Happy Maundy Thursday

Here is a holiday–a holy day–we don’t have to rehabilitate, re-claim, or re-interpret, a holy day that the secular world is oblivious to, the day we commemorate Christ giving us His body and His blood in an ongoing sacrament, so as that “as oft as ye do this,” He is with us, giving the Gospel to us, tangibly and experientially, in bread and wine.

I have always thought that we ought to bring out the more mind-blowing dimensions of our faith in our efforts at evangelism, that instead of downplaying them to the people we expect would have the hardest time with them and saving them for later, we should highlight such things to the secular world, especially now, as postmodernists crave mystery, are actually attracted to things they don’t understand, and in many cases yearn for an authentic reality outside themselves that they have been told does not exist.

How could we lift up the sacraments in evangelism?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rev. Bob

    We talk a lot about Matthew 28:18-20 when we talk about evangelism. Jesus’ great commission had baptism as one of the key elements. Perhaps we should stop doing evangelism to force people into a quick change of mind about God, and instead talk about a God who wants to crucify their sins with water and promise and raise them to a whole new life in Christ. We could say, “We have a God in Jesus Christ who will actually do this for you and to you some Sunday morning with a whole crowd of people who die and rise daily.”

    And, apparently from Philip’s talk with the Ethiopian (Acts 8), baptism was a part of the evangelistic conversation in the early church. If God pours out the benefits of Christ on people in baptism and we have water, why shouldn’t they be baptized?

  • Rev. Bob

    We talk a lot about Matthew 28:18-20 when we talk about evangelism. Jesus’ great commission had baptism as one of the key elements. Perhaps we should stop doing evangelism to force people into a quick change of mind about God, and instead talk about a God who wants to crucify their sins with water and promise and raise them to a whole new life in Christ. We could say, “We have a God in Jesus Christ who will actually do this for you and to you some Sunday morning with a whole crowd of people who die and rise daily.”

    And, apparently from Philip’s talk with the Ethiopian (Acts 8), baptism was a part of the evangelistic conversation in the early church. If God pours out the benefits of Christ on people in baptism and we have water, why shouldn’t they be baptized?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Yeah, it’s weird how — even among Lutherans who preach the Sacraments and that we cannot, by our own power, come to believe in God — we so often go about trying to win converts by appealing to logic and decision, as if a case could be made that would win someone over. Or maybe that’s just what I see.

    Anyhow, the Sacraments often make a better case for what we believe than all our attempts at explaning. It’s hard to get around the receptive nature of both of them, and it is clear how little our understanding has to do with their functioning: “Here is Jesus’ body and blood, given for the forgiveness of your sins. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Doesn’t have to. You’re still forgiven.” By appealing to people’s understanding, we may insert a roadblock to their faith, since that understanding may not come until after they believe, if at all. But faith is not understanding — I still find myself mystified by it all, sometimes.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Yeah, it’s weird how — even among Lutherans who preach the Sacraments and that we cannot, by our own power, come to believe in God — we so often go about trying to win converts by appealing to logic and decision, as if a case could be made that would win someone over. Or maybe that’s just what I see.

    Anyhow, the Sacraments often make a better case for what we believe than all our attempts at explaning. It’s hard to get around the receptive nature of both of them, and it is clear how little our understanding has to do with their functioning: “Here is Jesus’ body and blood, given for the forgiveness of your sins. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Doesn’t have to. You’re still forgiven.” By appealing to people’s understanding, we may insert a roadblock to their faith, since that understanding may not come until after they believe, if at all. But faith is not understanding — I still find myself mystified by it all, sometimes.

  • Joe

    tODD – you hit it right on the head!

  • Joe

    tODD – you hit it right on the head!

  • fwsonnek

    sacraments: holy mysteries that make manifest that which is hidden.

    Holy things. set-apart things. Things that give meaning and life to the profane who gather to feed on them. who in turn give meaning and life to the world as only little-christs are able to….. we are called christians.

    Things that are mysteries in a way different from those masonic or gnostic or the sound of one hand clapping or the sound of a tree falling in the forest that no one hears. A cruciform tree. BEHOLD the Lamb of God….

    Shout. It.

    These are Mysteries that are MEANT to be KNOWN by the whole world. REVEALING is what they are all about.

    There is no secret knowledge here.

    You preach His death every time you eat and drink. A revealed mystery to preach a mystery that brings all to aweful silence.

    Yet mysteries merely because the finite can not hold the infinite even in nexus. Except that I am wrong. The finite CAN hold the infinite.

