Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ordination Exam - Worship and Sacraments (Passed August 2006) PCUSA

Section I
References:
The Shorter Catechism (7.089): “Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation? A: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.”


The Second Helvetic Confession (5.211): “WHAT OUGHT TO BE DONE IN MEETINGS OF WORSHIP. Although it is permitted all men to read the Holy Scriptures privately at home, and by instruction to edify one another in the true religion, ywt in order that the Word of God may be properly preached to the people, and prayers and supplication publically made, also that the sacraments may be rightly administered, and that collections may be made for the poor and to pay the cost of all the Church’s expenses, and in order to maintain social intercourse, it is most necessary that religious or Church gatherings be held.”

The Confession of 1967 (9.29-30): “The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach Scriptures with literary and historical understanding. As God has spoken his word in diverse cultural situations, the church is confident that he will continue to speak through the Scriptures in a changing world and in every form of human culture. God’s word is spoken to his church today where the Scriptures are faithfully preached and attentively read in dependence on the illumination of the Holy Spirit and with readiness to receive their truth and direction.”

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Responses

I.1 The Directory of Worship notes that the Word is central to any worship. The Word is expressed in the flesh by Christ, in writing in the Scriptures and in proclamation by preaching. The importance of preaching is reaffirmed in numerous locations in the Book of Confessions. The Directory of Worship also notes that preaching is the responsibility of the pastor including the Scriptures used and content.


The Second Helvetic Confession (5.211) notes that although private study of the Bible is to be encouraged, corporate worship is essential and preaching is an important aspect of this. In the Shorter Catechism (7.089), “… the preaching of the Word” is recognized as “…an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.” The Confession of 1967 [C67] (9.29-30) extends this by noting that Scriptures, even though they are divinely inspired, are written in the words of humanity. As such they are couched in humanities culture and thought modalities. C67 notes that the church has a responsibility to express the Scriptures in a manner that translates the antiquated cultural references into something that is generally more accessible to the current culture. This meshes well with the Directory of Worship’s directive to present the Scriptures in a language that is understood by the congregation.

I.2 a) Eric noted that the previous pastor didn’t preach sermons… that they were too impersonal. In point of fact, a sermon on the Word should be very personal. The proclaimed Word is meaningless if it does not speak to us personally. The Directory of Worship makes it clear that sermons are the expressed responsibility of the Pastor who should prayerfully utilize his or her skills and training to insure a proper proclamation of the Word in a manner that makes it personal and relevant.


b) Sally noted that they had gotten used to not having a sermon and liked having an informal Bible study. Certainly a Bible study is a worthwhile endeavor and should be encouraged. That said, it cannot and should not replace a proclamation of the Word. Sermons are typically (but not always) given by trained individuals. A good sermon is founded in the Scriptures and uses the Scriptures to interpret Scriptures. Sally should be reminded that the body of Christ is made up of many with different gifts and that some were given the gift to be teachers. While I would never discourage a desire to study the Bible it is not a replacement for preaching of the Word.

c) Kang notes that sermons are human words, not God’s Word. This fallibility in the words of humanity is exactly why prayerful preaching is essential. Without a skilled and trained preacher to proclaim the Word there is a much greater risk of damage being done to the Word by unskillful interpretation. A preacher is trained to use Scripture to interpret Scripture and to delve into the linguistic and cultural aspects of the Word in order to bring it into a contemporary relevance. I would point out that piling coals on a person’s head might seem like a mean spirited thing to do unless you knew the cultural equivalent in today’s world was to borrow a match to light your oven. There is a real risk when the Bible is read that people will pull from it what they put in it. In other words if you want the Bible to justify a position you can generally find an isolated passage to support your contention. The key to properly interpreting the Bible however is to allow it to interpret itself. In other words use parallel texts and passages to elucidate the meaning in a different section of text. A Presbyterian pastor is trained to do this.

Finally it should be noted that although a Bible study is no substitute for hearing the preached Word of God, neither is the preached Word of God a substitute for Bible study. As members of Session each of these four people have sworn an oath to uphold the tenants of our faith as defined by the Scriptures, Book of Confessions and Book of Order. Since the Book of Confessions and the Directory of Worship ascribe great significance to the preaching of the Word, and because the Session and the pastor have specific responsibilities outlined in these books pertaining to the preaching of the Word – the Word will be preached. Now how do we sell this to the congregation so they love the idea? I would then solicit their feedback as to how to make this happen.


