Posts tagged ‘Body of Christ’

My Favorite Five

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the final day of 2011. Another year has passed, and it’s been a great year for this little blog of mine. I am blown away by the growth in visitors in just one year, and grateful for the growing number of people who find enough worth in what I’ve been doing here to actually subscribe. I thought I would take a moment to look back and reflect on my personal favorite posts of the past year. These are my favorite five, in chronological order of their original postings.

1. Corporate Prayer. Almost a year later, I continue to devote lots of thought to how congregations can move beyond being local bodies full of people with individual prayer lives to being a body with a communal prayer life.

2. Phoebe Palmer and Entire Sanctification. This is perhaps my favorite post of 2011, because it represented my entrance into a new level of theological pondering on my part considering the holiness movement in America. That it turn led to a major paper written for one of my graduate courses at Trevecca Nazarene University. I later modified that paper and turned it into a series of posts, which can be found at the page titled Altar Theology or Altered Theology? Whether you’ve visited A Heart That Burns previously and never read these, or are visiting for the first time, please peruse these for my thoughts on the identity crisis I believe the Church of the Nazarene has faced for some time, and what I see as the solution.

3. Serving or Surviving? This post sparked a meaningful discussion on the question of whether the life of Nazarene churches are oriented towards the service of those outside the doors of the church, or oriented towards the survival of the church (and by extension — with an insight that has come since the original post — the specific traditions and sacred cows of a particular church).

4. God Never Gives Up on People … Should We? There are some things I write that the most human and selfish part of me resists every step of the way, because of how vulnerable and exposed they make my heart. This one burned — and still burns! — like battery acid. Although I stand by what I wrote here, oh how I wish that things could be otherwise when it comes to broken relationships.

5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Success. Although this wasn’t the lengthiest of posts in the past year, it just might be the one that has caused me to return over and over to consider the question I myself raised: am I achieving success by God’s standards?

BONUS POSTS: This year I had two guest posts,  both of them by pastor friends of mine. These were fantastic posts that addressed important topics.

1. About Banners by Herb Halstead. Herb addressed the unity that occurs when churches chooses to focus on the mission God has given the Body of Christ, and to set aside the banner of a particular denomination or doctrine.

2. Zombie Land by Jeff Skinner. Leave it to my friend Jeff Skinner — a truly creative preacher and church planter — to come up with perhaps the most unusual post on this blog all year. Don’t let the title of the post fool you … this one had some depth to it.

The Lord’s Supper and Transforming Culture, Part Two

In Part One, I discussed how through the Lord’s Supper we see the transformation of culture.  That post explored the first of two ideas, that Christ Himself is the transformer of culture. In this  post, I’ll discuss the second idea, that the transformation of culture must be something the  Church is before it is something the Church does. This is actually demonstrated in the negative    in the passage found in 1 Cor. 11, being in verses 17-24.

 Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come  together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come  together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I  believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear  who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s  supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper,  and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat  and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who  have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Paul was writing to the church there precisely because having been transformed by Christ, they were failing to transform the culture in which they lived. There was in fact a detrimental outcome when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in Corinth, and the issue was quite serious.  According to Paul, the Corinthians allowed the Lord’s Supper to intensify the prevailing social divisions of the Roman culture surrounding them, rather than demonstrating the unity which should be found in Christ. Paul goes so far as to attribute illness and death among the Corinthian church as being caused by their sin in this area.

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:25-34)

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III draws a clear picture of what was happening in Corinth.

It appears clear from the outset that the context in which the Lord’s Supper happened was in a home and in the social setting of a meal, perhaps a love feast that was part of an act of worship in the home. The problem was, some of the Christians, perhaps including the host who would set the protocol for the meal, were treating the meal as if it were a private Greco-Roman dinner party followed by a drinking party.

Witherington further states that Paul saw this as “a travesty and sacrilege, a violation of the very meaning of Christian fellowship and the meaning of the Lord’s Supper … there is further division and stratification amongst the have and have-not portions of the Corinthian Church.”

This failure of the Corinthian church to transform the surrounding culture illustrates the  point that a transformation of culture must be something the church is before it something the church does. The power of Christ’s sacrifice, which the Corinthians were ostensibly memorializing, had allowed them to see each other as brothers and sisters rather than rich and poor, or master and slave. Sadly, they had taken the very occasion of the commemoration of that sacrifice to return to their former separation, to celebrate in their former pagan fashion, and to ignore that in Christ they had been transformed into holy people. In this they were offending against God and each other. Hunsinger carefully relates the results of the failure of the church in Corinth to transform the culture, and likening that failure to a sickness.

Although it may seem implausible to modern sensibilities to suppose that weakness, sickness, and death could result from this failure of discernment (v. 31), Paul was essentially making a spiritual point. The body of Christ in Corinth was imperiled by a sickness unto death. By entering into contradiction with themselves, the Corinthians had also entered into contradiction with Christ and the eucharist. They could not undo their baptism, their union with one another and with Christ; they could only offend against it.

Does the failure of the Corinthians to have discerned that the Lord’s Supper is a manifestation of unity in Christ have application to the Church today?

I would suggest there is indeed such application for the Church of today should it fail in recognizing the inseparable unity between its members. There is more to be considered, however, than the simple recognition that the Lord’s Supper demonstrates what Witherington labels “the equality that exists in the body of Christ, without regard to social distinctions and social status.”

The Church today must consider the Lord’s Supper as a proclamation of the Gospel in the form of a deed. We declare Christ’s death with its salvational import, and therefore its cultural relevance in His power to transform us. This point would seem to ring especially true for the Church of the Nazarene, a denomination that places such emphasis on personal sanctification. The Church of the Nazarene must first and foremost be true to its roots in the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition. The denomination must be a church of holy people living holy lives if it hopes to impart the message of God’s sanctification and holiness to others, and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper this will find tangible expression.

John Howard Yoder on the Believing Body of Christ

The believing body is the image that the new world — which in the light of the ascension and Pentecost is on the way — casts ahead of itself. The believing body of Christ is the world on its way to its renewal; the church is the part of the world that confesses the renewal to which all the world is called. The believing body is the instrument of that renewal of the world to the (very modest) extent to which its message is faithful. It may be “instrument” as proclaimer, or as pilot project, or as pedestal.

For the people of God to be over against the world at those points where “the world” is defined by its rebellion against God and for us to be in, with, and for the world, as anticipation of the shape of redemption, are not alternative strategies. We are not free to choose between them, depending on whether our tastes are more “catholic” or more “baptist,” or depending on whether we think the times are friendly just now or not. Each dimension of our stance is the prerequisite for the validity of the other. A church that is not “against the world” in fundamental ways has nothing worth saying to or for the world. Conversion and separation are not the way to become otherworldly; they are the only way to be present, relevantly and redemptively, in the midst of things. — Body Politics

I first read Yoder last year during a course in Ecclesiology, and his writing has had a grip on me ever since. His thoughts on what it means for us to be the Church — growing out of his unwavering loyalty to his Mennonite faith — are a personal challenge to me. Here are four things I really like about about Yoder:

  1. He argued for the critical value of local churches that were alive and vibrant.
  2. He believed that the Church needs to orient itself by Scripture.
  3. Despite his lifelong commitment to the Mennonite church, Yoder acknowledged and interacted with a wide range of Christian perspectives.
  4. Although Yoder often wrote on complex and difficult theological principles, he was more interested  in the practical than the theoretical.
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