3 Eucharist

For the baptised, purified community the things of the world announce their maker to us. So for the Christian community, water and bread and wine are God’s opening gambit. By them we learn that these are first instalments. By them we discover that the world is not thing, but course of lessons by which the action and hospitality of God becomes steadily more obvious. These emblems and servants induct us into ever-increasing levels of the full reality of the being of God. They represent the work of this Reality himself – the Word – poured himself out to us, lending us the fullness of his being, but only as fast as that fullness of being himself prepares us to receive it. He does this by supplying us with a succession of subordinate things, each an emblem of the being it is supplied from above, and leads us up to the next and clearer emblem, through a chain of ever improving approximations of perfect reality.
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2 Worship

We worship God. He is God: we are not. We confess that the God of Jesus Christ is the only God.
We concede that there are rival gods, alternative authorities and divinities, but declare that none of them are what they claim to be.

1. Returning praise
2. The trinitarian order of worship.
3. Communion and participation in the life of heaven.
4. Liturgical action as
5. Worship as sacrifice
6. Truth
7. Creeds and plurality

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1 Gathering

The doctrine of the Church starts from the doctrine of God. Who God is will decide what the Church is. Whatever we say about the Church must be controlled by the Church’s own teaching about God. We will not follow the custom of some contemporary ecclesiology to start with sociological pronouncements about the Church. In their place we will assume the competence of God to make whatever he will of his people.

1. The gospel
2. Election
3. Baptism
4. Reconciliation and unity
5. Responsibility of theological statement

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Baptism and Christian worship

1. Christian worship is public
2. Christian worship is the service of God to us
3. The Son makes the good confession
4. Rival liturgies
5. The Church names the gods
6. Being made persons in time

What can I do for a Practical theology seminar? Perhaps the best thing is to give you a straight account of the Christian calling and life. This is life together, this is most obvious when Christians are gathered together in worship. So I am going to talk about Christian worship as the demonstration of what Christian life is. I want to persuade you that Christian worship is an act of God, and that God involves us in this act of his, so we are the act in which God makes himself known here in the world. This means a number of things – that the Church is the big fact with which God confronts the world, and that the distinctiveness of the Church that is the single contribution to the world that the Church can make. Just by being different from the world, the Church demonstrates that the world is not yet everything it claims to be. This must also mean that God is also competent to make the Church mean what God says is means, so the shortcomings of the Church don’t ultimately get in God’s, or the world’s, way. Then two other things. One is that Christian worship is a public and political act. The other is that the Church service is making its participants holy. Or to say the same thing with a more ontological twist, the Church service is bringing its participants into existence. We exist only because we, or someone else on our behalf, worships God on earth.

1. Christian worship is public
I have turned ethnographer. I been to explore one of the many different communities in the London borough of Hackney. Though the community I have chosen to present to you seemed to be made of several different groups, it curiously insists that all its members make up one single community, most clearly seen on Sundays. The particular manifestation of this community that I have been examining refer to itself as ‘St Mary’s, Stoke Newington’. On Sunday in the morning the community appears. Its leading members are dressed in white. The first holds above him a large cross, the second and third carry large candles, a fourth carries a large book and is followed by one or two hundred people. At intervals the book is opened and read from, and when this happens the whole assembly bursts into acclamations and song. What do these people themselves think they are doing? How does this event make them the particular community they are?
To get to grips with this community I had to take some decisions. My first was to accept that this community understands itself to be meeting in public. It believes that the entire surrounding community is present, watching and listening to them. The walls of their building are transparent, as it were, so the whole event is visible to the outside world, which makes it like a large demo in a busy concourse or city square.
Secondly I decided that the community thinks what it hears and what it says. The readings, and the songs that respond to them, really tell us what these people understand about themselves. Since the community is only fully visible for an hour and a half, being sociologists of this community is like being sport commentators at a match. We have to provide a running commentary as the Church service takes place before our eyes. This means that we have to listen attend to the actual words and actions of the Christians assembled in worship, and from them set out the narrative of the service. They refer themselves to the words of the book – Scripture – which they listen and repeat in song. This means that the narrative of the Church service is the narrative of Jesus Christ that spells itself out through these readings. In short, Christ is what is going on in the Church service, and these people who hear and sing Scripture are our key to Christ. The unity of Christ and these people is what is being established here. In its worship this community declares that God intends to make us participants in some of his action for the world. So the Church service is the service of God, and remains his service, and yet it also becomes ours. Our action is through and through God’s action, and yet it will become really ours, our action with God. As the Christians see it, their worship is the speech of God that creates their community and their life. This worship creates plurality, it sets all things in motion, and distinguishes every thing from every other thing. God gives his speech to the world in the form of the Church: the Church is the action of God in the world. It witnesses to God who makes good what we start but cannot finish, and undoes what we have done falsely. The worship is God’s own compassionate diagnosis of the world, and the Church tells the world what it does Church interprets the world to itself and. In worshipping God, the Church deconstructs what the world does. The Church service is mocking what the pagans do. Finally, the event of the Church service reverberate in the activities of Christian through the week, so that every Christian is a little Church service continuing wherever each Christian is. These are some of the assumptions I am working on in what follows. As we go along you will be able to identify others. Our job is to provide a commentary on what this assembly is doing. Here are some particular moments of the Church service I want to look at:
Entry – greeting – prayer of humble access – Gloria – reading – psalm – reading – sermon – intercessions – confession – forgiveness & peace.

