Sunday, February 3, 2013

In Remembrance Of Me

Churches vary widely in just how they practice the ritual meal of bread and wine, instituted (so we say) with Jesus' repurposing of elements of the Passover meal on the night before he was crucified.  But while they disagree (sometimes to the point of mutual exclusion) over the ritual details, over whether the practice includes an element of the miraculous or merely material symbols of transcendent truths, and even over who is authorized to lead or conduct the ritual itself...despite all these disagreements, every church I know, in its own way, has made of "the Lord's Supper" a highly ceremonial practice, conducted in the context of a worship event, usually in a place set aside for such events.

Returning, as I contend we always ought, to the original words of Jesus, it seems to me that perhaps we've missed something vital here.  I grant as previously stated, that Jesus' original institution of what we now call "The Lord's Supper" was in the context of another highly-ritualized meal, the Jewish Passover.  It is not, therefore, as though Jesus was unfamiliar with, or hostile to, prescribed religious practice.  Jesus certainly repurposed the broken bread to symbolize his body, and the cup of wine to represent his shed blood.  Only Luke, and later Paul in 1 Corinthians, actually tell us that Jesus also told his disciples they should share the bread and the cup "in remembrance of me" (see Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Cor. 11:23-26). (note that this is a rare, if not the only, instance where Paul says what he's relating is something he directly "received from the Lord").  And it is Paul's account in which we learn that Jesus told the disciples to remember him in the bread and the cup "as often as you drink it."

This is not enough upon which to hang a doctrine or destroy somebody else's fondly-held belief.  But I wonder if Paul had an insight we have lost in our ritual.  Rather than creating a sacred, symbolic (or miraculous) meal to be received in the context of a sacrament, I wonder if in fact Jesus' intention was to take ordinary staples of life and imbue them with the sacred memory of himself...not so we would have a monthly, or quarterly, or weekly ritual "in a church," but so that as we break bread and drink wine together in loving fellowship, the memory of Christ is front-and-center.

This is certainly consistent with the way God instituted the teaching of his law even from old:  to talk of it "when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:4-8).  God's intention was that there be no boundary between the sacred and the profane, but that every activity in which his people engage, be an opportunity to learn and remember his way. It's also consistent with the character of Jesus.  Though as I mentioned above, he was no stranger to ritual, Jesus was also the one who got in trouble--along with his disciples--for not keeping the Sabbath in the rigidly-prescribed manner of the Pharisees (Mark 2:23-27 and parallels). 

More importantly, though, we learn in Luke 24:35 (the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus) that Jesus was "known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:35).  Might we, by sacramentalizing the "breaking of the bread," have robbed ourselves of the opportunity to know Jesus each time we sit at the table? C.S. Lewis said something similar about wine in his essay "Miracles," which is part of a collection entitled "God in the Dock."  Lewis was talking about the miracle in which Jesus turned water into wine at Cana, and suggested we only really recognize the miracle when "if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana."  I find this strangely compelling, particularly if taken together with Jesus' own words in Mark 14:25 and parallels:  "Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."  Jesus, it seems to me, was inviting us to remember him, not only in a formalized ritual, but every time we lift a glass of wine.

So what does this mean and why do I care?  I believe that by ritualizing the Lord's Supper, we may be missing the presence of Jesus in the everyday.  Our ceremony has created--or at least heightened--a false dichotomy between the "sacred" and the "profane."  Jesus, in contrast, calls us (as God has since the Old Testament) to see the sacred in all of particular the life of followers of Jesus in community--communion--with each other. I do not (necessarily) advocate the abandonment of the sacramental ritual, for it has brought blessing and comfort to many for many years.  But however necessary--or at least appropriate--our ritual is, it is not enough. Buddhists have a concept they call "mindfulness."  I'm no expert, but the best I understand, it involves disciplining oneself to be conscious of the present moment and all that it contains.  I suggest we consider a different, perhaps more timeless form of mindfulness, in which we recognize Jesus every time we break bread and look to his coming every time we share wine.

In remembrance ... till he comes!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Check out our new site!

Just a reminder to those of you who follow this blog, that we've established our own domain and moved Nailing it to the Door to  There, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well as just checking out our new posts.

Recent posts include:
We look forward to seeing you carry on with us as we continue Nailing it to the Door!

Grace & peace,


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nailing it to the Door has moved!

As of May 24, 2011 we are moving the content of Nailing it to the Door... to a new location.  Please find us now at  Archived posts and comments have been moved as well; it is our hope that the new configuration will permit us to grow the site!  Please come check us out!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

For all of you who've been "Left Behind"

I encourage you to pop over to my friend Kurt Willems' blog and read his post If You're Reading This Post, You've Been "Left Behind."  Kurt does a beautiful job of casting what our role must be in the current "Tribulation" of this world.  Borrowing nearly every catchphrase of an eschatology neither one of us can stand, he's got a masterful call to live as the Kingdom-of-God subversives we must be.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nailing it to the Door is becoming a joint venture!

