30 August 2009
The Use and Misuse of Luther in Contemporary Debates on Homosexuality: A Look at
a paper by Prof. John T. Pless
27 August 2009
Is it Still the Blood of Christ if Grape Juice is Used in the Lord’s Supper?
Thesis I: It can be clearly established with certainty that wine made from grapes was used in the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament, and is therefore included in the “this do” command of our Lord in His institution.
While Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:18 refer to “fruit of the vine” this is not a reference to what we call “grape juice.” “Fruit of the vine” literally refers to the grape itself, rather than its juice. Grapes inherently contain a leavening agent and left to themselves will ferment naturally. One must assume that intoxicating wine was being used to celebrate the Lord's Supper in the church of Corinth for believers were combining the love feast with the Lord's Supper and some were partaking of the Lord's Supper in a drunken state as a result (cf. 1 Cor. 11:21 where the Greek verb metheuo is used i.e. intoxicated). Although wine was clearly abused by the Corinthian believers in conjunction with the Lord's Supper, Paul does not condemn the Corinthian Christians for using wine, nor does he prohibit the use of wine in the Lord's Supper. Paul's correction is directed toward their sinful abuse of wine not their lawful use of it. If wine was not lawfully to be used in the Lord's Supper, here was the ideal time for Paul to demonstrate where the use of wine would lead those who broke God's law by using it in the Lord's Supper. The silence concerning any prohibition of wine in the Lord's Supper at this point is emphatic.
The Christian Fathers, as well as the Jewish rabbis, have understood "the fruit of the vine" to mean wine in the proper sense. Our Lord, in instituting the Supper after the Passover, availed himself of the expression invariably employed by his countrymen in speaking of the wine of the Passover. Furthermore, the drink offering that was poured out before the Lord at the Passover and on other occasions was wine not grape juice (Num. 28:24; cf. Num. 28:14 where the drink offering is specifically identified as wine, Hebrew word: yayin ). It would certainly follow that the Lord used wine at the Passover celebration (and at the institution of the Lord's Supper) with His disciples in Matthew 26:29.
There was a Greek word available to the writers of the New Testament which might have been used to refer to grape juice (“trux”) if they had wanted their readers to understand that the common beverage used by Christ, the disciples, Timothy, the presbyters and deacons, and the Corinthian believers was unfermented grape juice (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature , by Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, p.564). The Holy Spirit of God chose not to use the word “trux” (grape juice) even one time in the New Testament. There is therefore no reference in the New Testament to unfermented grape juice, but all references are to fermented wine. To be sure, the Lord’s Supper was instituted in the context of a Hebrew Passover which used wine made from grapes. Jesus instructs the disciples to “make ready for the Passover,” which included wine.
Thesis II: While the Scriptures condemn drunkenness (the abuse of alcohol), alcohol itself is not condemned by God.
One can certainly demonstrate that alcohol itself is not immoral. Scripture only condemns drunkenness or the abuse of alcohol, but not responsible and legal use of alcohol. One need only cite Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the Cana wedding for proof, in addition to Psalm 104:15; Deuteronomy 14:26; Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18; Isaiah 5:11; I Timothy 5:23. Later temperance or prohibition movements in society do not reflect an accurate teaching of Scripture in that regard, but derive from protestant revivalism or pietism. In fact, Mr. Welch invented grape juice in order to avoid wine at Communion, because he believed to consume wine was sinful. Also to be noted was the fact that Welch did not believe that the Holy Communion is the body and blood of Christ, but only a symbol at best. As one scholar has also pointed out:
Abstention from the use of wine has, occasionally, been declared obligatory by heretics. It was one of the tenets of the heresy of Gnosticism in the second century. Tatian, the founder of the sect known as the Encratites, forbade the use of wine, and his adherents refused to make use of it even in the Sacrament of the Altar; in its place they used water.
Thesis III: It is not our personal faith which makes the Lord’s Supper what it is but the command and institution of Christ. Therefore to change what Christ instituted in this sacrament is spiritually dangerous and puts the sacrament into doubt. Included in the command “this do” is the use of the physical elements of bread and wine made from grapes along with the rest of the institution of Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is not merely a symbol or a reminder but a means of grace.
The Lord attached His Word and promise to a particular way of observing this sacrament. What is used in the sacraments is a doctrinal matter, not simply a matter of convenience. Since the Lord’s Supper is not merely symbolic, what we use in the Lord’s Supper is not merely a case of using something that resembles wine or even resembles blood. It is a matter of faithfully carrying out the institution of the Lord Jesus. While acknowledging that there may be some circumstances in which an individual may have a physical difficulty with alcohol, there are better and worse ways to pastorally work with this situation. If we are to deal with these situations catechetically, then we must deal with them in such a way as to respond compassionately to the physical health situation of the individual communicant, but also be theologically faithful to a biblical and confessional understanding of the Lord’s Supper. The Word comes to the element Christ designated, and it becomes the sacrament.
