Torrential Monday morning rain and floods didn’t provide the best start to five weeks of study leave at London Theological Seminary, as the M6 and M1 were turned into car parks. In the end, I drove through lovely countryside from Milton Keynes to Hemel Hempstead. The rain was God’s grace as i had plenty of time to listen to a talk on Ecclesiastes from Word Alive 2016 by Richard Cunningham which put ministry “success” in a biblical context. In Ecclesiastes, God reveals our need of him alone for our identity and that we must not base our self-worth on the net gain or productivity of our work and life. Christian believers are no more or less valuable to God based on the outcome of our work. Our work is part of a continuous human action from creation, through the fall, where work became hard and frustrating toil, then into eternal glory, where work will be worship once more. The net gain of our life, the product of our work, dose not define us, that is chasing after the wind.
I arrived at college an hour and half later than expected. Garry Williams, my former church history and doctrine lecturer, is supervising my studies. For the first hour, I offloaded a few knotty pastoral matters and shared some encouragements. He listened patiently and prayed for me, helping with the transition from parish mode to being prepared to get my head down to study.
In the next five weeks, or probably a bit longer, I hope to produce a study guide to Cranmer’s Communion service, which will be evangelistic and educational, linking catechism questions-answers to the structure of the communion service. I will also write an introduction to what God is doing as we share communion. I hope it will be of benefit for new Christians, children and those for whom the communion service has been learned by rote.
And here’s my first day of notes, just in case anyone is interested.
ESL notes – study guide to order two communion service – day one 20th June 2016
Holy Communion in Common Worship by David Peterson http://www.theologian.org.uk/church/communion.html
Christian worship is essentially a response to the one ‘who gives freely, out of pure mercy for the undeserving, asking only to be confessed and glorified’.
The 1552/1662 structure expresses this liturgically by making ‘The Prayer of Consecration’ a clear statement of the finished work of Christ on our behalf.
Church Society Issues | Liturgy | Holy Communion Order Two in Contemporary Language
Useful bullet point outline of order two with comments on comparison with BCP and ASB.
Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament, Ronald S. Wallace, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1953
Direct communion between God and man is impossible; God’s infinite holiness and man’s sinfulness means there can be no direct communion. How, then, can man come to know God? God bridges the gap by revealing himself, adapting himself to the capacity of man. God can reveal himself so that man, without being annihilated or brought to despair, can come really to know and enter into communion with him. He veils himself in earthly symbols, placing before the vision of men certain signs which can indicate to the humble and believing mind that he is present (e.g. the ark, the burning bush, pillar of cloud/fire, glory on Mount Sinai, Holy of Holies, dreams, visions but especially the angel of the Lord).
God reveals himself by a veiling and an unveiling.
Christ, the word of God, who “remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God himself”, was “always the bond of connection between God and man” and “the source of all revelations.”
The angel who appeared to Moses and was frequently present with his people (Joshua, Zechariah 1:18-21 etc) is called Jehovah. Let us then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God.
How wide the difference between God and man and yet in Christ the infinite glory of God is united to our polluted flesh in such a manner they become one, in order that we might have easy access to Him and that we might have no uncertainty of being received.
The humanity of Jesus is like a veil behind which God conceals his majesty in order to reveal Himself. This is the humble clothing of the divine majesty, who laid aside his insignia. The treasures of God are not seen glittering in great splendour but in the contemptible abasement and simplicity of the cross.
The word and sacraments are the forms of abasement which Christ the Mediator today assumes in confronting us with his grace and challenge. They are the symbols today by which he accommodates himself to our limited capacity for apprehending the divine and veils that in Himself with which we cannot bear to be directly confronted. Therefore, it is to word and sacrament today that we must turn to enter into communion with him.
Word and sacrament are the treasures of the church, as they are the signs of the presence of Christ with his church. He comes not to destroy but to reach out and invite his people into communion with him.
The God who speaks in the events of the bible is shown to be one who in His communion with men uses not only words but also concrete signs calculated to appeal to the other senses in the experiencing subject than that of hearing (e.g. the Tree of Life, the rainbow, the cloudy pillar, earthquakes, darkness and the Sabbath, the miracles of Jesus etc). The sacraments are signs appointed by God for our use.
When God speaks there is thus normally a sign attached to the audible word, in order to enfore and supplement that word.
Revelation never takes place without a word. There is never a genuine sign without a voice which at some stage in the event comes from God to man.
If signs are presented before our eyes, the will be, as it were, dead images. The word of God, throws life into the sacraments, as it has been said concerning visions (Ex 33:19).
Signs draw attention to the word which was spoken, confirming any promise or command therein given and the faith aroused by the word. “Take, eat… drink this all of you.”
Where God gives a sign, God veiled and unveiled, present yet hidden.
Signs often represent a spiritual gift which God wishes to bestow upon his people (e.g. the Tree of Life, the rainbow, the ark, the blood of the passover lamb etc…)
The preached word as the word of God.
God doesn’t thunder from heaven but speaks through his prophets and the preaching of his word, by men called by God to this task. The task of the preacher of the word of God is to expound the scripture in the midst of the worshipping church.
The preached word of God is a sign of his presence.
The preached word of God is the means by which Christ rules in men’s hearts, the word of God being a sharp sword.
The preached word of God is effective to do what God intends, by promise and command.
The preached word of God is effective only as the Holy Spirit freely yet powerfully works.
The preaching of God’s word can soften or harden the heart toward God. It can save or condemn the hearer. The gospel is never preached in vain but has either the effect of life or death. The word is efficacious for the salvation of believers, so it is abundantly efficacious for the condemning of the wicked.
The written word as the word of God.
Scripture is the only true source of knowledge of God and is the sole authority in the life of the church. The Holy Spirit attests the authority of scripture in the heart of believers.
The ministry as interpretation of the Word of God
Men must be called of God and handle the word of God reverently. True pastors do not rashly thrust themselves forward but are raised up by the Lord. It frequently happens that God selects vile and worthless persons to instruct and warn us, in order to subdue our pride. The minister must bind himself to the scriptures and not overly display his own skill for effect.
Faith as response to God’s word and to the promises of God as a gift of the Holy Spirit.
The sacraments of the New Covenant as Signs and Seals.
When God holds forth Christ to us, he gives us not only the word but also sacraments or signs, which seal the promise given in the word and make it more vivid and sure. Calavin defines a sacrament as “an external sign, by which the Lord seals on our consciences His promise of good-will towards us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith, and we in our turn testify our piety towards him.”
There is never a sacrament without an antecedent promise, the sacrament being added as a kind of appendix, with a view to conforming and sealing the promise.” Calvin Inst. 4:14:3
One important function of the sacraments is to confirm and seal the Word. The bare word cannot have its full effect without the sacraments. The word is preached to our ears and begets faith in our hearts, nevertheless through the sacraments God reinforces the appeal and power of the spoken Word. Abraham’s faith was increased on the sight of the stars and the sand. Thus the sacraments conform the word by making it more visible and concrete to our senses.
The sacraments also true and visible representations of the invisible spiritual things to which the Word directs us.
The sacraments are signs og man’s acceptance of God’s grace and mercy. The believer gives a sign that he on his part will daily live by the grace revealed in the sacraments, will be a follower of Jesus and a member of his body, the church. There is a mutual agreement in the sacraments, by which God binds himself with his people and we pledge our faith and obedience. They are the badges and marks of Christian profession, fellowship, fraternity, gratitude, faith, godliness and are contracts binding us to this.