Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The current practice of many WELS churches regarding the frequency of Holy Communion is a mixed bag. On one side, a large group of churches continue to serve the Lord's Supper every other Sunday or even once a month. On the other, a growing group of men who are advocates of communing at every possible opportunity. A glance at the "Doctrinal Statements of the WELS" shows no mention of frequency, just a discussion on the moment of consecration. Indeed, along with the many facets of Holy Communion dealt with, it seems that frequency is not considered as much an issue, perhaps it should be.
I would do well to start with a discussion of the essence and purpose of the Lord's Supper.
On Essence: From Luther's small catechism
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.
On Purpose The following is borrowed from a paper written by Joel Fredrich, for WLS symposium 2003
"Jesus instituted the Supper in order to give us his body and blood and through them the forgiveness of sins for the strengthening of our faith. And “where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation” (SC VI, 6). The Supper’s primary character is that it is a means of grace.
The blessings just mentioned are treasures we possess by faith even before we receive the Supper. By faith in the gospel we possess forgiveness, life, and salvation, and are united with our Savior in his entirety, God and man, soul, body, blood. But Jesus wanted us to receive these gifts also in this special way. He created a sacrament that is to be received by me individually (thus assuring me personally), bodily (thus reminding me that he saves the whole me, soul and body), and repeatedly (thus providing for sacramental reassurance and growth all my life)."
Perhaps many of the things said above are well-known, and perhaps taken for granted, but I do not think a discussion of the Lord's Supper should be started from the middle of the matter. Some other notes on the matter that should be noted.
- The Lord's Supper is something that Christ has instituted for us, it is not something we do for him.
- It is a Means of Grace, that is, it works and accomplishes the same as the Word and the Sacrament of Baptism
- The Means of Grace should not be ranked, they are equal in their efficacy and the reverence shown.
"The sacrament and the sermon belong together and it is always the sign of decay in a church if one is emphasized at the expense of the other" (Sasse "This is my body...")
- Whereas the Sacrament of Baptism creates faith and is for all men (Matthew 28:19) The Sacrament of the Altar is for those who already have faith.
- However the sacrament is not received on the basis of the merit of faith, the merit is the innocent life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Response to Infant Communion
Papers can be written on such things I will echo the statements of CFW Walther in "Pastoral Theology"
"Since according to God's Word everyone who wants to go to the Lord's Table should first examine himself and discern the Lord's body (1 Cor 11:28-29) the holy supper is not to be administered to children who are still incapable of doing so. It was an obvious misuse when it was rather generally done from the 3rd to 5th centuries, our of a misunderstanding of John 6:53 which was [incorrectly] understood at referring to receiving the Sacrament. "
He quotes Luther
" I cannot consider it right that the Bohemians give the same (the holy supper) to the children, even though I do not call them heretics because of it" (1523 letter to Hausmann)
And that is all I wish to say on that matter, for it is another topic, although it had been touched on briefly.
The Necessity of the Lord's Supper
From Christian Dogmatics (F. Pieper)
" The Lord's Supper is not a matter of choice, an adiaphoron but a divine ordinance that is to be observed in the church to the last day"
"Still there is not absolute necessity of the Lord's Supper because the remission of sins is not divided among the various means of Grace, but each one offers the full remission"
Our Lord's Words concerning the frequency of the Sacrament
"On what occasions and how often the Lord's Supper is to be received Scripture does not specifically state (emphasis mine). Diligent use of it, however, is not only indicated by the osachis (often) joined to the "This do in remembrance of me" but also follows from the essence and purpose of the Lord's Supper"
Ministry Word and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (Martin Chemnitz)
"Therefore you ask, how often would be enough to have been a guest of this supper? It is not for any man to give a specific answer to this with a number or any certain measure, other than as often as a trouble conscience feels and recognizes that it needs those benefits that are offered in the supper"
On Neglecting the Sacrament
From Luther's Large Catechism
"In conclusion, since we have now the true understanding and doctrine of the Sacrament, there is indeed need of some admonition and exhortation, that men may not let so great a treasure which is daily administered and distributed among Christians pass by unheeded, that is, that those who would be Christians make ready to receive this venerable Sacrament often"
On making the Gospel a law
I was asked to expound on my thoughts earlier about making a point of Gospel into a law. I would first differentiate between "rules concerning the sacrament" and "things essential to the sacrament", that is those things, when they are removed, the sacraments ceases to be a sacrament. Using Bread and Wine, for instance are things essential to the sacrament. As well, using the Words of Institution are essential, for without the Word the sacrament has no power.
Then on rules attached to the sacrament we must differentiate between rules instituted by God and rules created by man (as I had said, attaching law to a gospel). God speaks both to the frequency and the desire for the sacrament. There is to be understood also a need for a desire for the sacrament and a warning against neglecting it.
However, man should not arbitrarily attach his own rules on such things. Such as, number or measure (see: Chemnitz) as well as, type of wine, number of persons at the table, liturgical rites surrounding the supper, method in that one receives the elements(lips vs. hand/common vs. individual cup).