It is not our faith that makes the earthly elements the body and blood of Christ, but that is according to Christ’s command. Our faith simply receives (passively) the benefits of this gift and gives thanks. For those who in special circumstances there are three options: (1) to receive wine diluted with water; (2) intinction (slightly dip the host in the wine); or (3) to refrain from the Lord’s Supper and be comforted by the preached Gospel, Holy Baptism, and Holy Absolution in Christ. For many because of illness, mental incapacity, or age, there comes a time at which many are not able to commune, but what they have received and continue to receive in the other means of grace sustains them.
A RELATED MATTER: Is It Our Personal Faith Which Makes the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper? Can the pastor make whatever elements he chooses to be the body and blood of Christ by simply speaking the words of institution? No.
That the blessed bread is the holy body and the blessed wine is the holy blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, can only be ascribed to the word, command, and institution of Christ and not to our personal faith. It would be true, regardless of whether we believed or not. It is due to the powerful Word of Christ. When celebrated according to what is entailed in the Lord’s command “this do”, it is the effective Word of our Lord that brings this miracle about. This is why the evangelical practice of closed communion is necessary. The real presence is objective.
With this said, we must not take the words to be “magic” in the occult sense that we can substitute any or “similar” earthly elements we want in place of the bread and grape wine, say the words, and still have the real presence. (Not unlike the way some made fun of the Verba with the corruption "hocus pocus.") That would not be true or reliable. In fact, it would be an abuse of the sacrament and contradict the clear command of Christ. Again, it is not our personal faith nor simply saying the words over any element that has the promise and blessing of Christ that it be His body and blood. That would be an occultish practice. The pastor does not have the ability or authority to change the elements (I Cor. 4:1-2). As St. Paul says in I Corinthians 11 about the Holy Supper: “That which I received from the Lord I also delivered unto you…”.
What is necessary for it to truly be the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood is that it be done clearly according to Christ’s institution and command “this do” on the night in which He was betrayed, accounted for us in the Holy Scriptures in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in I Corinthians. In a proper celebration the pastor should serve as liturgist or celebrant, bread and wine made from grapes (either red or white) should be used, there should be the giving of thanks, and the Lord’s Words should be spoken or sung clearly and distinctly before the congregation. The sacrament should be consecrated, distributed, and received by those who have been examined and absolved, and being thus received in the unity of the one holy Christian faith in the Divine Service (Acts 2:42; I Cor. 10).
The Lord's Supper is what the Lord has made it. The Lord does this by His very own words. Without the Words of Institution there is no Lord's Supper. They are Christ's words and He is speaking them through the mouth of His called and ordained man. The words of Christ are directed toward the elements as consecratory words. This is not simply for “setting apart” the bread and wine (a generic consecration), but rather that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. This is why the versatility of the freestanding altar serves so well to make this clear before all.
The Lord’s Supper is what the Lord has made it. Without bread and wine made from grapes there is no Lord’s Supper, just s without the words of institution there is no Eucharist. Similarly we may not change the element in Baptism to something other than water or change the words. These are the exclusive and particular earthly elements that the Lord Jesus intended and commanded to be used and to which He attached His promise when He instituted the gift of the Eucharist. To change the earthly element is the same as saying that the Temple in the Old Testament could have been built somewhere other than Jerusalem or to say that Christ could have been born of someone other than the Virgin Mary or somewhere other than Bethlehem. Anything else cannot be the Lord’s Supper with any Scriptural certainty. When there is no Scriptural certainty, no clear following of the Lord’s command and institution, then faith cannot be sure either. Faith needs to have its proper object, not just sincerity, optimism, or the thought of what God might think or do or understand apart from His clear revealed will and word in Scripture (sola Scriptura).
All of this is so that we might have a firm foundation for our faith and a clear, undistorted and unpolluted Gospel of salvation in Christ our crucified and risen Lord, who comes to us in grace and mercy in the Divine Service. It is our personal faith which receives, but does not cause, the benefits of this Gospel sacrament, forgiveness, life and salvation through the body and blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our personal faith is passive in receiving this precious gift of Holy Communion, but then responds with thanksgiving, praise, service to our neighbor, and the sanctified life in Christ who dwells with His Church, and within us.
26 August 2009
I ask the question not to look for some excuse to criticize Rome - for surely their Christian discipline in matters of personal morality far outshines our own disjointed efforts. But there's a real question of pastoral care here.
What do you do when someone under the minor ban dies? Perhaps it's not even public that he or she has been barred from the Table by the pastor. What if that person dies while under such a ban? Anybody with experience on this want to speak?
