Thursday, June 30, 2011

Response to Fairwinds Baptist Church Morning Sermon June 26, 2011

I really enjoyed listening this morning to Pastor Carlo's sermon that he gave this past Sunday (June 26th) at Fairwinds Baptist Church (Bear, DE).  As in the vast majority of Baptist sermons that I listen to, Pastor Carlo preaches loudly and clearly truths that both Baptist and Catholics firmly believe in.  So, I ask the reader to take this response first as an affirmation of many of the things Pastor Carlo spoke about on Sunday.  Indeed, nothing is impossible for God, creator of heaven and earth.

It is in this framework, however, that I would like to make a connection by way of extending the very theological framework of God's omnipotence that Pastor Carlo discusses.

Notice how Pastor Carlo summarizes the expression of God's omnipotence in Genesis 1:

In Genesis 1, God's Word is seen as efficacious.  That is, God's Word literally brings into existence that which it speaks.  In Genesis, God quite truly spoke the universe into existence.  Quite humbling, eh?  Can you or I say "let there be light" and have light itself come into being?

Knowing that God's Word is efficacious and that for God, nothing is impossible, I wonder then why Pastor Carlo believes the following words, spoken at the moment of institution of the New Covenant were not efficacious:

"Take and eat.  This is my body."

Of course, these are the words spoken by God at the Last Supper.  Just like God spoke the universe into existence, he spoke bread and wine into his body, blood, soul, and divinity.


As Pastor Carlo rightly notes: nothing is impossible with God!

Further still, our God is a God who keeps his promises.  Jesus's bread-of-life discourse in John 6 hinges on an unspoken promise: that He will make provision to provide his body and blood to Christians for them to consume.  In the Eucharist, Jesus keeps His promise and demonstrates his absolute power over all creation.  In the Eucharist, Jesus takes the form of bread and wine to remain present with us, to commune with us, and to abide with us.

Despite the fact that many Christians today believe that Jesus was only speaking symbolically in John 6 when he said "my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink," the students of the apostles themselves and their successors believed without question that Jesus was speaking literally.  St. Ignatius of Antioch, who studied with St. John himself and was appointed to pastor the Church in Antioch after Peter left for Rome, is strong and unequivocal in his affirmation of Jesus's real presence in the Holy Eucharist:
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 110 AD).
St. Ignatius makes draws the same link that Jesus does in John 6 between the bread of life and the flesh that will suffer on the cross.  Their point: it is the same flesh!

Jesus's real presence in the Eucharist was such a deeply accepted aspect of the early church's faith that it became the basis for arguing for and demonstrating Jesus's own resurrection, which must have occurred to allow Christians to partake of his glorified body and blood, hidden as they were under the appearance of bread and wine.

If anyone doubts that Jesus is capable of turning bread and wine into His body and blood, just consider the many Eucharistic miracles that have occurred through the ages.  Throughout Christian history, there exist many instances in which the bread and wine of communion not only took on the divine substance of Christ but also the accidents of his body.  These miracles can be studied more closely here.

To recap:  I strongly affirm Pastor Carlo's message that the Word of God is alive and efficacious, and that God keeps his promises.

Christians have no better example of that than in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, which become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.***

Will you come and receive Him?


***Please note: not just anyone can pick up bread and wine and perform this miracle.  Only Jesus, through the ministry of His priests who act in the person of Christ, can consecrate the bread and wine.  This miracle occurs every day in every Catholic Church in the Mass.

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