Showing posts from September, 2011

Debating the Eucharist -- Marburg and the Bible (Part 2)

In our continuing conversation about the nature of the Eucharist and the role it plays in Christian theology, I wanted to introduce into our conversation the debate that divided the Reformers.  Their debate had important implications for how the Eucharist came to be understood among Protestants.  Over time Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli essentially became the spokespersons for two poles of opinion.  Many followed one or the other, while others, including John Calvin, Martin Bucer, and Thomas Cranmer sought to find a place to rest somewhere in between the two poles.
The debate at Marburg illustrates differences of opinion on how to interpret Scripture, a reminder that even if you believe the Bible to speak the word of God, it has to be interpreted!
So we begin with Luther’s interpretation:
The name that has come to be attached to Luther's understanding of the Eucharist is  "Consubstantiation."  For Luther, the key to the debate was the interpretation of the word…

Debating the Eucharist -- Thoughts on the Marburg Colloquy Part 1

With World Communion Sunday on the horizon, I’ve been trying to reflect on the important ideas that stand behind the ways in which Christians understand the Eucharist.  It should be evident by now that there isn’t just one Christian view.  And while Paul believed that the Lord’s Table should be a table of unity (1 Cor. 10), historically the table has been anything but a source of unity.  There is probably no better illustration of this than the debate that occurred on October 1-3, 1529, some 482 years ago, when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, the two leading figures in the Reformation to that point, faced off at Marburg Castle in Germany.  Philip of Hesse a Protestant prince invited the leading Reformers from Saxony and Switzerland to his castle to bring unity to their ranks.  That conversation, which got hung up on the question of the Eucharist, is a good illustration of the differences that exist within the Christian faith and the consequences of those differences.  
Philip had Ma…

Law Abiding Citizens? A Lectionary Meditation

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46
Law Abiding Citizens?
            I know there are anarchists amongst us, who believe that we can live without rules and regulations and government.  Even in this Tea Party era of minimal government, most people believe that society needs some kind of law and order.  Might I assume that we accept the premise that we should be law-abiding citizens, even if we “occasionally” exceed the speed limit as we speed down the interstate?
In a perfect world perhaps laws and government wouldn’t be necessary, but in a less than perfect world laws and governments provide protection for those who lack power and might.  Down through history we’ve seen all manner of society come and go – oligarchy, plutocracy, monarchy, and dictatorship.  These forms of “government” continue to exist today in one form or another.  There are places, like Somalia, where there is no government, and thus chaos is the rule of the day.  In the time of Moses, Pharaoh…

Transitions: Leading Churches through Change -- Review

TRANSITIONS:  Leading Churches through Change.  Edited by David N. Mosser.  Foreword by Robert Schnase.  Louisville:  WJK Press, 2011.  Xv +248 pp.
            There is no shortage of books dealing with the idea that change is taking place within the church, but despite the plethora of resources there is still room for more contributions.  The fact is, even though change is constant, and the pace seems to be growing exponentially every year, none of us, no matter our age, is truly comfortable with the pace of change.   Just the other day, when Facebook issued another set of changes – pretty major ones – it seemed as if everyone, young and old, was upset.  How dare Mark Zuckerberg change Facebook.  Of course, it wasn’t so long ago that MySpace was the talk of the town, but it didn’t adapt and got left in the dust.  So, even if we don’t always like the changes that come our way, more often than not the only choice we have is to adapt.  
            Like the rest of the world these changi…

The Medieval Catholic View of the Real Presence in the Eucharist

Since I posted a piece on the Eucharist that looked to the perspective of the Early Church on the question of presence, I thought I’d add a piece on the medieval church, which is when the doctrine of Transubstantiation came into play.That doctrine remains standard in the Roman Catholic Church and is a cause of separation between Protestant and Catholic since the Reformation age.
On the question of whether Christ is present in the elements or in the community, or in some other way, is open for discussion.Because I would agree with such figures as Keith Watkins that the Eucharist is a normative center (together with the Word) of worship, I would affirm a spiritual presence in the gathering at the Table.But, that is a different issue from the question of whether the elements are transformed into the real body and blood of Christ, a doctrine to which I do not hold.
Therefore, since the Eucharist has been seen as a source of spiritual nourishment for the recipient of the elements, since at l…

Philippians as a Pathway to Spiritual Growth -- Philippians #7

What is the path to spiritual growth?  What practices will help us draw closer to God and empower us to live transformed lives?  Bruce Epperly suggests that Paul provides such a guide in these verses from Philippians 4.  I invite you to consider Bruce's reflections and add your thoughts.

Philippians 7 – 
Philippians as a Pathway to Spiritual Growth Philippians 4:4-9 Bruce G. Epperly
Good theology involves the interplay of vision, promise, and practice.  It paints a picture of our world – God, humankind, grace and sin, creation, the future.  It tells us that we can experience the ultimate realities of life, and it gives us practices to align ourselves with the ultimate sources of meaning and value in our lives.
Paul presents a vision of reality in which God’s providence moves constantly through our lives, aiming toward a harvest of righteousness.  God rules by love and relationship rather than unilateral and coercive power.  We can share in God’s providence, resp…

Partaking of the Bread of Life

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51 Common English Bible)
Jesus says “I am the bread of life.”  These words are spoken in response to those seeking  seeking free bread (after he feeds the 5000 plus).   Free bread had always been used by the powers to be to keep the masses quiet or to buy their support.  The crowd seems to be saying to Jesus – you give us bread and will give you our allegiance.  
Jesus will have none of it.  He’s not asking for their allegiance in a bid for political power, but is inviting them into a spiritual relationship. But of course it’s more than simply that.  As with the story of the woman at the well (also in John), Jesus offers himself as t…


As we look ahead toward this coming Sunday, at which time Christians from across the theological and geographical spectrum will celebrate the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper, it is worth giving attention to the meaning of this sacrament of the church and to its practice.  If you do a search through this blog for the word Eucharist, you’ll find much to ponder.  Being Disciple, a tradition that celebrates the service of the Table each week that may not be that surprising.  I’m going to try to add in other materials as time allows to further the conversation.
Being that I’m using the John 6:41-51 passage as the basis of my sermon this coming Sunday, using the title “Bread of Life,” I began looking at what I had written or thought about over the years.One of the major issues that emerges in any conversation about the Eucharist is the matter of Presence.This is especially true of any reflection on John 6, where Jesus speaks rather boldly about being the “Bread of Life” and that salvation…

Papal Headlines -- Sightings

It has been interesting watching the papacy of Benedict XVI.  He's really not any more conservative that John Paul II, but he lacks the charisma of his predecessor.   And so a visit to Germany suggests warm greetings on the part of some, protests on the part of others.  Benedict makes nice at times with Protestants, but he has no energy for it, so a visit to Luther's Germany doesn't bolster confidence.  But, as Martin Marty suggests, the protests that accompanied the papal visit to Germany are in themselves signs of life in an era when apathy is more likely to be the response to the church and to faith.  At least they still care.  I invite you to read and then consider the issue of apathy in the religious world.  Do people really care? ***********************
Papal Headlines -- Martin E. Marty
Random headlines from daily newspapers which reached our door last Wednesday to Friday: “Pope Ventures Into Land of Luther, and Criticism,” “A Papal Homecoming to a Com…