Monday, February 25, 2013

Cars need gas. . .

I wish it were not so but cars need gas (well, except for a few electric experiments).  The gas is essential but where you get it is less so.  For all that the commercials try to tell us that gas is different from one brand to another, we don't believe it.  We pull in largely where it is convenient and cheap.  We fill up and we head our way out.  We don't have a great deal of brand loyalty and we don't think anything of visiting a competitor even when we do prefer one brand over another.  Gas is gas.  It is the gas that is important -- not the outlet where it is distributed.

So it is that many people and a very good number of Lutherans (Missourians included) view the Lord's Supper.  The Supper is the Supper wherever you get it.  The various brands (confessions or denominations) may try to tell you that the Supper is different from one brand to another but many, if not most, are not so sure they believe it.  The churches are merely distribution points.  The transaction is rather personal and private and the role of the church is merely to distribute and to leave the opinions up to the consumer.  But for most, there is not much invested in brand loyalty (except for the worship style which is akin to the amenities available not at the pump but in the convenience store -- you know the taste of the coffee, the donuts available, the restrooms, etc.).

Gas is gas the the Lord's Supper is the Lord's Supper.  Most folks do not want people to come out to the pump and try and tell them another gas is better or their car requires a different gas.  Neither do they appreciate those churches who try to tell them that gas is not gas (that is, the Lord's Supper is not the same food wherever you go).  This is considered rude and arrogant.  So when you feel the need for a fill up, you pull in where the church is convenient, the amenities up to your liking, and the cost to your time/schedule/desires fair enough.  And you take what is there.  After all the church is just a distribution point, right?  And if the next time you need to fill, you visit a different brand, well, what difference does it make, really?

Even under better circumstances it is hard not to see this picture at work in our congregations.  Some Pastors even like the idea.  The Sacrament of the Altar is available to all comers -- everyone eats his or her own version and everyone gets what he or she thinks is present there, anyway.  At least that is how it has become.

Close(d) communion, whichever version you prefer, stands in stark contrast to this gas station analogy.  We believe, confess, and teach that not all gas is the same.  This is not our own opinion, it is the teaching of God's Word.  We are not alone.  Roman Catholics and the Orthodox believe this as well.  But our Lutheran identity leans Protestant and so we find it hard to say of our neighbors that they do not have the Sacrament (our issue for not communing at a Roman or Orthodox altar is VERY different).  But the funny thing is that our distant Protestant cousins don't believe as we believe or as the Scriptures confess.  They never intend to.  They believe it is a symbolic meal in which you receive a sign that may have some spiritual content and power but it does not reside in the bread or the cup.  It lies within the communicant, in their remembrance of Jesus and appreciation of what Jesus has done for them.  Jesus is not real food or real drink (John 6) but symbolic food and drink that signs what is most definitely NOT present -- body (flesh) and blood.

Furthermore, communion is not some private time with Jesus that is unaffected by where you receive it.  We do not make Jesus present -- His Word does and His Word acts where His people expect it to deliver what it promises.  The Word attached to the element is not some magical incantation that spoken (poof) suddenly summons Jesus from heaven to a prison in bread and wine against His will.  Certainly not.  The Word is not magic.  The Word is efficacious.  It is Christ doing what He has promised.  The two or three gathered in His name is not some minimal quorum requirement but the expectation that those gathered believe His Word and expect to receive what it promises:  His flesh and blood for the life of the world.

It is always agonizing when I speak to new folks who desire to commune but who are not from Lutheran origins.  I know that this is hard to understand given the muddy waters of Protestantism on the presence of Christ in the Sacrament.  I know that it seems inhospitable to say "no."  I try to get them to see why they should not present themselves for the Sacrament.  Most often they realize that this gas is different gas but sometimes not.  More than this, I try to get across the idea that the Church is not a gas station dispensing equal grace in different ways where all Christians can come and receive the same thing.  Sometimes they get that there is an inconsistency that scandalizes greater than division when we go about from altar to altar as if the Church were merely a distribution point for gas which is gas no matter the brand.  But it is not an easy part of pastoral care.

What makes it most difficult is the idea that communion does not imply but downright expects unanimity of faith, captive to the Word and confessed before the world.  I have had people who said of course they believe that Christ is present AND bodily in the bread.  But they do not believe it about baptism and they do not believe infants can be baptized or immersion is merely one of the methods of applying water.  I have had people who confess the creed with us but who stop short of saying that I carry Christ in my hand from the altar and put Him into their hand or mouth.  I have had people with whom I am confident of a closeness that is not always felt with members of my own denomination but yet the barriers of communion remain.

