We had a great time doing a bit of doctrinal study into the meaning of the Lord's supper and the way we practice it... along the way we recalled the English Reformers who were martyred for the stand they took over the meaing of this part of church life - going to the stake to defend it, but more to defend the completeness of the cross of Christ, the one unrepeatable sacrifice for our sins. On Monday I was in Oxford not far from The Martyrs Memorial, though I didn't have time to go and read it's text again it's a solemn reminder of heroes who contended for the faith in generations past.
I was struck that communion recalls God's gift to us, it's not our gift to God. The direction of travel there is vitally important. He invites us to come and feast by faith, rather than us offering something to him. (MP3 here soon). I was gladened to see that my pastor has thought deeply about which liturgy to use and by his naming of martyr John Hooper as one of his heroes.
I'm struck in the context of the importance of the issue by this year's conversion of Francis Beckwith from Evangelical Protestant to Roman Catholicism... which generated a lot of blogging and much debate about the nature of the Evangelical Theological Society that Beckwith had presided over. And then also Tony Blair's long-anticipated decision to converted from 'Anglicanism' to 'Roman Catholicism'. Some of their reasons will be disclosed, some not. One imagines there were some differences between these two choices. Whatever Blair's reasons it's clear in some sense he does do God after all (unlike new lib-dem leader Nick Clegg who confessed his atheism.)
I wonder how clear it is to them the issues that were really at stake in the reformation about the authority of scripture vs. the church, or the sufficiency of the cross of Christ and the nature of justification. (Hear Carl Trueman at Theology for all in 2006 for more) They must be known to Beckwith, in Blair's case who knows... Maybe it's the beliefs? Maybe it's the rituals? Maybe it's just because his wife is Catholic?
Hundreds of years on the debates and issues are as real as ever though perhaps not considered often enough given the way some people try and claim that there is no difference between Protestant and Catholic theology. Just read JC Ryle's Five English Reformers and see.