procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eucharist in John 6?

a while ago i summarised Calvin's Short Treatise on the Lord's Supper.

i began thinking about it again in relation to John 6 and what's going on there. in the anglican prayer book service, i thought it said something like 'may the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in eternal life.'

in John 6.53-58 Jesus says
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

now, it's pretty clear that Jesus is talking about his death, but it's not insignificant that the same terms used to talk about his death are the used to talk about the remembrance meal he instituted.

Calvin says in the aforementioned treatise
The bread and the wine are visible signs which represent the body and blood, but the name and title body and blood are given to them because they are as it were the instruments by which the Lord distributes them to us. (Section 14)

we want to protect people from popery (check out not a couple of the 39 articles!), but what happens at the Lord's table isn't nothing either. Calvin does a great job of charting this line between Luther and Zwingli in this respect.

reading a couple of protestant commentaries on John 6 (Hendricksen and Köstenberg), neither think it's about the institution of the eucharist, but Köstenberg does suggest Calvin might be on to something in that it is derivative - that is, we celebrate what Jesus tells us about sharing in his death by sharing in the meal. indeed, whenever we remember Jesus' death on our behalf is a great opportunity to share in a remembrance meal, celebrating our union with him in his death and resurrection. we are not obliged to do it every time, but by never doing it we miss out on engaging all our senses (hearing, speaking, seeing, feeling, tasting) - a beautifully creaturely way for us creatures to join together to remember Christ's death, instituted by our creator!

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

being Hauerwas

in between prolonged illness and exegeticals, i've managed to squeeze in a fair bit of Hauerwas. dan, pretty much the closest thing to a Hauerwas specialist, recommended i start with Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir, which i really loved.

i should add - Stanley Hauerwas is an American ethicist, who is strongly influenced by John Howard Yoder who was a Mennonite pacifist.

Hauerwas has worked at a variety of institutions - most notably Arkansas (which i was taught this week is actually said Arkansaw - who would have guessed!), Notre Dame and Duke. he came over to do the New College Lectures back in 1990, and as well as being named by Time magazine America's best theologian, he presented the 2000/2001 Gifford Lectures.

he's a really interesting guy - as mentioned above, Hannah's Child is a great introduction to him. there are also some great anecdotes about him.
an untrue, yet very funny one, is that he visited Harvard, asked 'where the library was at', and upon being told that people at Harvard didn't end sentences with prepositions, rephrased his question, 'where's the library at asshole'.
he denies this ever happened - but not that it is at all against his character (i.e., it could've, but didn't happen).*

my biggest problem with Hauerwas is he's written so voluminously! it's really hard to get through all he's written, particularly with others wanting to borrow the same books from the library! what i like about him is his emphasis on the centrality of the church, and the importance of simple acts such as kneeling and doing communion as signifying what it is to be a set-apart community. although he perhaps overstates the importance of for example doing the eucharist weekly, in the Australian, and particularly Sydney context, we have definitely gone to far in the other direction - there is a fear of making church look like church.

anyway, i'll keep trawling through. will say more when i have more to say.

* in The State of the University, 2007, p133.

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