Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is in the Sacrament?

Not long ago, Pastor Matt Harrison writes in his book, Christ, Have Mercy, I preached in a rural African church. The small mud-and-stick building with its simple wooden benches, simple altar and pulpit, and dirt floor was packed with seventy-five people.

With this powerful story, Pastor Harrison closes his chapter on the Lord's Supper and its relationship to mercy in the Church. It brings a powerful to conclusion to the main point he makes in the chapter: that we, as congregations and Church are one body – that this one body is Christ, who joins with us in the Sacrament – and that as one body, there are no divisions among us. If one of us suffers, all suffer. If one receives mercy, we all receive mercy. This is how Luther said it: “If anyone's foot hurts him, yes, even the little toe, the eye at once looks at it, the fingers grasp it, the face puckers, the whole body bends over to it, and all are concerned with this small member; again, once it is cared for all the other members are benefited. This comparison must be noted well if one wishes to understand this Sacrament, for Scripture uses it for the sake of the unlearned.”

What is in the Sacrament? Nothing less than the body and blood of our Lord Jesus – that same flesh and liquid which died on a cross at Calvary, and which rose from the grave three days later. In our Gospel reading for this week from John chapter 6, Jesus will say to the people who followed him, “Unless you chew the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Powerful words! Hard words! … Beautiful words. These are words of gift and hope and freedom. They are words of doctrine and Truth and teaching. And they are also Words of community. ...

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