Posts Tagged ‘Eucharist’
Author |Editor: John Armstrong
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310262688
Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper
I’ve enjoyed this book for a few years now and continue to go back to it again and again. I have gleaned much from this genre of theological studies and like adding to my collection these “multiple views” discussions. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper is another great addition to my library.
In this volume, the four views represented are Baptist view (memorialism), Reformed view (spiritual presence), Lutheran view (consubstantiation), and Roman Catholic view (transubstantiation). I appreciate learning about traditions and practices other than my own and these perspectives, shared by respected leaders in their tradition, are very helpful. The added benefit of having responses from other traditions helps (me) to balance the information presented without becoming swayed by any particular bias, which might easily happen because of my ignorance toward certain beliefs and practices. I’ve learned, after reading quite a number of these multiple perspective books, that “the ideal” positions are most often presented. What this means is that the position presented isn’t always how the practice is interpreted in the world of the congregation. Hearing several views is most definitely helpful in working some of this out. What can be more helpful, and has been for me, is to visit congregations where these traditions are practiced and participate with them in their worship especially after having been educated a little through reading one of these books.
Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper has been most helpful to me as a resource not just having different views presented to me, but the wealth of great information presented in the introduction written by John Armstrong and the appendices. There are over twenty pages of creeds, confessions, and catechisms regarding statements on the Lord’s Supper. There is also another twenty pages of quotations on the Lord’s Supper spanning the entirety of the Church history. These resources were a great and welcome surprise to me. These have provided me with a wealth of information proven useful to me time and time again.
Author: Ben Witherington III
Publisher: Baylor Press ISBN: 9781602580152
I am fascinated by the sacraments of the Christian church and the Lord’s Supper/Communion/Eucharist is one that brings much discussion across the various streams and traditions of the Christian faith. I’m always on the lookout for good sources of information on sacramental theology, so I was pretty delighted to get my hands on this work by Ben Witherington III for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is Dr. Witherington’s academic reputation.
I have several books devoted to the subject of the Lord’s Supper; I have even more books with information inclusive of this specific sacrament, and I have a number of loose articles and commentary about the subject saved in various places in my home office. The point to these claims is that I have been collecting information for quite some time. Here is what I have found; Making a Meal of it by Ben Witherington III is one of the best researched and written pieces on this subject that I have found and read to date. There are several points that I wish to highlight in justifying my opinion.
First, for an academic work, the book is not bogged down with academic language. It is easy to read and it is a relatively short read, coming in at one hundred sixty pages. It is also linear in that it follows a timeline of sorts beginning with the perceived history of this sacrament and ending with contemporary interpretation/opinion.
Secondly, while I think no published work is completely unbiased, this one seemed predominantly “fact-based” and relatively easy to fact check. I have read and own several books from the pen of Dr. Witherington and am a regular subscriber to his blog. I think he can be opinionated at times, and being familiar with his writing style, I can report this book is not overly biased or opinionated.
Finally, the book is engaging… it is more conversational, “discussion-like” and less textbook than I would have expected. It can easily be read in an afternoon or two, but in no way is the material “light” of depth or content… facts, figures, and historical content are all present, but in a very readable, attention holding format.
In conclusion, I am still researching and learning about the depth and breadth of all the key sacraments of the church. I do not presume this book to be the definitive voice in my quest for information and understanding, but I will lend my voice to say it is one of the very best that I have found to this date.
Making a Meal of It is one of three books by Ben Witherington III in a series on the primary sacraments of the church. Other titles include Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism and The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible. Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.
I wrote the following reflection during my recent stay at the Benedictine Monastery. Each day we gathered together to pray the Hours of the Daily Office, Prayers and Songs from the Psalms and readings from the Word of God. Included in this daily gathering was sharing of the Eucharist… sorta. Those of us who were not aligned theologically with the Roman Catholic Church were unable to share in the Table of the Lord although we were permitted to receive a blessing. About ten days into our stay, my heart began to feel the strain of our broken fellowship between my brothers and sisters… while I recognize there are distinct differences in our interpretations of Scripture, I still think the core beliefs we share are strong enough that we should not have such a significant break in our fellowship that we cannot share the bread and wine that should be the unifying elements of our faith. They are, after all, the representative body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, my heart weeps and my soul cries out in prayer in the echo and shadow of our Lord’s prayer from the Gospel of John chapter seventeen; “May we all be one.”
(A Eucharistic Reflection)
He said to me before I was; “Lo, I will never leave you.” It took me a lifetime to realize He was always there…marking a trail for me to find my way home.
I found The Path marked with breadcrumbs that were my memories. As I traveled backward through time, healing my present and making a way for my future, I relied upon the breadcrumbs He left for me to help me find my way and to physically sustain me. Moment by moment, little by little, I gained strength and renewed confidence… The more breadcrumbs I ate, the more strength I gained and the closer I moved to the Light.
Finally, one day I found myself immersed in and flooded with Light. My meal was complete and my lostness a thing of my past. Standing before me now was the great Trailmaker. On Him He wore a sash that had written upon it Bread of Life.
Suddenly the words of The Book made sense to me. In it He had said that He was the Bread of Life… He had said unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will never know life. It was at that moment I knew—the breadcrumbs I had found in the memories of my life had been Him.
Indeed, He had never left me: He had been with me always. I had found the way to life by following the path—the trail of breadcrumbs , consuming the life of Himself He had left for me. Out of the dark of lostness I found the Light of Truth that brought me life—Breadcrumbs of saving grace.
