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I recently had the honor of celebrating daily Holy Communion at a five-day Camps Farthest Out. This is a summer camp program established to hone prayer skills founded in the 1930’s and still going strong. Every morning I gave a brief teaching on Holy Communion before the communion service. It occurred to me that my reflections would be of use to many Christians, especially those who have been taught that Holy Communion is merely an ordinance, with no grace-giving character or healing powers.
On the grace-giving nature of the sacraments:
The first thing that should be settled pertains to the character of the sacraments, whether they are a “means of grace” or just ordinances that Christians do in obedience to God’s commands. There was little debate in the Early Church about the grace-giving nature of the sacraments, but during the Middle Ages sacramental worship, as in attending mass, often became a substitute for the ministry of the Word. Some of the Reformers, most notably Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531) overreacted to this Catholic abuse by downgrading the importance of the sacraments in their zeal to affirm the grace-giving nature of hearing the Word.
In the first two centuries, Early Church had to deal with the issue of whether the Jewish covenant signs such as circumcision and the feasts such as Passover, were sacraments. On this issue, the Church, blinded by the vitriol between the synagogue and Church, and guided by the theology of St. Augustine, made an error. Augustine declared that only the covenant signs instituted by Jesus, such as baptism and communion, were true sacraments. The Old Testament rites and feasts were only “types” pointing to the true New Testament sacraments and were not grace-giving. The Baltimore Catechism, which Catholics of my generation had to memorize to receive first Holy Communion, echoed this and declared a sacrament to be “An outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace.” This, of course, negates any consideration of the Jewish covenant signs as grace-giving.
However, St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) argued earlier, contrary to St Augustine, that God the Father instituted the sacrament of marriage in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, and that all marriages have a grace-giving quality, pagan or Christian. There is a scripture little noticed by either Catholics or Protestants, which clarifies the St. Bonaventure – St. Augustine divide. The scripture pertains to the Baptism of John and Luke’s comment on it found in the Gospel of Luke vs. 28-30. Jesus says:
I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
Note the two “becauses” that indicate causality. The ones who received the baptism (sacrament) of John received the grace of receiving the Gospel, and the ones who did not accept John’s baptism did not receive that grace and ultimately became enemies of the Gospel.
This passage negates the Augustinian position, since the ministry of John the Baptist operated before the Cross and is Old Testament. St. Bonaventure was right. Jesus did not institute this baptism. Properly speaking, the Holy Spirit inspired and developed it in stages from earlier rabbinic ceremonial washings. Jesus did indeed complete it and made it mandatory for his followers. Similarly, the Lord’s Supper was “shaped” by the Holy Spirit in various Jewish forms of pious table fellowship and was finalized by Jesus. This opens the way to an understanding of the Old Testament feasts and ritual as having sacramental effectiveness at some level.
Now, a hyper-cessationist may say that John’s baptism was the only ordinance or sacrament that produced a grace, as it was in a unique “dispensation.” That is a weak argument, especially since today’s adult baptisms often produce remarkable spiritual results such as instant deliverance from sinful habits, the dispersal of depression, a sense of joy, etc.
I suggested in my work, Forgotten Power, that one of the reasons that the American camp meeting revivals of the 19th Century and early 20th Century were so powerful is that they unconsciously (but providentially) copied the pattern of the Feast of Booths. That is, Christians came together to live in tents, hear the Word, and generously share food. In other words, the grace of the Jewish Feast of Booths was added to the graces of preaching the Word. From the 1790’s to the 1830’s, the period of Second Great Awakening, Holy Communion was an integral part of these camp revivals and helped make the Second Great Awakening the greatest revival movement in American history.
To summarize: the classic theology of the sacraments, held by most liturgical Christians such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, etc., is true in asserting that the sacraments give an interior grace. But the Roman Catholic teaching that only Jesus could institute a sacrament is biblically incorrect as it cuts out an important link to the Jewish covenant signs (sacraments).
Quantum physics and the sacraments:
We next turn our discussion to the relationship between quantum physics and the sacraments. At first glance Christians might think any relationship as bizarre. My 1996 book, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House) had a chapter entitled, “The Spiritual Side of Quantum Physics.” It was translated into Spanish by a Colombian publisher, but the first person contracted with translating the book refused to do so because he thought all discussion of quantum physics was occult. Indeed, several of the initial books published to explain quantum physics to the general public used Eastern Religions as the model to understand quantum physics. The issue is that the physical world gives a “natural theology” of the world (Romans 1) that is not very specific and can be interpreted through the lens of different faiths. Thankfully, there are several excellent books on quantum physics written from the Christian perspective.
