I am not sure I would care to join a local church that divided themselves to be the church unlike other churches in the world. Okay, I will name examples: the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church unfortunately are prime examples of what I have in mind. They are like cousins, but they won’t even worship with each other, at least the Eastern Orthodox priests teach their congregants to share in the Eucharist only in their churches and not in any Roman Catholic Church, even though the Roman Catholic Church permits them to partake with them. Of course all other churches are out of the equation because they don’t agree on what happens at the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or the Lord’s Table. Or they don’t accept the reality present there (as one commenter said on this interesting post).
The Lord doesn’t seem to be on board with this determination, decree, however you want to put it, if that is getting at an acceptable way of saying this. I mean when I look at the New Testament, at Jesus’ prayer for the oneness of all who follow him (John 17), at the diversity evident in those pages, and when I consider how the Spirit is moving today, it does make me wonder. The fastest growing church worldwide is not the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church, but the charismatic/Pentecostal expression of the faith. People are coming to Christ in large numbers especially in the southern hemisphere through their witness. And churches are being established. And the Lord doesn’t accept them as genuine churches because they don’t hold to his Table the way the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do?
I believe the bread and wine are more than symbols, that in some sense the partaking of them is sacramental, even if I’m at a loss to explain well how. I like the Eastern Orthodox insistence on mystery here over the Roman Catholic explanation steeped in philosophical Aristotelian thought, even if there might be something to say for the latter. I like more the thought as I understand it that N. T. Wright suggests, that somehow we are taken back to the original meal and fast forwarded to the meal to come in the present by the Spirit through Jesus’ once for all sacrificial death on the cross. I also simply accept it as a member of an Anglican church without thinking I have to understand it.
The church I take it is where at least two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, committed to regularly meet both for the sacramental and common life in Jesus by the Spirit. There is much more that needs to be said around that. But I like to say that the church is one, period. That all churches who hold to the gospel are one in spite of their differences and let me add, in spite of their errors. Not all who call themselves church are church. Some really do not hold to the gospel as set forth in scripture. If Pope Francis says we are genuine Christians and therefore those who by the power of God through faith have been saved, then why can’t we all share in the Lord’s meal together, if indeed we are one?