Friday, December 11, 2015
A former Lutheran does not get it right. . .
Lutherans believe that anyone can celebrate the “Lord’s Supper” (some few Lutherans call it “Mass”) though some are called by the community to preside in the central role. Wrong. Our Confessions insist that only those called and ordained may celebrate the Mass (as the Augsburg Confession calls it). The Lord’s Supper is not the Sacrifice renewed. No, Lutherans do not renew or re-present the once for all sacrifice but God makes present the once for all sacrifice so that we may eat and drink it and receive there as Jesus' own words confess the forgiveness of sins. Lutherans do not believe that the substance of bread and wine change, transubstantiation. They think that Christ is present together with the bread and wine for as long as Christ is needed to be there, a kind of “consubstantiation”. (Some Lutherans don’t like that term, but I’m not getting into that fight.) Wrong again. It is not as if bread remains bread alone and somewhere the flesh of Christ hangs in the same general space. No, Lutherans confess that it is bread and the body (corporeal) of Christ at the same time -- sorta like Christ is God and Man at the same time and that this is no mere spiritual presence but the same flesh and blood incarnate to Mary, suffered and died on Calvary, and risen on Easter Sunday. That is to say, that for Christ to be present, there must be institution, distribution and reception. Well, not exactly. What we say is that the intention of Christ must be honored or we have failed to fulfill His testament so that Christ may and is to be adored within the Divine Service but not apart from the intention to offer the Sacrament to be received by the faithful. We have said that adoration separate from the Mass (that includes the reception as Christ intended us to eat and drink) is not the Sacrament (though we have not ever said what it is or is not. If it is not received, Christ isn’t present. Once no longer needed there for reception, Christ is no longer present and there is left merely bread and wine. Again, no, this is not correct. We believe that the flesh and blood of Christ is present to be received by the faithful and that is that. By our rubrics we either consume all the remains from the service or distribute this to the sick and shut in. They believe Christ is truly present, when required for reception, but not in an enduring way. Luther used the image an iron that is heated and then it cools again: the iron and the heat are there together and then only the iron is there. Except that Luther does not define what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach -- only the Lutheran Confessions do! However, some Lutheran churches are starting to reserve their eucharistic species and even to adore what they reserve, even kneeling outside their eucharistic communion services. An interesting development as they become more “sacramental”. No, we are not becoming more sacramental but remembering the sacramental church we always were but, in the face of Protestantism, have sometimes been embarrassed to be. Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial merely. It does not renew the Sacrifice of Calvary or the Last Supper, but rather commemorates them. Lutherans believe in a priesthood of all believers. But Lutherans do NOT equate this priesthood of all believers (which is in the Bible) which comes through baptism with the sacramental or ordained priesthood and office of the Holy Ministry. There is no sacramental priesthood or consecration of the Eucharist or sacramental absolution of sins or conferral of confirmation. Ah, no, again, there is sacramental absolution and private confession as well; confirmation is a rite preserved but not equated with the same authority or status as baptism and the Eucharist and matrimony is also a sacred rite but one connected to the estate of creation and not redemption .Matrimony is not a sacrament, nor is anointing. Lutherans have two sacraments, Baptism and “Eucharist”. Their baptism is valid because water is poured on the skin while the Trinitarian form is pronounced. Their “Eucharist” is not the Eucharist. Well, it is true that the Eucharist of the Lutherans is not the sacrifice of the Mass of the Roman Church but we do believe in the Sacrament of the Altar and that the Word of Christ spoken through the mouth of the priest does indeed confect the sacramental presence in and with the bread and the wine as Christ promises. They do not believe it is a sacrament in the sense we do and there is no valid priesthood to confect it, etc. They do not believe, as Catholics do, that sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ Himself that confer grace. For Lutherans, they are outward signs of realities that are taking place. I guess that would mean that Lutherans hold a higher view of the Sacraments than Rome since we do indeed believe that they do confer grace to forgive sins, impart new life, and bestow salvation BUT because they are the reality of God at work doing what the Word says and turning water into the gate of heaven, bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ, and the absolution on earth into the voice of heaven that releases sins just as Christ says (John 20:23, Matthew 16, & 18).