In my process of pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church, I was directed to a book by Hans Boersma called Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. This helps solidify my thinking in the power of the Table of the Lord.
I grew up with a theology of baptism and the Table being “symbolic.” They were necessary, but they had no attached “power” because that would somehow mean Jesus wasn’t enough. Then, I began theological studies at Luther Seminary and I realized Luther, the great reformer, still held to a powerful presence of the Lord at the Table of the Lord. Even John Wesley, the revivalist, didn’t abandon infant baptism. What was going on? What was I missing?
Helping serve communion one day in chapel at Luther Seminary solidified my experience to a real presence at the Table of the Lord. It was a spiritual experience in delivering the bread to people and saying, “The body of Christ for you.” More than that, it was an emotional experience.
Boersma’s book takes on modernism and how the sacred and the secular were cut at particular points in western philosophical development. There is no way a blog post is going to cover all of it with any justice whatsoever. Plus, I’m still looking up the big words in the dictionary…
Here is what is developing in my thinking that is the key, however: We have come to a place in our world where we think certain things (or anything really) can be enjoyed simply for themselves. Nature, for example. The trouble is that, as Augustine would point out, that opposes the truth of only GOD can be enjoyed for his own sake.
“If there is no sacramental participation of creation in God’s being, created objects have no inherent relationship to each other or to God. The result is a nihilist constructivism in which value and enjoyment are the result of external or nominal connections rather than of a participatory or eal bond with the eternal Word of God.” (p. 83)
This leads me to conclusions as a believer that I have “known” but helps me solidify it in my thinking: I must be sacramental. I cannot divorce the reality of the Table of the Lord from the presence of the Lord and see it merely as symbolism. It is an undue burden on my spiritual life.
“By drawing us away from heavenly contemplation, modern secularism has placed on us the burden of constructing our own truth, goodness, and beauty. If the experience of postmodern vacuity teaches us anything, it is that such a burden is too much to carry. The task of constructing our own reality has led to numerous political, economic, and moral dilemmas, dilemmas that cannot be resolved without a return to the stability of heavenly participation.” (p. 83)
What is ironic about all this is I can remember the early 90s and all the railing against “post-modern” thinking… by scholars who believe the Table of the Lord and baptism are merely symbolic. We were engaged in post-modern thinking and raging against it at the same time!
Years ago I came to the realization that I must be sacramental in my theology and practice. Now, I am starting to understand with my mind WHY that is necessary.