Monday, June 27, 2011

The Need for Weekly Communion and Clear Preaching

Allen P. Ross has a section on how the Christian liturgy has been shaped, and should be shaped, by Luke 24:13-35.  This comes from his excellent book that deals with worship, entitled Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation:
"On the day of his resurrection, Jesus met the discouraged disciples as they were going home to Emmaus.  Upon hearing the reason for their discouragement---the death of the one thye had hoped was the Redeemer---Jesus rebuked them for their ignorance of the whole plan of God and their lack of faith.  He then proceeded to expound from all the Law and the Prophets how the Messiah should suffer before entering into his glory (v. 27).  Then, at the meal in Emmaus Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and broke it; and at that moment the eyes of the two men were opened---and they knew him!  But then he vanished from their sight.  The power of the clear exposition of the Word of God and the celebration of the meal at the Lord's Table have formed the heart of Christian worship ever since.  Without the exposition of Scripture, the meal will not be fully understood; and without the communal meal, the teaching will not be personalized and activated by faith.  Here in the experience of Cleopas and his friend we have the pattern: The experience of the burning heart when the Scripture is opened to us and the awareness of the reality of his presence in the breaking of the bread are absolutely essential to the vitality of our worship.

"This passage is a marvelous summation of the gospel itself.  Thevenot traces how the structure of the Emmaus account is similar to that of the Genesis account of the first sin (Gen. 2-3)---but in reverse.  The meeting with the risen Christ is thus a re-creation, a point that affects our view of the Eucharist.  Throught the symbolism of the meal, we experience a new relationship to seeing and hearing in worship, which leads to the recognition of otherness in spiritual service.  The disciples who heard the Word and experienced the presence of the risen Lord could not wait to go back to Jerusalem and spread the good news.

"The account also gives us a dramatic picture of how the gospel reverses the Fall.  On the one hand, in Genesis God created humans and gave them his words of blessing and his warning not to disobey his words.  But they missed God's clear meaning and went their own way from God.  In disobedience they ate, and their eyes were opened!  But rather than being like God as Satan had promised, they realized that they had opened up a world of evil and were now vulnerable, so in fear they hid themselves.  Now they saw themselves as sinners, and their only prospect was death.  But on the other hand, in the Gospels Christ died that death for all of us and opened the way for new life.  Here on the road to Emmaus, he revealed God's plan fully and clearly so that the hearts of these disciples burned within them.  And when they entered the house to eat the meal with this teacher, their eyes were supernaturally opened so that they recognized him as the risen Christ.  He was alive, and the prospect of death forever lost its sting.

"The differences between the two accounts explain how the gospel reverses the Fall. In the garden the Lord was invisible; but on the read to Emmaus he was visible, when he chose to be, and present with his people, thanks to the incarnation.  In Genesis only a few words from the Lord were revealed; but along the road to Emmaus, all the Scriptures about the divine plan were revealed because it was the fullness of time.  And, in the beginning Adam and Eve ate in disobedience and broke their communion with God; but in the home in Emmaus, the Lord ate with his disciples as a sign of communion.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reversed the curse of Genesis and re-created communion through his presence with his people.  Is it any wonder that Christian worship should commemorate such a great redemption by the clear exposition of Scripture and the Communion meal?"

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