Friday, November 26, 2010

A Hornet's Nest

Judging from the comments posted and emails received, the issue of receptionism vs consecrationism (for lack of better terminology) has stirred up the pot a bit.  That is not all bad.  If Lutheranism means anything it means a willingness to examine faith and practice to make sure that we are consistent within the best of the evangelical and catholic tradition and faithful to our own Confessions.  If a post encourage such a discussion, it is a good opportunity for all involved.

Unfortunately, we are not all open to listening to the voice of that tradition or the words of our own Confessions.  I admit that there are somethings I am not open to hearing.  I would expect that each of us could make the same admission -- certain things are so deeply seated within us that they are beyond debate or question.  To raise a question about them, is more personal affront than conversational and educational enterprise.  That is the weakness of discussion -- not all parties to the discussion are as open to honest consideration of the matters before them as others.

Typically, Missourians tend to identify with a particular side or issue or person and we tend to follow that line whereever it leads.  For me, that path is the Second Martin (Chemnitz) and the catholic vision of Lutheranism that flows from the Augustana to the Formula.  The people whom I identity with are those who identify within this part of Lutheran identity.  But I think it is important for me to honestly consider the fullness of the points and perspectives that are brought to the table when this identify engages other identities that equally claim to be Lutheran.

Also typical to Missouri Synod Lutherans is the fact that we abhor the weaknesses or foibles of our favorite people.  It seems to make us more rabidly for someone or some issue when others question or challenge that person or that perspective.  So many of our Lutheran discussions tend to be simple restatements of our positions instead of real debates.  Which leads me to think that if we hope to have good fruit from Pres. Harrison's koinonia discussions, we need to figure out a way to bring something more than our defensiveness to the table.  We need to be able to articulate our positions, for sure, but we also need to listen to and consider the positions of others.  This is hard to do.  It is made even more difficult when these things become personal or attach to the most deeply held tenets of our beliefs.

I was honestly surprised by those who disagreed with me with respect to receptionism.  That said, I have been looking more at the points raised and the quotes offered and found that there was more wiggle room than I expected even among some Lutherans with otherwise great pedigrees.  It just goes to show us again the problem of identifying with a person or a "party" when what binds our identity are the Confessions of the Lutheran Church and not specific Lutherans (even Martin himself).  I am not disdaining the great Lutheran teachers of old or more recent origion.  All I am saying is that neither Walther nor Pieper are what Lutherans are bound to and the same hold true for those who came before them and those who have come since.  We are bound to the Confessions.  I appreciate those teachers of every age and time whose faithfulness continues to live and speak in courageous witness to us Lutherans now.  We ought to read them and identify with them as much as we can.  But we must not forget that what is binding upon us are those Confessions which we call the Concordia.  These occupy a position of authority and provide a teaching magisterium for the Church that we dare not ignore or disdain.

Pastors need to realize that we sometimes find ourselves in the same position as than when someone in the pew comes up to us and says "That's not how Pastor so and so said or did it or explained it..."   Pastor so and so may have been a fine and good Pastor but he may also have been wrong.  What forms and shapes our confession and practice is distinct from those who teach us that confession and whose practice we see growing up (or in college and seminary).  So in our discussions, it may help to point to a particular teacher and say this is what he says but the final authority in our discussions is first our Confessions and second the catholic and apostolic tradition which is presumed in those Confessions.

Just something to think about . . .


aletheist said...

What is your take on FC SD VII 83-84, which happens to be part of today's daily reading from the Book of Concord?

"However, this blessing, or the recitation of the words of institution of Christ alone does not make a sacrament if the entire action of the Supper, as it was instituted by Christ, is not observed (as when the consecrated bread is not distributed, received, and partaken of, but is enclosed, sacrificed, or carried about), but the command of Christ, This do (which embraces the entire action or administration in this Sacrament, that in an assembly of Christians bread and wine are taken, consecrated, distributed, received, eaten, drunk, and the Lord's death is shown forth at the same time) must be observed unseparated and inviolate, as also St. Paul places before our eyes the entire action of the breaking of bread or of distribution and reception, 1 Cor. 10:16."

Would not "dropped on the floor" be in the same category as "enclosed, sacrificed, or carried about"? I am personally agnostic regarding receptionism, but this passage from the Confessions would seem to support it. Thanks in advance.

Tapani Simojoki said...

While awaiting Pr. Peters' response, may I offer my pennysworth?

What the Formula is dealing with is an abuse of the Sacrament, where it is being misused: displayed, carried about, etc., without any intention of distribution and oral reception. In other words, it was being used for something other than what it was instituted for, and in a way different from Christ's institution. Therefore, it was not the Sacrament as Christ instituted it.

A wafer accidentally dropped or a drop of blood accidentally spilled is not in view here. When a wafer is accidentally dropped, it is in the course of the use instituted by Christ. The consecrated wafer or wine is being distributed in order to be received, eaten/drunk when the accident happens. How a slip of a hand or a trip of the feet should suddenly undo the words of Christ is beyond me.

We are all familiar with Luther's reaction in these situations — and his reaction when others took a more laid-back (perhaps receptionist) attitude. Not a lot of receptionism there.

Is it the word and the elements, or is it the word and the elements plus something else? That's what this boils down to.

Anonymous said...

