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By In Theology, Worship

Do This

Rev. Dr. James Jordan is scholar-in-residence at Theopolis Institute. This post was originally found at Biblical Horizons.

(The essay that follows concerns a rather touchy subject: how the Lord’s Supper is to be done. I am not writing to insult or offend, but to challenge. To that end I have not “held back” but have “gone ahead” and said what I think needs to be said — for your consideration.)

There is only one ritual commanded in the New Testament for routine use in the Church: the ritual of the Lord’s Supper. I believe that Satan does not want the Church to do the rite of the Lord’s Supper, and has expended tremendous energy to prevent our doing it the way Jesus said to do it. (more…)

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By In Theology, Worship

The Prayer of Humble Access

The historic prayer book of the Anglican Communion, “The Book of Common Prayer,” includes some controversial prayers. Despite often receiving praise as a work of the Reformation, its verbiage can also feel uncomfortably Catholic. Its emphases on saints and sacraments can seem wetted from the pen tip of Thomas Aquinas rather than Thomas Cranmer.  One such prayer is entitled the “Prayer of Humble Access.”
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.” a

During the Holy Communion service, this prayer is offered following the Lord’s prayer while the kneeling congregation anticipates the words of institution (i.e. “This is my body…”). It is important to note that as a matter of liturgical significance the confession and absolution have already been offered and received in the service. In this way, the “Prayer of Humble Access” builds upon the Reformational apprehensions to any sort of merited righteousness, while also affirming the Reformed tradition’s emphasis on self-examination prior to communion. This belaboring of sin after confession has earned some criticism from liturgical scholars like James B. Jordan: “it focuses on sin and justification to the extent that the entire service feels more like a penitential vigil than a celebration of redemption.” b

Jordan is right if you read the prayer as solely penitential. But this prayer is posturing the Christian up from his knees to a seat at the table. It is bidding the Christian, “dine with God.” Mortal men are invited to Valhalla– what to the Norse meant “Hall of the Slain”– for a feast of flesh and mead. Only the brave souls that died in the triumph of Holy War would feast in Odin’s hall for slain warriors. So it is true of our prayers here. Christ’s absolution has progressed beyond mere forgiveness into conquest. (Romans 8:31-39) And now, those willing to die in and for their sins may enter. Now at the table, we may eat the flesh and drink the blood.

This prayer also offers a narrative to help understand Christ’s presence in the eucharist. Douglas Wilson rightly points out that: “We partake of the Lord in the participles, we partake of Him in the partaking. We cannot say, ‘Look, there is the Lord, stationary, on the table.’ Rather, we say, ‘Here is the Lord in the action of eating and drinking.’ And these actions are part of a series of actions, which together constitute the story. We partake of the Lord’s body and blood in a glorious series of verbs—declaring, praying, blessing, setting apart, taking, breaking, taking, and giving. And each moment in the story says something about the end of the story.” c

(more…)

  1. Press, O. U. (1993). The 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.  (back)
  2. 1993. Rite Reasons, Studies in Worship, No. 29, Biblical Horizons.  (back)
  3. Wilson, Douglas. (2013). Against The Church. Moscow, ID: Canon Press.  (back)

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By In Theology

The House and the Ascension

Long ago, our Father in Heaven had a plan. His plan was to create the world as a theater to display his glory. The world was to be a house that reflected his name. The Shekinah glory was to remain there forever. And through many dangers, toils, and snares, the house was little by little losing the purpose the builder had for it.

It would appear that God’s building project had become an abysmal failure. But God’s construction plans are not like our building projects. His ways are not our ways. He had a plan. He had a restoration project. He was going to restore, rebuild, and reclaim his own house. This time, the house was not going to be built on spiritual adultery or religious idolatry. It would be on the Rock, which is Christ. The builders rejected him, but the new humanity composed of men and women, and children united to the Rock, will no longer deny him.

In the life of Jesus, the foundation was poured on the earth. In his death, the wall and roof were placed to cover the world and give it shade. In his resurrection, fresh, clean water is available. Come and drink of the river that never runs dry. But there is one part of this earthly construction that is missing. There is a foundation, a roof to protect you from the storms, running water to shower and be replenished, but now we need to turn it on. We need electricity! We need the power to turn the refrigerator, stove, microwave, air conditioner, heater, fan, laptops, cell phones, etc. We need to activate the house so that everyone can live with a purpose. I propose that the Ascension of Jesus is that singular event in history that gives life to everything; that sets everything into motion. It is the electricity that the Church needs to disciple the nations.

