October 19, 2017

Holy Week 2015: A Call to Greater Remembrance (Mike Bell)

carrying-the-crossOver the past several years I have read through the Gospel of Mark many times as I have been working through editing Michael Spencer’s commentary.  (For those who have been eagerly awaiting this, I am afraid it has been slow going.)  One thing that strikes me as being of particular interest each time I read through the Gospel, is that the focus on Jesus’s death begins in Chapter 8, halfway though the book.  The final trip down to Jerusalem begins in Chapter 10, and the final week of his life begins in Chapter 11.  Six of the sixteen chapters have to do with the final week of his life.

Mark has nothing to say about Jesus’ birth, nothing to say about his childhood, nothing to say about his early adulthood, or years working in a trade.  Mark doesn’t even mention his parents by name!  Even the first few years of Jesus’ ministry are condensed into seven chapters.

What other biographies have you read where nearly half the book is concerned with the final week of a person’s life?  I would suggest that it is only those books where a person’s final deed totally eclipses everything else that they have done in the rest of their life. Todd Beamer, came to mind, the man who helped lead the charge against the hijackers on Flight 93 on 9/11.  I looked up his Wikipedia entry.  There were 15 lines about his life before 9/11 and 23 lines about the events of that day.

The death of Jesus Christ takes up so much attention in the Gospel of Mark, because nothing else in the life of Jesus comes close to it in importance.  I have been reflecting a lot on Galations 2:20 over the last couple of days since Lisa mentioned it in her post:

…I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. – KJV

Or to put in in other words, “I live, because Christ loved me, had faith in God’s plan, and was willing to die for me.”

Here is my question then:  If Mark spends so much time focusing on the last week of Jesus’ life, if our lives depend on the fact that he was willing to die for us, why do so many churches spend so little time on the topic?

A 2013 poll showed that 70% of Evangelical churches in the U.S.A. celebrate communion just once a month.  Many celebrate it less frequently than that.  I have heard it said recently that “we should celebrate communion soon because we haven’t done it for a while.”  Is ten minutes a month adequate? How does this square with Mark spending nearly half of his Gospel on the topic?

A sign at the front of my previous church reads:

Wir aber predigen den gekreuzigten Christus

Did I mention that I used to go to an ethnic German Church?  For those who can’t read German (including myself), the sign is from 1 Corinthians 2:23:

But we preach Christ crucified 1 Corinthians 2:23

This verse is a reminder of what our focus needs to be as Christians and what our focus needs to be as the Church.  Self help sermons are not Christ crucified.  The Prosperity Gospel is not Christ crucified.

Christ is crucified!  It matters!

For in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 – NIV

When we do celebrate (and I am speaking of my experience in the Evangelical tradition here), our celebration is so short, an hour on Friday, and an hour of Sunday. Lent?  “Forget about it, that is something that Catholics do.”  Damaris vivid recounting of some of her Orthodox experiences really moved me.

My daughters and I, though not Orthodox, love the marathon of song, prayer, procession, and candlelight that begins on Holy Saturday and continues until the small hours on Sunday.  We also love the three-in-the-morning communal feast after the liturgy with its steaming crockpots, bottles of wine, and small children asleep under the tables.

I felt regret and shortchanged that in my 52 years on this planet I had never experienced anything like this.  Quite frankly, most evangelicals that churches that I have been a part of, have not done Easter well.  All though I am not overly liturgical in the way I like to worship, the best Good Friday services that I have attended have been in liturgical churches.

My call to all our readers, and my challenge to myself, is to follow the lead of Mark, and remember to put our focus on the crucified Christ, not just during this Easter Season, but throughout the year.  For those who don’t have a weekly communion, have a conversation with your Pastor about the topic.  Mention the Gospel of Mark.

As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

As a final note:  I wanted to remind our readers that I will not be posting on a consistent basis as I continue to deal with some family matters.  However, I will continue to look forward to reading the posts of Chaplain Mike and our other writers on a daily basis.

 

Comments

  1. MikeInIowa says:

    Amen, Michael! We don’t teach of the death enough. Communion is not observed enough either. Add substitute elements (grape juice) and a small crumb of cracker we take away from it less as well. I once heard a Pastor ask a worship leader If communion could be fit in and complete in seven minutes. It is if we need to move on to better (safer? Cleaner?) things to do and discuss.