Section II.
1.a The Directory of Worship recognizes Baptism from any church that baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The key is baptism with water and in the name of the triune God. That said, the reverse is not always true. Other faith traditions may not recognize a non immersion Baptism.

1.b The Directory of Worship specifically notes that Baptism need only occur once and that having been baptized you are justified. W2.3006 notes that Baptism seals a relationship between the person being baptized and God.

1.c The Directory of Worship specifies that baptism may be by the generous sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion. Thus baptism by immersion is perfectly permissible in the Presbyterian Church.

2 No. ( OK let me expand on that…) As Presbyterians we believe in one baptism. To baptism a second time undermines a fundamental tenant of our faith that baptism enacts and seals a covenant between the person being baptized and God. This covenant is permanent and cannot be broken. I would ask the woman to consider serving this organization in other means or to seek an exemption to this requirement. If this failed I would seek to guide her towards other Christian organizations that might not have the same restrictions. Finally, if all else failed I would explain that a immersion baptism after you have already been baptized would have all the efficacy of a bath but if she wanted to take a bath for the purpose of meeting this other group’s leadership requirements I would not stop her—nor could I in clear conscience help. Knowing that this would likely hurt her I would redouble my efforts to make her feel included, vital and loved in my congregation.

III B.
1. Outline Order of Celebration of Lord’s Supper
a. Scripture
b. Words of Institution
c. Sharing of the Bread and Wine
d. Prayer

The Word in Enactment and the Word in Scripture are indelibly linked. The Directory of Worship specifically calls for the Word to be shared prior to the Lord’s Table and the Words of Institution to be shared somewhere along the line (before or during the Sacrament.) The Lord’s Supper is significant for a number of reasons not the least of which is that it serves to remind us of the sacrifice Christ made for us and it gives us a chance to form a common bond with both Christians and Christ throughout the ages. By proscribing certain essential aspects of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper the Directory of Worship seeks to maintain the Lord’s Supper as a teachable moment in the life of all baptized Christians. All are welcome at the Lord’s Table that have received Christ through baptism.

2. a) Ho-ling likes communion and wishes it could be done more often. The Book of Order (Directory of Worship) notes that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper can be conducted as often as each Lord’s day. Ho-ling should approach an elder to let them know there is support for more frequent celebrations from at least one person in the pews.

b) Sam notes that communion makes the service too long. I’m suspicious that Sam’s heart is not in the right place for this whole confirmation thing. I would point out that in some faith traditions past and present, services lasting for most of the day are not unheard of. Praise the Lord he was raised Presbyterian! Having elicited a sigh of relief from Sam I would press my advantage and note that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is just that a Celebration. This is a chance to do and say things that were done and said by our savior over two thousand years ago. How impressive is that! I would try to make Sam understand and appreciate that worship in any form, not just the sacraments, has to be from the heart. After all, God can have and do almost anything. The one thing God cannot give to God is our love. In order for our love to have any meaning and merit it must be given freely. It is the single gift we as a people can give God. Celebrating Christ at the Lord’s Table with a joyful heart is one way we can share this love with God.

c) Lee does not understand the “long prayer” and the breaking of bread and pouring of the wine. I would explain some of the history behind the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine. “Christ was born a Jew and observed Jewish customs. The Lord’s Supper is a reenactment of part of a Jewish celebration called a Seder. This meal celebrated the Jews deliverance from bondage and slavery in Egypt… just as our celebration of the Lord’s Supper celebrates our deliverance from sin. Jesus took two elements of that Seder celebration and gave them new meanings. He took the unleavened bread (called the bread of haste because in fleeing from Egypt the Jews did not have time to allow yeast to make the bread rise) and he broke it. This is in keeping with Jewish tradition but what he did next was different. He told his disciples that this was his body broken for them… You can imagine the confusion the disciples must have felt when he did this. They had been celebrating Seders all their lives and this was the first time anyone had done this. Jesus also poured wine and said this was his blood, shed for the remission of sins. Again, imagine the confusion! Remember Christ has not died yet when he did this. It’s only after his death that the true significance of what Jesus was saying and doing during the Seder became apparent. Lee I hope this helps you understand why we celebrate with the Bread and the Wine. I suppose we could do the entire Messianic Seder from start to finish but I suspect Sam might object to spending an extra couple of hours!”


1 comment:

Andrew Beery said...

BTW-As soon as the questions become avialable online I will add them as a comment