Without the Ascension, we are living in an almost finished property. The Ascension means that the house/world is ready to be inhabited once and for all. The power is on. We can now move in together as a Church and take care of it. The workers can all go home. Our only task is now maintaining the house. Now, this house is the world. And the world is a big place. It needs to be energized by the Ascension. The Ascension is God’s way of saying: “My Son’s work is done! Now it’s your turn!” (more…)

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By In Scribblings

John Calvin on the Sacraments

John_Calvin_by_Holbein1. After God has once received us into his family, it is not that he may regard us in the light of servants, but of sons, performing the part of a kind and anxious parent, and providing for our maintenance during the whole course of our lives. And, not contented with this, he has been pleased by a pledge to assure us of his continued liberality. To this end, he has given another sacrament to his Church by the hand of his only-begotten Son—viz. a spiritual feast, at which Christ testifies that he himself is living bread (John 6:51), on which our souls feed, for a true and blessed immortality… First, then, the signs are bread and wine, which represent the invisible food which we receive from the body and blood of Christ. For as God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by his word. Moreover, Christ is the only food of our soul, and, therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we reach the heavenly immortality. But as this mystery of the secret union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine. We now, therefore, understand the end which this mystical benediction has in view—viz. to assure us that the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us, so that we may now eat it, and, eating, feel within ourselves the efficacy of that one sacrifice,that his blood was once shed for us so as to be our perpetual drink. This is the force of the promise which is added, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you” (Mt. 26:26, &c.). The body which was once offered for our salvation we are enjoined to take and eat, that, while we see ourselves made partakers of it, we may safely conclude that the virtue of that death will be efficacious in us. Hence he terms the cup the covenant in his blood. For the covenant which he once sanctioned by his blood he in a manner renews, or rather continues, in so far as regards the confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred blood as drink to us.


10. The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporeal life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend let faith conceive—viz. that the Spirit truly unites things separated by space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and heartfelt gratitude. For this reason the apostle said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ”? (1 Cor. 10:16.) There is no ground to object that the expression is figurative, and gives the sign the name of the thing signified. I admit, indeed, that the breaking of bread is a symbol, not the reality. But this being admitted, we duly infer from the exhibition of the symbol that the thing itself is exhibited. For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.

11. I hold then (as has always been received in the Church, and is still taught by those who feel aright), that the sacred mystery of the Supper consists of two things—the corporeal signs, which, presented to the eye, represent invisible things in a manner adapted to our weak capacity, and the spiritual truth, which is at once figured and exhibited by the signs. When attempting familiarly to explain its nature, I am accustomed to set down three things—the thing meant, the matter which depends on it, and the virtue or efficacy consequent upon both. The thing meant consists in the promises which are in a manner included in the sign. By the matter, or substance, I mean Christ, with his death and resurrection. By the effect, I understand redemption, justification, sanctification, eternal life, and all other benefits which Christ bestows upon us. Moreover, though all these things have respect to faith, I leave no room for the cavil, that when I say Christ is conceived by faith, I mean that he is only conceived by the intellect and imagination. He is offered by the promises, not that we may stop short at the sight or mere knowledge of him, but that we may enjoy true communion with him. And, indeed, I see not how any one can expect to have redemption and righteousness in the cross of Christ, and life in his death, without trusting first of all to true communion with Christ himself. Those blessings could not reach us, did not Christ previously make himself ours. I say then, that in the mystery of the Supper, by the symbols of bread and wine, Christ, his body and his blood, are truly exhibited to us, that in them he fulfilled all obedience, in order to procure righteousness for us— first that we might become one body with him; and, secondly, that being made partakers of his substance, we might feel the result of this fact in the participation of all his blessings.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter 17, §1 & 10-11 (All the stuff in between is really good too and I would encourage you to read it.)

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By In Family and Children, Theology

Paedocommunion and Three Year Old Levites

An Intellectual Fence?

Does scripture allow us to fence the table of the Lord from covenant children on the basis of an ability to articulate propositional doctrine? Can I keep my baptized son from the meal because he cannot explain the intricacies of substitutionary atonement? No. For while communion may represent a whole package of difficult theological truths that could take a lifetime to understand, what is necessary for participation…every three year old covenant member should be assumed to possess.

Why do I say this? Let’s look at a passage of scripture that gives God’s call to church ministry starting at age three.

