Thursday, June 27, 2019
What Lutherans don't believe. . .
While I agree that it would be inappropriate for a Lutheran to expect to receive the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood in a Roman Catholic parish and inappropriate for a Roman Catholic to receive the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood in a Lutheran parish, the part I find curious is Lutherans don't believe what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. Period. Well, what part of what Roman Catholics believe do Lutherans reject? The Real Presence? No, Lutherans are adamant about that. The bread is Christ's body and the wine is His blood. Christ's body and blood are distributed and can be taken to your harm when received without faith or repentance.
Do we disagree about Transubstantiation? Yes, but part of that disagreement has to do with the fact that some in Rome insist that the Real Presence REQUIRES Transubstantiation while Lutherans insist it is a philosophical explanation of something Scripture does not explain. Everyone agrees that the Sacrament is called bread as well as the body of Christ. Lutherans wonder what is the big deal.
Do we disagree about how the Sacrament is effected? Perhaps. While Rome insists that priests are given more than simply the faculty but also the power to effect Christ's presence, Lutherans insist that this remains with the Word -- although the Word is not magic in the mouth of whomever but the Word spoken through him whom the Lord has, through the Church, set apart for this ministry.
Do we disagree about what is received? Probably not. The Word is clear. For the forgiveness of sins. Both Lutherans and Roman Catholics are pretty big on sin and absolution and the healing power of this Sacrament to forgive our sins as well as nurture, nourish, strengthen, and sustain the Christian (worthy through repentance and faith) does not seem so much in dispute.
My point is NOT that Lutherans and Roman Catholics ought to be visiting each other's altars. Rather, my point is that here even a former Lutheran seems to lump Lutherans in with those who have no Real Presence, who believe it is merely symbolism, and who give to the bread and wine no power except whatever marginal food value may lie in them (everything else in the Sacrament being done by the person receiving!). That Lutheran has either forgotten what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess OR never knew it in the first place!
And, so it seems, Pope Francis is also confused. Perhaps he does posit more trust in what Lutherans believe about the Sacrament but he certainly appears ready to ignore where Rome and Lutherans disagree when it comes to Eucharistic hospitality. Flying back from Romania, the Pope Francis told reporters in off the cuff remarks that “there is already Christian unity,” that there is no need to “wait for the theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist,” thereby implying that Eucharistic hospitality is ready to begin. Recall the fact that this is the Pope who seemed to imply that spouses who are not Roman Catholics might be granted special dispensation to commune at Roman altars. This appears to go a big step further. If this is indeed what Francis meant — and he has a history of being vague, of saying radical words that were later walked back — then it is not only Lutherans who need to regroup but all of Rome. Though some are scratching their heads in wonder, what did he mean and what else could he have meant, it is clear that Rome has as much need to get its ducks in order as Lutherans do!
For now the gates of the rail are still closed but it would help if at least we would state each other's positions accurately. Strangely enough, one of the fruits of ecumenical dialog is that we have to figure out what we believe in order to say it to those with whom we disagree.