July 30th, 2015
Just weeks ago we got a glimpse into something that had been previously enshrouded in mystery. About the size of a baby-grand piano, the interstellar probe, New Horizons, made its way to within 7,500 miles of Pluto, collecting enough digital imagery and other data to occupy astronomers, geologists, and physicists for a decade.
After its nine-year approach to the Plutonian neighborhood, New Horizons departed as quickly as it arrived. But even in its brief rendezvous we were made privy to features and idiosyncrasies of that celestial body of which our most powerful telescopes heretofore had only yielded pixelated shadows of negligible worth. We saw for the first time a surface and mountain ranges that suggested a planet very much alive (despite its planetary status being “revoked” while New Horizons was mid-way to its target.) We were made aware of an atmospheric-like band far thicker than previously imagined surrounding this satellite that prefers to orbit to the inclination of its own elliptic.
Unless humanity learns to defy the laws of space-time, New Horizons may be as close as we ever get to the mystery that is Pluto. We learned (and will learn) a lot from the encounter, but we will have to content ourselves with having penetrated only provisionally into all that Pluto is and what it reveals about matters foundational to our understanding of reality.
This Sunday we have a unique convergence of its own–one that invites us to probe once again a mystery that yields knowledge that’s nourishing even if it isn’t comprehensive.
We have the privilege this Sunday of drawing near to both the Sacraments instituted by Jesus. Zerah Elizabeth Elam will come to the waters of Baptism, after which all those whose faith is in that to which it points will come to the Table for Communion.
The mysteries of Pluto and those of the Sacraments are of different kinds, but they have both solicited comparable degrees of curiosity and passion.
From the time the night sky first yielded a faint image of something that stood out among the stars, astronomers and planetary scientists have wondered what they were beholding in that tiny planetary body.
From the moment Jesus said “this is my body,” disciples and theologians have sought to make sense of his meaning.
You know perhaps too well that differences of opinion over the nature of the Sacraments have been cause not just for disagreement but staunch division in the history of the Church. And while those divisions deepened with time–and not without other matters exacerbating the rift–all the perspectives on the Sacraments nevertheless agree that there is a nourishment to be found in them.
We mentioned a while back a series of lectures on Reformation history given by Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary. Listening to one of his colleagues expound upon John Calvin’s view of the Sacraments (a colleague hailing from Calvin’s own native France), I became aware of a short treatise Calvin wrote on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.
Calvin was writing at at time when, to him, the nature of the Sacraments had become more enshrouded in mystery due to the variety of perspectives arguing for preeminence. Writing in the introduction to the treatise Calvin finds lamentable a church embroiled in controversy over a matter meant for encouragement, and thus explains his reason for writing:
As the holy sacrament of the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ has long been the subject of several important errors, and in these past years been anew enveloped in diverse opinions and contentious disputes, it is no wonder if many weak consciences cannot fairly resolve what view they ought to take of it, but remain in doubt and perplexity, waiting till all contention being laid aside, the servants of God come to some agreement upon it. However, as it is a very perilous thing to have no certainty on an ordinance, the understanding of which is so requisite for our salvation, I have thought it might be a very useful labour to treat briefly and, nevertheless, clearly deduce a summary of what is necessary to be known of it.
Last week we had to preface our encouragement of hearing from the Roman Catholic theologian Francois Fenelon by acknowledging his history of acting infelicitously toward the Protestants of his day. Likewise we should preface your reading of Calvin’s writing here that he, too, was a man of his day. The excesses of the Roman Catholic Church then led him to write with a stridency we may find off-putting, But if you can look past his vehemence you will find ideas worth considering.
You neither have to read nor agree with his perspective on The Table to benefit from what Jesus offers us there. But if you have any curiosity to probe a little further into the depths of this Sacrament’s nature and meaning, you could do worse than Calvin as your explorer. For if the Lord Jesus is the one by whom “all things were created, in heaven and on earth;” if “all things were created through him and for him”–including Pluto–then what we will witness and partake of Sunday is as much a window into the foundations of the universe as what a tiny spacecraft beheld in the cold darkness of space for a few fleeting moments.
We let Acts 5 lead us by the hand back to the topic of sharing the news of Jesus last Sunday. We found there a mandate, a message, and a motive (or three).
Then we asked Bill Harris to tease out the finer points of what it means to speak a message like the one we have into an otherwise indifferent or hostile cultural moment. Listening to the differences people have with our perspective until we can articulate them as well or better than they can themselves is key to having both a civil and productive conversation.
Bill was kind to share his notes with us, which you can download here.
And we did our best to capture his words and the ensuing conversation below.
We announced to you last Sunday that we had entered into preliminary discussions with a facility to which CtK might relocate in order to accommodate our expanded needs since moving into Fairmeadows Baptist Church nearly two years ago.
As discussions are still early in their development we’ll share more details should things progress. For now we wanted to give you thanks for praying, and to ask you to continue in that effort. You’re also welcome to drive by the facility to get a look at the location.
- The next two Women to Women (W2W) gatherings about the future of women’s ministry in CtK are back-to-back this Saturday and Sunday. For more details, you can visit our spot on The City.
- Today is the deadline for expressing interest in either continuing as one or in becoming a Community Group Facilitator. New applicants will be screened early next month, with those qualified by the session to serve required to attend a CGF pow-wow on Tuesday, August 25th. Groups will form in mid-September.