A Jagged Contention: The Eucharist?

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“An age which has already reduced God pretty much to a meaningless cipher, a sentimentality characterized as ‘love in general,’ cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that this sacrament is the Lord’s Supper not ours. He gives it. He is the gift. We are indeed to give thanks for this unspeakable gift. But the thanksgiving must be quite distinct; it must not displace the gift itself. When the Lord’s Supper becomes the Eucharist everything is run together and confused and the sheer gift of the gospel is obscured, if not lost.”

– Gerhard Forde, What’s In a Name? Eucharist or Lord’s Supper


Question:

As we come out of a holiday in which we focus on our giving of thanks, how do Forde’s comments about the Lord’s Supper bring us back to a proper focus? Do you agree that it is dangerous to refer to the Lord’s Supper as the Eucharist (which basically means “to give thanks”)? What troubles arise when we begin to focus on our own actions at the altar as opposed to Christ’s work for us?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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8 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: The Eucharist?

  1. Given that most people don’t speak Greek and associate the word with and as being the same as “The Lord’s Supper” I don’t think it really matters any more. If more people were literate it might indeed lead some astray.

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving! Luther described gratitude as “the basic Christian attitude.” One of the words for the Lord’s Supper, “Eucharist,” means simply “thanksgiving.” (UPDATE: The Greek word, in turn, means, literally, “good gift.” And the word for “gift” is related to the word for “grace.” The “Eucharist” thus connotes God’s good gift and God’s good grace. And “thanksgiving” is our response to God’s good gifts and to His good grace.”) (Cranach)

    I fail to see, given all the definitions and connotations that actually undergird the word εὐχαριστήσας (I Cor. 11:24), that one could in anyway point it toward “works” (that dreaded “third-use” thingamajob!

    Christ is clearly the author(ity) and actor and proffers His “thanksgiving” to us. Playing that back against works is forcing a foreign construction, and is needless. Explain, as you would κυριακὸν δεῖπνον or κοινωνία – not hard to do. Pastor’s basic task, after all. Right?

    We so often try to constrain grace to the level of our understanding, and it simply will not permit us to do so. God’s grace not only is beyond us to explain save for the Words of Scripture, it permeates Heaven and Earth, now and for eternity.

    It is irreducible, and rather that restrict it, we should rejoice in its many expressions withing the Word.

    Pax

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  3. I can understand Forde to some extent. It could be misunderstood, however I don’t think it’s of great concern unless someone intends it to be understood improperly. I get some of that from the Eucharistic prayers of ELCA, especially in the old LBW hymnal. I haven’t seen the more recent edition.

    I know when I use that term, which is admittedly rare, I’m thinking of Christ giving thanks for God’s work in the sacrament that he presented, and perhaps even for his sacrifice to come (at that time) at the will of his Father which established the promise attached.

    I’d say, in the end, I’m not much worried about it.

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  4. I disagree with Forde, and I commend the Issues, Etc. interview linked below. It lays out a clear refutation of Forde’s position in a way that is Scriptural, historical, and liturgical. Forde’s specific argument about misplacing the emphasis in the sacrament is addressed right before the 30 minute mark of the interview, but I think the entire episode sheds some interesting light on his position. In my opinion it is problematic and telling that Forde is either uncomfortable with or rejects the language of the church. This is the same man that asks in his essay “Radical Lutheranism,” “can there really be such a thing as a catholic church?”

    Different Names for the Lord’s Supper: The Eucharist

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  5. “This is the same man that asks in his essay “Radical Lutheranism,” “can there really be such a thing as a catholic church?””

    Paul, I’ve read that article. In its context, do you not agree with Forde’s concerns?

    “I don’t know that I am prepared to give full answers to all such questions yet, but I do want to pursue the proposition that Lutheranism especially in America might find its identity not by compromising with American religion but by becoming more radical about the gospel it has received. That is to say, Lutherans should become radicals, preachers of a gospel so radical that it puts the old to death and calls forth the new, and practitioners of the life that
    entails ‘‘for the time being.’’” Forde, Radical Lutheranism

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    1. Jean, I have read the article and some of his other work. I think that the way he frames that whole paragraph and his over arching argument, despite the disclaimer, reveals something about his ecclesiology. Also, while I certainly agree that Christianity should not be compromising with American religion, I don’t share Forde’s definitions of old/new man, radical gospel, etc., and so do not agree about his cure.

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  6. The reference to thanksgiving, I believe, is a reference to Christ giving thanks before the words of institution are recorded.

    If Eucharist is short-hand for the Lord’s Supper simply because the words of institution start with “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had GIVEN THANKS,” then I don’t think there’s any problem with it.

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  7. Forde also thinks ubiquity is the basis for the real presence! Not who I would go to for deeper understanding of the Sacrament!

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