Body and Blood; Body and Soul

In Lutheran Service Book, the most recent hymnal in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the prescribed (suggested?) dismissal from the Lord’s Altar runs like this: “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  Depart + in peace” (LSB 164, 181, 199, 210, 218).  This is significant because the previous LCMS hymnal had this form: “The body and blood of our Lord strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the truth faith to life everlasting.  Go in peace” (Lutheran Worship 152, 173).  Lutheran Book of Worship (primarily used in the ELCA, but used by some LCMS congregations) had a shorter (and lamer) dismissal: “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and keep you in his grace” (LBW 72, 92, 115).  The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) had the dismissal in a sort of split form: “May this [body or blood] strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting!” and then: “Depart in peace” (The Lutheran Liturgy 24).  But theEvangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (1931 ed.), published by Concordia Publishing House, had “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ and His precious Blood strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto everlasting life” (14).  This seems to be a word-for-word translation of the dismissal in the Kirchenbuch I have (for which I don’t have a publisher or date, since those pages are missing; if anyone can check, it’s a black book with “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” on the front).

I do this exercise simply to point out the seeming novelty of the LSB dismissal.  Whatever their differences, none of the other hymnals have anything like the “in body and soul” of LSB.  (Although, interestingly, the modern Finnish Lutheran Mass has: “May the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve our spirit, soul and body [, the entire being of each of us,] [sic] until eternal life.”)  The question is, what does the novelty (and every novelty should be extensively interrogated) do?  I have heard one pastor oppose it based on the fact that my body is still dying, still subject to disease, still dealing with physical ailments after I receive the Supper.  Thus, the Supper applies to me only spiritually and not physically.

With (admittedly minor) apologies to that pastor, who wants to take seriously what we experience in this world and life, such a view raises a number of troubling questions: is salvation (and the Body and Blood of Christ can be nothing else) only for souls now, and for bodies only later?  What does it mean for Christ’s Body and Blood to preserve us unto life everlasting?  Do the Body and Blood of Christ, which we believe are actually and really eaten and drunk, only affect “half” of us?  How is that possible?  Is Jesus Himself present only according to His human spirit (or even His divine Spirit)?

The answers to all of those questions go to the heart of what it means to eat this Body and Blood and to be saved by this Christ.  And the LSB dismissal (whatever its provenance; someone with more resources at hand will have to see if it truly is a novelty in the Lutheran Divine Service) acknowledges what I take to be the serious implications of actually eating and drinking the fully divine, fully human Christ’s actual Body and Blood.

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Parables

Seems rather less than impressive:
The cedar of Yahweh and Ezekiel
Reduced to the mustard shrub of Jesus

Still, there are birds clustered in the branches
Like handfulls of feathered bluster and fluff
Chattering as they turn this way and that
Still not sure what to do
Now that they’re here

Less than overwhelming, to be sure
Those birds gathered in the midst of the wispy,
Yellow-tipped tangle, tiny seeds
Littering the dry earth beneath

Pliny (the Elder, if you must know) warned about those seeds,
Letting them fall, because they germinate at once, and after that once
You can barely rid the place of them

Inexplicably larger it grows–
Not a cedar of Lebanon, its top plucked
And replanted in human regality
But a mystery, banal and ugly from a distance
Blurred in the blinking sun
Yet calm within, even as it bears
Its heavy Family name:
Cruciferae–as if it had heard something about wood
That the cedar cannot see
Beyond the forest
Below the trees
Clapping their hands for mustard seeds

Luther On the True Preaching Office

But this is our consolation, I can boast to them: if it pleases God, good enough; if it does not please him, let it fall.  I wouldn’t risk a hair of my head to uphold my office.  But if it pleases God, I’d like to see the fellow who could knock it down. …

Therefore we preach something better [than the fanatics who only preach the Law to try and make people better]: the Spirit and the New Testament, which is that Jesus has come for your sake and taken your sins upon himself.  There you hear, not what you should do, but what God is doing through Christ, which means, of course, that he works faith and bestows the Holy Spirit.  But nobody who wants to make people good through laws is practicing this preaching.  That’s Moses’ and the hangman’s business.  Otherwise all people would long since have been good; for I preach daily that you should be good and not steal, but the more you hear it the worse you become; you remain the same rascals you were before.  Therefore it remains merely letter… We have the confidence to say that we preach rightly, that we are sufficient [2 Cor. 3:5] and the fruit follows, that our doctrine is true, and that our ministry is pleasing to God.  If we have these three things, then I who preach and you who hear have enough.  If the vulgar crowd departs, what is that to me?  I might well be angry on account of ingratitude and the fanatics, but I must let it be, as Paul did.  If it does not please the world, it is enough that it pleases God.  If it does not produce fruit in all, it is enough that it produces fruit in some.  If the doctrine be true, let those who preach falsely go.  There I can defend myself against spite and vexation.  But that I should wish to stop their mouths and persuade the people not to despise me and to be grateful, this confidence we must not have.  God is my Lord, the world is my enemy.  The fruit will come and the third [that my ministry should please God] will come too.  So in the fourth chapter [of 2 Cor.] also, Paul comforts himself and his followers, admonishing them not to be offended when it appears that our doctrine is lost, if only it please the One who is above. [LW (AE) 51:224, 226-227]

