Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When is a snack more than a snack?

"Worshippers at the St Michael and All Angels Church in Uffington, Lincolnshire, wanted their oak altar to double up as
a place to 'serve refreshments' ".  Photo: Alamy
Truth IS stranger than fiction. . .
Friendly service with Coffee (see 'Services and Events' here).

Worshippers at St Michael and All Angels Church in Uffington, Lincolnshire, wanted their oak altar to double up as a place to “serve refreshments” but Mark Bishop, chancellor for Lincoln, and a judge of the Church of England's Consistory Court, decided the altar could only be used for worship, not to serve snacks. Read the report here. Putting the request for a faculty in a slightly different but no better light, another account here reveals that the application was part of the church’s refurbishment project "which has included a revamp of the Casrewick (sic) Chapel and a new roof".

Read it all here. . .

But is it all that strange. . .  When the ritual exists alone, apart from the Sacramental reality that delivers what the Word proclaims, what really is the difference between the fellowship rituals of coffee and donuts (or, in this case, tea and biscuits) and bread and wine?  Yes, it is the Lord's Word, to be sure, but if we empty that Word of its power to deliver what it promises, why can't we substitute the relevant rituals of the moment for the Biblical imagery of the past?  If the Word is not telling us the truth straight up, if we are not receiving Christ's flesh (the same flesh of His incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection) and His blood (the same blood shed upon that cross), then the ritual has only the meaning we attach to it and nothing more.

These are the same issues with those confessions that fail to attach Christ presence to bread and wine and to define that presence as corporeal, the same reality that was incarnate in Mary's womb, suffered and died on the cross, and rose again.  Christ cannot be really present unless that presence is accessible and unless that presence has a promise attached to it -- the forgiveness of sins.

LCMS worries about a diversity of views communing together is not simply a "purity" issue as some complain but about the essence of the very Sacrament itself.  We do not read into the words of Christ what we want to here and we do not receive what we think those words mean.  The Word delivers what it promises or not.  The issues here go to the depths of what it means to believe, to have confidence in the Word of the Lord, and to know where and how to meet the Lord and receive the gifts of His promise.

Apart from the confession of what His Word says and the faith that trusts and receives what He has promised, the Sacrament of the Altar is just a snack with more (with a memory).  But that is precisely NOT what it is according to the Scriptures (especially Paul in First Corinthians).  It IS the memorial, the participation in His body and blood through our faithful eating and drinking at His bidding.  We are not left with a memory but are given the memorial in which we enter the mystery whereby the passover fulfilled is made present in the Holy Supper and the future anticipated and glimpsed -- all by eating and drinking!

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