Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Feast of the Body of Christ


INTRO: Three pastors from the major Churches of the Christian faith are asked by a researcher how their churches decide what to pay their pastors after the offering is taken each week.

· Catholic and Orthodox priests---throw $ in air; what falls outside the circle belongs to the pastor
· Protestant evangelical pastor--what falls in the circle
· Then a CEC pastor is asked. What stays in the air belongs to God and what falls down to the ground the pastor takes home!
· I use this funny symbolic story to make a point about our message for Corpus Christi Sunday. What we are going to talk about today is something that all the major branches of the Christian Church believe in, but have radically different views about.
· There is a lot of love and respect among Christian denominations, and we can discuss these things with a spirit of love and respect. So what I present today is in that spirit, and what we in the CEC understand, knowing that our best human understanding of these mysteries is at best partial this side of heaven.

22And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 23Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.


· Are we take these words of Jesus literally or symbolically? Through the ages there have been times of great discussion and contention over these words, especially later in the middle ages during the Reformation.
· There is also confusion about terminology used to understand these words Jesus spoke. When we gather together what are we going to do every Sunday.
· Are we going to church, liturgy, mass, eucharist, worship, celebration, service? And why are we here?
· Where the CEC begins is by looking to the understanding of the early Church Fathers who lived very near to the times and places that Jesus and the Apostles lived.
· We generally form our doctrines and practices from the teachings of the Church before it divided in 1000 AD into the Western and Eastern Churches. There is no confusion among the Church Fathers about these sacred mysteries and the meaning of Jesus’ words.

Cyril of Jerusalem, 350 AD wrote: [Jesus Christ] by his own will once changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee. So why should we not believe that he can change wine into blood?. . . We should therefore have full assurance that we are sharing in the body and blood of Christ. For in the type of bread, his body is given to you, and in the type of wine, his blood is given to you, so that by partaking of the body and blood of Christ you may become of one body and one blood with him. - From Catechetical Lectures given to those preparing for Baptism

Augustine, 354-430 AD, wrote: That which you see is bread and the cup, which even your eyes declare to you; but as to that in which your faith demands instruction, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup is the blood of Christ… … these things are called sacraments for this reason, that in them one thing is seen, another thing is understood.” - Sermon, 272 AD

John of Damascus, 665 to 749, wrote: And now you ask how the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine and the water become the blood of Christ. I shall tell you. The Holy Spirit comes upon them, and achieves things which surpass every word and thought… Let it be enough for you to understand that this takes place by the Holy Spirit.

· So let’s begin by learning about the terms the early Fathers used to talk about the bread and wine, the body and blood.
EUCHARIST—From Greek word for giving thanks; euchariste.

· The eucharist is said to be an oblation—a solemn offering or presentation to God.
· Toward the end of worship we come and offer our lives to God--in the gifts of our tithes and offerings of bread and wine—then we present ourselves before him to personally give thanks .
· We lift up our hearts and the gifts to God in thanks for God giving us the life of his Son to save us.


· Literally a public service. It is a public service dedicated to the Almighty God of heaven—all the hymns, songs, readings, prayers, and eucharist. It is the primary worship service of the Church.
· It includes the liturgy of the Word which is everything that takes place before the Peace. The Eucharist is everything that takes place after the peace. Done on Sunday since the days of the Apostles.
· What about the Word Mass? It is a Catholic word not usually heard in Protestant or Orthodox churches. From Latin MISSA for mass, which was formed from MISSUM meaning DISMISSAL; to send or dispatch.
· In the ancient Church, the catechumens, those new to the faith and not yet baptized, along with the unbelievers were dismissed before the liturgy of the eucharist began. So the eucharist started being called the mass.We usually call it the Eucharist in the CEC.
· As we go to a liturgy and partake of holy communion, what is it we are partaking of?