Honestly, I often feel like wimping out.  In those moments, I simply hide behind the cover of Rome and say that we, like Rome, believe that oneness at the altar is a reflection of complete oneness in faith and confession.  In the South they know what that means.  They may think gas is gas but they are not ready to commit to this gas station.  So they sit and watch and head out expecting to find other brands which do not have such a heightened sense of the whole transaction. I mean really, it is just gas, right?  And that is the point.  It is not.

I knew of a person who mistakenly put gas in his new turbo diesel.  An expensive trip to the dealer made it clear to him that not everything from the pump is equal.  Some works and some does not.  And that is what we try to say to those visitors who come wondering if the station is open and the pump primed on Sunday morning...  It is spoken in love even if it is not received that way.


Anonymous said...

Good points. You say this is a problem "in the South". Are mid-westerners, notherners, etc. imune from the church hopping malady? And after twenty years, you still feel it is in the South THEY, and not in the South we?

Business said...

The advancement of technology therefore is like a Godsend because it provides us the choice of obtaining quality spare parts primary from the main provider. The other benefits that you can get is the distribution of the parts that you purchase...
The Cars Part

Pastor Peters said...

Yes... they... not we. The South has a culture in which Northerners are not fully a part no matter how long they live here and Notherners (in my case Midwesterners) have a home in their heart even while they live in the South. No disrespect is meant and, it may be just as true in the Midwest/North, but I have never served there as a Pastor).

Janis Williams said...

One of my favorite authors uses this example of Southerners' lack of acceptance:

"Yankees" (midwesterners included : ) are like hemorrhoids; they drop down, hang around, and once they find out how nice it is down here, they never go back.

Hope that got a snicker, and wasn't too rude.

Not all Southerners fail to accept "foreigners," nor is the process endemic to the South. Try being a Southern Baptist who walks into a largely "Yankee" Lutheran church. Not that you won't be welcomed as a visitor! However, join them (because you believe in the Confessions), and it may take a year, or years to finally be "in" with some of them. Just saying. No grudges, no animosity, just the recognition that we are all sinners, Yankee or Redneck.

The long remembrance of the unCivil War is kept alive in many places 'down here.' As evidence, check the number of Southerners who still call people not native "Yankees" (a term from the mid-1800s). Those who have been put upon (remember the only allowable ethnic jokes today are Redneck jokes) have long memories. Unfortunate, but a reality.

As to the post, I will be forwarding this to a couple of friends who fall into the "gas is gas" category, and don't understand. Good points.

Carl Vehse said...

"So it is that many people and a very good number of Lutherans (Missourians included) view the Lord's Supper. The Supper is the Supper wherever you get it."

Don't forget to include CCM members, Wilbert J. Sohns (Chairman); Daniel C. Lorenz; Philip J. Esala; George J. Gude; R. Neely Owen; and Raymond L. Hartwig (Secretary). After passing the "hot potato" back and forth for years with the CTCR, the CCM finally doctrinally nuanced in an opinion (February 10-12, 2012, minutes, para. 91) that a synodical member partaking in the Lord’s Supper within a church body, which the CTCR now describes as “embodying apostasy,” is not “taking part” in a sacramental rite, as that phrase is used in Article VI, paragraph 2 b of the Constitution.

Previously, there was theologically bewilderment about the Synod's position (despite 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 11:26-27, and Q&A #1, p. 25, of the 1983 CTCR report, "Theology and Practice of the Lord's Supper"), in the CCM's October 2 and October 21-22, 2002, Minutes (Sect. 63 and Sect. 71), and the CTCR's February 12, 2010, “Response to [a September 7, 2009] ‘Request for CTCR Opinion’,” not to mention the 44-page, 110-footnoted, January, 2012, document, "Historical Background and Interpretation of Article VI.2 of the Constitution of The Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod (Draft)," in which Gerhard Bode explored every dot, tittle, and fraktur in a section of the original 1847 Missouri Synod constitution.

Thus, in a pending case, a LCMS pastor could not be removed from the LCMS roster just because he takes communion at a XXXA congregation where his wife is a pastrix. Is it any wonder that open communion and taking part (or is it “partaking”?) in unionistic and syncretic services are problems in the LCMS today?

Anonymous said...

Yes... they... not we. The South has a culture in which Northerners are not fully a part

You have got a point there.

I was born in the north but grew up in the south. I teased my husband about his being from the north. Then I got interested in genealogy and discovered, whoops, the vast majority of my family were northerners with only one way back from the American south. And my relatives weren't just midwesterners like my husband's from Nebraska and Missouri. They were from Massachusetts and New York!

Timothy C. Schenks said...

"In the South they know what that means."

