The Eucharist and Its Effective Work on our Hearts:
Devotional Thought of the Day….
1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (TEV) 15 I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
5 Through the Word and the rite God simultaneously moves the heart to believe and take hold of faith, as Paul says (Rom. 10:17), “Faith comes from what is heard.” As the Word enters through the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart. The Word and the rite have the same effect, as Augustine said so well when he called the sacrament “the visible Word,”5 for the rite is received by the eyes and is a sort of picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore both have the same effect. (1) (from Article XIII of the Augsburg Confession)
“XXV. Of the Sacraments. Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.” (2)
“What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament? Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. ” (3)
530 Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar? (4)
Yesterday I had the great blessing of going back to my alma mater, and teaching a class on the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist and Holy Communion) it was really a good experience for me, and I think I caused some of the students to think.
I started the class with my own “personal theology” regarding the Lord’s Supper. I’ll briefly state it here:
You have a 16 oz cup that contains 8 ounces of wine. Do you:
(1) Agree and argue the position alongside the optimists that it is the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.
(2) Agree and argue the position that it is only grape juice, and it only is a act of faithful obedience….
or (3) find some bread and with the people of God celebrate (give thanks) the gift of God given to the people of God as you commune with Him?
As always, there is a third choice, as I I thought through the lesson, I was struck by something truly astonishing. While the sacramental churches disagree on what I would call the mechanics of the Lord’s Supper – exactly how and when and in which ways the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, they don’t disagree that the Eucharist has a dramatic and transforming effect on those who trust in Jesus, on those in a relationship with Him.
For it is highly effective, and as a means of grace, brings into our lives so much, it is a wonder that anyone would ever avoid it, or not be glad to celebrate it.
The challenge is that how it affects us is not academic, or philosophical, but rather deeply spiritual, and if I dare us the word, emotional.
Maybe that is why we can’t agree on the mechanics, but can agree on its effect. We can’t academically and logically dissect the Bread and Wine, we can’t scientifically prove the presence of God there… and our post-enlightenment minds struggle with what we can’t forensically prove, what we can’t observe and demonstrate in regards to the elements.
It’s not knowing about God that is important when it comes to the sacraments, it’s about knowing Him. About realizing the depth of His love, the “sure-ness” of His presence, of resting in His comfort and peace, of being in community with Him, every part of us.
Melanchthon (author of the first quote from the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession) was absolutely right – this is about God’s work in our hearts. Like the very word of God it cuts our hearts open and circumcises them, cleansing us, as in our baptism – of the sin which ensnares us. Bathing us in God’s presence, His glory, His love, and bringing healing to our very hearts, our very souls. It is God working in us, the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us into the image of God – as the sacrament ( the physical element and the word of God – takes hold of us. ) is there.
I didn’t include the RCC quote I used – because of its length, but instead a quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a favorite writer of mine. I can begin to understand their practice of adoration and contemplation about the “mystery” of this – the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. Of sitting silently in wonder at the depth of God’s love, at the incredible power of the Holy Spirit within us, to take the time to think through what we’ve shared in, this body and blood, this precious gift, that causes faith to well up within us. For far too often as he points out – we rush through such times – we want to get it done, move through it. Yet think about a good meal – bacon wrapped bacon wrapped shrimp for example. You want to savor the smell, the enviroment, the flavor. Could we take such a time with the Lord’s Supper as well, to let the moment nourish our hearts longer – to set aside our intellect and realize how precious it is, that God comes to us, that He is here? To realize the Spirit’s work in us, drawing us to Him, transforming us, healing us, taking our burdens…
If I, in this week of returning to my alma mater – convince them of nothing theologically – that’s okay. It’s not what I am aiming for. it’s not what the sacrament is about. Doing a dissertation explaining 5000 years of sacramental theology? Cool – but what is needed – knowing our need for God’s presence… and knowing He responds to that need, for this He has promised, this blessing is ours…in Him.
So my friends, take and eat…. take and drink often, and know that the Lord is with you… AMEN!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 211–212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) The Articles of Faith (Anglican) http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html
(4) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1284). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on September 24, 2013, in Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged Anglican, Book of Concord, Catholic, Concordia Lutheran Church Cerritos, Eucharist, heart versus head, Holy Communion, Jesus, Poiema. Opus Dei, post-enlightenment, sacrament, United Methodist, Word, Work of God, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.