In comments on a previous post, an anonymous contributor has added the following quotes:
“There is much false emotionalism in Lutheran circles over receiving Communion. It is seen as greater and more powerful than the Word preached, taught, read, and trusted – perhaps because it involves our actions and looks more impressive than just listening to and living in God’s Word. But the act of receiving the Supper can easily become a cursed work of the Law, if preaching does not preserve it, so it is administered correctly. The bare act of physically receiving the elements does not make one a Christian or grant faith – quite the opposite – it requires (besides faith) self-examination and some knowledge of Christ to benefit from this specific gift of forgiveness, whereas Baptism does not (See 1 Cor. 10-11).
“So no one needs Communion, nor is it necessary in any scriptural sense. To make it required, is to impose a law upon the Gospel. Even the idea of weekly Communion can be an idol – a legal mandate and cursed law. The forgiveness of sins must be free, it cannot be compelled or shoved down anyone’s throat. Communion by itself, without faith, does not help, instead it harms. But the push in high church circles to commune very young children, without full instruction, and even infants in some cases, is somewhat parallel to virtual attempts at communing in separate meals, while pretending to be together by linked computers. Both sides miss the point of the Supper: to promote faith in those who already believe – it is not for everyone and it is certainly not the center of our religion – Christ has not limited His help to a meal. Forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. It can always be desired, but it does not have to be received at every instant for you to have comfort.”
It is the classic case of the straw man. Who is saying what is being attacked? Where has anyone said that receiving Communion is greater and more powerful than the Word preached, taught, read, and trusted? Who says that? Where have I ever said that? I have never read any Lutheran who said that.
And then there is a solemn warning: the act of receiving the Supper can easily become a cursed work of the Law. . . Well, of course. Is not that one of the core issues of the Reformation? To whom is this warning directed? Toward people like me who suggest that there is something wrong with a holding to a Confession in principle without holding to it in practice? I have never heard or read of any Lutheran who would disagree with the warning but the warning is placed against whom?
The idea of weekly Communion is thrown around as if the witness of the Augustana does not suggest that this is, indeed, the norm of those who hold to this Confession. Does the comment mean to suggest that when we had quarterly observances of the Holy Sacrament we were more Lutheran than when offered the Sacrament more frequently? Remember here that this is about offering Holy Communion and not about receiving it. Reception does, indeed, depend upon the communicant being examined, absolved, and desiring to receive what the Sacrament offers -- faith! I do not know of anyone who inveighs against those who do not receive the Sacrament weekly. I do know of many, including myself, who suggest that offering the Sacrament less than weekly is not in keeping with the Augustana.
So no one needs Communion, nor is it necessary in any scriptural sense. I am not at all sure what to do with such a statement and I am having trouble with the idea that a Lutheran wrote it. Of course the Sacrament is necessary. Not because we make it so but because Christ has bequeathed this wonderful Sacrament to His Church, attached Himself to the bread and wine set apart by His very Word in according with His own testament and command, and delivers through this means the forgiveness of sins (and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation). No, the Lord does not mandate how often we must receive but, as Luther suggested, regular reception is expected if we value and esteem the Lord, the Word, and His promises.
The forgiveness of sins must be free, it cannot be compelled or shoved down anyone’s throat. Again, where is this a problem? Christ has not limited His help to a meal. Forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. It can always be desired, but it does not have to be received at every instant for you to have comfort. Of course, forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. Who says that? But forgiveness IS promised in the Supper. And the Supper is commanded. So what is the problem? God has bound Himself to the sacraments, but He is not bound by the sacraments. Of course, we Lutherans not only admit this, we believe it wholeheartedly. Because it is the truth. Yes, we have the Word and the Word does not lack for anything nor ever fail to do what it says. But we have not only the Word. We have absolution. It is not an extra but part of the very essential gift Christ has given to His Church. We also have baptism which neither competes with the Word nor fills in what it lacks. Baptism is not some little added extra but Christ's essential gift to His Church. Holy Communion is not some little added extra we attach to the Word now and then but lives in complement to the Word as Christ intended. We are fools for trying to pick and choose or to dissect why Christ has given so much. Do we begrudge Him His generosity? We must stop talking like this.
Yes, we have to address issues like infant communion and the temptation to set a pecking order for the means of grace. But not by setting up straw men. And not by demeaning anything Christ has given or commanded.
Do you have to go to Church? No. But you re a fool if you do not.
Do you have to go to communion? No. But you are a fool if you do not.
John Fenton has some relevant thoughts in a CTQ article from 2000.