Timotheos

Pelosi On Contraception & Faith: “I Do My Religion On Sundays, In Church”

Pelosi On Contraception & Faith: “I Do My Religion On Sundays, In Church”.

Because it’s “private,” obviously.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with how she goes about her job.  But, really, then: why bother?  If what you believe and what you do have nothing to do with each other, one of them is a sham.  At least since the first Roman Catholic was elected as president, this issue has been at the center of politics.  If you look at how thoroughly what Washington and Lincoln, even Jefferson, believed suffused the way they governed, it is a serious deficit when people think that what they believe does not affect how they go about their vocations.  This is not necessarily about Christianity.  I expect atheists to govern as if there is no higher authority to which they owe obedience; therefore, the State or the good of the nation (however that might be defined by an atheist) will determine what he does.  (However, the work of the atheist politician may still, by his recognizing of some order in nature, align with what the Christian thinks the government should do.)   Likewise, if I serve in the government, and I believe human life is not mine to give, take, or manipulate–even for what I think are good ends–then I will work for laws that support that.  If I believe that it is necessary to, first of all, protect all human life by virtue of its being human, then all other goods will be ordered by the standard of that good, whether that be foreign policy, health care, the economy, etc.  What comes first in the order of goods determines how other goods will be ordered.

The fact is, Nancy Pelosi does govern by what she believes (it is literally impossible not to do so), but what she believes is not the same as what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.  She is, in fact, not separating out her Sundays and the days when she is at the Capitol; she just hasn’t recognized the conflict between what she really believes and what her Church teaches.  Actually, she probably does recognize the conflict, but she thinks her Church is wrong.  That’s why she wouldn’t answer the question about the teaching of the RCC on contraception.  She knows she’s on the wrong side of the Church on that question.  Further, her highest good must be something other than a Creator of human life, if she can, in any way, support the intentional taking of that life.  I don’t know what she would say is her highest good, but it’s clearly something different than the highest good of what she does on Sundays, in church.  In other words, she is deceiving either herself or her constituents about what she really believes.

How much simpler it would be if politicians would simply state their highest Good, so we could evaluate how that Good might work itself out in their particular policy decisions.  They all have one, and it unites their political positions into a whole (although, I admit, politicians may still hold contradictory positions because they haven’t thoroughly worked through what their primary goods mean for what they want to do).  For those, like Pelosi, who support the unlimited abortion license, their highest Good clearly is not the same as those whose religion on Sunday proclaims a Redeemer who was conceived, born, lived, died, and resurrected for every member of the human race.

Timotheos

They Keep On Chipping Away

The legal complications are beyond me (perhaps a certain lawyer could enlighten us), but I find it incredible that the New Mexico court system would require a photographer to take pictures at a lesbian commitment (I almost wrote “committal”) ceremony, especially in a state where homosexual “marriage” is not recognized.  The arguments seem to proceed in different ways, some based on religious, some based on artistic expression.  It seems that businesses do not have the right to refuse any customers because of their sexuality.  But do they have the right to refuse to, say, cater or photograph a ceremony with which they disagree?  In this case, it is the activity that is opposed, not the people (although the people are, by definition, engaged in the activity).

This is in line, however, with the City Council decision in Hutchinson, Kansas requiring churches who rent their property to the general public to rent also to homosexuals.  I’m not sure churches should rent their property to the general public, but it seems that those who don’t want to rent to homosexual couples will have to stop renting in general.  But who will decide if a church is renting to the general public?  What if either the bride or the groom is not a member of the congregation, but the other is?  Is that “the general public”?  Frankly, I can’t see this ending in any other way than a complete separation from the State in the areas of weddings, taxes, etc.  As long as we are connected in some way (the pastor as agent of the State at a wedding, tax-exemptions), churches will be pressed from multiple directions to align themselves with the wider culture, or risk penalties.

