Sunday, August 6, 2017

Come. . . and eat!

At the center of Eden’s garden-sanctuary were fruit trees, good for food. The sacrifices of Abel, Noah, and Abraham were food rituals, sacred barbecues. An ancient Hebrew worshipper offered an animal, with flour or cakes, on an altar. In the Hebrew Bible, sacrificial fire “consumes” flesh (akal, “eat”; Lev. 9:24), Leviticus calls the offerings of the tabernacle “bread of God” (Lev. 21:6, 8), and Ezekiel says that the altar in the temple is Yahweh’s table (Ezek. 44:16). The “peace offering” was a shared meal: Fat was burned as the Lord’s food, while the rest of the animal was divided between worshipper and priest. The point of erecting a sanctuary was to have a place where Israel could “eat, drink, and rejoice” before Yahweh (Deut. 12:15–19; 14:6).

Though early Christians soon stopped offering sacrifices, food remained central to worship. Jesus came eating and drinking with prostitutes, publicans, and even Pharisees, using meals as occasions for healing and table manners as object lessons for disciples. After Pentecost, the disciples continued to gather to hear the apostolic teaching, to pray, and to break bread (Acts 2:42, 46). Paul assumes that the Corinthians “come together” to share the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:33). When we finally enter the new Jerusalem, we will enjoy the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb. In Christ, we are brought to a better Eden, a better feast where fruit has grown up to become wine.

Foodless worship is unthinkable in the Bible and has been unthinkable through most of Christian history.
With these words Peter Leithart invites us to consider the relationship between food and worship.  It is an interesting take that both makes you hungry and makes you yearn to go to church at the same time.  As well it should.  You can read it all here.

For me you cannot get better on this subject than the works by my old friend and classmate Arthur Just who wrote The Ongoing Feast and Heaven on Earth (Google it and order either or both volumes).  In  both cases he makes the point that as much as this was true for Israel, for Jesus, and for the Church prior to the Reformation, so it is true for the Churches of the Augsburg Confession.  We insist that we have not abolished the Mass (the meal, not the propitiatory sacrifice aspect which transformed the high point from the communion on the body and blood of Christ to the elevation alone).  We have not abolished the Mass.  We hunger for it.  We hold it every Lord's Day and every other day when people desire to receive the Lord's gifts.  The fruits of the Reformation were a more frequent eating and drinking such as the Lord spoke when He bade us "Do this" as His anamnesis.  Lutherans are people of the Word, to be sure, but it is not a Word apart from the meal of Christ's own testament.  We have worked very well to restore a more frequent (if not weekly) Eucharist in the parishes but we have far to go to reclaim the vibrant and robust eucharistic piety that longs to be in the Lord's House where in the blessed Sacrament of the Table we find fount and summit, the earthly anticipation and the heavenly foretaste of the eternal feast to come.  God help us as we move further along in this goal of practice and piety.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Amen. If there is no witness to the Feast, the Real Presence, and the Eucharist, the Reformation devolves into the Baptist-ish "Real Absence."