Theology Update for the Week of August 5

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Dear friends in Christ,

Out of Egypt: Reading Exodus Theologically

On August 5 at 10 a.m., the Sunday class continues its study of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Having survived not having water, the Israelites now find themselves without any food. And yet the Lord provides.

In addition to being a record of the central event in Jewish history – the exodus from Egypt and journey toward the Promised Land – Exodus also provides a prime case study of the benefits of a utilization of the traditional “four senses” of scripture: the literal, the typological, the moral, and the mystical.

Not by wafers alone

Speaking of miraculous meals, the Gospel readings for the next few Sundays include the “bread of life” discourses from John. When Christians, especially catholic-minded Christians, think about the bread of life, our minds are often rightfully drawn to the Eucharist. The bread of the Eucharist is the body of Christ, which is the bread of life.

A few months ago, the Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, a historian, friend of the parish, and Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, published the article “Everyday substances, heavenly gifts” in the magazine Christian History (here). There, he describes how early Church celebrations of the Eucharist utilized elements that were very different than our own. They were more substantial, for one thing, and may have included “side dishes” such as cheese and olives. For a variety of reasons, and as early as the third century, those practices changed. While our current offerings of bread and wine may look different than that of the first Christians, their significance remains. As McGowan writes, “Even in their familiar token forms, bread and wine still reflect the symbolism not merely of the Last Supper, but of the ancient Mediterranean meal in general. Products of the earth and of human labor, they link those who eat and drink them with an ancient past and a heavenly future.”

Yours in Christ,
Joel