To the point of this section, it seems clear that God formed the universe at its moment of creation (The Big Bang) so that sacramental activity and prayer could be part of it. That is, God did not form the universe and then try to figure out how spiritual activity would fit into it. Rather, he had the end purpose in mind of Angels and sentient beings such as Mankind (and extra-terrestrials) who could choose good over evil, worship and pray, and in the case of us earthlings, become part of the Body of Christ.
Quantum physics and its equations were worked out in the 1930s. The practical part of quantum physics is not a “pie in the sky” thing. The equations are central in designing modern electronic devices. Within the equations there popped up a peculiar, some call it “spooky,” characteristic called “non-locality” – or now “entanglement.” If an atom is bombarded by a high energy particle, under certain circumstances, it releases two “sister” particles that fly away but are “entangled.” This means that no matter how far away they go, for example several light years traveling in opposite directions, what happens to one particle will instantly happen to its sister particle. If one particle enters a magnetic field and begins rotating, the other will instantly rotate also. Einstein did not like this, as he believed that nothing could go faster than the speed of light, but he could not disavow the equations that said this would happen. It was not until the first decade of the Twenty-first Century that a team of French scientists developed instruments sensitive enough to prove entanglement true.
All of this has profound theological implications for understanding the sacraments. If God built the universe with a function of entanglement at its base, it is then possible that at a spiritual level entanglement also occurs. Thus, Paul insisted that we are entangled as parts in “one body” (1 Cor 12: 12-27) and that baptism “entangles” us into that Body. When Jesus commanded us to eat his body, this is possible because he could command entanglement between his physical body and bread. The same with wine and his blood. Catholics affirmed this union by inventing “transubstantiation” based on Aristotle’s philosophy, and their insistence on it as the only understanding of the Eucharist brought all sorts of problems and even wars. For my part, as an Anglican I believe that sacramental entanglement means a “real presence” of Jesus is in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, and we should leave it at that.
Prohibited for reservation:
Let us consider the concept of “prohibited for reservation.” In the Bible, God prohibits certain things, because they are ultimately reserved for special functions. For instance, the Old Testament strongly condemns mediumship as a sin (Isa 8:19, Lev 20:6) and those who practice it must be put to death (Lev 20:27). This is because mediumship invariably results in “channeling” an evil spirit or a familiar spirit who may counterfeit being a friendly and useful entity while ultimately bringing spiritual destruction and confusion. Note that in Acts 16:15-17, Paul casts out a spirit of divination from a slave girl who was momentarily shouting out the truth. The issue is that God does not want a person who is a medium of an evil spirit to one day prophecy some truth and the next day, a destructive lie. Total confusion would reign.
Christians are all urged to prophesy, and Paul declares prophecy the most important of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:1). Again, mixing mediumship and prophecy would be disastrous. They are similar, but have important distinctions, the chief one being the source, either the Holy Spirit or lesser, demonic spirits. It is also generally true that in mediumship the person is unconscious, and his voice box is overtaken by another entity. Mediums must be told what was said after they awaken from their trance state. In prophecies given by the Holy Spirit, the message is given to the Christian’s mind and he or she must decide to give it publicly – sometimes the person is timid and does not, or is not sure it is really from God.
All of this is to say that we are prohibited from mediumship so that our soul and body is prepared to be receptive to the messages of the Holy Spirit in prophecy, words of wisdom and godly intuitions and dreams.
Animal blood and Jesus’ blood
Another “prohibition for reservation” pertains to the drinking of blood. The Levitical food code was specific and repetitive about not consuming the blood of animals.
Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.” (Lev 17:13-14)
Many Christians are unaware that this is one of the few dietary laws of the Old Testament that is are carried over into the New Testament. At the Council of Jerusalem, described in Acts 15, Paul makes the case that the Gentiles coming into the Kingdom of God need not follow the Mosaic law. After the discussion, James, the head of the Jerusalem community makes the decision and a few critical exceptions:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19-21)
I should remark here that traditional liturgical denominations make it a point of being obedient to the Early Church councils, but I have never heard a sermon urging obedience to James’ decision on the blood issue. On the other hand, occultists often practice the ingestion of animal blood in their rituals. The idea is that they can acquire animal characteristics in doing so, as in an increased lustfulness by drinking the blood of hyenas.
