Sunday, April 25, 2010

Understanding the Lord's Supper: framing the question

I'm still struggling to wrap my head around the theology of communion.  John over at Bibliophile has been helpful however Wilson in Mother Kirk, didn't provide enough detail and Calvin, normally a reliable source of theology, is confusing (as Michael Bird pointed out),  Mikey over at Christian Reflections was tantalizing, but then again we were unable to finish the conversation, so maybe it wasn't deliberate.

Once the core issue is sorted out, surrounding questions of frequency, style, leadership and language will fall easily into place.  In Roman Catholicism, the Priest holds up the consecrated elements and there in a particular sense is Christ.  Now if I saw Jesus, I would, as far as the barnacles on my sinful heart would allow, worship him.  And this historically has been the centre of the argument; is Jesus present in the bread and wine?   This was the sticking point in Luther and Zwingli's debate at Marburg.  Historically the debate is complex with the positions today not corresponding exactly with the individuals identified with such positions. Here are a couple of ideas, none of them my own, I'd like to use them to frame what to do about Communion:

  • Is "presence" the wrong question, instead should our focus should be on "proclamation" (1 Cor 11:26)?
  • As Protestants we a quick to avoid any link between John 6 and Communion, but since no-one even the Roman Catholics, are cannibals, union with Christ should be the dominate framing theology of the Lord's Supper?
  • Is the "blessing," unique to communion (1 Cor 10:16) or is there like grace, differences between 'common' (the stuff that prevents everyone from becoming a serial killer) and 'saving' (turns serial killers into Christians) grace? 
  • Is there something special and spiritual about "remembering?" (In other words there is no such thing as "just a memorial" or "just a marriage" or "just a child.")