Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank you for the blood

'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery'

Galatians 5 v 1

The four views…on the subject of the sacrament: 1. The Romish doctrine, or transubstantiation. This maintains the absolute change of the elements into the actual body and blood of Christ; so that though the elements of bread and wine remain present to the senses, they are no longer what they seem, being changed into the body, blood and divinity of Christ. 2. The Lutheran view, called consubstantiation. This maintains that after consecration the body and blood of Christ are substantially present, but nevertheless that the bread and wine are present, unchanged. 3. The Anglican view – that Christ is present in the sacrament only after the spiritual manner, and that His body and blood are eaten by the faithful after a spiritual, and not after a carnal manner, to the maintenance of their spiritual life and their growth in grace. 4. The Zwinglian, which declares the sacrament to be no channel of grace, but only a commemorative feast, admitting only a figurative presence of Christ’s body and blood.

John Foxe

The title of the song written by Matt Redman 'Thank you for the blood ' is a matter of crucial significance for the Christian, not least when it comes to our understanding of communion. We are immersed as a church in the letter to Galatians and yesterday, in our staff bible study, we had a lengthy and very interesting discussion about law and grace, legalism and what happens at communion.

This is how this issue came up. Galatians is about freedom from the law and Paul's assertion that we are not bound by the worship regulations of the old covenant. Hence, there is no need for men to be circumcised and former Jewish Christians kids in Galatia can now have pork pies in their school lunch boxes. The 'priesthood' of the temple has been replaced by the 'priesthood of all believers' and freedom abounds and should abound in the church. The religious traditions and ceremonial law of Judaism have been swept aside and grace set in its place. From this grace flows obedience [which comes from the Spirit -Gal 5- do listen to 'How to change'] and with this obedience joy follows.

Why then, says someone, do we still have so many religious hoopla's and do and don'ts in most churches with a special person in a funny costume to do the 'holy stuff' at communion? Surely all that went out at Calvary and wouldn't Paul be as incensed by the 'religiosity' and law-keeping of most churches as he was by the Judaisers of AD 50? We then embarked on a long discussion about what it is I do as a priest and had a debate about transubstantiation. As I was about to embark on a thorough overview of Reformation history which would have been fascinating, together with a potted history of the C of E, sadly time was up (much to the team's relief) but the thoughts have lingered.

"Imagine early Christians talking to their neighbours in the Roman Empire. 'Ah', the neighbour says, 'I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?' 'We don't have a temple,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our temple,' replies the Christian, 'No temple?' But where do your priests work and do their rituals?' 'We don't have priests to mediate the presence of God,' replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our priest.' 'No priests?' But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favour of your God?' 'We don't need a sacrifice', replies the Christian. 'Jesus is our sacrifice.' 'What kind of religion IS this?' sputters the pagan neighbour. And the answer is, the Christian faith is so utterly different than how every other religion works that it doesn't really deserve to be called a 'religion"

Dick Lucas quoted in 'The Gospel in Life' 

As providence would have it, I read later in the day '5 Reasons I reject the Doctrine of Transubstantiation' the contents of which fed into my already churning mind.

Our walk through Galatians continues on Sunday and please do feel free to join us and bring friends. We endeavour to not be too religious so come and see how we're doing.

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