In this particular instance, the young man had never noticed me genuflect during the creed or at the distribution. His eyes were wide with surprise when he saw me. After the service he grilled me concerning what I did, why I did it, and, the good Lutheran question, what does this mean? It was a long conversation but we talked it through. After listening to me wax on about the incarnation and our response to God coming into our midst, he asked me another question. I understand why you are doing it but what I don't get is why the rest of us are not? Ah, the lad had it down pat. He got it.
A while ago in a sermon I mentioned that Noah was not saved by a symbolic ark and neither were we saved by a symbolic baptism. It went on from there to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It ended with the affirmation that beloved St. Paul was not simply eloquent as symbolism when he wrote that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue proclaim Him Lord. Though the pastor often acts as representative of the whole congregation, the boy's question begs that distinction. Why shouldn't we all genuflect or bow? Was God speaking in flowerly language through St. Paul or did God mean for us to take this seriously -- as something real.
It seems to me that one of the problems Christians have is that we take symbolicly and casually the things that God means to be real and serious and we take serious as real the things He means symbolically. While not a hard and fast rule, it does seem to have roots in us Christians. No where is this more true than the way we approach the Sacraments. Even well meaning Christians who with their words confess rightly seem prone to treat things wrongly in practice. So if the Pastor drops a consecrated host on the floor, what is dropped? Is it the body of Christ, could it be, or is it mere bread? Ask that question and you find that the reality of the real presence is taken symbolically. We want it to be symbolic because it makes our lives easier. It is just a whole lot less complicated to treat as symbols the means of grace. If it were not a symbol and were as real as real gets, then we would have to change the way we treat it, believe it, and live it out. That is what this young boy understood. Without prompting, he got it just right. If it is real, then shouldn't we all be down on bended knee? From the mouths of children and infants.....
Amen! Encouraging to hear a young man who ‘gets it!’ May we all say and DO what we mean.
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