“In the span of a dozen years two sigruficant Agenden, or books of liturgy, made their debut in congregations that becarne members of the Missouri Synod. Wilheh Loehe compiled and published the first in 1844, specifically for use in American Lutheran frontier congregations. He dedicated it to Pastor Friedrich Wyneken. In 1856 the Kirchen-Agende für Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungehinderter Augsburgischer Confession, "compiled from the old orthodox Saxon Church Agendas," was published by (and for) the Missouri Synod. Published specifically by and for participants in the nineteenth-century Lutheran "Confessional Revival" movement, these Agenden represent two different streams of Lutheran liturgical theory and practice, specifically in regard to the Hauptgottesdienst (the celebration of Holy Communion).
“For Loehe, true liturgy in the Evangelical-Lutheran confession culminates in receiving salvation in Christ not solely or exclusively or even primarily in the preaching, but in the Testament of His body and blood. For this reason, Loehe argues that the sacrament of the altar is both the kernel and foundation - the culmination, if you will - of a decidedly Lutheran Hauptgottesdienst. The chief service (Hauptgottesdienst) of the church always has as its purpose the communion or the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is certainly the core. Whatever proceeds or follows stands in relation to it. This is how it is not only in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Churches, but also in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. A chief service without the Lord's Supper is unacceptable. It is like a broken column or like a flower which has lost its bloom. . . . A liturgy whose order of worship is neither generally nor specifically centered on the holy supper is merely something incidental, lacking of thought - a pile of bones properly arranged but no body in an organic union; flesh without a skeleton, stones without a building. . . .
“In another place, Loehe makes the same point when speaking of "sacred spaces: This is now the chief question: In the Lutheran Church, which is the primary and most important location-the altar or the pulpit? This question is easily answered. In the Lutheran service, not the sermon but the holy sacrament is the greatest ceremony. The sermon leads to the holy meal since it directs the Christians to a fervent mystical union with their Christ. . . . Therefore, the altar is and remains the most important location both for the Lutheran church building and for the appointments of our worship edifice since it gives purpose to the entire holy room.”
“Communion is greater and more powerful than the Word preached, taught, read, and trusted? Who says that?”
“Holy Communion is the climax of the Divine Service.” - A Simple Explanation of Holy Communion, CPH
It’s a simple divide between the Franconian/Loehe theory of worship as rooted in catholic liturgical traditions leading to mystical communion with Christ, and the Saxon/Luther liturgical theory of worship as didactic and flexible instrument for the means of grace, chief of which is the preaching of the Gospel. The latter finds support in the Apology:
“Among the adversaries, in many regions during the entire year no sermons are delivered, except in Lent. [Here they ought to cry out and justly make grievous complaint; for this means at one blow to overthrow completely all worship. For of all acts of worship that is the greatest, most holy, most necessary, and highest, which God has required as the highest in the First and the Second Commandment, namely, to preach the Word of God. For the ministry is the highest office in the Church. Now, if this worship is omitted, how can there be knowledge of God, the doctrine of Christ, or the Gospel? But the chief service of God is to teach the Gospel. And when the adversaries do preach, they speak of human traditions, of the worship of saints [of consecrated water], and similar trifles, which the people justly loathe; therefore they are deserted immediately in the beginning, after the text of the Gospel has been recited. [This practise may have started because the people did not wish to hear the other lies.] A few better ones begin now to speak of good works; but of the righteousness of faith, of faith in Christ, of the consolation of consciences, they say nothing; yea, this most wholesome part of the Gospel they rail at with their reproaches. [This blessed doctrine, the precious holy Gospel, they call Lutheran.]“
Loehe's comments must be placed within the context of his time, in which the sermon was everything and the Sacrament of the Altar was held infrequently. His point is not to diminish the Word but elevate the Sacrament. But this does not answer Pastor Peter's basic question. Who says that TODAY? Where is this a dispute that frames it in this way? Loehe was also addressing a time in which the pulpit was central and the altar was largely empty. Maybe this should be said today because around us in America are churches with pulpits and no altars, no sacramental theology or practice, and the belief that communion with God happens on an internal spiritual plane.
Pitting the Holy Supper veruses the Word is kindof like pitting the OT reading, Epistle versus the Gospel. We only stand for the Gospel, yet the other readings are not less, for it is all the holy Word of God.
Do I have to go to Church? No. But you are a fool if you don’t.
What is the obedience of the Church? To receive God’s gifts.
When Jesus healed people, he restored them to the community of faith, the Church.
How does one prepared for their death? God to Church and receive the remission of your sins.
How does one prepare to for the second coming? Go to Church.
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