I believe the danger exists when combining "You must receive the sacrament as often as possible" and "You must offer the sacrament as often as possible" a arbitrary rule that sends Christians to the table out of fear rather than a sincere desire. I do not offer this opinion as an excuse but rather a very real admonition to those who would say that one "must" do things in respect to God's promises. Rather it is faith that brings us to the table and makes us ready.
Prior to the reformation and through the time of the Augsburg Confession churches offered "communion every Sunday and holy day, and, if any desire the sacrament, also on other days when it is given to such as ask for it." (AC XXIV)
Use of the sacraments declined because of the Thirty Year's War, Pietism, Rationalism, and in American Lutheranism, the relative distance between churches made weekly communing impossible. (For more information read "The Effects of the Age of Pietism on the Lutheran Church" Paul Prange, also "Communion Frequency in the Lutheran Confessions' Jay Webber)
I truly believe that a Christian should at all times desire the sacrament.
I sincerely believe that a Minister should at all times desire to distribute the sacrament.
I believe often communion is a command from God.
I believe that weekly communion is a fitting custom but is just that a custom, it is not commanded.
I believe that it is the status quo of our people to not receive the sacrament as often as they could.
I believe, as such, that is it proper that strict catechizing be done to show people the need, as well as the purpose of communing often.
I believe there are several logical, earthly reasons for communing less often (for both large and small congregations) however they pale to the spiritual benefit.
I believe there are several ways in which our communicants sinful nature could abuse communing for often, again I stress the importance of teaching.
I believe there is a groundswell at the lay level, as well as the students and faculty of our schools and our administration for more often communing and I am hopeful because of it.
I believe however, regardless of the groundswell, time must be taken and changes cannot happen suddenly.
I therefore reject any notion that calls into question the faith or confessionalism of those who do not commune more frequently, nor those who do not desire to offer communion more frequently. For, to call into question such things belies the efforts of man to usurp the place of God who judges the heart. I however, commend the desires of those who seek to maintain open communication on the subject: teaching, and admonishing one another as befits Christians. In such a way, we seek to glorify God in all things, and uplift one another in his presence.
In Nomine Jesu
Michael A. Schottey
November 28, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
By asking the LORD to open his lips, David showed how difficult it is to offer thanks to God. This is something God demands of us (Psalm 50:14). Talking about the LORD and thanking him publicly require an extreme amount of courage and strength because the devil is constantly trying to stop people from doing this. If we could see all of Satan's traps we would know why David prayed for the Spirit's strength and asked the LORD himself to open David's lips. He wanted to tell the devil, the world, kings, princes and everyone about the LORD.
Many things can keep our lips shut: the fear of danger, the hope of gaining something, or even the advice of friends. The devil uses these ways to stop us from offering thanks to God, as I have experienced in my life. And yet, at important times, when God's honor was threatened, God stood by me, and opened my mouth in spite of obstacles. The Spirit urges you on, just as Peter says, "We cannot stop talking about what we've seen and heard" (Acts 4:20) The Spirit prays to God for us with many groans (Romans 8:26). Then the LORD opens our lips to announce his praise.
Whenever Scripture talks about praising God publicly, its talking about something extremely dangerous. This is because announcing his praise is nothing other than opposing the devil, the world, our own corrupt flesh, and everything else. For how can you praise God without first declaring that the world is guilty and condemned?Anyone who condemns the world is asking to be hated and puts himself in a very dangerous situation.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I believe marriage is a sacred act, instituted by God. (Gen 2:18) I believe Jesus blessed marriage with his presence at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1) I believe that marriage is not only a legal agreement, before the government...but a spiritual bond before God: "so they are no longer two, but one" (Mt 19:6). I believe the Lord commands, encourages, and sanctifies marriages for many reasons including but not necessarily limited to: Chasteness of life, Companionship, and Childbearing. In addition to those blessings, are the numerous blessings which come from Christian life in general and the ability to share in those blessings with your spouse. (1 Cor 7)
I believe that marriage begins with an intent and then an oath. The Marriage Rite in Christian Worship (The Hymnal of the WELS) states: "...marriage, which consists in your mutual consent, sincerely and freely given." This is then followed by the marriage promises and ring exchange.
I believe that marriage is a bond which God intended never to be broken. There are two permissible grounds for Divorce, adultery and desertion. (Mt 19:9) However, I believe that simply because they are permissible, they are not beneficial (1 Cor 6:12) I believe the Word of God himself when Christ states: "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning." (Matthew 19:8) Therefore I believe that even if there is unfaithfulness or desertion (physical or emotional), divorce is not the only option or the only possible result. Rather, I believe that while such things are allowed, love is commanded.
Love does not put its basis on the object of affection. I believe that, since I love as God has loved me, I am entirely unlovable. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) I believe that if Christ had based his love on my own merits, I would have been found lacking. Rather, love is subjective, it is an act that is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and can be done only as a result of faith, it is a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22) Therefore, my love is not founded on the person I love, but rather on the Savior who loved me first. I love not because I choose to, but rather am compelled to by the Gospel. This I do entirely by God's grace, and could not have done so without my savior. (Romans 7:19)
Therefore, If I find that I am "not loving/ not in love with" a person, this is a fault that is inherent in me, not in the object, nor in marriage (an act sanctified by God).
