O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
-from Psalm 43.3-
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
-from Psalm 43.3-
Yesterday was the Christian Church Holiday of Corpus Christi, where we celebrate that Jesus actually meets us in the Bread and Wine of Communion. It’s not merely a symbol to make us think of certain doctrinal ideas, but there are very real spiritual things happening in those elements. I’ve written elsewhere about this in detail.
Today, however, I want to offer you a funny little rant John Calvin goes on in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In it, he is responding to those that accused the Reformed tradition of making the Eucharist way too heady and rationalistic of an idea, sapping all beauty and mystery out of it. Here was Calvin’s response, encouraging us all to embrace the beauty and awe of Communion: Continue reading
Today is the Church Holy Day called Corpus Christi (Wiki), Latin for “the Body of Christ”, in which the Church takes a few moments to reflect and meditate upon the gift that is the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist, or Communion). In honor of this, I thought I’d share a recent essay I wrote articulating what I believe is happening in the Sacraments. Let me know what you think!
A sacrament is any material thing that God uses to communicate himself within Creation. Yes, this is quite the broad definition for “sacrament” (little “s”). Every single way that God has ever revealed himself in this world has always been in a mediated sense. God has never been revealed in his full “Godness”. It is always through a material means, and mostly clearly in Jesus Christ.
In this sense, I can accept things like marriage and confirmation as sacraments; but I can also see a good beer, TV show, conversation, or even suffering (like the Cross) as a sacrament. Any material means by which God communicates any part of who he is a sacrament. It has also been quite freeing for me to see all of life as inherently sacramental.
In this sense, sacramentalism becomes a primary filter through which to understand and describe reality as it is and the nature of the Creator/Creation distinction. This collapses the old unhelpfully-gnostic “transcendence/imminence” dichotomies.
If someone asks me what is the use of going to church, what good does it do me, what do I get out of it, how do I answer these questions?
It is as though someone asks me what the use is of getting married, what good does it do me. If I answered such questions by saying, “Well, it is very useful to get married! You have someone to do the housework, the shopping, cook the meals, etc.,” it would clearly be a false view of marriage. No woman wants to be merely a housekeeper, kept because of her utility!
There is only one supreme reason for getting married—for love’s sake, for the other’s sake, for mutual love, self- giving, a longing for intimate communion, and sharing of everything.
So in Christian worship, we worship God for God’s sake; we come to Christ for Christ’s sake, motivated by love. An awareness of God’s holy love for us, revealed in Jesus Christ, awakens in us a longing for intimate communion—to know the love of the Father and to participate in the life and ministry of Christ.
Worship in the Bible is always presented to us as flowing from an awareness of who God is and what he has done: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . . I have loved you and redeemed you . . . I will be your God and you will be my people. Therefore, this is how you will worship me.”
As we have seen, worship in the Bible is an ordinance of grace, a covenantal form of response to the God of grace, prescribed by God himself. This is supremely true of the New Testament understanding of worship, as the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and his mission from the Father to the world, in a life of wonderful communion.
— from James B. Torrance’s beautiful book Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace (paragraph breaks added for clarity)
Yeah, that’s my family (I’m in the front left). This was one Easter Sunday in the 90’s in Dallas, Texas, at a time and place where (I promise) it was absolutely appropriate to dress like that for Easter (except the glasses, of course). I look at this picture a lot, and not just to chuckle. I find it so oddly and powerfully symbolic of what life in the Bible Belt was like.
You see, my family was deeply wounded by “Church folk” throughout my childhood. Just as in the picture, people in the Church would live their Christian lives dressed up and looking good, all while wearing masks, disguising who they really were. When things were hard at home, people at church had no categories to process it. After all, to be a Christian is to be cleansed by Jesus and walk in new life, right? Failures, sins, and brokenness were seen as signs of some disobedience – some place where you weren’t “okay.”
And so begins a guest post I wrote for a wonderful site that should be on all of your radars, Restoration Living. Read the rest of the post here.
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, started a little kerfuffle last week when he wrote about how he doesn’t really go to church any more. He doesn’t learn much about God through sermons, and he doesn’t connect with God through songs. Church just doesn’t connect with him in any way and doesn’t fit within his own learning style, which is far more participatory. He says the Church is all around us and in believers so he feels free to “have church” in the way(s) that most connect him to God and others.
Well, this caused quite the backlash. He wrote again a couple of days ago in response, but it seems that most people still really disagree with him.
But here’s the problem: Donald Miller is absolutely right in everything he says if he still insists on calling himself an “Evangelical”, or at least using that as his frame of reference.
If you consider yourself an Evangelical in any traditional sense, and you’re looking at Donald Miller’s church practices with dismay, well then welcome to your future–the logical conclusion of your theology and how you’ve practiced church for a few generations now.
For my worship and liturgy class, we had to write up a little thing explaining how we would explain the Sacraments to an everyday person. We were also supposed to throw up some questions that we might still have about them. Here are is mine.
In the beginning of the Bible, we see God create what amounts to a “temple-world”. He wants to dwell in this temple, with his people, and make it his home. He ordains priests to care for it but they fail. So God puts in motion a plan and story to rebuild this world and re-prepare it for his dwelling.
