Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday: The church becomes visible and the church fades to black

Maundy Thursday, 2009
Fr. Timothy Fountain

Articles of Religion XIX.
Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

Is there any moment in which the church of Christ is more visible than the moment we share tonight?

We have “a congregation.” Like the Passover meal that creates and defines the Jewish people even today, the Lord’s Supper brings together the “whole congregation” of Christ’s people, across “all generations.” “We who are many are one body, for we all share one bread, one cup.”

We have “faithful people.” We are here because we are faithful to a command – a “mandate” – to “do this in remembrance of Christ.” And we are together because we are faithful to his commands that we serve and love one another.

We have “the pure Word of God preached.” This might be more true tonight than any other, because the celebration of the Lord’s Supper must always speak the words of Jesus himself, “This is my body… this is my blood for the forgiveness of sin… do this for the remembrance of me.”

We have “the Sacraments duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all things requisite to the same.” Baptism, a Sacrament ordained by Christ, is required of those who would eat His Supper. And the Supper itself is ordained by Christ, with the requisite elements of bread and wine, blessed by a minister ordained under apostolic order to represent Christ.

But note the warning at the end of Article XIX. All Christian congregations, no matter how ancient, like Jerusalem; no matter how intellectual, like Alexandria; no matter how Biblically insightful, like Antioch; no matter how widespread and influential, like Rome: all betrayed the faith from time to time.

Tonight we will see this holy place stripped at the end of our service. We will remember that Jesus was arrested and taken away, betrayed and abandoned by his own followers.

Within moments of each other, we will experience both the fullness of the visible church of Christ and the emptiness of the sanctuary. We will be reminded that all the external things of the church become nothing if Christ himself is betrayed and abandoned by his people – by us.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THAT was powerful!