Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's in your hand, Pastor?

I was out fishing the other day and enjoying a fine cigar. While there, I chanced to run into a layman from another LCMS congregation. There is a lot of room on a pier when you're fishing, but you're still close enough to others to carry on a conversation. Soon we'd struck up a conversation were talking about the normal pier-fishing things; catching any? seen any? think they'll turn on today? what you using to entice them? We even got around to introducing ourselves to each other. And, as conversations tend to go, inevitably the question was asked, "What do you do?" To which I responded, "I am a pastor, a Lutheran pastor."

It was then that we exchanged some more information, he also being Lutheran - and a Missouri Synod Lutheran at that. Of course this piqued our interest and heightened our connection. Next we discussed where we were living and to what parishes were we connected.

Upon learning where this man was from, and what congregation he attended, I knew also who his pastor was. I decided then to commit an experiment...

Why??? This layman's pastor and I had gotten into a discussion about Christ's body and blood in the sacrament. He happens to believe that while Christ's body and blood are received by the communicants, they are not held in the hands of the distributing ministers. We went on to discuss this topic at great lenght. I even mailed to him a paper written on this very specific topic in which the Scriptural reasoning and quotes from the Confessions prove beyond disputation that Christ's body and blood are not only received by the communicants, but also held in the hand and distributed by the pastor. Even given this evidence, this particular pastor continued to contend that during the distribution, the pastor does not hold Christ's body and blood in his hands, but the parishioners do receive it.

(An interesting sidebar is the fact that this pastor also practices open communion, admitting any and all who are baptized to the altar. Could it be that his belief in "receptionism" is responsible? Could it be that he believes that only those who receive the bread and wine "in faith," receive the body and blood of Christ. And likewise, since those who do not receive it in faith are not receiving Christ's body and blood, they cannot be sinning against it. So, let all commune.)

So, as we tried to entice Chinook Salmon to bite upon the lures we were casting, we continued to talk. Over the course of time, he began to ask a couple theological questions. As the conversation continued, I steered the conversation to the Lord's Supper - I was curious if he held the belief of his pastor. His beliefs on this topic are as follows.

1) Of course it is the Words of Institution, Christ's own words, which unite Christ's body and blood to the bread and wine in the sacrament.
2) As it is the Word which brings about the miracle, not only do the communicants receive Christ's body and blood, but the pastor also holds them in his hand as distributes the elements.
3) In fact, Christ's body and blood remain with the elements that are not consumed.

A couple interesting tidbits also appeared in this discussion.
At the beginning, while believing that the Word brings about the miracle of real presence, he also believed the change happened only when the sign of the cross is made over the elements. In fact, when I pushed further, he initially believed that if the sign of the cross is not made, then Christ's body and blood are not present.
He also initially believed that only "red" wine was an acceptable choice for service at Christ's table and white was not. Why? Because while he believed in the Real Presence, he also believed that the only red wine could be used because red represented blood.

We discussed these last two thoughts which he held. When pointed out to him what he was saying, he was very quick to see the error and laugh at how foolish he had been. "Of course it is the Word which brings about the miracle of uniting Chist's body and blood to bread and wine." "If Christ's Word unites Christ's blood to the wine, it isn' about the color of the wine, for Christ's blood is present - it doesn't simply represent His blood."

What I found interesting from this conversation is that when laymen, left with what they hear each week in the Divine Service, God's Spirit will indeed lead them to faith - correctly understanding this precious gift from God. And, when they have fallen into error, if the Word of God is explained to them, they are quick to deny their misunderstanding and embrace truth. For this, we can indeed give thanks to God for His grace.

This Sunday morning, I held in my hands the precious body of Christ and His most holy blood. I was blessed by God to distribute this gracious gift of God to His beloved children. - they ate of His body and drank of His blood - for the forgiveness of their sins and the strengthening of their faith.


Anonymous said...

Amen. well said.

RevSmoke said...

Thanks for stopping in and reading.