Sunday, November 9, 2014
One of the reasons why I remain a Lutheran. . .
Let me give one basic reason why I remain a Lutheran. Christ. Christ not as an idea of the imagination or a feeling of the heart or the thought of the mind but the real presence of Christ in Word and Supper. These are the twin poles of Lutheranism. The Word and the Sacrament of the Altar are where our baptismal faith has both its source and and summit. Christ. Christ enfleshed still in the bread and wine of the His Supper. Christ incarnate still and speaking through the voice of His Word.
One of the inherent problems I have with Rome is that it seems to matter little whether you commune or are merely present as a spectator while the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is re-presented to the Father. This real presence is engaging to a point but the whole essence of Christ's meal and His presence are found in the invitation to eat and drink. I can "commune spiritually" without this eating and drinking but the whole point of the real presence seems lost to me if it can be satisfactorily replaced by my own private and personal meditation. Even Lutherans sometimes speak this way (though for different reasons than Roman Catholics) -- as if somehow the Lord's presence in the Sacrament was optional and extra and not essential. Unlike Roman Catholics, Lutherans sometimes act as if it is the same old grace that comes to us so it does not matter how it comes -- I don't "have" to commune. But that is what is compelling about Christ's presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. He bids us come. He sets us a place. He puts us in the higher seats of honor. He is both host and victim. He owns the table and He is the food.
This wonder and awe at Christ's presence in the Eucharist pervades Lutheranism. We are Eucharistic in piety -- that is the shape of our faith. We meet Christ where Christ has promised to be. His presence is neither expected nor reasonable but the surprise of His promise. In that presence are the fruits of His past (the cross) and the promise of His future (eternity) and they are given to us in the eating and drinking. Lutherans are often described as more baptismal in our piety and I suppose to a certain extent we focus a great deal on baptism but our baptism life points us to the altar where we eat and drink the very body and blood of Christ -- the Christ not of memory but of His Word. It is where we encounter as closely as we can on this side of glory the incarnate Lord. Christ is here. He is come as He promised to deliver to us His promise. Guess what. He is the promise.