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Saturday, November 18, 2006

An extremely rough beginning to an essay I'm preparing...


1 Corinthians 11:23-30 In Brief

Before beginning the task of exegesis, it seems proper for me to explain my choice of this passage, as well as to establish some possible applications for future ministry. In this, we ought to find the endeavor both stimulating and rewarding.
This particular passage is set in a specific context, one limited by the sins of the Corinthians described in the preceding section, verses 17-22. In short, there was a lack of sharing at the common meal that coincided with the Supper, making a mockery of their equality in Christ, divisions, and a general lack of awareness as to the Supper’s purpose. Bruce noted that the verbs in the first part of verse 23 (receive, deliver) indicate the transmission of oral tradition. Also, the words following (and those in Mark’s Gospel) were established parts of the liturgies of churches. That is to say, the occasion of the meal was, in some manner, more weighty than other meals the Corinthians might have attended. It was meant to be culturally distinct, defined by the culture of the new community created by Christ and his work on the cross. I think it’s no great leap to suggest then that Paul intended the rest of this section to correct the sins detailed in v. 17-22. In light of that reality, we should expect that the benefits we receive from reflection upon these verses (and observing the Lord’s Supper) will be the direct opposite of the sins of the Corinthians: unity and love instead of division, mutual care and edification instead of humiliation, and reflection upon, and thankfulness for, the faithfulness of Christ in dying for us.
From the first moments I’d heard of the communion rite, I was fascinated. Even before I believed in Christ, I have wondered at its mystery, and was intrigued at the fierceness of the disagreements over its meaning. It seemed logical that those differences must be consequential, if it would cause Christians to avoid communing together. Though I am cognizant of the power of sin, I did not, nor do I now, dismiss the matters as the confused babblings of a squabbling family. Still, the more interesting question is, “What is God’s purpose in giving this ritual to us?” Is there an overarching principle, a thing to hold true, which comes from participating that might even transcend the disagreements? Does communion preach to us in a way that our favorite teaching elder cannot? The answer is emphatically, “Yes!” Or in fact, we can say that faithful preaching of the Word acts in concert with God in the sacrament to the great blessing of God’s people. I happily defer to Thomas Watson on that score. I think observing the meal has three main results, all interrelated, that I have personally observed: first, it is a confirmation of individual and collective identity in Christ; second, it is a reflection of unity in the bond of love; and third, it empowers and clarifies mission, both individually and collectively. Assuming all that is true, I want to get inside that, to see such a thing work itself out in my life, and in the lives of others. I also see, upon reflection, that none of those things can occur without the Holy Spirit. Indeed, these tasks seem uniquely suited to Him. This must be why Watson and other Reformed theologians insist that Christ is present—by the Holy Spirit. If the Eucharist helps us in any way with identity, unity, and mission, the Spirit’s presence is not a paradigmatic afterthought; He’s a necessity. It is a tragedy that a certain love of Holy Communion can become a superstitious observance with alleged salvific import. More tragic still had been a lack of reflection upon the sacrament by Protestant brothers who were (and are) sharply critical of Roman dogma on the matter. If my remarks and exegesis aid in a greater appreciation for the Supper, thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ever since I embraced conservative political thought, it seemed very important to dissociate legitimate policy discussion from the baser inclinations of man. That is, it's not hard to arrive at a decidedly non-liberal issue position from a bad motive. Have you ever talked with someone who agreed with you for all the wrong reasons? That's upsetting. But I still think that a robust conservatism can embody all the good things we can envision. That's why it pains me to write what will soon follow. But first, let me heap a pile of scorn onto those candidates who tried to downplay/weasel out of their support for the Iraq war. The candidate I am about to mention is no exception.
Even so, the painful reality is this: Lt. Gov. Michael Steele lost the Maryland Senate race because he is black. Mr. Barone of Fox News did faithfully report that Steele was dramatically underperforming in Republican strongholds across Maryland. It cannot be said that the "Democratic year" was responsible, because GOP candidates lost moderates in this last cycle. There was not, in my view, a fall-off of committed supporters nationwide. But Democrats simply closed the gaps on perceived weaknesses, winning Bush moderates.
I'm more than prepared to vote for a nonwhite candidate who shares my views. The GOP to a man and woman will say that it's ready, pointing to every nonwhite Republican officeholder in existence when prompted. I've done this myself:) But how many Maryland Republicans hesitated? Are we ready for the day when the party's symbols are people of color? If we truly believed half the stuff we say about the universal applicability of conservative principles, we'd be ready now.
Don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying the GOP should have more people of color for its own sake. But what I am saying is this: If racism was not the cause of this, what was? Who the heck is Ben Cardin? If the governor of that state can survive that bad night as a Republican, why not Steele?
Feel free to send any thoughts to jasonkettinger@hotmail.com.