Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scripture leads to truth . . .

A simple statement which most of us would accept without much fuss but I believe a dangerous one.  It is always dangerous to separate Scripture from its message and truth, as if it were merely a means of conveyance.  The truth of and in the Scriptures is Jesus Christ.  Christ is the Word that speaks and what that Word speaks.  We have the same problem with the Sacraments.  When we view them merely as pipelines that deliver something to us, we miss the whole point of them.  The Sacraments are Christ in our midst just as the Word is.  It is through the Word and Sacraments that His claim to be Emmanuel is fulfilled and His promise not left to the emptiness of a notion or feeling or spiritual presence.

As Lutheran Christians we tend to borrow vocabulary more from Protestants than from Rome or Constantinople and in doing so we undercut what it is that we say we believe, teach, and confess about the Word and Sacraments of our Lord.  They bring us Christ.  That is their power and their gift.  Where Christ is there is forgiveness of sins and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. 

It is the same when it comes to worship.  We act as if worship were either all about us and what we do and bring or simply a peripheral connection to Jesus.  What happens on Sunday morning is that Christ comes to us, according to His promise, and in the Word and Sacraments of His promise, He delivers nothing less than His very self to us -- the living voice that absolves us of our sins, the living water that gives life to what is dead, and the living food that feeds us to eternal life.  He is the Giver and the Gift, the Priest and the Victim.  Until we recover this understanding, it will continue to be easy for folks to miss Sunday morning and then to ask "Did I miss anything?"

Scripture does not lead to truth -- it is no treasure map given to us to lead us to something hidden and rich.  Thy Word is truth.  It is truth not in the sense of propositional truths to which we must given our assent, but the truth which is Christ incarnate.  It is a decidedly Protestant idea and the fruit of the radical reformation to make this distinction between the truth and the Word that speaks it (just as they build a brick wall between the earthly elements of the Sacraments and the Christ who established them as His means of grace).

Only the Spirit can open our eyes to see, our minds to understand, and our hearts to believe this.  It is the unreasonable conviction that screams impossibility and the mystery that cannot be comprehended.  It can only be believed and, believing, received for our salvation.

I still recall the shock on one parishioner's face when he asked me, "What did I miss?"  And I responded, "You missed the Son of God enter into the congregation, forgiving our sins, transforming our minds and hearts, feeding us heavenly food, and set us apart as those whom He has sent to bear His name to the world..."  And his response, "No, really, did I miss anything..."   No, I guess not.... sigh...


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. What you said is stressed over and over again in Dr. Just's dvd series "Liturgy: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow". Where Christ is, there is forgiveness, life, and salvation. What wonderful good news! Who wouldn't want to be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day to receive these gifts especially at the Lord's table? "Nah, Pastor, I can worship God from the golf course, deer stand, and ball field."

Chris said...

We Orthodox teach that Scripture is an icon, an image of Christ. It is not a mere roadmap (though I admit I don't believe that calling it such is a bad comparison) but is an embodiment (as much as that can happen for God) of the very Christ.

Anonymous said...

Your analogy is like the denomination
that says Scripture "contains" the
Word of God versus the LC-MS which
says Scripture "is" the Word of God.