Written at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery
Walking Without Seeing (Scripture Meditation Luke 24:13-35)
My meditation today came from the Gospel according to Luke. Several thoughts occurred to me from the account of the disciples and Jesus as they journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus. My reflection began with the follow text:
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16-16)
I am shamed at how often this happens to me. Even though I have grown in my understanding and my faith that God is always near, there are still many times my “eyes are closed” to his nearness. I don’t think this is a normal part of our experience, or so it would seem since Jesus blasted (verbally) the two followers along the road to Emmaus.
“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared.” (Luke 245:25)
I mean… the Scriptures tell us that GOD kept them (disciples) from recognizing him (Jesus), but why??? Could it or might it have been from their own “slow hearts?” I don’t want this to be the case for me. I would rather be “quick-hearted” and ready to recognize Jesus at all times and in any situation. This is especially true with my knowledge that I am a vessel of the Holy Spirit of God which dwells within me. How many times am I “slow of heart” to recognize GOD at work in our midst? I think I can learn something from this encounter that I had not considered before.
Once the two men had their “eyes opened” to understanding, they caught a glimpse of Jesus. He revealed himself to the disciples in a passing moment as they began to break together.
30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! (Luke 24:30-31)
I have to also wonder about the significance of the act after further consideration; there is more here (I am sure) than my mind can grasp at this moment… (The breaking of the bread and their eyes opened). I will have to meditate upon it further.
One thing I know; Jesus can and will open our minds to his work and his presence. We do not have to live as “foolish” or ignorant. In fact, based upon Jesus’ disappointed rebuke toward the men on their journey, I’m sure he does not want us to live this way (foolish or ignorant).
While this Emmaus Road encounter was pre-Pentecost, our reconciliation experience with God is post-Pentecost. What does this mean? It means that we have the luxuriously divine blessing of sharing union with the Godhead on the level that Jesus prayed for in John 17:22-23. (See also John 14:15-21)
22 I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. (John 17:22-23)
This is a difficult concept to fathom and I believe a certain measure cannot be understood, but can only be received through faith in the promise and words of Jesus, who said; “It is better that I leave you; if I don’t the Holy Spirit won’t come to dwell with you” (John 16:7).
With our reception and submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, we do not have to live ignorant, foolish, and blinded as the Emmaus Road travelers. I (we) can live fully alive, alert, and abiding in Triune Unity with the Godhead. This is not lofty spiritualeese speak. This is the fulfillment of the prayer of Christ in the Garden (John 17)!
There are times that I live this out, but there are times that I do not and this is the message to me from today’s reading. I am reminded of the glorious fulfillment of God’s promises. Jesus reminded the disciples along the way, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared.” One of the prophets he might have been speaking of was the prophet Joel, who spoke the following words:
“Then, after doing all those things,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike.” (Joel 2:28-29)
I think this Emmaus encounter can serve as a reminder of the blessing Jesus promised. We are bearers of the Spirit of God! We are beholders of the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). There is no reason for us to be blind, foolish, or disheartened as were those followers. They were focused on their loss and centered upon themselves. Jesus rebuked them and chastised them for this and opened their eyes to a bigger truth; the very truth that indwells us and opens our eyes to the mysteries and wonders of God. I am hopeful that I will be forever reminded and my moments of failing to remember will become fewer and fewer. For this reason, I pray: LORD, help me to be diligent in my search and awareness of you, so I will know the things you want me to know and live accordingly…reflecting the will of the Father in all I say and all I do. May it be to the glory of the Father, the Eternal Son, and the Holy Spirit, who live and reign in unity for ever and ever. Amen.
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)
“Praying Scripture is not judged by how much you read but by the way in which you read. If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee that penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.” –Madame Jeanne Guyon
The Sacred Meal, by Nora Gallagher (The Ancient Practices Series)
The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher is a delightful book; period. There was nothing that I disliked or even remotely found issue within its contents. This is a lofty claim when speaking about something as sacramental as the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. There are very diverse and polarizing positions regarding this holy practice, but Nora Gallagher has done an absolutely wonderful job of sharing insight about this communal, personal, sacred, public, and intimate practice. I loved reading the journey of her personal experiences and the gentle way she used them to explain the practice and purpose of this holy meal.
This book isn’t about instruction, nor is it about defining doctrinal perspective… it is about communion; coming together in order to remember and experience the breadth and body of our Savior Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Church universal. The Eucharist is much more than holy writ carried out by holy “roters.” The Lord’s Supper summons us (the church) to come to the table of our Lord forcing introspection and examination while in the presence of visible union with other believers doing likewise; unity and oneness that cannot be escaped. Nora Gallagher paints this picture using multiple scenes that give the reader permission to explore their own beliefs, but almost inescapably arriving at similar destination-conclusions regarding this practice…unity and oneness with Christ and with His Body, the Church.
As I have written, I loved the stories and experiences shared by Nora Gallagher in this book. Without giving too much away, I especially enjoyed her parallel comparing the Lord’s Supper with a soup kitchen; A Sacred Meal indeed. I think, if you are looking for instruction and information regarding the Eucharistic practice, this is a great book to supplement your journey. I don’t think it should stand alone, but it is an excellent companion to any other work you might have at your disposal. Highly recommended – more reviews here.
This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through their blogging for books program.