible because of what Jesus has done, because of his incarnation, his ministry as the obedient child of his Father, his suffering and death, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and his session at the right hand of God. When the apostles are asked to explain the new reality, the new power to find joy in tribulation, healing in sickness, freedom in bondage, life in death, this is the explanation they give.

It follows that the visible embodiment of this new reality is not a movement that will take control of history and shape the future according to its own vision, not a new imperialism, not a victorious crusade. Its visible embodiment will be a community that lives by this story, a community whose existence is visibly defined in the regular rehearsing and reenactment of this story which has given it birth, the story of the self-emptying of God in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Its visible centre as a continuing social entity is that weekly repeated event in which believers share bread and wine as Jesus commanded, as his pledge to them and their pledge to him that they are one with him in his passion and one with him in his victory.

Instead of the celebration of the sabbath as the end of God’s old creation, they celebrate the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, as the beginning of the new creation. In this they find enacted and affirmed the meaning and goal of their lives as part of the life of the cosmos, their stories part of the universal story. This story does indeed lead to a glorious end and is therefore filled with meaning, but the end is not some far distant date in terrestrial history. The end is the day when Jesus shall come again, when his hidden rule will become manifest and all things will be seen as they truly are. That is why we repeat at each celebration of the Lord’s Supper the words which encapsulate the whole mystery of the faith: “Christ has died, Christ has risen: Christ shall come again.”

Lesslie J. Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 120 [paragraphing mine].

HT: Euangelion

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

You Are What You Eat (Updated)


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

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.