Perhaps it’s time we willingly give up tax-exemptions and State-sanctioned weddings, before a lawsuit forces us to do so.

Timotheos

 

Feathers and All

Of Andreas von Karlstadt, Luther said, “Dr. Karlstadt and his spirits replace the lowest with the highest, the best with the least, the first with the last.  Yet he would be considered the greatest spirit of all, he who has devoured the Holy Spirit feathers and all” (LW [AE] 40:83).  He wrote that against Karlstadt in the same sense that Christ said of the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24, ESV).

Every time humans get hold of the Law, they elevate what their own reason and experience tells them ought to be foremost, while ignoring the significance of God’s revealed Word (first Christ, then the Scriptures which testify to Him).  Soon enough, human reason and experience are lifted to the highest place, so that God’s own words are made of secondary or of no importance at all.  This is, first of all, a failure to distinguish Law and Gospel: to make all things a matter of distinguishing between various laws, rather than between Law and Gospel.  So which law is more important?  Which law should I keep to get further in my progress toward God?  Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees that they have not even discerned the most important laws, let alone the Gospel.  Similarly, Karlstadt thought that breaking down images and cathedrals was most important, mistaking such iconoclasm for the Gospel.

But this sort of enthusiasm (“God-inside-ism”) has been around from the time that Eve heard “Did God really say?” instead of “Thus says Yahweh.”  “In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world–fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon” (Smalcald Articles, III:8, 9 [Kolb/Wengert Ed.]).

In this “spirit,” Tony Jones writes (“‘Women in Ministry’ — I’m Over It”),

The fact is, as I preached in that sermon, God ordains, not man. The process of ordination is simply a human recognition of a divinely given charism. If God has ordained a woman to ministry and you deny or reject that ordination, woe betide you! For Jesus taught unequivocally that to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin.

Let me interpret that verse for you: If the Holy Spirit has given the charism of preaching or teaching or pastoral care to a woman, and you deny the authority of that charism because of some head-in-your-ass biblical hermeneutic, you are committing an unforgivable sin.

Let me interpret it more pithily: The work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation.

Chew on that, Complementarians.

Not only does Jones know better than the Scriptures (or, at least, the “head-in-your-ass biblical hermeneutic” of 1800 years of Christianity; this is what we call “generational arrogance”), he knows exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing.  And they always do.  Know what the Holy Spirit is up to, that is.  And how can you argue with the Holy Spirit?  After all, “The work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation.”  But what if the work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation, or lack thereof, Tony?  Now, suddenly, we have a seeming stalemate of competing Holy Spirits.  Will the real Holy Spirit please stand up?  Because, if He does not, I am stumped at how to resolve this question.  If Moses and St. Paul do not sufficiently answer the question of who should be a pastor of God’s flock, how in the world does Tony Jones expect to pronounce authoritatively on the subject?  How are we to know if God is ordaining, or a mere man?  (Maybe mere men have ordained women, instead of God?)  How do we know if God “has ordained a woman to ministry,” so that we are sure not to deny or reject it and so commit Jones’ “unpardonable,” “unforgivable sin”?  (By Jones’ standard, there are a hell of a lot of people in Hell, since they never approved of the ordination of women to the preaching Office, and so are unforgiven.  Of course, I have no idea of Jones believes in Hell, so maybe all those unforgiven sinners are caught in some eternal limbo.)

It appears to be incomprehensible to some people that the Holy Spirit might actually have had something to do with the writing down of the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, and that the Spirit doesn’t want to go beyond what He’s written, so that we can be sure what is and what is not His work.  Because, frankly, if the Spirit is free to say anything Tony Jones thinks He should say, then Jones is worse than the papacy ever was.  (Personally, I’d take the Pope over Jones).  Speaking of the papacy, the Smalcald Articles again:

The papacy is also purely religious raving in that the pope boasts that ‘all laws are in the shrine of his heart’ and that what he decides and commands in his churches is supposed to be the Spirit and law–even when it is above or contrary to the Scriptures or the spoken Word. …

In the same way [as the devil tempted Adam and Eve], our enthusiasts also condemn the external Word, and yet they themselves do not keep silent.  Instead they fill the world with their chattering and scribbling–as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles, but the Spirit must come through their own writings and words.  Why do they not abstain from their preaching and writing until the Spirit comes into the people apart from and in advance of their writings?  After all, they boast the Spirit has come into them without the preaching of the Scriptures. …

Therefore we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external Word and sacrament.  Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a Word and sacrament is of the devil. (SA III:8, 4-6, 10 [K/W Ed.])

Chew on that Tony Jones.

Timotheos