· Meals for the Jews in the ancient world were more than an occasion for eating and drinking to give fuel to our bodies for more work: they were a sacred time, a time for thanksgiving to God.
· Original fellowship in Eden—eating from the tree of life in God’s presence.
· When Jesus came in his ministry, miracles of feeding the multitudes were meal with him where his blessings were poured out on them. He was scorned for eating and drinking with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes
· His last supper before the crucifixion is where he instituted what we call the Eucharist as the New Covenant Meal that we are to continue to do in remembrance of Him in order to proclaim his death to the world until he comes again. The early Church made this meal the center of its life and fellowship.
· As we come to understand what we in the CEC believe, let us survey what others have understood.


· A doctrine first presented in 1079 by Hilbert of Tours. Later the Council of Trent in the 16th century confirmed this teaching which to this day is the Catholic view. Early Fathers never used this term.
· Transubstantiation = The Holy Spirit is present to bring a complete physical change of the essential nature or substance of the outward appearance of bread and wine so while they still outwardly look like bread and wine their nature has become the literal body and blood so that Jesus is really present with us to bless us.


· Another big word, so bear with me. Martin Luther did not think there was a physical change, yet believed Christ was really present in the Eucharist which was more than a symbol. His followers used this word to describe his belief; he did not use it himself.
· CON = WITH. He said there was a real presence of the Holy Spirit at the Eucharist, but that the bread and wine and the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood are in, under, and around the bread and wine (sort of like a wrapper) and they exist side by side during communion.
· The early Church Fathers did not understand the Eucharist this way.


· Communion service is a time to reflect on the cross, but has no real presence of Jesus, no blessings, and is not necessary for salvation. We do it because Jesus commanded it—an ordinance or command.


1. A SACRAMENT: A combining of two elements—one visible and one invisible. An outward visible symbol that can be perceived by the senses combined with invisible spiritual realities.

· We believe there is a mystical or sacramental transformation of the bread and wine, but we do not use the Roman dogma to describe this. In the Eucharist, we understand the following:
· There is an outward visible sign—consisting of physical; matter--bread and wine that is taken, broken, poured, and consumed—take eat this is my body; drink this all of you, this is my blood.
· The outer sign is a window or doorway to an inward and spiritual grace—the presence of Jesus in us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 6 that unless we eat and drink we have no life—so it is not ordinance.
· Jesus is not just the inward grace that comes to us as we partake of the sacrament in faith. He is also really present mystically in the signs themselves.
· Jesus said we are to do this in remembrance of Him. Remembrance = Anamnesis = Re-presenting, not the western concept of a mental memory, but the Jewish concept of experiencing something by re-enacting it. We weren’t there, but we can remember.
· So at the time the priest and people offer enter into re-enactment of the Last Supper in the liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus is really present with us in the Bread/Body and Wine/Blood.


· When we say there is a real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, here is what we mean.
· MATERIALISTS limit what is real to what is physical—what has atomic and molecular structure. Matter in motion.
· IDEALISM and Spiritualism see reality as mind and spirit only; material world is unimportant.
· However, there are also non-physical realities—Is an IDEA real? Love? Good and evil? Do they have atomic properties or molecular structure? No. But they are real.
· So a SACRAMENTAL VIEW is both realms are important; the spiritual expresses itself in the physical.
· When we re-enact the Last Supper, even though we do not see the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Spirit makes present in the bread and wine the real presence of Jesus
· Jesus is mystically present with us by the Spirit in the Eucharist to bless us with all that his body and blood accomplished when the sacrificial lamb died at the cross to atone for the sins of the world.
· His once and for all sacrifice which happened in time and space 2000 years ago is made present in the holy moment of the Eucharist—if you look in the window and go through the door you will encounter Jesus.
· When you eat and drink the consecrated elements, Jesus is present in them to personally give you spiritual food and drink from heaven to bring you forgiveness of sin, healing from the effects of your sins on your mind, body, and soul; and to renew the New Covenant promises with you.
And now you ask how the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine and the water become the blood of Christ. I shall tell you. The Holy Spirit comes upon them, and achieves things which surpass every word and thought… Let it be enough for you to understand that this takes place by the Holy Spirit.

St. John of Damascus