Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Docetic Jesus, or Not; Remembrance (Ordinance) or Sacrament

Creation matters because God in Christ entered creation in order to bring about complete renewal.  Evangelical orthodoxy has more and more discounted created things because it features a docetic Jesus whose divinity tends to overshadow his humanity and who only brushes against creation for a time in order to lift (rapture) us to heavenly safety.  If Christ is essentially unconnected with the created world except to come here and save some souls, then created things can never bring us in touch with divine reality.  Or, more to the point of this study, sacraments can never be the means by which God unites us in Christ.

-from Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, as I prepare a Sunday School lesson on John 6: 47-59.

 Docetae: "An early heretical sect which held that Christ's body was merely a phantom or appearance, or that if real its substance was celestial."  Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged (1938).

Raymond E. Brown's thesis is that Jesus' words in John 6:51-58 refer "to the Eucharist,"  an event which is otherwise missing from that Gospel.  (Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, page 281 ff..)  Jesus in John 6 refers to his "flesh" not to his "body."  (In verse 51b, "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.")  The other Gospels have "this is my body," which to me (and to Brown) seems less literal.  "However," Brown notes, "there is really no Hebrew or Aramaic word for 'body,' as we understand the term; and many scholars maintain that at the Last Supper what Jesus actually said was the Aramaic equivalent of 'This is my flesh.'"

The Lord's Supper is so watered down at our church (no pun intended).  We do it by "intinction" and the minister seems to say about as little as he possibly can.  It is brief, tacked on at the end of the service.  At my Baptist church growing up, it was such a serious event, on the other hand.  It took a long time.  The deacons were arrayed at the front.  The "table" was carefully prepared.  Dr. Angell's words were straight from 1 Cor. 11.  It was full of prayer.  The bread and the grape juice were each introduced separately and the minister called upon a deacon to offer prayer at each introduction.  (Now and then he asked my dad to pray, and I was very proud.)  The people themselves were in prayer, with their eyes closed and their heads bowed.  We waited until everyone had the wafer or the little cup, and then together we ate or drank.  After eating the wafer or drinking the juice, we sat there in silence for several moments, and we thought about Jesus dying for us.  It was very serious, very warm, and very good.  At the end of the ceremony, we all sang "Blest be the Tie that Binds."  Singing that hymn after such a solemn ceremony, you could almost hear the people relax; we all exhaled in a way, there were smiles, the hymn was happy.  At the end of the hymn, Dr. Angell simply said, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out."  The Lord's Supper was over and we adjourned.


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