Preaching and sacraments!

I will be making a few generalizations in this blog, and hopefully the larger context of friends will not be too highly offended. Now that I am World Cup free I am able to concentrate a bit more on some pertinent issues that will actually affect my life. This next semester I will be doing an Independent Study on the Sacraments. I will be mentored by Keith Matthison. Dr. Matthison has done a great service to the church in many ways. Beyond his contributions in the area of eschatology, Keith has done some significant research in the area of the sacraments (particularly n the Reformational era). Anyone familiar with Ligonier Ministries knows that their primary goal is to restore God-centeredness in worship by adoring a Holy God. However, adoration and worship have certain demands. For instance, a sacramental gap in worship necessarily lowers the adoration of a Holy God. Though the sacraments to me are significant, in fact, significant enough that without it Orthodox Christianity crumbles, I realize that without preaching, the church does not exist. Parallels can be fallacious because sometime A’s situation differs with B in a minute way, hence avoiding a perfect parallel scenario. Nevertheless parallels in worship have in the last few years made so much sense to me that I cannot but come to one simple conclusion: modern approaches to preaching lead to a weakening of a sacramental life. Some may scorn at my phraseology. However, it is my contention that 95% of the time you show me modern expressions of worship you will also see modern expressions of the sacraments. What does this mean? It means that it is virtually non-existent. R.C. Sproul comments on this when writings in the foreword to Dr. Matthsion’s book:

The absence of a fixed pulpit was not too much of a cultural shock for me as I have seen countless churches wherein plexiglas lecterns serve as portable pulpits, easily removed to make room for the drama presentation.The ancient and historic use of the elevated pulpit that symbolizes the lofty import of the Word of God preached, is now relegated to the realm of the vestigial remnants of the dar ages.

Later he writes that “all forms are art forms and all art forms communicate something.” Everything done communicates something. No earthly expression in worship can be neutral. Modern forms present an uneasiness to historic ways of doing things and actually it may lead to an un-biblical approach to worship. The debate surrounding the regulative principle can be discussed elsewhere, but those on both sides must realize that contemporary applications have affected tremendously our understanding of the Holy. I confess it has not been positive.

Preaching is “indispensable to Christianity” said John Stott, so why is preaching today dispensable for the first activity that overcomes the local church with excitement? The sacraments nourish the church, so why is the church hesitant to give it to the people? If you think one thing does not affect the other you are already part of that unfortunate parallel.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Reformed Theology, Word/Sacrament. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Preaching and sacraments!

  1. Mr Brito,

    Greetings. This is wonderful news you have related here about a independent study of the sacrament, as this is an interest of mine, and it sounds delightful.

    A couple of items to note that I just had to communicate after reading this were the anamnesis and prolepsis involved in the eucharist.

    Additionally, an interesting remark involving a comparison of the Word to the sacrament is that the Word stands on its own, but the sacrament does not. I believe this observation is somewhat diversionary in a way as the preaching of the Word has a different audience than the sacrament, however, both are a mark of the church.

    I also hold after much reflection that the Reformed perspective on the eucharist has been obscured a bit as you really do not hear so much nowadays that we actually eat and drink Christ in some way, requiring the classification of it as being a rite.

    If we enter heaven to feed on Christ in the worship service, this fine spiritual heritage is not so much of a problem to re-invigorate. Only a few communities claim the real presence, however, the Reformed is the only one that I detect a sound focus on Christ and not so much the elements. Although the right elements are important, many bodies of real presence theology focus on something going on in the physical world with the elements when it seems it is rather earthy. There is some tendency to mysticism at the other extreme. The eucharist is a fine art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s