Friday, May 29, 2015
Picked up some notes from a Sasse class and started reading. . .
Hermann Sasse, "The Holy Supper and the Future of Our Church," in The Lonely Way, vol. 1, pp. 487-88.
Over and against Rome, Luther fought to keep the Sacrament a pure sacrament or gift and blessing bestowed upon us by the fulfillment of Christ's command to eat and drink in remembrance of Him and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation in the communion of His body and blood. Over against Geneva Luther fought to keep Christ in the Sacrament and not limited to feeling or memory but the corporeal presence of the crucified and risen flesh and blood mysteriously but really present in and with the bread and wine as His Word promises.
For Rome the Word was an appendage to the Supper and for Geneva it was the Supper that was an appendage to the Word. No church can remain true to the Word of Christ and continue to possess the saving truth without the Sacraments. Reduced to a mere spiritual fellowship of mind and heart, the church has no real point of access to the Christ who comes to bestow His gifts -- especially when the heart and mind are distracted or overwhelmed with the cares and troubles of this mortal life. When the Word is reduced to mere record of events as if it spoke about but does not bestow that which is promises, the very Sacraments themselves are called into question for it is and has always been Christ's water and Christ's bread and wine, set apart by His Word and made into the means of grace by the application of that Word to the element.
The Lutheranism of the Reformation era and the post-Reformation era -- even through the time of Bach -- knew this. But when Pietism and Rationalism had finished with us, the Sacrament was dying. Sasse recounts how from 1701-17-10 some 196,526 people had communed in Goerlitz but by the end of that century the number had declined by 100,000. What would Luther say? A church without the Sacrament as its source and summit is not much better off than one in which the Sacrament had been replaced by sacrifice and the act of being a spectator for the offering of Christ the equivalent of a communicant.
"Where the Supper is no longer celebrated, there faith in the Son of God as the Lamb of God who consequently bore your sins dies. And where this faith dies, the church also dies. There her profound, blessed mystery is no longer understood..." When this happens, the church becomes a philosophical fellowship wherein the religious man finds his spiritual needs satisfied and, if he discovers other fellowships that appear to do this better, he leaves the church in pursuit of his needs being met. This is not the Church that St. Paul called the body of Christ in which Jesus Christ, both High Priest and sacrificial Lamb of God gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, where we were incorporated into Him and into His death and resurrection in Holy Baptism, and where the Spirit works to sustain the faith of the baptized through the means of grace. "Behold there the tabernacle of God is among men" [Rev. 21:3]. Though hidden in the means of grace, what God has prepared for our future is already present here in the Word of God and the Sacraments of God. What we have already is the glimpse and deposit of the not yet fully revealed of what God has prepared for those who love Him.