Sabbatical Day 11: Catechisms

If a man walking along the road looked down and saw a shining disk and presumed it to be a piece of paper foil, say a bottle top or toffee wrapper, he would walk past it believing it to be of little value.  But what if he is mistaken and the shining disk is really a rare gold sovereign?   Would he not pick it up and treasure it?

This is how my studies of the last two weeks have changed my view of the sacraments. In my ministry to date, have baptised the faithful and children of those who profess faith. When it comes to communion, I have faithfully conducted services, using order 2 in Common Worship, but to me these things have been of less value than they deserve, mere paper foil, because I have believed that the real power of God lies in the preaching of the word alone and that the sacraments simply aid or support that work.

My studies have caused me to stoop down, pick up the shining disk of the doctrine of the sacraments, and take a harder look.  I have seen a far richer and more powerful reality than I had before.  My view of preaching the word of God is not diminished, but now the sacraments hold an equal value in practical ministry.  The ministry of word AND sacrament is one ministry.  The sacraments have no power on their own, but only in the context of the word properly preached, so their importance is derivative from the word. However, the sacraments, properly understood and valued, are the first and primary means by which God commands and moves the faithful to act, according to his word.  The sacraments are the first act of faith and obedience of the week, in response to the word of God.  They are the means by which the faithful are really and substantially united to Christ and to one another, and are raised up to be seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  It is in the latter, mysterious ways, that the sacraments have increased in value in my sight.

My task, now, is to seek to teach this great value to all, so that the church at Holy Trinity is united in the knowledge and love of Christ.  Yesterday, I started to read various catechisms, and continued them today, starting with the 1662 BCP catechism, Heidelberg Catechism 1563, Calvin’s 1538 catechism and the ACNA Catechism 2014.

Here’s my notes from my reading today.

Study Notes Day 11: Catechisms

Read Calvin’s Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, neither of which I had read before. Discovered the Heidelberg Catechism was written to be read on Sunday’s in 52 sections in 129 questions. I have found the ACNA catechism of 2014, which seems best suited to teaching the content of the communion service.

To be a Christian

An Anglican Catechism.

The Anglican Church in North America (January 2014)

This catechism is based on the structure of the BCP Catechism 1662, but has expanded sections on the Apostles’ Creed, the 10 Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, which aim to teach the scriptural basis and application of each.

It could be reformatted very easily, next to the liturgy of the communion service, so as to teach the liturgy in the order in which it comes in the communion service.

The section on the sacraments is substantially reworded and reordered. I would like to add something to clarify what a sign is, using other examples from the bible.

BCP 1662

ACNA 2014

Q. What meanest thou by this word sacrament?

A. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.

Q102. What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. God gives us the sign as a means whereby we receive that grace, and as a tangible assurance that we do in fact receive it. (1662 Catechism)

Q. Why was the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?

A. For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.

Q110. Why did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Communion?

He instituted it for the continued remembrance of the sacrifice of his atoning death, and to convey the benefits the faithful receive through that sacrifice. (Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

Q. What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s supper?

A. Bread and wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.

Q111. What is the outward and visible sign in Holy Communion?

The visible sign is bread and wine, which Christ commands us to receive. (1 Corinthians 11:23)

Q. What is the inward part, or thing signified?

A. The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s supper.

Q 112. What is the inward and spiritual thing signified?

The spiritual thing signified is the body and blood of Christ, which are truly taken and received in the Lord’s Supper by faith. (1 Corinthians 10:16-18; 11:27; John 6:52-56)

Q. What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?

A. The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.

Q113. What benefits do you receive through partaking of this sacrament?

As my body is nourished by the bread and wine, I receive the strengthening and refreshing of my soul by the body and blood of Christ; and I receive the strengthening and refreshing of the love and unity I share with fellow Christians, with whom I am united in the one Body of Christ. (1662 Catechism)

Q. What is required of them who come to the Lord’s supper?

A. To examine them selves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.

Q114. What is required of you when you come to receive Holy Communion?

I am to examine myself as to whether I truly repent of my sins and intend to lead the new life in Christ; whether I have a living faith in God’s mercy through Christ and remember his atoning death with a thankful heart; and whether I have shown love and forgiveness to all people. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Q 115. What is expected of you when you have shared in Holy Communion?

Having been renewed in my union with Christ and his people through sharing in the Supper, I should continue to live in holiness, avoiding sin, showing love and forgiveness to all, and serving others in gratitude.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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