The part of Missouri in which I life is about as far south as Tennessee, but I haven't seen this (that protestant Christians in the South realize that there is a difference). I have also seen Lutherans demand that their Baptist friends recieve the Lord's Supper from Lutheran altars and kick out faithful pastors who won't do so with the complete approval of the District President (as he continues to send them new pastors...)

Anonymous said...

Call a Midwesterner a "yankee" and you will be met with a bewildered stare. Would the people living anywhere in the Midwest (OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, MN, NE, KS, ND, SD, etc.) have any desire to identify with the mindset of the "New Yawkahs" and the people from "Joisey". I don't think so.

Any animosity of many Northerners toward Southerners is due to the fact that thousands of illiterate, lower-classed persons from Appalachia (the Jeff Foxworthy and Jerry Springer kind) migrated to Northern cities during the 1940s when there was a labor shortage. Such people continue to give the Northerners a very negative stereotype of all Southerners everywhere.

The (un)Civil War is ancient history in the minds of the Northerners. No one thinks about such stuff - Ever. Anyone associated with such events has been long dead. Should I be fixated with the Spanish-American War as well?

Anonymous said...

@ Tim Schenks:

Yet another LCMS district causes problems! The evangelical actions of the districts make me ashamed to call myself a (confessional) Lutheran.

Pastor Peters:

Where is the mention of Lutheran Communion being a time of intense self-examination, of beating your breast, of hanging your head in shame, of begging for forgiveness of sins, and of pleading with God to strengthen your faith in Him. Communion in a Lutheran church has always been - and rightly so, a dreary affair.

There is no self-examination in an evangelical communion. Raising a "toast" to Christ in celebratory remembrance is in stark contrast to the Lutheran eucharist. Lutherans and evangelicals use the same terms, but they have opposite meanings.

Janis Williams said...


Yes, many of those migrants to the Northern auto industry were not the 'cream of the crop.' However, it seems to be lost on many from 'up there' that the cream stayed home. There is a long list of intelligent Southerners; I won't bother to name them; they are there to be found (and I am NOT talking about Nascar drivers, and TV stars).

I was not saying that Midwesterners are Yankees, simply making an observation about how Southerners categorize them. Not correct, or even polite.

If we are to leave 'ancient history' behind, we will fall into the same errors of the past. I'm not trying to be snarky, but our Faith is based on some even more ancient history, I believe.

If you think Northerners never think about 'that stuff,' why do they keep all the Civil War battle sites up at the cost of the taxpayer? Why are there thousands of Northerners who participate in reenactments?

Remembrance of History is crucial.

As to the attitude toward Southerners; slow speech does not mean slow thought.

I hope I don't sound miffed; I am not. I am Southern by the grace of God, and Lutheran by that same grace. I simply would like to see my own fellow
Americans treat the South with the same courtesy they treat other Third World countries.

Anonymous said...

Please forgive me if I have ever offended you with my posts. I am fascinated with the differences between North and South. I love the fact that you attend a confessional Lutheran congregation (and not the Willow Creek kind) in the South. Your congregation is a rare gem!

Tens of thousands of those "Jerry Springer" people migrated to the North to work in the factories. The factories are long gone, but they and their descendants are still here! Most descendants of the original migrants like to talk with a fake Southern accent, even though most of them have never been to the South.

Let's not forget the Country music stars who have, for many decades, sung about cheating on their wives, driving trucks, and getting into bar fights! They have done more to reinforce the negative stereotype of Southerners than anyone else on the planet! Shame on them all!

Civil War battle sites are great for tourism. Maintaining those sites is a good investment. The Northerners who participate in reenactments (usually veterans) are more interested in the old clothes, the 1800's-style food, the ancient tools, and in camping out than in thinking about the significance of war. For example, your clothes cannot have buttons if you claim to be a "real" union or confederate soldier!

Ahhh, not to worry. Steel mills in the North are closing while mini-mills filled with non-union labor are opening in the South. Northerners with money are also retiring in the South. The South gets the "cream of the crop" yanks while the illiterate poor remain up North!

I really do enjoy reading your posts! It is one reason why I like to visit this website. God bless you, Janis!

Janis Williams said...

Thanks, Anonymus.

Inequity is a fact of life. Prejudice takes a million forms. I am not offended by your posts. I just would like Yanks, and all other comers to remember we are all sinners. We may not all dip, chew or make moonshine, but we all have our pet quirks and sins.

Southerners are often their worst enemies, you are quite right. However, I would much rather have a redneck for a neighbor. He will pull you out of the ditch, help you repair what's broken, and defend you (verbally, at least) if necessary.

I really do tire at times of being treated as if I am a third world citizen. I've literally been asked if I know what chewing gum is.

Thank you , blessings on you, also anon.