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Worship as binding and loosing

The liturgy is the speech of God. The speech of God opens us up and closes us down, blesses and curses. God’s speech finishes and makes good what we start but cannot finish, and undoes what we have done falsely. The act of God creates a community and a life; it creates plurality, it sets all things in motion, and distinguishes every thing from every other thing. It creates the Church and gives it a speech and a work. It gives the Church the task of untying the world that ties itself up, and picking up and binding in again whatever the world has abandoned. God gives his speech to the world in the form of the Church: the Church is the action of God in the world. The Church interprets the world to itself and is God’s own compassionate act of world-analysis and -diagnosis. Theology serves this speech of God given to the Church. The doctrine of God who speaks and acts for us serves to secure our daily action and freedom of action against all that threatens to bring it to a close. Only the God of Jesus Christ will free us and drive out the forces that have colonised us. He will raise us from this merely illusory diversity and this premature unity, from this indistinguishable entity of the observer and the world he sets before him, that cannot be given its independence from him.

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Worship as binding and loosing – at a glance

1) The liturgy is the speech of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The work of the Son and the Spirit is to bring us into being within this liturgy.

2) The speech of God creates speakers, who can ask God and respond to God with thanks.

3) The Holy Spirit asks the Father for us and the Father approves his request: their act of asking and granting is all the being we have. They bring us into being and make us social and vocal.

4) The people of this world give away what they have been given, refuse to pass it on as from God. They give themselves away, dedicate themselves to local powers, and defer to and promote the part over the whole.

5) They thereby create gods, and make gods of themselves. Gods are accumulations of wrongly-attributed respect, obstructions in the traffic of life and praise.

6) We can identify three levels of idolatry: detachment as such (Cause, Nature, Protology), the autonomous demonic detached observer (a personified figure), and the surface of merely apparent diversity (that we could call ‘modernity’); that is, the fundamental forces, the idol of the Individual, and the (illusorily diverse) world of that idol.

7) Every god is an anthropology that starts to bring into being the man it describes, and makes it impossible for such a man finally to come into being.

8) The effect of many gods is to create the One, in the figure of (1) the autonomous individual or detached observer, and in the figure of (2) the state. The effect of the One (individual) is to create the many forces (passions, diversity, choice), and the effect of the state is to create the detached observer. The detached observer is a personification and microcosm of the state.

9) The divine liturgy names the powers. It takes recognition away from the other gods and returns it to God, who returns it to us again in good order.

10) The liturgy interrupts us, dethrones us and drives the words of the rival masters out of us. It locks and unlocks creation to us. The divine liturgy unseats us as that detached observer who creates his own object and cannot receive any object (from God).

11) The liturgy of the Son animates us, takes away our paralysis, gives us sensation, teaches us to move and serve, ask and give thanks.

12) The liturgy opens and maintains the language within which you reach me and I am able to respond to you. It gives me the words by which I can raise you to God and see you as other than me.

13) For our sake the liturgy produces simpler versions of itself, that protect us from its full impact, while readying us to receive more. Most of the liturgy goes over our heads.