So, there really is some sort of “life” or identity in the blood of a creature that humans should stay away from to avoid being like them. We are then invited to drink the blood of Jesus as mandated by Our Lord himself. Protestants, following the Zwinglian understanding of the sacraments, dismiss all of this as merely symbolic. To the contrary, by understanding Jesus’ authority to command entanglement between His blood and the consecrated wine, we can see that we are indeed drinking his blood and accepting his life into our bodies.
Pastoral considerations, the prayer huddle:
The real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine (juice) has important pastoral opportunities that most Christians are unaware of. The simplest is what might be termed a “prayer huddle.” That is, immediately after communion the congregation huddles together in groups of three or four to pray for each other’s intentions, two on one, two on one, etc. This has proven to be a wonderful experience and powerful time of prayer. It takes communion out of the classic pattern of individual meditation and communion of one Christian with the Lord to a more social expression – not that the traditional pattern is ‘wrong.” Biblically, the Lord’s Supper was, in its moment of institution, a fellowship dinner, filled with conversation and joy.
Holy Communion as deep intercession:
Holy Communion can be utilized for deep inner healing, for oneself and for others. Many Christians are aware of the ministry of inner healing, where hurtful and destructive memories of the past are given to the Lord, usually in some sort of prayer exercise in which the hurtful memory is re-imagined in the presence of the Lord. Few know that the original case of inner healing was a Holy Communion intercession. Agnes Sanford, the lady who did so much to bring healing prayer to the mainline churches from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, learned inner healing in the form of communion intercession from Anglican nuns, who in turn learned of it from Medieval Catholic sources.
The practice involved taking the burdens, sorrows and confusions (Gal 6:2) of a distressed person and holding that person in prayer (and fasting) for a week, and then bringing that person spiritually to Holy Communion where the hurts and sorrows would be given to Jesus. Agnes experimented with this on Harry Goldsmith, a converted Jewish war veteran who had many hurtful memories of prejudice against him. It was marvelously successful in ending his bouts of irrational anger. Agnes learned that the week-long regime was not necessary, and could, in fact, be dangerous to the intercessor if the person prayed for had demonic attachments from occult involvement, as some of these could transfer to the intercessor. Agnes found that merely determining to take a person, spiritually, to communion for the intention of the healing of his memories was just as effective and carried no risk for the intercessor.
Later inner healing developed into other forms, as in the laying on of hands on the head of a person and praying for the healing of the negative memories. Then visualization was used, as in asking the distressed person to imagine Jesus intervening in the hurtful memory. This later form became the most common usage.
But an important take-home is this: it is important to know that every Christian can pray inner healing intercession prayer for another person every time they go to Holy Communion. For instance, if you know that a person in your parish got into a serious car accident, and although physically unhurt, has nightmares about the incident, a Holy Communion intercession could very well be the prayer that heals the memories of the incident.
 This discussion is taken from my book, Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
 John Francis Quinn, “Saint Bonaventure and the Sacrament of Matrimony*’ Franciscan Studies 12 (1974) 101 .
 De Arteaga, Forgotten Power, pp 227ff. (ff?)
 Ibid., chapter 13, “The biblical patterns of revival.”
 For example, Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (Bolder: Shambhala, 1976).
 See Werner Schaaffs’, Physics and Miracles (Canon: n.p., 1974).
 David Z. Albert and Rivk A. Jalchen. “Was Einstein Wrong? A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity’” Scientific American, March 2009. Http://www.sciamcom/article.cfm?id=was-einstein-wrong-about-relativity.
 Very rarely, a Christian speaks “in the Spirit” and does not know or remember what he said. Usually this is a short “word of wisdom” that has transformative power for a person.
 An Evangelical friend of mine remarked that the “real presence” of Jesus in Holy Communion is true because, he explained, “Many Catholics are good Christians in spite of the awful preaching they receive – it must be the Holy Communion.”
 Traditional Catholic theology says that the “real presence” of Jesus lasts about 15 minutes. Maybe.
 This type of prayer visualization was made popular in the 1970s by Ruth Carter Stapleton in her books, especially The Gift of Inner Healing. (Waco: Word, 1976).
 I give the details of this in my work Agnes Sanford and Her Companions, (Eugene: Wiph & Stock, 2015) chapter 17, “Harry and the healing of memories.”
 John and Paula Sandford noticed that visualization inner healing was being done without serious consideration of the biblical implications, and to remedy the situation wrote the classic text of the inner healing ministry, The Transformation of the Inner Man (South Plainsfield: Bridge, 1982).