Communion & Charity

Why do we celebrate weekly communion? There are many good reasons but one of the most important is one we might not think about often enough—communion with the risen Christ also entails communion with others who are united to him by faith. Union and communion with our Lord leads us into union and communion with our brothers and sisters in the church, and (to a lesser extent) all people. John Calvin highlights this when he writes about the importance of communion. Calvin calls communion the “bond of charity” and explains, “For as the bread, which is there sanctified for the common use of us all, is made of many grains so mixed together that one cannot be discerned from the other, so ought we to be united among ourselves in one indissoluble friendship. What is more, we all receive there the same body of Christ, in order that we be made members of it.”[1] For Calvin, communion with Christ is the foundation, and the motivation, for communion with others. This is one of our greatest motivations for mercy ministry—weekly communion reminds us of how much mercy God has poured out on us in His Son Jesus Christ. How can we hold anything back we see others in pain, in loneliness, in brokenness? Every week we participate in the sacrament of healing and wholeness, which equips us to be agents of the Kingdom in the lives of others.

[1] John Calvin, “Short Treatise on the Holy Supper of our Lord and only Saviour Jesus Christ,” in J.K.S. Reid, ed., Calvin: Theological Treatises (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 151.

Eucharistic Unity & Loving our Neighbors

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Most people associate the name of John Calvin with the doctrines of predestination and harsh examples of religious persecution. However, this caricature fails to capture the complexity of a remarkable man.  Reading through parts of his Genevan Catechism of 1538, Calvin’s practical and pastoral side shine through.  As he summarizes the basic points about the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, Calvin writes:

black-and-white-hands-e1281021939700 (1)“Now this mystery, as it is a proof of God’s very great bounty toward us, ought at the same time to admonish us not to be ungrateful for such lavish kindness, but rather to proclaim it with fitting praises and to celebrate it with thanksgiving.  Then we should embrace one another in that unity with which the members of this same body bound among themselves are connected.  For there could be no sharper goad to arouse mutual love among us than when Christ, giving himself to us, not only invites us by his example to pledge and give ourselves to one another, but as he makes himself common to all, so also makes all one in himself”     (I. John Hesselink, Calvin’s First Catechism:  A Commentary, 35).

More Relevant “Worship” or More Relevant Mission?

Here’s a great piece by Jonathan, at Ponder Anew.  Jonathan exposes some assumptions and problems with “contemporary worship,” but I especially love his conclusion.  The way to grow churches is not through flashy concert-performances, but by living out missional lives in our communities.  The whole article is worth reading, but here’s Jonathan’s conclusion:

“So what happens, then, if we don’t craft our worship services to attract unbelievers?

We’ll have to get serious again about Sunday. All of us. And then as the clock strikes noon, we’ll have to go.

Go out and feed the hungry.

Go out and clothe the naked.

Go out and associate with people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t act like us, don’t vote like us, and don’t usually like us.

Go out and fight for justice.

Go out and end oppression.

Go out and proclaim anew the old, old story.

Go out and reach out to those who are running from God and God’s church.

Go out and stop deflecting tough questions with our usual, tired cliches.

And do all of this in the name of the one who sent us.

And then open the doors wide again on Sunday morning.”