Recapturing an Enchanted World: Ritual and Sacrament in the Free Church Tradition, By John D. Rempel
Recapturing an Enchanted World
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: January 28, 2020
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4929
  • ISBN: 9780830849291

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How might our worship recapture and reflect the enchanted world of God's nearness in Jesus Christ?

In this first volume in IVP Academic's Dynamics of Christian Worship series, John D. Rempel offers a vision for this kind of transformative worship. A theologian and minister in the Mennonite Church, Rempel considers the role of the sacraments and ritual within the Free Church tradition. While the Free Churches rightly sought to cleanse the church of the abuses of sacramentalism, in that process they also set aside some of the church's historic practices and the theology behind them, which ultimately impoverished their worship.

In response to this liturgically thin space, Rempel appeals to the incarnation of Christ, whose taking on of flesh can help us perceive the sacramental nature of our faith and worship. By embracing life-giving and peacemaking practices, the worship of not only the Free Church tradition but of the whole body of Christ might be transformed and become enchanted once again.

The Dynamics of Christian Worship series draws from a wide range of worshiping contexts and denominational backgrounds to unpack the many dynamics of Christian worship—including prayer, reading the Bible, preaching, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, music, visual art, architecture, and more—to deepen both the theology and practice of Christian worship for the life of the church.

"This is a terribly important book, and it is timely. . . . The particular relevance of Rempel's work is that he speaks to what he calls 'liturgically lean churches' in a manner that frees them and opens them to learn from the more liturgical or historical traditions. In the process, he helps those within the Free Church and evangelical world to come to a much greater appreciation of the critical and essential place of ritual in the life and witness of the church."

From the foreword by Gordon T. Smith, president of Ambrose University and Seminary

"This book offers tremendous encouragement for people in search of God's nearness in worship. John Rempel takes his readers beyond words to gestures, beyond preaching to sacraments. Rightly convinced that heavenly things are mediated by earthly things, he challenges us to leave behind the rationalism of the Enlightenment's disenchanted universe and to take seriously the truth that the incarnation places us in a sacramental universe."

Hans Boersma, Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House Theological Seminary

"Though this book will be valuable to worship planners and leaders of all traditions, Recapturing an Enchanted World is an especially rich resource for liturgically lean traditions. Offering astute guidance through the thickets of sacramental history and theology, this book illuminates what was lost by dissenters and Free Churches in the Reformation and invites rediscovery of 'the bounty of a sacramental universe.' What makes the book stand apart is Rempel's gift for felicitous language, well-considered examples, and abiding passion for wholehearted worship embodied in word and deed—a true treasure for all who care about worship."

Marlene Kropf, professor emerita in spiritual formation and worship, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana

"Rempel contrasts today's 'disenchanted' world, where the material realm is self-sufficient and empty of Spirit, with the 'enchanted' world, where Spirit shapes matter through colors, shapes, and movements. Sacraments mediate Spirit through common physical actions and elements: eating (bread), drinking (wine), and washing (baptism). Sacraments celebrate Spirit and matter's most intense interaction: God's incarnation in creaturely fragility. God's Spirit continues creation's transformation by renewing individuals, uniting them, and enabling them everywhere to further shape the world."

Thomas Finger, author of A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive

"John Rempel gently leads the reader on an intimate journey through the middle ground between history's excesses concerning 'sacrament.' His simple, gentle persuasion nurtures a renewed appreciation for the significance of our corporate actions and should facilitate understanding and promote conversation within and across Christian traditions, helping us fulfill Jesus' prayer that we 'may be one.' I intend to require my students to become his companions."

Timothy Ralston, professor of pastoral ministry, Dallas Theological Seminary

"The incarnation of our Lord is a minor doctrine for many, but John Rempel recounts its significance for worship, doctrine, and practice. Recapturing an Enchanted World orients us historically within time and place, but only to remind us spiritually of our transcendent end. This gentle and pious scholar wants us to see the full spiritual reality of our incarnate Lord Jesus through word and sacrament—wisdom calls us to hear him."

Malcolm B. Yarnell III, author of God the Trinity and The Formation of Christian Doctrine

"John Rempel draws on decades of ministry and study to offer a welcome alternative to the 'lean,' disenchanted liturgical traditions that leave us in unbridgeable isolation and thicker, enchanted traditions that have lost an ethical component and, therefore, relevance to our neighbors. He fleshes out a free-church notion of the transformative sacramentality of congregational life that bears the love of God to the world."

Stephen B. Boyd, J. Allen Easley Professor for the Study of Religions, Wake Forest University

"Christians within the Free Church tradition will find Rempel's historical, theological, and practical analysis a worthwhile study."

Publishers Weekly, November 11, 2019


Foreword by Gordon T. Smith
1. An Enchanted World? Surrender to the Water
2. Embodiment, Language, and Sacrament
3. Ritual, Sacrament, and Spirit: Incarnating the Transcendent
4. The Sacramentality of Time
5. Baptism: The Art of Rising from the Dead
6. The Meal Jesus Gave Us: New Testament and Patristic Era
7. The Meal Jesus Gave Us: Middle Ages and Reformation
8. The Meal Jesus Gave Us: Anabaptism, Free Churches, and Peace Churches
9. The Meal of Covenant
10. Service of the Lord's Supper
Appendix 1. An Order of Service for the Lord's Supper
Appendix 2. Liturgy for Footwashing and Agape Meal
Appendix 3. Emmaus Communion
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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IVP Author - John D. Rempel

John D. Rempel (ThD, Toronto School of Theology) is senior fellow at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre at the Toronto School of Theology. He is the author of The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism, the editor of Joerg Maler'sKunstbuch: Writings of the Pilgram Marpeck Circle, and the coeditor of The Fragmentation of the Church and Its Unity in Peacemaking.