Three Year Old Levites
2 Chronicles 31 calls for Levites to begin holy work at the Lord’s house at the age of three:

11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare chambers in the house of the Lord, and they prepared them. 12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. … [Certain men] were faithfully assisting him in the cities of the priests, to distribute the portions to their brothers, old and young alike, by divisions, 16 except those enrolled by genealogy, males from three years old and upward—all who entered the house of the Lord as the duty of each day required—for their service according to their offices, by their divisions. (2 Chronicles 31.11-16)

God expected Levites who worked in the house of the Lord do their work beginning right after they were weaned (age three). How does this compare to how we treat the children already marked out by God’s covenant in baptism, today? Do we assume them to be automatically capable for faithful ministry to the Lord? We should.

Baptism is the right fence, and we have already rightly brought our covenant children inside. But where some push for an intellectual fence, usually around twelve, our passage in 2 Chronicles 31 pushes us back out of the realm of making intellect a credible fence. It calls us back to the scriptural action of charitable presumption for the young in the Lord.

Too Faithful
Some want to bar children from the table until they can articulate their faith in the Lord in the right fashion, to the satisfaction of the elders. I have known of a child in one such church who was well trained by his parents in the truths of the faith. When he was interviewed by the elders, they thought his answers were too good – he was actually repeating the catechetical answers.

But to these guardians of the table, an accurate answer indicated that the answers were not genuine, because the child did not come up with them in his own child-like words. They failed to pass the child into the communing community within the larger number of the baptized in that church.

The child had been too diligent at learning according to the faith of his parents. Too ready to obey. This resulted in a flawless test, which, in their eyes could only indicate that the child’s obedience was practiced and not genuine. Did they not see this as fruit of faithfulness in that home?

But that test is nowhere found before the calling of young Hebrew covenant members to holy work for the Lord.

We Know Which Jesus
The prime worry of the people who hold out for crystaline doctrinal explanations is that the child may not have true faith, and that they won’t understand Jesus correctly before coming to the meal. They fear that somehow this defies warnings in 1 Corinthians 11.

Let’s imagine a child of our own church, baptized, and as usual, he is giving no troubling evidence that he is worshiping the wrong Jesus. He is just a child raised in our Trinitarian church. Should we restrict him from the table because we can’t know whether he is orthodox in his heart?

Should we just accept every claim to faith we hear? How do we know the child isn’t full of heresy?

There is an answer, and we can see it by comparing the children of our church to a man who wants to join our local body on the first day he visits. You would need to verify who this man is… what does he truly worship? Is he part of the Church?

Now of course, we should be able to reserve a right to judge when any random adult says “I love Jesus, let me join your church!” In that case, we still need to take pause to make certain he is talking about our Jesus, and not the Mormon one, or the Jehovah’s Witness one, because we do not know where this man is coming from. We need to see that he wishes to worship the Triune God of the historic (apostolic) church.

But the key point is knowledge of where a person comes from. For on the other hand, when a tiny baptized saint, and member of a household in our church says, “I love Jesus,” we must already be assured that they are loving the Jesus of that orthodox house.

In fact, if it is a child of our own church, let us act out of certainty that they could not under normal circumstances be referring to any Jesus other than our own Jesus. The child knows only the Jesus he is given in your body of believers. Are your church’s elders orthodox in preaching, and in guiding the child’s parents? Then be assured he is asking for your own orthodox Jesus.

If we question the heart intention of a child of our own church, we must likewise question his parent’s grown up orthodoxy, and even our own preaching. In such a case we would similarly be driven to absurdly question whether “I love Grand-Mom,” means what he thinks it means. But we know it is fully possible for a child to love Grand-Mom, and to mean it, even after rote learning of this phrase on the road right before entering Grand-Mom’s house at Thanksgiving. We would question an outsider, an insurance salesman who said, “Hey, I love grand-mom too!” But we don’t need to question our children, to accept their love as genuine though it has little intellectual formation.

The insurance salesman may indeed love Grand-Mom, but we should test it. We owe him no charitable presumption of love for her. Likewise, it world be absurd not to charitably presume our kids to love Grand-Mom.

We know which Jesus a baptized catechumen is referring to, no matter how young that disciple is. The baptism is of that church and through those parents. So that baptism implies the faith of that church is indeed the faith the child is attached to. And not merely sociologically, but also theologically…spiritually.