The real hornet's nest is the lack of
weekly eucharist in LCMS parishes.
This is a Christological issue more
than a confessional one. Have we
preached the invitation of Christ to
come to the Sacrament? "Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden and
I will give you rest." Our people
have the burden of sin and to receive
the Sacrament will forgive and refresh them. Excellent preaching
from our pulpits of law and gospel
will bring a hunger and thirst
of our members for this Sacrament.

Anonymous said...


I'm just a lay dummy, but I agree with Fr. Simojoki.

Also, in FC SD you quote, note the progression: "Consecrated, distributed, received..." The consecration takes place before the distribution.

Anonymous said...

Q. What does the LCMS mean by "in, with and under the forms" of bread and wine?

A. Perhaps the most succinct formulation of the Lutheran position on the Real Presence is that found in Article VII of the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration:

"In addition to the words of Christ and of St. Paul (the bread in the Lord's Supper 'is true body of Christ' or 'a participation in the body of Christ'), we at times also use the formulas 'under the bread, with the bread, in the bread.' We do this to reject papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union [emphasis added] between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of in the Holy Supper the two essences, the natural bread and the true, natural body of Christ, are present together here on earth in the ordered action of the sacrament, though the union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine is not a personal union, like that of the two natures of Christ, but a sacramental union" (emphasis added; 35-38).

The language of "in, with, and under," which is found also in Luther's Small Catechism, was carefully chosen and was directed at specific errors encountered by the Lutheran confessors (for example, "in" was chosen to reject impanation and "with" to reject transubstantiation). Moreover, the expression "sacramental union" is used as a technical designation for the Lutheran understanding of the Real Presence. The word "under" in the phrase "in, with and under" used to express the Lutheran understanding of the sacramental union serves as a reminder that Christ's true body and blood in the Lord's Supper are "hidden under" the earthly forms of bread and wine (like a "mask" hiding someone's face--the face is "under" the mask). In fact, Luther often used the term "mask" to describe how God "hides" his work under humble, earthly, external means (sacramental and otherwise).

Pastor Peters said...

Perhaps the problem with FC SD VII 83-84 has to do with the receding place of the Corpus Christi devotion and processions in the Roman Church. We do not see this devotion so prominently displayed today so we tend to read these words from the Formula in an entirely different and unintended consequence as Fr Simojoki has responded...

aletheist said...

I can see how dropping a wafer on the floor or spilling a few drops of wine "is in the course of the use instituted by Christ." But if the wafer is discarded or the spill is left to dry, no one has received or partaken of it. Its sacramental use was incomplete, at best.

What about reserving leftover bread and wine for later distribution? How does that fit into this passage?

Although "Luther's reaction to these situations" is relevant as a historical matter, it is not binding on us in the same way as the text of the Confessions.

"Is it the word and the elements, or is it the word and the elements plus something else?" I guess that it seems to me that it is the word and the elements in the context of their divinely instituted use. The promise of Christ assures us that when we eat the bread and drink the wine during His Supper, we orally receive His true body and blood; but does it say anything at all about bread and wine that we later find on the floor?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The way I figure it is this. When consecrating and I say, "This is My Body" (note the capitalized "My"), am I lying until I place It upon someone's tongue, or is the Word of God true and powerful?

Now, if I have no intention of distributing, then I am abandoning God's Word - but where does power reside, in God's Word or my reception? I have to put the power in the Word of Christ.

John said...

Don't arguments about reception and consecration have everything to do about what is done by man (law), rather than that which was done by Christ (Gospel)?

How about our learned shepherds simply teaching their flocks that the bread and wine are the very body and blood of our Lord and Savior because He says that they are in the words of institution?

Shouldn't the learned shepherds then also make clear to their flocks that the efficacy of the Sacrament has absolutely nothing to do with whether they, the shepherds wear a chasuble, or elevate the host or even make the sign of the cross over the elements?

I, for one, will let the learned lose sleep over the 'issue' of exactly when the body and blood of Christ become one with the bread and wine.

I rest in the sure and certain knowledge that His body and blood are really present in, with and under the bread and wine simply because He said that it "is".

Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

Hi, Pastor Peters!

A hornet's nest probably isn't a bad analogy, judging from the responses I've read.

I'm in the process of getting ready to pick up kids from school, so I don't have all my usual ammo of citations and stuff. Just shootin' from the hip.

The issue of Transubstantiation, as you noted in the first post, is an issue in how (and when?) Christ's body and blood are present in the Sacrament. It is also critical for an understanding in which one believes that the Sacrament is a continued unbloodied sacrifice - the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Representation is an attempt along the same lines, trying to answer the question of how or how not.

I am not a receptionist. As a matter of fact, if labels are important, I would probably have consecrationist on my name tag. But, the Small Catechism seems to answer the question: What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted for us Christians to eat and to drink.

The question of "when" isn't really part of a Real Presence discussion, in my humble opinion. In this discussion, it is matter of consecration (given by Christ under His words) and reception (for Christians to eat and to drink).

A few years ago, I began adding a question to the interview with confirmands I conduct each year. "Do you believe Jesus' body and blood are really present in the Lord's Supper?" "Yes." "How do you know that His body and blood are really there?" "His words say so." "How did they get there?" "I don't know."

My point with the confirmands is that we not get bogged down in the question of "when", but we are comforted by the answer to the question of "what."

One of the responders here, and I can't remember which, had it well: Teach that people are receiving Christ's body and blood. Yes, they receive bread and wine. But, when folks come to the supper, it's not to receive bread and wine; it's to receive Christ's body and blood.