As we prepare for Holy Week, I invite you to invest your time in worship. Specifically I invite you to join in stride with Jesus as he advances through the last days of his pre-resurrected life. The three services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil unfold like three movements within a larger composition. Individually they stand on their own as thematic events, but bound together they walk us through Jesus’ passage from death to life. These three services are sometimes called Triduum, or Three Days. The meaning of Easter is embedded in these Three Days.
(excerpt from a doctoral paper written in 2008)
Sanctification is not a sign of growth in righteous behavior, but it is a solid truth for those redeemed in Christ. Sanctification is first a sign of salvation and not just ethical behavior. Sanctification is the work of God signaling God’s ownership of all Christians. That is why the scandalous Corinthians can be called by Paul “saints” and those for whom Jesus Christ became their sanctification. While sanctification is completely a gift from God, not something to be morally attained, it does require a human response. Because believers are sanctified already, we are to pursue sanctification in all aspects of living. “Sanctification is both a divine gift and a human task.”
The nature of the church also brings meaning to the doctrine of the saints. In the Patristic Age, four marks of the true church were developed to differentiate from heretical groups: unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. The Roman Catholic understanding of the church being marked with holiness centers more on the sacraments and on holy individuals (saints). The Eastern Orthodox Church also places a high level of importance on the saints in heaven and the Virgin Mary in particular as holy. Protestants tend to interpret the church’s holiness as its set-apartness and dedication to God and serving Him. In a Trinitarian fashion, the church is holy in three senses: they are the people of God, the body of Christ, and posses the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is baptism that marks or separates the church as holy unto God. But in our death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ Jesus there is an eschatological tension. A life of holiness is given to us through Jesus; however, it is still not completely present. We are holy, but at the same time, not yet holy. It is the continual living out of our baptism that makes us ready for life in the kingdom of God.
Much like the saints that comprise it, the church is holy because God makes it holy. There are no self-made saints and there is no church made holy by herself. Even baptism does not automatically create holiness in men, but it is dependant on a holy God and a faith-filled response by man. “It is God who distinguishes the Church, sets it apart, marks it out for his own and makes it holy, by winning power over the hearts of men through his Holy Spirit, by establishing his reign, by justifying and sanctifying the sinner and thereby founding the communion of saints.”
 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, ed. Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 563-565.
 James Leo Garrett, Jr, Systematic Theology, (North Richland Hills, TX: Bibal Press, 2001), 400.
 Ibid., 516-523.
 Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1984), 127-130.
 Hans Kung, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), 418-419.
Did you know that there are a variety of names for the sharing of bread and wine in worship? Those names include the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread, Eucharist, Mass, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Divine Liturgy, and the Divine Service. Each title highlights a unique aspect of the Meal.
The “Lord’s Supper” speaks of the meal that the risen Lord holds with the Church, the meal of the Lord’s Day, a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. It also reminds us of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he was handed over to his death.
“Holy Communion” accentuates the holy community established by the Holy Spirit as we encounter Christ and are formed into one body with him and so with each other. The word “communion” reminds us of how the early church shared everything in common (Acts 2:44).
“Breaking of Bread” is a phrase used four times in the New Testament (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 46, and 20:7). It recalls how the early church celebrated communion within the context of a larger common meal (known as the Agape Meal).
“Eucharist” calls us to see that the whole meal is a great thanksgiving for creation and for creation’s redemption in Jesus Christ. The term “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning “thanksgiving.” Communion is understood as a meal of thanksgiving, reflecting how Jesus “gave thanks” as he broke and blessed the bread and wine.
The term “Mass” is derived from the old dismissal of the participants at the end of the service and the sending away of the bread and the cup to the absent. It invites us into mission. The term “Mass” originates from the Late Latin word missa (dismissal), a word used in the concluding formula of Mass in Latin: “Ite, missa est” (“Go; it is the dismissal”).
“Sacrament of the Altar” invites each one to eat and drink from the true altar of God, the body and blood of Christ given and shed “for you.”
“Divine Liturgy” says the celebration is a public action, carried out by a community of people. This is the term used in Byzantine Rite traditions, such as in the Eastern Orthodox Church. These churches also speak of “the Divine Mysteries,” especially in reference to the consecrated elements, which they also call “the Holy Gifts.”
“Divine Service” helps us to see that the primary action of our gathering is God’s astonishing service to us; we are called to respond in praise and in service to our neighbor.
(This article includes excerpts from The Use of the Means of Grace, Principle 36.)