Friday, February 16, 2018
The posture of love. . .
I love that scene from Moonstruck. Yet, even though I love the scene, the truth is that it is far from ordinary practice. We treat the food of God with much less care than this script places on the value of the home cooked food from Rose Castorini's table. It is a crying shame.
We Lutherans do not have rubrics with teeth to say how the elements of the Lord's Supper ought to be treated. Perhaps we should. But even rules cannot form piety. They can only hold in check the excesses of impiety.
How we treat the bread that is Christ's flesh and the cup of His blood is not a matter of rules but a mark of the measure of our faith. In the same way, how we treat the reliquae (what remains from that Supper) is telling. Four years ago I wrote: "Perhaps the most honest expression of what we believe about the Lord’s Supper comes from the way we treat the reliquae (that which remains after the distribution). For what we truly believe is often hidden in the way we handle the things of God when no one is looking, when the Divine Service is over, and we are left alone with our consciences.” Those words remain the truth and betray the dark secret that we treat the things of God far too casually for our own good.
It is impossible to hold to a doctrine and at the same time to tolerate practices at odds with what we say we confess. So the problem is not theoretical but eminently practical. It is faced weekly in most Lutheran congregations. Sadly, too many Lutheran pastors treat the issue of how we treat the elements as irrelevant to the doctrine and nonsense in the face of what they consider to be more pressing parish realities. In reality, people are noticing. Those being catechized notice. The people who hold the Word of God in great esteem can see the disconnect between what we say and do.
I have seen it too often. Far too many hosts are consecrated and the "leftovers" are either tossed out like yesterday's leftover meatloaf or put back into the original container as if the Words of Christ meant nothing at all when spoken over the hosts. The same is true of the cup. We discard the leftover individual cups with cleansing them of the blood of Christ that remains and we routinely set out far more than we can expect to use. It creates a circumstance in which the doctrine we hold is abrogated by a practice in conflict with that doctrine.
I have also seen it when there is no clear consecration of hosts or wine added because the supply of consecrated has run out. Without a clear connection between the Word of the Lord and the elements distributed, how can the people leave the Lord's table with confidence? It has the practical effect of telling the people there is no substantial difference between the elements set apart by the Word of Christ and the extras hauled out from the sacristy when needed. Is this what we believe?