Thursday, August 23, 2007

Participating in the Eternal

A few years ago, I was doing some spiritual direction from a Catholic priest at a nearby monastery and he was educating this "poor uninformed semi-Protestant" about the finer points of Catholic theology. And he taught me a whole new understanding of the Lord's Supper. My understanding of Catholic doctrine was that every time the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) was celebrated Christ was re-crucified over again. That seemed totally unbiblical to me (and to him as well). Father Pius X showed me that Roman Catholic doctrine was much different from that. He said that the death of Christ was of such import that it was/is not bound by time. Christ's sacrificial death is an eternal action. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper we are simply joining in for that period of time, the eternal reality of Christ's death. We are for that moment joining the eternal sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world in partaking of the wine and the bread (body and the blood). Whatever you think of Catholic Eucharistic doctrine, [and I don't buy into all of it] I have a much deeper appreciation for the subtleties of that teaching.

That experience was brought to mind when I read a quote by John Knox on preaching. In "The Integrity of Preaching" he writes:

"The Spirit makes the ancient event in a very real sense an event even now transpiring, and the preaching is a medium of the Spirit's action in doing so. In the preaching, when it is truly itself, the event is continuing or is recurring. God's revealing action in Christ is, still or again, actually taking place. . . . Here is the final test of Christian preaching, if it be genuine preaching and genuinely Christian: Does it really convey the saving action of God? Just as God used the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, so also, if in a subordinate way, is he using the preacher's preaching of that life, death, and resurrection as the medium of his power and love?. . . . Insofar as preaching is failing, here is the primary point of its failure – not that it fails to be learned enough, or entertaining enough, or brief enough, or 'modern' enough, but that God's power and action are not being effectively communicated in it. This is the primary point of failure, because in failing here, preaching is failing to be preaching at all. A man is expressing his opinions, true or false, interesting or uninteresting, about matters important or unimportant. But God is not acting. Something is being said, but nothing is taking place. The judging and saving event of Christ is not recurring. The Spirit, the 'glorious might' of God, is not present (The Integrity of Preaching, pp.93-94).

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