My Point
Of course this whole thing is an unnecessary exercise, because my point is not that I think we need a verbal profession before opening the Lord’s table to a young baptized eater. I believe the Bible tells us plainly that if a person is baptized and is an eater, then he or she should eat the common meal that is owned by all the baptized. (1 Cor 10 – one body, one loaf). We accept the normativity of faith in the womb (Ps 22, Ps 71, Ps 8).

Rather, my main point is that even if we were to ask for such a confession of verbally expressed faith before allowing the child to the food of the Lord’s house, we would have to work within the restrictions of scripture. And the Scripture will not let us ask for a test that is beyond the complete capability of a three year old. If he cannot pass our session’s inquiry, then we are defying the pattern set in scripture. Three-year-olds have holy work to do for the Lord.<>games for mobileподбор слов google

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By In Theology, Worship

Paedocommunion: Calvin Misunderstood “Discerning the Body”

by Luke A Welch

CALVIN IS FLAT WRONG BECAUSE HE MISSED THE CONTEXT
Calvin fears that, in paedocommunion, tender children will poison themselves by being intellectually incapable of having a formed mental opinion about the presence of Christ in the elements. Paul is actually just saying that we can’t use the unity meal to despise the church by ignoring the weaker or lesser members while we eat. But Calvin misses all the context (see my post containing a quote of Calvin’s treatment in the Institutes).

 

dives_lazarus_Bonifacio VERONESE

Dives and Lazarus – Bonifacio Veronese

 

If Calvin is right about the meaning of 1 Cor 11, then children have no business at the table, but this is contextually impossible in a section that repeatedly tells us that all the baptized are also unified in the eating of the meal. Calvin has missed tying the phrases in question (“discerning the body,: and “eating in an unworthy manner”) to their immediate context, and to the context of the surrounding chapters. If you have time to wade through a few reasonably simple arguments, I beg you to stick around through the end of this. I believe this post, and the future post on self-examination, to be able to remove the obstacle of 1 Cor 11 from giving all covenant members their due invitations to the meal of the Lord. So we start here: (more…)

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By In Theology

Finally Discussing Paedocommunion for Real

By Luke Welch

At Kuyperian, it would be fair to peg us as proponents of including all the baptized in the Lord’s Supper. In earlier months, I kept writing as if I were going to be discussing the topic, but I kept falling short and only talking about baptism. So I have been dying for a chance to finally enter into the discussion of that blessed fourteen letter word: paedocommunion.

And here we are. I will start now. And today’s post will be relatively short: a summary of longer, future arguments.

Church doors

 

LOCUS CLASSICUS
1 Corinthians is the place the battle must be won or lost, though many other passages matter to the discussion. For today’s listeners, 1 Cor 11 is the roadblock. In soon-to-come posts the following will be spelled out. For now a summary of my series of arguments.

THESIS
1 Corinthians 10-13 teaches paedocommunion implicitly, and does not exclude children from the Lord’s table.

A – BODY means THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 10-13 is a section intensely focused on the unity of the church; the controlling metaphor for the section is “one body made of many members (body parts).” We should expect “body” in this section to be a reference to the church, unless in some instance it is clearly a reference to something else.

B – IF YOU ARE WASHED, YOU EAT
There is a one to one correspondence between those who are baptized and those who are in the body, and then also between those who commune and those who are in the body. All the baptized commune. There is no non-communing member of the church.

C – PAEDOCOMMUNION PRECEDENCE
In this section, Paul explains the Eucharist by telling story after story illustrated by feasts that included children.

D – THE “WORTHINESS-TEST” IS NOT NEW IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Those same feasts also required that participants be worthy and examine themselves. All the while, they included children.

E – THE WARNINGS ARE NOT TO CHILDREN
The major problems being addressed are high-handed sins: idolatry, flagrant immorality, and hypocritical use of the unity meal to treat the poor as second class citizens in the kingdom.

F – PAUL WANTS REPENTANT EATERS, NOT HARD HEARTED ABSTAINERS
No positive command is given as a prerequisite for entrance to the meal. Mostly we mistake corporate or liturgical actions as individual tests of worthiness.

SINCE YOU ARE ITCHING FOR HOMEWORK

See if you can identify what I mean before I post longer explanations!

UPDATE: Part 2 of this discussion can be found here:

Paedocommunion – One of the Most Un-Well Reasoned Things Calvin Ever Said

Luke Welch has a master’s degree from Covenant Seminary and preaches regularly in a conservative Anglican church in Maryland. He blogs about Bible structure at SUBTEXT. Follow him on Twitter: @lukeawelch<>neobrutраскрутка а 1с

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