I believe that the same God who created the earth also sustains it. In the same vein I believe that the same God who has blessed a marriage from its inception, can also sustain it as well. He has promised to do so and his promises are sure. (1 Cor 1:9)
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Brothers, our text for consideration today comes from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 verses 1-3. We read "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
Paul, in this letter, pulls no punches when delivering this harsh condemnation to the members of the church there. You might wonder as to what brought on such a stern message to the church in Ephesus. A look at the verses preceding points that out nicely. Chapter 1 Verse 20 states: "which [referring to God's mighty strength] he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms." Paul speaks in such harsh terms to the Ephesians because he is drawing a comparison, that is...What Christ is, they were not.
We are all aware that the Word of God is a vibrant and living thing. It speaks as much to us today as it once did to the Ephesians. Therefore it stands just as true that what Christ is...we are not. Listen carefully again to the words of Paul.
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
As this Word of God speaks to our hearts, it is not dulled in anyway. It describes us as totally dead, a state in which we cannot do anything to help ourselves. Where as Christ was empowered by God to be raised from the dead, we were the exact opposite, we were completely totally and utterly dead in our sins. And not only were we powerless to do anything pleasing to God, in fact we were diametrically opposed to God. Everything we did was in defiance of him. Instead of following God's laws, God's will, God's ways we followed our own will and ways. And what’s more, we followed the ways of this sinful world and the devil, whom Paul refers to as the "ruler of the kingdom of the air."
We can so often paint this picture of the human race, that God looked down and saw these cute little cuddly humans and decided to save them. Something innate in what God had created that he would love us so much. Paul is quick to paint another picture, a true picture. We were objects of wrath. When God looked at mankind and at its sin his anger burned against them. Against you and against me. Paul explains further in his letter to the Romans about this wrath. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
Unrepentance is exactly what we've been speaking about this whole time. A constant desire to disobey the will of our loving father, and rather follow the desires of our world and our sinful flesh. We all constantly have this at work in us. There is nothing in us worthy of love, worthy of compassion, worthy of forgiveness.
Yet we are loved, and we are forgiven.
Notice the wording of the verse again, "As for you, you WERE dead...in which you USED to live, when you FOLLOWED....All of us also LIVED among them AT ONE TIME....We WERE objects of wrath. As this verse can be used in one breath to convict the wicked of their sin, it can also be used to point out that we are no longer bound by that sin. This verse leads up to some of the sweetest and most beloved gospel in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, this not of ourselves it is the gift of God-- not by works so that no one can boast." The condition of sin is a condition under which we do not have to live any longer. We are free to follow the will of our God because we are no longer dead in our sin, because we died with Christ and were also raised up with him. Luther spoke of such things concerning also baptism...
"Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. "
Brothers, we often speak so eloquently about objective justification. We are quick to point out that Christ died for all sinners. We even tail off at the end of our sentences because we've heard and said them so many times. We forget all too often to absolve one another personally of the sins we commit daily. As if sin was just some utility bill that Christ paid for and we have nothing to do with. No, my brothers, as much as we confess that Christ's sacrifice was for the whole world, we must in the very next breath confess that is for you and for me, it is a personal gift.
From time eternal, each and every one of you was in the heart of your father. His omniscience was never once blinded. He knew what you, what mankind would become. He knew the awesome debt and the sacrifice that would be required to satisfy his own wrath. He knew there was nothing you would ever do to please him. He knew your days would be filled with temptation and disobedience and darkness. God thought of all that, saw your face, and said "Let there be Light." Thousands of years later on a cross on Mt. Calvary, God's very own son, the anointed one, Christ Jesus would look up to heaven, forsaken by his father for your sake, would see you and say, "It is finished." A short time later he would look out over those closest to him, yet you too were in his thoughts as he said. "And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." That very same God, Jesus Christ is your good shepherd, he has borne you on his shoulders and is carrying you home to be with him forever, to a home he has prepared for you. Yes, my friends, let us always reflect this love, a love that has loved us so greatly, when we were not loveable. A love that has redeemed us when were were not worth redemption. A Love that loved us before the worlds were made. A love that will love us both now, and in time eternal.
With this love in mind, dear redeemed children of God, I leave you with the prayer and the wish that Paul left with the Romans "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We bow our heads in prayer:
Lord Jesus, by your precious blood, you redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, and called me to be your very own. You, O Lord, know all things. You know that I love you. You know that my renewed heart desires to serve you in righteousness and holiness, to cast aside the sin that so easily entangles me, and to run with perseverance the race set before me. I repent O Lord, that I have so often failed to do what you have asked me. So often I have refused to follow you, and rather chose to follow the paths of the devil the world and my own sinful flesh. In me there is no good thing. The good I would do, I do not; The evil that I would not, that I do. I am so wretched! Who will deliver me from this body of death. To you, my Savior and loving friend I flee: Uphold me by your willing spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with in me. Purge every evil desire and thought from my heart and mind, and fill me with a pure love for you and your will, a reflection of your love for me. Whether I live or die, may I be yours alone and forever, Amen.