    • StuartB says:

      Communion is for the members only, and must fit into the budget, which is why we only do it once a month/quarter on Sunday evenings…

      Does fundamentalism/evangelicalism even have a use for Easter and the resurrection? So much of it seems to be OT law focused with a heavy emphasis on just the Cross at the end.

  2. Robert F says:

    The Lutheran (ELCA) church my wife works at, and where we spend most of our churchgoing time, celebrates Holy Communion once a month, and on festival Sundays. This is unusual in the ELCA, where weekly Holy Communion is standard, but the consensus in this congregation seems to be that more frequent Communion would cheapen the experience by making it too commonplace and taken for granted.

    When the current senior pastor was interviewing for the position 7 years ago, in his meetings with members of the congregation he heard this idea expressed. He wondered out loud if the husbands in the congregation only kissed there wives infrequently, on grounds that they wouldn’t want to cheapen the experience by making too commonplace and taken for granted. Alas, his acutely perceptive insight has gone unheeded, and the lay leadership of the church adamantly refuses to move to weekly Communion.

    Note: Mike, the gospel of Mark is not autobiography, nor is it biography, though it has biographical content. Gospel is its own literary genre. The strong element of proclamation makes Mark and the rest of the gospels unlike any biography.

    • Good point in the note. I removed the “auto” in the original post to make it a little more accurate.

    • flatrocker says:

      Robert,
      Following on from your comment “but the consensus in this congregation seems to be that more frequent Communion would cheapen the experience by making it too commonplace and taken for granted”…

      I wonder if we took that thought and applied it to the weekly collection basket. Any takers on making it a monthly or quarterly contribution? Or how about once a year? With any more frequency wouldn’t we make it just too commonplace and take it for granted? For the sake of consistency, I would think the leadership would jump at the opportunity.

      • Robert F says:

        You’re preaching to the choir, flatrocker. I’m with you all the way on this subject. The sacrament of Holy Communion, and the Eucharistic Liturgy, preach the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sermons can go wrong, and be off the mark; music choices may be inapt, and unfocused; the prayers may be politically correct or incorrect; special programs can be cute, but without substance. But the Holy Communion, which is God’s giving himself to us in love, covers a multitude of sins. It re-centers us as the body of Christ, it reminds us who Jesus is and who we are in relationship to him, and it brings us to him.

        • Robert F says:

          And the Holy Communion re-immerses us in our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection; in this way, the sacrament of Baptism is recapitulated every time we participate on Holy Communion.

          • Christian worship is, essentially, a meal gathering and has been from the beginning. To remove communion goes against the very nature and purpose for meeting together. We come to the Table.

          • StuartB says:

            amen

          • StuartB says:

            to freestyle on that a bit…

            forsaking not the assembly means to not meet up with fellow believers for the meal. it’s when we get together to celebrate the freedom and life christ has given us. it’s not so we can sit around and listen to a sophist or rhetorian, although it’s beneficial to everyone to learn more about jesus and how his word talks about him. but no, the ultimate point is community, remembering what jesus did for us, how it impacts us individually and corporately, and then to go back out into the world living in that freedom and joy, and sometimes sense of community, we find ourselves in as we walk by faith and love

            that’s it

      • @flatrocker: Oh my…. I think his tongue has gone clear thru the cheek; and just before easter…. pity

    • [T]he consensus in this congregation seems to be that more frequent Communion would cheapen the experience by making it too commonplace and taken for granted

      That’s the thinking in our church regarding the Lord’s Prayer. On average, we recite it less than once per year. We do have communion once a month, though.

      • That concensus position is used often among low church Protestants (of which I am one), and often as criticism directed towards others believed to be sinning through a most heinous sin: vain repetionism. I always commnend the consensus by suggesting that we remain consistent by praying only once a month, and reading from the Scriptures just once a quarter so as not to make the experience too commonplace.

      • I, for one would like to see a discussion on this point: praying the Lord’s Prayer once a year or sporadically. Perhaps such a discussion has already occurred some time ago. How can one not pray the prayer Christ told us to pray more than once a year?

  3. You remind me of someone and maybe I’m wrong. You like facts and spreadsheets and data, Tangible things that help you. Mark, some say, some of the events he told were of second hand information and then the perspective to whom it was written. Mark’s get to the point style should appeal to me but for some reason and I don’t know why it doesn’t. MAybe it is because at the end so much was added later as a side note in NASB not in original.

