Why the Lord’s Supper

Some years ago, I, as a Lutheran, was invited to write about the Lord’s Supper in Tabletalk, a magazine with mostly Reformed readers, which was doing special issue on the sacraments.  I didn’t want to argue, just explain what Holy Communion means and can mean in the life of a Christian.  I offer it to you, whatever your theology, for Maundy Thursday:

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity. [Read more…]

Maundy Wednesday?

This would harmonize an alleged inconsistency in the inerrant Bible:

Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University says discrepancies in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as compared with John arose because they used an older calendar than the official Jewish one.

He concluded the date was 1 April AD33.

This could also mean Jesus’ arrest, interrogation and separate trials did not all take place on one night only.

Prof Humphreys believes his findings could present a case for finally fixing Easter Day to the first Sunday in April.

In his new book, The Mystery Of The Last Supper, the metallurgist and materials scientist uses Biblical, historical and astronomical research to address the fundamental inconsistency about the event.

While Matthew, Mark and Luke say the Last Supper coincided with the start of the Jewish festival of Passover, John claims it took place before Passover.

“This has puzzled Biblical scholars for centuries. In fact, someone said it was ‘the thorniest subject in the New Testament’,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“If you look at all the events the Gospels record – between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion – there is a large number. It is impossible to fit them in between a Thursday evening and Friday morning.”

“But I found that two different calendars were involved. In fact, the four gospels agree perfectly,” he added.

Prof Humphreys argues that Jewish people would never have mistaken the Passover meal for another meal because it is so important.

He suggests that Matthew, Mark and Luke used an old-fashioned Jewish calendar – adapted from Egyptian usage at the time of Moses – rather than the official lunar calendar which was in widespread use at the time.

“In John’s Gospel, he is correct in saying the Last Supper was before the Passover meal. But Jesus chose to hold his Last Supper as a Passover meal according to an earlier Jewish calendar,” Prof Humphreys said.

The Last Supper was therefore on Wednesday, 1 April AD33, according to the standard Julian calendar used by historians, he concluded.

via BBC News – Jesus Christ’s Last Supper ‘was on a Wednesday’.

So Jesus was “old school,” following the older calendar, whereas most of the other Jews followed the more modern calendar.

“Here, as broken, is presented”

The Banquet

by George Herbert (1633)

Welcome sweet and sacred cheer,

Welcome deare;

With me, in me, live and dwell:

For thy neatnesse passeth sight,

Thy delight

Passeth tongue to taste or tell.

O what sweetnesse from the bowl

Fills my soul,

Such as is, and makes divine!

Is some starre (fled from the sphere)

Melted there,

As we sugar melt in wine ?

Or hath sweetnesse in the bread

Made a head

To subdue the smell of sinne;

Flowers, and gummes, and powders giving

All their living,

Lest the Enemy should winne ?

Doubtlese, neither starre nor flower

Hath the power

Such a sweetnesse to impart:

Onely God, who gives perfumes,

Flesh assumes,

And with it perfumes my heart.

But as Pomanders and wood

Still are good,

Yet being bruis’d are better scented:

God, to show how farre his love

Could improve,

Here, as broken, is presented.

When I had forgot my birth,

And on earth

In delights of earth was drown’d;

God took bloud, and needs would be

Spilt with me,

And so found me on the ground.

Having rais’d me to look up,

In a cup

Sweetly he doth meet my taste.

But I still being low and short,

Farre from court,

Wine becomes a wing at last.

For with it alone I flie

To the skie:

Where I wipe mine eyes, and see

What I seek, for what I sue;

Him I view,

Who hath done so much for me

Let the wonder of his pitie

Be my dittie,

And take up my lines and life:

Hearken under pain of death,

Hands and breath;

Strive in this, and love the strife.

via George Herbert: The Banquet (1633).