Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Salvation has come to your house...

Remember when Jesus came to Zacchaeus' house?  "Salvation has come to your house," said Jesus.   Salvation is where the flesh and blood of Jesus are.  Salvation is not some gift Jesus pulled from His pocket and handed out but the intrinsic gift of His presence.  Where He is, there are His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  We so often forget that salvation still comes to the people of God's house, where the flesh and blood of Jesus come to us still -- in the Sacrament of the Altar.

I grew up in a time when the Lord's Supper was customarily offered quarterly (that is, once every three months).  It was a solemn and somber occasion.  By the time I was confirmed the frequency has increased dramatically to monthly.  But whether monthly or quarterly, there were those in the pews who ducked out before the Sacrament or who sat in the pews and did not commune.  I was told that some folks had not fully prepared or perhaps did not feel the need to commune on that day (and would therefore wait another three months for the opportunity).  When I returned home from college with a distinctly different view of the Sacrament, I thought it would be good to have Holy Communion on Easter Sunday.  My father's aunt, who rode with us to church each Sunday, exclaimed "how depressing."  Apparently nothing can diminish Easter joy as quick as feasting upon the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Thankfully even my home congregation has increased the frequency of the Sacrament more and some of that old piety has greatly diminished.  Yet it is still true that we do not realize what great gift and blessing there is to us in this Sacrament.  For too many Lutherans, the Sacrament is an add-on to the service and not an essential part of who we are and what happens among us on Sunday morning.  For too many others, the Sacrament is received more frequently but with less thoughtful preparation and less realization of what exactly it is that we are receiving.

Salvation has come to our house.... those words once spoken to Zacchaeus are literally fulfilled among us everytime we gather in around the Table of the Lord.  Where the flesh and blood of Christ are, there is forgiveness, there is life, and there is salvation.  We do not offer the Sacrament weekly for any other reason than by this blessed communion "Salvation comes to us..."  When speaking of the movement to a weekly Eucharist (a restoration and not something that should be new to Lutherans), I recall how one retired Lutheran Pastor suggested that my people might be more sinful than the people of his last parish and therefore more in need.  Ahhhh, what foolishness.

We do not come to the table of the Lord because guilt drives us there but because Christ is there.  It is not a dreadful call that beckons us but the call of grace, of unmeritted favor, and of mercy lavish and generous beyond imagination.  We are called and beckoned to the Table because Christ is there and where He is, there are the gifts won by His suffering and death.  We come because "Salvation comes to us there.."

Would that we know this and respond to this with such holy joy as once Zacchaeus knew so long ago. 


Paul said...

Fr Peters, I would love to read a discussion of the history of the Sacramental renewal in LCMS circles. In my own case, beginning 25 years ago, weekly Eucharist was introduced in my first parish, then 16 years ago in my second. Both have thrived and increased in the joy of salvation. One of my uncles, hearing of my intentions for restoring the weekly Eucharist exclaimed: "Do you want to drive the people away?" Exactly the opposite, I replied. We never reached agreement on that point so far as I can tell. Why is being "missional" (in certain cases of new church plants)exclusive of being reverently joyful receivers of the Sacrament as the heart of our worship?

Anonymous said...

It would seem that The Lutheran
Hymnal 1941 edition was a great
obstacle to weekly celebration of
the Eucharist. The page 5 liturgy
without Holy Communion and page 15
liturgy with Holy Communion created
two different worlds and separated
any focus on the Sacrament. This
hymnal's lifespan of 40 years until
a new hymnal appeared in 1981 was
40 years in the wilderness.

Terry Maher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Maher said...

aka Past Elder. Corrected fot typos:

Nonsense. Faith is nourished by the Sacrament, but it comes by hearing, and that is the Word, in Scripture reading and in preaching, for believer and unbeliever alike, the latter originally being escorted out before the former communed.

That the Sacrament is the heart and focus of Christian worship is a fantasy of Rome, of whom I am a veteran, or rather, survivor, and its Eastern counterparts, and where that fantasy prevails, the Word in Scripture and preaching atrophies.

It is true that in restoring the Word to its place, our churches have overreacted re the frequency of Communion, but that too originates with degenerative effect of Rome and the East on the Word.

IF there is a wilderness, it is not then, but now, with a cut and paste of a sorta kinda "historical" worship, a sorta kinda Vatican II worship, sorta kinda Eastern echoes here and there, and predictably those who advocate a sorta kinda "evangelical" worship too.

Anonymous said...

Terry Maher said:

>Corrected fot typos

Evidently missed one :)

Terry Maher said...

Ha! The text was corrected for typos but not the correction notice.

Or maybe some covert ops novus ordo operative switched the t and r on my keyboard.