    I think the point he was getting to was the crucified Christ and resurrection. I am glad for it and on its own incomplete but with the others it adds to the whole. It is here I must say no more for Biblical scholar I am not. I am hoping to go to Good Friday service. I hope to sing my heart out. Ever see a 280 pound tatted man who worked the hardest jobs and has hands like a gorilla cry his eyes out, that would be me. I have never encountered anything so powerful in total humility in all my life. Easter I will probably stay away and let others who only go then have space. Easter morning for me my sanctuary I am hoping to be the top of a mountain. It seems God might have cleared my schedule out so I could have off.

    On another note everyday I come here to this key board and computer read many things then type a poem. I live it everyday over and over, You could call it religious but I call it necessary because I simply can’t live anymore without this person called Christ. I don’t do everything right and I screw up all the time but still there he is and I can’t live without Him. My Easter’s are everyday. It seems everyday I must live on the edge of tomorrow and die to live again. I’ll keep going. No choice. My hope is found.

  4. Tonight is our anglican maundy thursday service. I regret having never snuck into that , or some of the other lenten special services before when I was garden variety evangelical. I would have been welcomed there, and could have used the imaginative symbols. Better late than never, I guess.

    Nice post , Mike. I’m praying with you on your church search.

  5. Lisa Dye says:

    I once heard a Bible teacher expounding on Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He went on to say that without the crucifixion, Jesus would surely still have been Lord, but he would not have been the Christ, the Messiah, the One who saves us. He said Christ and the crucifixion must go together.

    It is the issue of Communion that has made me uncomfortable in the church I’ve attended for the last six years. It’s done once a month, viewed as an outmoded necessity to keep the older members appeased and sort of crammed into the end of a service. I have missed the reverence of Communion in the Presbyterian church where I grew up and witnessing it in the Catholic church where I often visited with my best friend.

    Thanks, Mike, for pointing out Mark’s gospel focus on Jesus’ death. I need to spend more time meditating on this for so many reasons.

  6. One reason we don’t celebrate communion often enough, speaking as another evangelical here, could be that many among us still only think of the cross as “that thing that got us saved” in that one-off deal where I was converted. For many, it really only has significance as a moment that made it possible for our sins to be forgiven (or go to heaven), or for the more doctrinally minded, the moment where the penalty for our sins was taken on so we wouldn’t have to suffer wrath.

    What the cross is not, for many, is a way of life (and death). A way of seeing one’s whole existence. A mediating power between myself and every other human being I meet. An expectation for what will happen to me, and to the whole church. The death of a Messiah, frankly, remains boring if you’re fixated on what you get out of it. There’s not much urgency to remember something if its only significance is what already happened. If it doesn’t change the very nature of the world you live in, you’ll be prone to setting your attention elsewhere. And you will probably substitute some cheap form of entertainment or gaudy, me-centered artwork for the practice of communion.

    Aside: I work in a large church that has terrible art everywhere. I can’t judge them because I just clean up after services, but I’ve been there for 6 months and cleaned up the remnants of communion 3 times. Maybe they do communion in small groups or something, but it’s totally plausible that they only celebrate in once every two or three months.

    But we’re told even in his Resurrection, Jesus’ crucifixion scars remain. We will eternally be compelled to remember his death on the cross, even in a glorified state. Perhaps we’ll even continue to eat and drink to it.

    Looking forward to the commentary on Mark.

    • StuartB says:

      Is once a month communion a natural fruit of penal substitutionary atonement?

      • What? Don’t Catholics hold to penal sub? Lutherans sure do. While we might be all over the map with regards to practices, REAL Lutherans (Super truly Lutheran Lutherans, at least) practice communion weekly and then some. We have communion so often, sometimes we celebrate it on accident! I can’t get my congregation to hold a worship service without it, no matter how hard I try!

        Don’t get me wrong, I can give you 20 reasons for celebrating it weekly. But there’s these things called the “Daily Offices” that are also worth exploring on Wednesdays or something. But no, even “Holden Evening Prayer” winds up having communion in it somehow. Really, there’s much worse things I could complain about.

    • Robert F says:

      There is a difference between the Anselmian substitution theory of atonement, and Calvinistic penal substitution; that it, Calvinistic penal substitution is a form of the substitution theory of atonement, but only one. Anselm did not believe that Jesus substituted for us by suffering the punishment we owe for our sins, but by obeying in our place where we incurred guilt by our disobedience. In the Anselmian theory, the cross continues to be a way of life for those who have died and risen with Christ, and the way we participate in the cruciform shaped life of Jesus Christ.

