My earliest church experience was in a small King James Baptist Church. I loved that congregation. They did many things for me, but most importantly they introduced me to Jesus. The pastor there was a man by the name of Jimmy Daniels. I do not know anything about his theological training (if he had any –a lot – none whatsoever – I do not know). What I do know is that he loves (I am assuming he is still alive and well) the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the key things I learned at Berea Baptist Church was that the Bible is reliable and is to be believed. What is says is the truth. What Jesus says is the truth. What the various other writers, such as the Apostle Paul, is the truth. It is all the LITERAL truth. For these reasons, we are to base our beliefs, our lives,and our worship on exactly what it says in the Bible without additions or (in this essay more importantly) any subtractions.
With all of that said, the truth is we subtracted a lot from worship. Things that are in the Bible. Not just that they are in the Bible but that they are commanded in the Bible for Christians as things to do. There are whole sections of the Bible which were either ignored or explained away – not taken literally, even though that is what we, as members, were taught to do. Primarily these omissions revolved around the Sacraments. Both Baptism and the Eucharist (dutifully referred to as the Lord’s Supper) were demoted from Sacraments to symbolic observances.
Being a young child and a young Christian, I had no idea. The pastor said it and he had the authority of the church so he was right. Why should I ever question his teaching that said that nowhere in the Bible are Christians taught that the bread and wine of Holy Communion are really Jesus’ Body and Blood?
As a newly minted “Bible Believing” Christian I rest assured that such an idea as the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament was nothing more than superstitious beliefs of non-Christian Roman Catholics. I believed whole-heartedly such anti-sacramental (and downright hateful)propaganda as is disseminated by the likes of Jack Chick in his “Chick Tracts.” I accepted (and for a long time after being able to read and discern for myself) persisted in the belief that as a “Bible Believer,” I must be a Sacrament rejecter.
(the Gospel of John 6:51-56)
Then, I decided to honestly read the Bible using the priorities that I held dear but first removing the firmly in place anti-sacramental bias. It was a harsh eye-opening. What Jesus told His followers (including me) ran directly opposite of what I had been taught for decades.
Jesus said to His followers: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” … “Truly, truly, I say to you,unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Jesus did not mince words and He gave no indication that He was not speaking literally. In fact, when many took Him literally and stopped following Him – He let them go.
John chapter 6 verse 66 reads, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
(I do not wish to suggest that those who deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are spawn of satan or anything, but it is a curious case of numerology there).
OK, you are not convinced. To be honest, neither was I. Obviously, Jesus was speaking metaphorically – symbolically. Just like in other passages in which He compares Himself to tangible objects – a gate, a door, etc. This was able to assuage my need to believe Jesus literally and at the same time – Not believe what He said.
Then I read the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Church in Corinth. In what we now know as the 11th chapter beginning with the 27th verse we read: “whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
I never read past the 28th verse – let a man examine himself… By only reading the snippet that agreed with my denial of what Jesus plainly says about our eating His body and drinking His blood, I could persist in my disbelief. I could persist in my explaining it all away as symbolic. Then one day I read the 29th verse which reads: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
Now it became too much. I could not deny the plain words of Jesus any longer. I do not know how but I do know that I take Jesus at His word and that means through some amazing power of God ordinary bread and wine become the Real Body and Blood of Jesus given for us for many for the forgiveness of sins. I know that a singular crucifixion which occurred on the distinct day of the 3rd of April AD 33 is the earthly occurrence of what is the perpetual present tense sacrifice of the Lamb Slain before the foundation of the World (see Revelation 13:8). And, I know that through the real presence of the sacrificed Body and Blood of Jesus we are made beneficiaries of that sacrifice now, today.
Believing in the Real Presence of the Body of Blood of Christ in the Eucharist does not make you a Roman Catholic. Believing in the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist makes you a Christian who really does believe what Jesus says.
So the Question is – Do you believe Jesus?
Pax et Bonum,
the Very Rev’d Dr SG Rindahl
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