Saturday, January 29, 2011
An Offhand Comment Finds Deep Trouble
Anyway the conversation began with a question about adoring the Christ who is come to us in the bread which is His body and the wine which is His blood. Surely we do not worship bread. But Christ is in the bread in such way that we from our earthly vantage point cannot separate them. Lutheran Eucharistic theology is very incarnational at this point. But we cannot worship bread. Would we worship Christ standing before us in His flesh and blood. Well sure, but Christ is not standing before us in His flesh and blood. But surely He is as His Word does promise "This is My body... This is My blood." Well, that's different. And here we come to the main issue of the person. The Christ who is present in the Sacrament is not quite the same Christ who is incarnate and the presence of Christ in the Sacrament is not of the same reality or corporeal nature as Christ incarnate. I am summarizing a conversation that went on for much longer.
The issue is that we have failed to teach people the doctrine of the Real Presence or else we have taught it in such a way that some have gotten the distinct impression that the Christ who comes to us in the Eucharist is a different Christ or at least His presence is less real, less concrete, less, well, corporeal, than the Christ who walked Galilee, who mounted the altar of the cross, who suffered, died and rose again. In essence, a spiritualized presence in which it is, at least to them, idolatry to venerate Christ during the Agnus Dei or apply to the Christ who is present in the bread and cup the words of John. Here the liturgy functions as it is supposed to function -- the corrective and the positive doctrinal statement that guarantees and affirms what Scripture teaches and our Confessions affirm.
Now I know that receptionists will flood the comments with the idea that Christ is not zapped into the bread and cup until the contents are taken in the mouth but for this error I would again point to the liturgy and its corrective and teaching function. What sense is there to the Agnus Dei if Christ is not located where His Word says He is at that time? It is foolishness to sing about the Lamb of God who is out there somewhere while bread and wine have been set apart by the Word (dare I say voice of Christ speaking through the Pastor).
I know this is somewhat disjointed but so was the conversation and it is a startling reminder that no matter how much we say or how often we think we say or how clear the liturgy is in proclaiming this truth, we are up against much in maintaining and confessing both the Real Presence and what effects that presence. This was a surprising reminder to me that what we often assume can be a more powerful agent to inform faith than what we have been taught. So again, I would say, the catechism still needs to be heard -- even among those who have been Lutheran all their lives.