      • StuartB says:

        Just spitballing, but if Christ died so that we all could be free of death (the enemy he defeated), and there is no original sin (or even personal sin) we need to be saved from…do we need an atonement theory?

        Just glossing over the Wiki page for atonement in christianity, the Moral Influence view and Christus Victor view seem the oldest/purest forms.

        (it’s ironic I talk about ‘purity’ of doctrinity after spending half an hour reading over Plymouth Brethren, holiness movement, restorionist movements, bible student movements, etc…)

        • Robert F says:

          It’s entirely possible that you have no personal sin you need to be saved from, but I do.

          Which means I need a savior who atones, in some way, for my sin.

          • StuartB says:

            lol, maybe I don’t…he says, tongue in cheek.

            But I guess I’m asking if viewing it in that regard (“i have personal sin thus I need a savior”) is still tied to some atonement theory. A larger question then would be “what is sin?”, and do I need to be saved from it, need to be atoned from it, or just from it’s effects, aka death…which, in many views, death is a result OF sin…but what if it’s not?

            What if death has always existed and has absolutely no ties to sin? BUT…things like not loving God, not walking with God, not treating others properly…are still sins (so to speak), yet have no bearing on death at all, since death has always existed. But they do have a bearing on eternal life, life after death, resurrection, etc.

            Just thinking, wonder if it makes sense.

          • StuartB, my view is that not only does death result from sin, but the result of death, and of the fear of death, is an ongoing spiral of sin, wherein people are driven into patterns of self-protection by the imminent fear of suffering, of not getting their way, and ultimately, of losing their life.

            This is Scriptural (Hebrews 2:14-16 or so) but it also has made sense to me just by looking reasonably at humanity. A intractable characteristic of wrongdoing seems to be that people are looking out for their own needs and desires above those of others. We self-protect (and self-satisfy) instinctively.

            In atonement, I wouldn’t separate salvation from death and salvation from sin too sharply. I don’t think the views that posit primarily a “personal guilt” view of sin have it right. i’m not responsible for Adam’s sin, nor that of generations leading up to my life. I am however, at some point, complicit in the system which they created. So I don’t like views that downplay guilt too much either. There’s a line I love from one fantasy novel that says (of a Messiah-like figure) “he heals all our sins and forgives all our diseases.” I just think sin and death are bound up too tightly to be disentangled. They need to just be done away with as one, not necessarily sorted out perfectly.

            Thus, we need both a Messiah who died (thus identifying with our need for total self-abnegation), and one who rose (thus proving that death is no obstacle to those who abnegate themselves). Atonement shouldn’t exclusively focus on the cross. But it should also be unafraid of naming guilt, personal and corporate.

            As to your first question – do I need to be saved from sin, or just from its effects – If you give the point that sin produces death, and then that death produces sin, it’s probably irrelevant to distinguish between sin and its effects. I would however, differentiate between sin and guilt. (Maybe that’s actually what you’re asking). We are all “under sin” which we are not guilty of. And yet none of our guilt is in isolation, no one goes out and unilaterally sins, incurring guilt. We’re all part of big stew of cause-effect relationships, and motives and unspoken values that keep popping up without our bidding. We’re products of our environment.

            Keeping the balance is kind of a circus act. If you move through the life of Christ, dwelling on each event in succession, you probably have a good chance of keeping things in the right proportion. It’s when people throw out everything before his suffering, or ignore the resurrection, or ignore his crucifixion in a quest for “personal victory” that things seem to spin out of control. Or so it seems to me.

          • Robert F says:

            You ask too many questions, and I have too few answer…lol.

            I’m personally comfortable with the Anselmian form of substitutionary atonement, and with moral influence and Christus Victor; I think these are complimentary, not conflicting; and I’m also comfortable with plural viewpoints about these issues and questions.

            What if death has existed since the beginning of organic life, but wasn’t supposed to? What if human beings weren’t supposed to die, but be the first fruits of deathlessness, but then messed it up and merely joined the kingdom of death presided over by the powers and prinicpalities, and Jesus came to deliver us from our enthrallment to the inextricably bound triumvirate of sin, death and the devil (read as the powers, over whom Jesus was victorious), and lead us into a life transcending death? What if I can ask as many questions that can’t be answered as you?

