Concerning the sacraments

A trinitarian, incarnational understanding of the sacraments has significant implications for how we approach both baptism and the Lord's Supper. This issue is helpfully addressed by many trinitarian theologians. Here are two examples:

Paul Fiddes writes in Participating in God:
[We understand] the sacraments as pieces of earthly stuff that are meeting places with this [triune] God who exists in ecstatic movements of love. They are doors into the dance of perichoresis in God. [They are a means] of God’s gracious coming and dwelling with us. They are signs which enable us to participate in the drama of death and resurrection which is happening in the heart of God. We share in death as we share in the broken body of the bread and the extravagantly poured out wine, and as we are covered with a threat of hostile waters. We share in life as we come out from under the waters…to take our place in the new community of the body of Christ, and to be filled with the new wine of the Spirit (p. 281).
Graham Buxton writes in Dancing in the Dark:
Both sacraments [baptism and the Lord's Supper] declare the gospel of participation in the perfect worship of the Son, who has accomplished what we could not accomplish. When we receive the bread and wine at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we echo the cry of Jesus on the cross: ‘It is finished!’ Christ has done what I could never do…But we do more than engage in a memorial service! The word anamnesis, which translates into remembrance, has rich meaning…[conveying] a sense of re-living the past as if it were real today….Not only do we participate in shared and thankful remembrance of Christ’s perfect self-offering on our behalf, but we also participate in Christ’s continuing self-offering of himself on our behalf. We do not remember just the Christ of history – we remember the living Christ today, and the Christ who carries us into the future…The sacrament powerfully draws past, present, and future together in the life of the faith-community (pp. 137-138).
Your thoughts?

Comments

  1. What about the Catholic position of the Real Presence? I'm always curious how Protestants explain John 6:32–71.

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  2. Hi itchingfootnotes,

    There are a variety of positions in historic Christianity concerning the nature of the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine.

    I like your reference to John 6, because there Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life." No matter how you slice it (forgive the pun), communion is far more than a mere "memorial" of a past event.

    I view communion as a real, and particular, encounter with the incarnate, risen Savior Jesus Christ. He is the host at the table, and, in the Spirit, presents himself to us in fresh and powerful ways. He truly feeds us there with his own glorified human life.

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  3. Anonymous1/27/2010

    Paul Fiddes writes...the [big word] as pieces of earthly stuff that are meeting places with this [big word] God who exists in [big word] movements of love. They are doors into the dance of [big word] in God. [They are a means] of God’s gracious coming and dwelling with us. They are signs which enable us to participate in the drama of death and resurrection which is happening in the heart of God [what does that mean in real life?]. We share in death as we share in the broken body of the bread and the extravagantly [huh?] poured out wine, and as we are covered with a threat of hostile waters [what waters?]. We share in life as we come out from under the waters…to take our place in the new community of the body of Christ, and to be filled with the new wine of the Spirit [This guy does not know how to write plain. He writes so only a trained theologian can read. Small audience.].

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  4. I feel you anonymous!

    At times, the language of theology can be a bit "over the top."

    But hang in there. As we consider deeply the life and love of Jesus, wondrous things are revealed.

    That revelation comes to us in many ways, including in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. Here Jesus meets us and ministers his love and life to us.

    The point these theologians are making is that these sacraments are real encounters with the real and living Jesus. Through the sacraments Jesus gives us real and profound participation in his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascended glory.

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  5. I decided to try to make what Fiddes wrote simpler. Here's my "translation" of what he wrote:

    Bread, wine, and water are normal parts of our physical world. When we eat bread and wine at church, or get dunked in the water, it creates a place in our physical world where we can meet with the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have an existence that is joyful, excited, and loving. They are always moving and doing something. The bread, wine, and water are worship events that open a door and allow us to enter their joyful, loving, action filled life.

    Their life is like a dance and the bread, wine, and water are a way for us to join in the dance. We don’t have to do anything to earn our place in the dance. Instead of us trying to get to them, the Father, Son, and Spirit use the bread, wine, and water to come and live with us.

    How does that work? Well, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of what the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit is all about. And the bread, wine, and water give us a way to be a part of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, these worship events are a way for us to be a part of the heart of God’s life. The bread and wine are given to us freely and generously. When we eat them we are sharing in Jesus’ death. When we allow ourselves to be dunked in the water we are experiencing a little bit of the fear of death. That experience helps us know that Jesus will bring us safely through death. When we come up out of the water we experience a little bit of the joy of Jesus’ resurrection. That gives us a sense of what it will be like when we are resurrected.

    And it goes on from there: even after we are baptized we continue to join in the dance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do that by joining in the life of the Church and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us up with the life of the Father and the Son.

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  6. Beautifully and clearly stated Jonathan. Thanks!

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