    His name is Jesus.

    He comes to us in bread, wine, water and the palm on pate connecting two sinners in common bond.

    Leaving mysteries to be mysteries is an art. We should practice it more in our evangelism.

  • fwsonnek

    sacraments: holy mysteries that make manifest that which is hidden.

    Holy things. set-apart things. Things that give meaning and life to the profane who gather to feed on them. who in turn give meaning and life to the world as only little-christs are able to….. we are called christians.

    Things that are mysteries in a way different from those masonic or gnostic or the sound of one hand clapping or the sound of a tree falling in the forest that no one hears. A cruciform tree. BEHOLD the Lamb of God….

    Shout. It.

    These are Mysteries that are MEANT to be KNOWN by the whole world. REVEALING is what they are all about.

    There is no secret knowledge here.

    You preach His death every time you eat and drink. A revealed mystery to preach a mystery that brings all to aweful silence.

    Yet mysteries merely because the finite can not hold the infinite even in nexus. Except that I am wrong. The finite CAN hold the infinite.

    His name is Jesus.

    He comes to us in bread, wine, water and the palm on pate connecting two sinners in common bond.

    Leaving mysteries to be mysteries is an art. We should practice it more in our evangelism.

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    About mysteries and the postmodern: too often people desire a mystery that they can put in their pocket, something that can be encompassed enough not to impact one’s life or cause one to “change”. As someone whose ministry is devoted to the unchurched I see the desire for the numinous coupled with the caveat of ethical relativism–that is, “I decide what is right for me.”
    To bring to people the Divine Mystery of God in a real way is to impress upon them the need for them to respond to God. Too often they fall back on the notion of a pocket Jesus that they can pull out like a voodoo doll to petition at whim then stick back in their back pocket. We have a mystery that is for all, reachable by all… yet is still a mystery. (unlike the gnostic mystery, or the Masonic mystery, or the scientology mystery…)
    How can we impress upon people a God that demands a response? Yes people desire spiritualism, but they want it on their own terms.
    I do feel that art gives us a powerful way to infiltrate people’s fear of the numinous… but personal relationships, investing your time into an individual, just may be the key to showing people’s patchwork beliefs for threadbare rags.
    They will see God’s grace in you and compare it to what they have long called “spirituality”.
    Just a thought. I am sorry to post such a long comment, I found this blog whilst searching for an email address for Professor Veith because I stumbled across a short “essay” by him that managed to mention Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Andy Warhol & Paris Hilton all in the same few short paragraphs. i enjoyed it terribly and I had hoped to be able to thank him. Hats off to you, sir!
    Mason – Atlas Takes Aim

  • http://www.AtlasTakesAim.com Mason Ian

    About mysteries and the postmodern: too often people desire a mystery that they can put in their pocket, something that can be encompassed enough not to impact one’s life or cause one to “change”. As someone whose ministry is devoted to the unchurched I see the desire for the numinous coupled with the caveat of ethical relativism–that is, “I decide what is right for me.”
    To bring to people the Divine Mystery of God in a real way is to impress upon them the need for them to respond to God. Too often they fall back on the notion of a pocket Jesus that they can pull out like a voodoo doll to petition at whim then stick back in their back pocket. We have a mystery that is for all, reachable by all… yet is still a mystery. (unlike the gnostic mystery, or the Masonic mystery, or the scientology mystery…)
    How can we impress upon people a God that demands a response? Yes people desire spiritualism, but they want it on their own terms.
    I do feel that art gives us a powerful way to infiltrate people’s fear of the numinous… but personal relationships, investing your time into an individual, just may be the key to showing people’s patchwork beliefs for threadbare rags.
    They will see God’s grace in you and compare it to what they have long called “spirituality”.
    Just a thought. I am sorry to post such a long comment, I found this blog whilst searching for an email address for Professor Veith because I stumbled across a short “essay” by him that managed to mention Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Andy Warhol & Paris Hilton all in the same few short paragraphs. i enjoyed it terribly and I had hoped to be able to thank him. Hats off to you, sir!
    Mason – Atlas Takes Aim

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thank you, Mason, and you can put your hat back on now! The range of references in that essay is sort of like what what we get into on this blog! I hope you will stay with us.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thank you, Mason, and you can put your hat back on now! The range of references in that essay is sort of like what what we get into on this blog! I hope you will stay with us.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I hope we can revisit this topic later. I struggle for the right words, sometimes.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    I hope we can revisit this topic later. I struggle for the right words, sometimes.


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