          • Robert F says:

            If it’s true that atonement shouldn’t focus exclusively on the cross (and I think that’s true), it’s also true that the cross should be seen as the culmination of Jesus’ life of sacrifice for us, and we should see that his life of obedience was an atoning life from beginning to end. It was this ongoing life of atoning that made it possible for him to forgive sins in the midst of his life, before he had been crucified; his life was the sacrificial offering, a life of obedience to the will of God, and his death was the sealing of that offering, its closure.

      • That’s very interesting. I’ve been meaning to read up more on Anselm’s satisfaction theory.

  7. So glad the Lenten season is officially over. I had a hard time with it this year, the first time I experienced, or at least noticed, the sombre funeral wreaths, the unlit Christ candle, the urging to join in 40 days of self-flaggelation as if I had been partying for the previous 325. I’m struggling out of my yearly battle with winter depression, successfully in that my nose is above water, and you want to shove my head back under so I can introspect on my sinful condition? I don’t think so.

    Anyway (spoiler alert) I’ve read the end of the story, I know how this turns out, and I’ll observe Maundy Thursday this evening, so called Good Friday tomorrow, with that in mind. I like Nate’s reminder that even in the Resurrection body, the scars are there. Not there just for me, me, me, as the programing has it, not even just for us, but for the world, which I suspect we will come to find means cosmos, which I suspect we will come to find is far, far bigger than what we like to think of as the Universe.

    Meanwhile, back at the Monastery, I am waiting to see what happens here on Holy Saturday, the day that was probably the absolute low point for the original disciples, tho probably not for those who had been in bondage to death, some of them for millennia. Will we observe our usual custom of hijinks and hilarity? I think the eastern church probably has a better handle on what went down between Friday night and Sunday morning, but I would be most interested in what the hearts and minds who gather here had to contribute to an understanding of that mysterious interlude. Churches around here seem to ignore it.

    • El Burro Que Mastica Zarzas says:

      Great and Holy Saturday is my hands-down favorite service of the entire Orthodox year. Something changes about halfway through the service when Father comes out from behind the iconostasis and scatters basil leaves all over the sanctuary, repeating that most powerful of refrains from the Psalms:

      Let God arise
      and let His enemies be scattered

      We are phase-shifted a week this year, though. It’s still late Lent for the Orthodox.

      • Mule, what time of day is your Saturday observance and how long does it last? I wish we all did what we call Easter in relation to Passover. Close relation like the original. Together.

        • Good Friday/Holy Saturday is pretty much a camp in church affair. The Lamentations service starts at 7pm on Great and Holy Friday, after which begins the Vigil, during which the entire Psalter is read. You bring sleeping bags and a change of clothes for this.

          The Liturgy of St. Basil for Great and Holy Saturday is read at 9:00, after which are Pascha Matins at 10, then the reading of the Acts of Apostles at about noon to abut 2:30-3:00

          Pascha itself begins at 11:30pm Saturday night, and usually the last “Christ is Risen!” “Truly He is Risen!” occurs at about 2:30 am

          The Paschal Breakfast is right afterwards. A water-only fast is observed from 3pm on Friday until this point, so it gets pretty festive. As one parishoner put it, this is the only time all year I START drinking at 3 am.

    • I’ve never heard it preached as Gospel in non-liturgical evangelicalism, but I find it mysterious and wonderful that in Paul’s Gospel summary in 1 Cor 15, he includes “that he was buried.” The lowest of the low points of Jesus’ apparent failure, and the disciples’ anguish. It’s as if Paul is answering the question “yeah but was he really dead?” Yes, he was really and truly dead. This was not a resuscitation. Thus Every single death and failure that Christians experience from that point forward happens in a different kind of world. No one can go lower than the Messiah did, and no one is truly alone when thy hit the absolute bottom. This is Good News. God has abdicated the prerogatives of deity as much as any deity possibly could, so that in our frailty, we would not despair.

      • “God has abdicated the prerogatives of deity as much as any deity possibly could, so that in our frailty, we would not despair.” That’s the best news I’ve ever heard.

  8. Rick Ro. says:

    Several years ago, I led an adult Sunday school class through the gospels of Mark and Matthew at the same time. (Fascinating side-by-side study, by the way.) One of the things that struck me about Jesus’ final week – of which much written page is given – is how often he took on the religious establishment. I’d say almost 85% of his recorded last week is spent slamming religiosity and churchianity. What that says to me – and what I shared with the class – was if Jesus spent so much of his last week pointing out “bad church.” then it must’ve been pretty important to him and something that he wants to be important to us. This is also why I think it’s important for Christians to read the gospels again and again and again, just to remind ourselves of what was important to Jesus. I’m not a red-letter Christian, but I am a “read the accounts of Jesus in action” kinda Christian.

