Sunday, November 9, 2014

One of the reasons why I remain a Lutheran. . .

Not a few have suggested that if I am as disappointed in Lutherans as this blog suggests, I might just as well hop along down the line and find another tradition to call home.  Being disappointed with Lutherans is not the same thing as being disappointed with Lutheranism.  In fact, my complaint is hardly ever with Lutheranism but with the particular way that Lutherans today embrace or conflict with the doctrine and practice of that great Reformation faith envisioned by the Book of Concord.

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. 


6 comments:

John J. Flanagan said...

So long as the LCMS stands for the Christian faith and orthodoxy, I shall also remain Lutheran, but if a new generation arises in the LCMS and becomes like ELCA, I shall make my departure. Being a Christian first means a loyalty to Christ which transcends denominational preference. On the positive side, I do not believe all Lutherans will fall into heresy, and we will always find a place for like minded Lutherans to call a church home, even if it is a smaller number.

David Gray said...

How about Sola Fide? Sola Gratia? Sola Scripture?

John J. Flanagan said...

I wonder how many Lutherans really grasp the "Sola" concepts?

Norman Teigen said...

I perceive that Lutheran values cross over denominational boundaries. Tip O'Neill said that all politics are local. I contend that Lutheran loyalty is local. One can find Lutheranism wherever it exists regardless of denominational boundaries.

Janis Williams said...

If anyone has been through the ostensible hell of other denominations, and then found Lutheranism (and really understands the things Fr. Peters has elucidated here), they would be loth to leave.

Having been on a "search" of approximately 20 years to find faithful Christianity (the solas of the Reformed don't mean quite the same thing as the solas of Luther), I don't think I'll move unless LCMS becomes apostate.

Anyone who understands simul should know there will never be a perfect church, synod, denomination, etc. Sin prevents Lutheranism and Lutherans from being all she/they should characteristically be.

Mr. Teigen, I agree. I believe I was "Lutheran" all the years of the search. However, I cannot imagine remaining in the places I passed through once there was a truly Liturgical, Sacramental option. In my mind, I know there will be many in other denominations who will waken in heaven astonished to find themselves Lutheran!

Kirk Skeptic said...

Janis, the LCMS is not ostensibly-hell-free; ie I've had 2 fine pastors egregiously run-out by importantes and the indifference of good men. Forget the "perfect church" canard, a fine liturgy is no replacement for simple common decency. All else being equal, you are right.