14) The liturgy is the fullness of time that holds itself back, and presents itself to us in serial form in order to ready us for increasingly thick and strong doses of time.

15) The saints are integrated into the work of re-membering and integrating of many disconnected times into the one time of the company of heaven. They are to be the voices of those without voice, and of keeping open the world’s crisis of identity.

16) Theology serves the liturgy, keeping Scripture, Church and world in conversation and confrontation.

Eucharist – at a glance

The Church is the exercise of the generosity of God: it feeds people the whole message of God, intercedes for them, puts the words of
God into their mouth and teach them to intercede for themselves. The powerful consume the poor. The Church has to gather, feed and protect the poor, and to pass on to the powerful the news that they are accumulating a cup of wrath.

1. The Church is the exercise of the generosity of God: it feeds people the whole message of God, intercedes for them, puts the words of God into their mouth and teach them to intercede for themselves.

2. The powerful consume the poor. The Church has to gather, feed and protect the poor, and to pass on to the powerful the news that they are accumulating a cup of wrath.

3. The (pagan) world eats indiscriminately from every table, enjoys the hospitality of the powers, shares the cup of idols. We are fed impoverishing self-images and we feed them to others.

4. The (pagan) world is presented with a faultless exemplar (offering), the illustration of what we are to be, and indicates that we are acceptable to the degree that we conform to and participate in this figure of perfection.

5. This display of this flawless good life creates a dependence in us. As we internalise the figures set before us, we are consumed by those who set them up before us.

6. The modern Church does not feed the poor, or give them the name of the Lord who feeds and protects. It fails to reject any (pagan) teaching as inedible and has made itself ill. It has not waited and fasted for the poor; it has feasted too early.

7. The modern Church does not confess the mind of Christ, its mind is no longer clear, it does not know what is happening to it; it cannot tell itself apart from the world, so has nothing to tell the world.

8. We have eaten and internalised food unpaid for, made by workers unnamed and unacknowledged. Modernity is ill as a result of the cup that it first doled out and which it is now drinking must down itself.

9. God has seized us and will not let go of us: he has made us drink down what we have poured out to others.

10. The cup is the bitterness of our own defeat by God. For the Church it is the functioning immune system which identifies invaders and fights them off.

11. We are the sacrifice and harvest of Christ. He makes us holy and then presents us to the Father for his approval. We will be that loaf that presently Christ is alone.

12. The Spirit delivers and installs in us the faculties and abilities of the Son. He supplies reality to us in doses, so we receive in instalments the world within which, in the Son, we can develop the character and practice the action of the Son.

13. The food God feeds us causes us to call on him to feed us more: it gives us an appetite, and takes away our appetite for any other bread

14. It is for the Church to say what the actual ontology of the world is. It may say that the world is a matter of taking and being taken, that human beings use one another up.

15. The Church confesses the people of this people consume one another and are consumed, and that the world is made up of bundles of (pagan) sacraments. The conceptuality of sacrament is a sophisticated anthropology, ontology and epistemology.

16. Jesus is for us by his fourfold action of taking, giving thanks, breaking and passing on. He draws us into this action, so what is his is ours.

17. Discussion of the eucharist in terms of the presence or location of Jesus misses the point. It is our presence, not that of Jesus, that is in question. We are being brought into being by this feeding.

The Eucharist

The eucharist asks us hard questions. It asks if our contemporary Church passes on the word of God to the world, or if withholds that word and leaves the world hungry. If the Church does not pass on what it has received, the world will fill itself up with substitutes, and the Church will gather only a poor harvest. Given the wrong diet, the world overeats, and there is a corresponding shortage being suffered by others outside its view. The Word of God is a form of medicine, that makes a sweet and a bitter drink. This paper then discusses what we mean by saying the Lamb has been sacrificed, and asks in what sense we do, and what sense we do not, eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. It relates the presence of Jesus to the action of Jesus. In a final section I discuss some of these conceptual moves, and show how relating ontology to action allows the sacrament to judge our political relationships. The eucharist is intrinsically a semiotics and an epistemology, and it is these precisely because it is a doctrine about God who feeds and judges us, so the concept of sacrament does not need an further set arguments in justification of religious language..
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