    Anyway, I know I’m preaching to the choir here at iMonk, but we need always be on the lookout for religiosity and churchianity.

    (And I know that’s kinda off topic. Sorry, Mike. Your focus on Jesus’ final week in the gospel of Mark kinda led me down that path. Good article!)

    • “I’d say almost 85% of his recorded last week is spent slamming religiosity and churchianity.”

      Rick, just a word of caution, we don’t talk about these things in Sunday School. Could get you fired.

  9. OldProphet says:

    Dies frequency of taking communion indicate a higher level of spirituality? Does scripture indicate that anywhere? I know the answers will be no, but some of the comments today will say yes.

    • It’s not about spirituality. It’s about the nature of Christian worship.

      • And about the focus of Christian worship. It is a weekly reminder that we are here because Christ died for us. (And it is certainly more than that as well.) But it gives us a chance to refocus each week on who Christ is, and what he has done, and helps us to stay close to the true message of Christianity.

        • I like that Mike. Communion encourages Christ-centered worship every time we gather.

          • OldProphet says:

            What does every time we gather mean? Is that a Sunday church thing? A liturgical thing? For years I ran several small groups and we celebrated communion every meeting On a Wednesday. No priest No robes. No fancy stuff. Paper cups, grape juice, and a loaf of bread. A guitar playing. And willing hearts Our own idea, not the church’s. Denominations don’t mean a hill of beans to me, gathering with His people does.

            • I’m not going to be the one who defines that. Acts 2 says the new community devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and also that they broke bread from house to house. That’s good enough for me.

              Also – this is not to say you can never have a gathering without communion. In our Lutheran churches we recognize a place for occasional “services of the Word,” but these are the exception for congregational services.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            “Communion encourages Christ-centered worship every time we gather.”

            Except when it doesn’t…LOL. One of my former pastors used to drive me and several friends CRAZY by having the congregation do all sorts of different things when we took communion. Like one time he had the whole congregation stand against the walls in a large circle so that we were looking at each other as we took the elements. Another time he had us stand in a shape of a cross. And another time we sat in small circles of 5-8 people. Etc., etc…. I was like, “Hey, can’t we just do this normally?” He was always doing gimmicky stuff like that. Annoying.

          • A Simple Hillbilly says:

            More a reply for OldProphet than Chapain Mike. Paper cups, grape juice, and a loaf of bread? I say go for it. I’ve used my fair share of Dixie Cups, especially in an informal setting like the one you describe. I also can understand the aversion to strict policy/procedure mode people can get into. That being said, I know people who would view this informality as disrespectful or irreverent, so their communion practices are formal. The only reason, in my opinion, for making this a divisive issue is to pick a fight or circle the wagons.

          • Robert F says:

            Rick, The problem was not that the Communion wasn’t encouraging Christ-centered worship, but that your former pastor was distracting you from that by his gimmicky attempts to make the experience of Holy Communion more meaningful and relevant. Instead of trusting the Sacrament to carry and transmit the meanings intrinsic to it, he was using ploys inspired by the stage-centered worship of churches where gimmicks and sensation rule; the result was that he pulled your gaze away from what is already and always happening at the center of any soundly and traditionally shaped Eucharistic liturgy. It’s a good thing that what ultimately matters is not the unsteadiness of our attention in the grip of distractions, but Christ’s real and gracious giving of himself to us in the Eucharistic feast.

          • Robert F says:

            I agree with CM and Simple Hillbilly, OP. I have no doubt that Christ was as truly present and giving himself in your Wednesday night Holy Communions as at the Vatican during the Easter Vigil. Having said that, I think it’s extremely important to keep good order when celebrating Holy Communion, and this is a primary benefit of denominational supervision and oversight, when it’s functioning correctly.

          • StuartB says:

            amen!

          • StuartB says:

            I’d just avoid using Welches and any bread with HFCS and any paper products from Proctor and Gamble.

            …how many cliche culture war triggers can i hit in one sentence? lol

          • A Simple Hillbilly says:

            Come on Stuart, you’re slacking. Didn’t you forget that Georgia-Pacific paper products are owned by the Kock Brothers. Now either your full-fledged support or outright rejection can be used as a metric to determine who is in and out of the Kingdom (TM). 🙂

      • A Simple Hillbilly says:

        I went to church at one time with a man who spoke very limited English and I very limited Spanish. He explained (with some help) at he understood little of the sermon or scripture reading, only recognized some of the hymns by the tune, but he always understood communion. Worship transcending the limits of words.

    • StuartB says:

      I’d also put in prayer (all kinds) and bible reading and fasting into those questions.

    • Not frequency, no, but the proportion of communion to all the other acts of worship might say something about the character of the faith of the worshippers.

      Sermons are great, but sermon-only worship will create brains with legs who think that knowing how to verbalize the faith is identical to following Jesus. If Sunday worship is basically 75% talking, 20% songs, and 5% communion (my experience in non-liturgical churches), then you will eventually get disciples that are 75% talkers and don’t actually know how to get by in normal life.

      Sacraments seem to root propositional truth to the ground. To answer you question “Does frequency of taking communion indicate a higher level of spirituality”…I would say no, but it might indicate the level of “earthiness” to the spirituality of the worshippers. At least over time. How you worship does something to you, whether you intend it or not. If loving God is about the whole life, not just hearing sermons or feeling fuzzy feelings, then it needs to involve real life things like eating and bathing. The sacraments inculcate us with the spirituality of these mundane necessities. They communicate that God is interested in our food and our bodies. And that Christ’s death and resurrection heavily involves the “unspiritual” parts of our lives.

      If you’re going to have a sermon every week, you ought to have communion every week, imho.

      • Sacraments seem to root propositional truth to the ground.

        A service without communion is like a God without an Incarnation.

        It’s all words without the flesh and blood.

        • Robert F says:

          Karl Barth wrote somewhere that a Christian worship service that doesn’t include the Lord’s Supper is like a trunk without a head. But I think the great Karl Barth was wrong on this occasion: A Christian worship service that doesn’t include Holy Communion is like a head without a trunk.

  10. charlie says:

    I love this discussion.
    The Lutheran church I’ve been attending for 9 months has been awesome on so many levels. It’s small. I am missed when gone (we travel a lot ) . No pressure to be in ‘ministry’ or join the church. They let me come and worship. Communion every week! So refreshing. Reminder of Christ’s death. Reminder of my dying to sin. Reminder I need a savior . Lent season. Lent services midweek. I’ve been reading Death on a Friday Afternoon by r j Neuhaus this Lenten season. It’s been eye-opening and thought-provoking, and emotionally heart breaking….my heart.
    I love the liturgy …wasn’t raised with it….now embrace it. I’m still on the journey of ‘finding’ a church cuz it’s just not me, it’s my husbNd too. Can’t go back to ‘traditional’ evangelicalism….no way.

  11. OldProphet says:

    Really, RF? Denominational oversight and supervision?!? Sorry but I’ll be laughing for hours about that quote. What does that mean? Does it require seminary training? That’s the kind of thing we non-donoms have conniption fits about. Separation of laity and clergy. That’s something that I despise in the Body of Christ. Talk about religion and churchianity! The robes are cool though.

    • Robert F says:

      OP, Why such angry words, OP? Despise, OP? That’s a strong word; do you really despise your brethren in Christ who believe that, when they’re working correctly, accountability structures are good? Why would you have contempt for Lutherans and Anglicans and Roman Catholics who respond to the authority of Christ in their lives differently from you?

      • I honestly don’t think OP despises them, I think he’s repeating party line. I understand where OP is coming from, as I’ve heard (and believed) that at one point too. I still hear it often from the few pentecostal/charistmatic leaning evangelical pastors I still listen to, and it just leaves me shaking my head.

        I get it, OP, even if I disagree.

    • Robert F says:

      How many of your non-denom type pastors love to flash their PhD.s, and other letters, along with the expensive business suits? Then it’s Doctor So and so, and Doctor This and that. Why? Because the folks in the pews naturally want to think that the guy on the stage knows more than they do, at least enough to justify his gargantuan salary, even if he got his letters at Podunk University.

      • OldProphet says:

        My comments people in authority covers the leadership across the entire spectrum of Christianity. We’re talking about all of it. I’m talking personal experience. I once was in charge of the small group ministry of a fairly large church,and was deposed by someone simply because he had picked up a degree in theology, not gifting nor experience I’ve never forgotten it. It wasn’t even couched in fake spirituality, Just, because he needed a church job. Fear of man, I do not know, but I know this; paper, titles, degrees, mean nothing to me I judge people on their walk with Christ.

        • Robert F says:

          I respect your experience, but when you start comparing denominational churches unfavorably with non-denom when it comes to practicing the priesthood of all believers, you’re barking up the wrong tree: For all their talk about the priesthood of all believers, and their jokes about ring-kissing, it is only in non-denoms that star pastors and evangelists are treated like demi-gods.

        • not gifting nor experience

          Neither of which are qualifications for a leadership position. Not in and of themselvse.

          Even Timothy knew his Scriptures backwards and forwards. And he had the approval and recommendation of equally knowledgable, non-self-appointed men.

          It’s a scary thing to be under the spiritual leadership of a man who has no education but what he gives himself. Nor any qualifications for ministry other than what he declares for himself.

        • I judge people on their walk with Christ.

          I bet you do, And they probably resent that. I know I would.

    • OP, I’ve spent a lot of time growing up around church leadership and seminaries being a quasi-PK. I understand that thinking and response. I’ve sat under many leaders who think it. But ultimately, I have to walk away and disagree.

      Why? Because by studying history, as well as just paying attention to everyone around me, I see it for being a bad idea.

      It was that type of thinking that led to us having so many problems in the church today. It created dispensationalism, flatout. It created the Plymouth Brethren, Open and Closed. It created the Bible Student Movement, which birthed the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints, the Davidians (and the Branch variation), the Millerites, the Adventists, and so much else. It created the Oneness groups, and indirectly created Pentecostal through the Oneness leaders at Azuza. It created the Fundamentals. It created the Chicago Statement of Innerrancy. It created the Doctrine of Separation. It created Bob Jones University. It created Tina Anderson.

      It created a Culture War that is ravishing our nation.

      We need clergy. We need educated men and women who we elect as our leaders, first amongst equals. We need fewer people who think all they need is a Bible to understand anything about life, let alone the Christian walk. Sure, parts may be silly, but there are any things people think are silly until they understand the meaning or reason behind them.

      I’d urge you to reconsider, OP. Even the New Testament had a proto-denominal structure, with leaders being able to go around and correct and help guide each community they touched. It’s pretty Biblical, even if we’ve abused it at times.

      And I’ll give a personal observation: there’s nothing scarier than waking up and realizing that the men you entrust your spiritual life, your very soul, to…have no accountability and can do and say anything they want to. Because the only thing keeping them in check is a Holy Spirit, and not the yes men they’ve built up around them.

      If my pastor can’t be fired or correct or disciplined himself, I don’t want him as my pastor. And God’s judgement on him alone is not enough. Will never be enough.

      anyways, just my two cents.

  12. OldProphet says:

    Trained, like the Catholic priests………..

    • Dude…please. You don’t need to bring up those types of things, even allude to them, with this discussion.

      We understand you don’t like denominational oversight, supervision, book learning, seminary training, the works. For you, it’s about someone’s walk with Jesus, how they demonstrate their love, etc. All good things. All things that have no meaning apart from understanding through the Scriptures guided by the Holy Spirit what those things should look like.

      Based on previous comments, and your username, I’m guessing your mostly from the Jesus Movement generation of the late 60s/70s. It’s a common mindset you share with many of the believers who were saved in that period. My former church leader was from the same time period, and had the same opinion. I firmly believe it stunted his and many’s spiritual walk, and sadly he and others are passing those values down to the next generation.

      But guess what? We’re walking away. Some have run headlong into the Neo Reformed movement. A few years back, some went into the short lived Emergent Movement. And many of us are becoming nones and dones.

      How much of the “post-evangelical wilderness” has been created by an anti-denominational, anti-supervision, anti-intellectualism, anti-book learnin’ mindset?

  13. OldProphet says:

    Actually Stuart, everything you said in your comment about me is incorrect. The real issue in the Church today is LEADERSHIP! It’s about men, sorry ladies. As Socrates profoundly said, “my subject is men”. It isn’t. The systems, its the ones that lead them. I’m not against seminaries But a degree does not make you a leader. And a 25 year old out of school does not know more than mature saints in a church. Because a denom assigns him to a particular church does not make him a leader. I could go on and on. There are issues here with me on so many levels.

    • StuartB says:

      Respectfully, without wanting to get into it, disagree.

      Happy Good Friday, OP. He is risen soon.