Andrew Wilson is teaching pastor at King’s Church in London, part of the Newfrontiers network. He co-authored Echoes of Exodus with Alastair Roberts, and recently published Spirit and Sacrament, a proposal for “eucharismatic” worship and church life.
Wilson’s proposal is two-sided: He wants to deepen Evangelical worship, and to liven up liturgical churches. Both sides are “retrieval” projects. He commends sacraments and historic liturgy to non-liturgical churches, and he argues that the church’s history is more “charismatic” than non-charismatics recognize.
In short, he thinks it possible to “have one’s ecclesiological cake and eat it,” since “there is no reason, beyond a series of historical accidents, why there cannot be churches in which set prayers are followed by spontaneous prophecies, and the ‘altar call’ summons people to the Communion Table, and the rhythmic recital of the Nicene Creed builds into an explosion of musical celebration, with dancing in the aisles and angels in the architecture” (19).
I agree. No reason at all. Stiffened though I am by Lutheran upbringing, Reformed conviction, and middle age, I’d love to be part of the service Wilson describes.
Wilson rightly begins his discussion of sacraments with a theology of gift (charis). In one of the many thrilling passages in the book, he points out that Jesus’s parables “reinforce the picture of God as an irrepressible giver”:
Once there was a farmer who scattered seed so liberally that most of it didn’t take root. Once there was a king who gave remittance for a debt of ten thousand talents. Once there was a vineyard-owner who gave people far more than their work was worth. . . . Once there was a king who gave wedding invitations to every undesirable in the country (28-29).
All Christian theology, Wilson observes, is a theology of gift (31).
God’s gifts elicit joy; we move from charis to chara. In Scripture, wine is the chief symbol of joy. Jesus’ sign at Cana indicates that “joy and abundance and restoration, and even glory, are breaking into the world” (48). The Eucharist brings together charis and chara: it is the gift of joy in the Spirit.
Sacraments give depth to Christian experience. Wilson nicely illustrates this by analogy with trampolining: To spring higher, you need to go deeper. Charismatics take note. But the opposite is also true: To go deeper, you need to go higher. Stale liturgists take note.
Wilson makes a historical and exegetical case for the continuation of charismatic gifts, a topic for another time and place. For the present, I commend Wilson’s book for your delight and instruction.
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