The focal point of this story and our entire faith is Jesus Christ. He is God among us having come dressed in humanity. The Gospel of John says he literally “templed” among us, using our created humanity as something he was pleased to dwell in.
This is the Gospel; it is our life and strength as Christians.
Father, your table proclaims to us your undying love for us. This table tells us that you do not simply endure our presence. This table tells us that you delight in being with us. You have invited us to feast in your presence.
So we have come to eat and drink deeply of your love for us. May we interpret our lives through this table. May we understand that we are a people with whom you are well pleased. May this reality energize us as we move into our world. May we live out our lives as your deeply loved, anointed children. Fill us with joy as’we labor for you in this world. Amen.
—Liberti Church, 10/20/13
This has been the question I’ve been receiving more than any other this past week and a half, since returning from my trip to Guamtemala with Lemonade International to see their work in the community of La Limonada.
And yet, I have had no answer.
Nearly every person who’s asked the question has been someone I love, who loves me, and gets me. They know that I can’t even articulate a simple answer to a casual “How ya doin’?” thrown my way. And so I’ve felt grace and understanding as I haven’t been able to answer.
At a wedding this weekend, in an attempt at capturing in one word the seemingly contradictory dimensions of my experience in Guatemala, I blurted out the word “paradoxitous”. Yes, I was trying to be funny.
“Food is everything”, says my friend Ben, an organic farmer who runs a small vegetable stand at Lancaster’s Central Market. Each generation pushes back on the one that came before it, often a reaction against cultural norms that seem to be inherently evil. One of those such current ideas comes as a blowback in how we produce and consume food. Since WWII, our food supply has been mass-produced and mass-processed, often putting in it more preservatives than nutrition. In recent years, organic farming has blossomed (in part) as a reaction against the greed, industrialization and lack of nutrition of America’s food supply. At Ben’s market stand, a small sign reads something like “out of the ground comes nutrition for our food”.
There’s certainly something deeper to this little sign whether he knows it or not.
“Man is what he eats”, writes Alexander Schmemann. All of life is sacramental, and therefore, Eucharistic. He continues, “Man must eat in order to live. He must take the world into his body and transform it into himself; into flesh and blood.” In the same way, at the celebration of the Eucharist, the very flesh and blood of Christ come to man. Man eats it and in this most revered element of Christian worship, he ascends to heaven with Christ, receives the Kingdom of God, and takes it with him back into the world. Eating is sacred business in the Christian economy and without it, the Kingdom of Heaven does not come to the world. Schmemann even goes so far as to say that all food leads us to Christ.
Meals in community are sacred. They have been for most all peoples for all time. There is something deep within the heart of humankind that knows this. There is a longing for communion and companionship over any meal we eat. But alas, our culture does not work this way. We are hurried to and fro and are lucky to grab something at a café or in a drive thru or whatever quick meal we can get out of the way to get on with the more important things of life. But, even in our hurried state, we stop and take the time to photograph our food and post it for all to see – our new “social” community – facebook or instagram. What we miss by eating alone so often, we try to reacquire via our mobile technology. Our souls crave the sacred meal together, yet, for whatever reason we make little effort to make this a primary part of our lives. We want others to share in our experience and the best way we can get them to do that is to post our square images of eggs in a frying pan or the coffee we got on the way to a meeting on our own little online kingdom.
Each Sunday, as we partake of the Eucharist, we ascend with Christ into his Kingdom for the good of his world. In the same way, let us strive to make our daily meals a little more sacramental; a little more Eucharistic, even.
Today is Maundy Thursday which is the time in the Christian Church calendar where we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper; it also initiates the three Holy Days of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.
I was raised as a Southern Baptist in Dallas, Texas. Liturgy, Church calendars, Holy Days, and Prayer books were as foreign to me as R-rated films, alcohol, and dancing. Now, though, as I’m looking for a Church to go to for a Good Friday service, even the Presbyterian church service all my friends are going to doesn’t feel liturgical and structured enough for me. What happened?
This is another amazing piece called “Broken Hold” (original post) by one of my favorite artists and closest friends, Jennifer Huber (I’ve featured her art here before). In all seriousness, I just started crying looking at this and just had to post it. This particular piece reminded me a lot of one of my favorite songs by some other good friends of mine (who are also amazing artists), the band My Epic. You can find the song and the lyrics below. This piece especially reminded me of the last line of the song. Enjoy.
I haven’t written a post in this series in a while, but I’ve been reading William Cavanaugh’s amazing book Being Consumed: Economics & Christian Desire as a counter to Jack Cashill’s Popes & Bankers, which I just finished. It’s pretty remarkable. Every Christian–nay, every person–should read this book.
Cavanaugh is a Catholic and this influences his thought greatly and wonderfully. I’ve only made it through the Introduction and I already feel like I’ve been taken for a ride, with my economic thought swirling. Once I’m done I’ll surely be posting a review here for all of you to enjoy. He has this amazing paragraph in the Introduction I wanted to share here with all of you: