Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday 2007

"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.'"
- Matthew 26:26-29 (ESV)

It's always been a big deal for me that Jesus said, "...this is my body..." and "...this is my blood...". Nowhere does he say, "This represents my body" or "This symbolizes my blood". Despite that, far too many Protestants are quick to make the claim that the Eucharist is only a memorial meal, albeit one in which grace may be imparted to those who partake in faith.

That is nothing short of textual eisegesis, which should always be avoided, especially by those who value the authority of Scripture.

Methodism has historically rejected transubstantiation, the Thomistic doctrine which has become the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Also rejected have been ubiquitarianism, taught by Lutherans and sometimes erroneously referred to as consubstantiation; virtualism, taught by Calvin; and memorialism, taught by Zwingli.

What's a Methodist to do? The answer is simple: trust Jesus. Take him at his word, and don't worry about how it all works. Sacrament, after all, is the Latin translation of the Greek word "mystery". We are free to let it remain a mystery. The Eucharist is a sacred meal to be celebrated and enjoyed, not a puzzle to be solved.

Aside from that, sacraments are, according to Article XVI, "...not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace...". There is a difference between a sign and a symbol.

A symbol is a stand-in, a replacement. A sign, on the other hand, is a mark, an image, or a seal...something which confirms, and/or something which directs one in a certain way. The word is rich with meaning.

So, when we share the sacrament, we become a part of the story, and the Spirit is among us doing miraculous things. The bread, as Jesus claimed, is his body; the cup is his blood. Let us partake faithfully as we celebrate this holy evening.

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