Monday, January 07, 2013
The Need and Place for Sacrament
Why does Peter Leithart assert that the Eucharist is so important, so central, so significant for Christians and our relationship with our culture?
First of all, Leithart says it is essential for the church to keep Jesus central and that it is the Table that enables us to do so.
One might respond that a strong emphasis on Scripture enables Christians to do that. This is the standard evangelical position. However, the evidence is rife that the “Bible-believing” approach can and does easily degenerate into “biblicist” readings that make any number of emphases prominent, leaving Christ on the periphery.
Second, Leithart notes that our inability to share the Table with each other is one of the main hindrances to our witness before the world.“Do we expect to evangelize the world when we cannot even eat together?” he asks. The one practice that is designed to bring the family together has long been a source of discord.
Third, there are political consequences to our eucharistic neglect. When evangelical churches fail to maintain a rich heritage of ritual and symbolism, their members are tempted to gravitate toward other symbols for meaning. Peter Leithart notes how many Christians will take fierce stands for the sanctity of the flag but recognize little sanctity in God’s own “holy things for [his] holy people.”Interestingly, I think there is an irony missed here. I agree that when we do not have symbols we will gravitate to others, and politics seems to be where the modern evangelical goes. But, because most evangelical congregations are independent and fiercely competitive, the inability to sup together (number 2) is why Evangelicals remain so politically ineffective. In a democratic state such as ours it takes unity in numbers to prevail politically.
It has been argued that in our more literate world we have less need of the artistic and symbolic. But I would argue that just as the Bible can get in the way of Christ, so our intellects can get in the way of the Holy Spirit. We need ritual to pull us out of ourselves. We need to engage with our spirits and not just our minds.
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