I want to take this opportunity to introduce my readers to my dear friend Ben Bajarin.  Ben and I have been spiritual relief valves for each other for the better part of three years now.  Though we attended the same church for over a decade, it took nearly nine years before we met each other and discovered that God had stirred some common--though unusual--thoughts in both of us, and we've found great refreshment in exploring theology together.  More than once, we've also encouraged each other when bashing up against entrenched doctrine and rhetoric that may be familiar to the church, but we believe flies in the face of the Biblical message.

Today Ben joins me as a co-author of this blog, and as you can see from his first post on the Rapture-that-wasn't, his contributions are a valued addition.

Keep an eye out, as you're going to see a few changes in design and presentation soon...and hopefully an increase in the frequency of posts, which has never been my strong suit.  Ben's also going to increase our visibility on Facebook with a fan page and a few other gadgets.

The result, we hope, is not primarily increased readership or statistics...those have never been the point.  But Ben and I share the conviction that the church is in desperate need of a new reformation, and we hope in some small way to ignite those fires in a few of you.  Come along for the ride!

Why The Rapture Didn’t Happen Today and it Probably Never Will

I suppose, because of my post title, the cat is out of the bag on my eschatology. So I’ll start this post right off the bat saying, it’s my conviction that there will be no rapture of the Church. I believe the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence in no way shape or form supports a phased approach of the coming of the Lord. Let me explain why.

Firstly (I love that word) if we study the history of this idea we will find that this whole notion of the rapture is a relatively new idea, this fact alone should cause us to pause.

There is some debate as to who came up with this idea originally but most credit it to John Darby. Darby revealed his eschatological view and outlined his idea on this so called “rapture” at the Powerscourt Conference in 1831.

It is very difficult to find any evidence of ”rapture” eschatology prior to Darby’s teaching it beginning in 1831.

So why has it become mainstream?
Well the answer is simple. The Christian church has lost its foundation and connection to the roots of Judaism. Most of our modern Christianity has taken a direction influenced highly by the enlightenment age. Because of this the Christian story has been disconnected from the Jewish story. Something God never intended.

So the challenge and the question we are faced with is, if for almost a thousand years after Jesus showed up not a single person believed in this “rapture” idea, why do so many believe it today?

Again it goes back to the story. The bible has within its construct a meta-narrative. To highly summarize the meta-narrative within Judaism it’s this:

God created all things Good, Satan and the powers distorted that good, God in His grace and mercy has not abandoned His creation to destruction and chaos but instead put a plan in place that would eventually lead to the reconciliation and redemption of all things. That plan began with Abraham.

In Judaism this is referred to as the "Tikkun Olam" or the repair of the world.

Jesus and the Church flow out of this reality, which will end up with heaven coming to earth, the original place God intended to dwell. This was the goal from the very beginning. That God would dwell with man and the whole of creation would be a holy temple.

So the flaw in Darby’s theology and the one this absurd end of the world talk is wrapped up in, is rooted in a non-biblical belief that all of reality is about somewhere else and not about this place, this earth, and this humanity. The idea that we will all go off to a distant spiritual reality is an idea we get from Plato not from the bible.

We have a guarantee from the creator that he will put it all back together, or as N.T Wright states “put the world to rights.” He doesn’t need to exile his church to do this, in fact that would be counter to the way God has always done things.

God uses “agents” to accomplish His purposes, to remove His followers and Kingdom agents would fly in the face of how he created things to work in this world. The way He created things to work was that His followers are His hands and feet in the world and the mechanisms by how his will gets done. His will is to reconcile and renew all things, this earth, this humanity not to destroy it. Therefore we have a job to do, participate in new creation, rush the future renewed world into the present anyway we can. Love Wins!

The only thing that gives me concern, that I hope I am wrong about, is that in my thinking it would seem logical that the world is probably going to have to mess itself up quite a bit more. In essence things may have to become much worse before they get better.

To quote Martin Luther “If I knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow I’d go plant a tree.”

So let’s embrace the greater reality to participate in new creation, this Tikkun Olam, right now in this present reality. Let's let God worry about the future and more importantly let's make those people's lives around us better instead of worse.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Food for thought - Greg Boyd on why Determinism must be false

I've said before that Greg Boyd has produced some really good arguments on the Open View of God.  Greg's got a great post on his blog from about a month ago (OK, so I'm a little behind) briefly outlining three really good reasons why determinism (a la Calvinism) is logically untenable.  Go check it out!

Greg is actually responding to a previous New York Times article entitled Do You Have Free Will?  Yes, It's the Only Choice.  This amusingly-titled report looks at some recent psychological experiments that suggest that people seem to believe in a moral responsibility for one's actions that only works if one had, at least at some level, a choice whether to do them or not.  They have shown that people who are convinced they have free will, tend to behave better (that is, more socially-acceptably) than people who are convinced they have no choice.  It's an interesting study.

Of course, my favorite summary of the whole argument is:  "You have chosen to believe in predestination, and I am predestined to believe in free will."  Drives my Calvinist friends nuts!