We do not deny that the spirit of prophecy still lives, that He rules and works, that the gift of prophecy is still in the Church; but we hold that all prophecy must be according to the analogy of faith, -- namely, in the New Testament, must be related to the Word of the Lord as the particular to the universal, as the conclusion to the proposition, as the bud to the plant. A prophecy that does not confirm the true doctrine, or that is not in connection with it, is empty and worthless (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 [Open in Libronix (if available)] ). Further, a prophecy that rests on merely human foundations, or does not proceed from the Holy Spirit, even though it be ever so correct a conjecture, is not a prophecy; as, for instance, Balaam's, Numbers 24, or Caiaphas's, John 11:51 [Open in Libronix (if available)] , is no testimony to the man that said it. Therefore we must be just as critical of prophecies as of miracles, and must hold firmly that all prophecies must accord with the faith once delivered to the saints (Romans 12:7 [Open in Libronix (if available)] ).
This distinction, which has to be made with reference to miracles and prophecies, shows that they cannot be characteristic marks of the Church. They need to be sifted and tried by the pure Word and the Scriptural Confession of the Church; they do not give a clear testimony; they, according to their nature, call to inquiry, -- and this so much the more because it is not the church only that has these uncertain witnesses; but heretics too, heathen, and Antichrist, boast and will boast of them.
Besides, it is not easy to see why our opponents glory so in miracles. The miracles which occurred in the first centuries did not occur in the service of the Roman Church -- and if in the missions of later times wonderful things occurred, it was not in the service of Romish error. If, however, something wonderful actually occurred in connection with the doctrine that contradicted the Scriptures, it certainly was not of divine origin, for God would not help error to victory by miracles. And, as to later times, what can they tell of? Miracles like that at Ratisbon can easily be explained even if it were not condemned by the worship of images; and miracles such as are claimed for the holy coat at Treves, an imposing personality -- whether Jewish or Mohammedan or heathen -- could produce upon neurotic people. How many things of this sort could be alleged, if there were any reason. We need not go back to Luther, for did many a wonderful thing for the sake of which, if he had been a Romanist, Rome would have canonized him. Every period of our Church has had occurrences enough of the sort, far surpassing the image of the Madonna at Ratisbon and the coat at Treves. And this is the case with prophecy too, of which our opponents in our times have indeed little enough reason to boast.
Let the ministers of our Church become conscious of the wonderful gift which is bestowed upon them in the pure Word and prayer; let them cease to dismiss the melancholy, the tempted, or those who seem to be possessed, and to treat them like fools, turning their own parishioners over to the Romanists to be sprinkled with holy water; let them cease on account of their indolence and indifference towards those who seek their help to give the Romanists occasion to boast of miracles done upon their flocks. It is time to use God's Word in prayer and to make use of the prayer of the Church for blessing upon all who are in need. The gift of God can sleep, but it can be waked up again. The Lord has not left our Church without the gift of prayer; He hears her cry. If the gift be used, help and answer will come, through which the pure Word, and a great blessing through it, will more and more be commended to the people. -- The Lord be with us; His blessing and the gifts of His grace be and abide with us; that men may know that the true God is in Sion!
Wilhelm Loehe. Three Books Concerning the Church: Offered to friends of the Lutheran Church, for Consideration and Discussion. Translated from the German by Edward T. Horn. [Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908] pages 148-150
25 August 2009
As a shepherd of the sheep of Christ, a pastor
Preaches the Gospel,
Teaches the Word of God,
Catechizes the young and old,
Prays with and for the flock, and
Administers the Mysteries of God:
For the entire congregation, collectively, and for each member individually within his or her various and sundry circumstances, from day to day, week after week, throughout the year;
all for the sake of absolution, which is the forgiving of sinners,
unto repentant faith and life in Christ the Crucified.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
24 August 2009
This may be little long but ...
Three - Not One
There are not three Fathers but one Father, so says the Athanasian Creed. The glorious mystery of the Trinity so correctly stated in this creed reminds us that in the inner workings of the Trinity each distinct person of the Trinity has its own proprium. The Spirit holds neither the estate nor the function of giving life to the Son. Only the Son holds the estate and function of being the Christ, the Sacrificed One; neither the Father nor the Spirit. Only the Father has the estate and the function of generating the Son. This doctrine always remains a mystery for seldom does God, in His radiant Word, allow us a glimpse of this economy. But outside the Trinity their estate and function are not divided but indivisible
The second person of that Trinity catechizes us that God is our Father. He is in relationship to us. He, as Father, is and must be Giver. This is His nature; He is a Giver. In giving gifts He has established the means by which these gifts are given. In His wisdom, He has established this as another holy trinity. He has given to us, who are called His children, three gracious fathers. To those outside the Christian church, who are not called His children, He has only given two fathers. He has come to give us, His children, life and once we are generated as His son or daughter we receive the fullness of the three fathers, the three estates. Like the Trinity each are connected, yet each is distinct. Each has its own proprium and each has its peculiar function. Some functions are identical but many are unique.
God has established the first estate: the biological father. He commanded Adam to procreate. The command was given to our first parents in the Garden to be a father and mother. Once Adam had conceived a child and only after this had occurred did he hold the estate of being (esse) a father. Not only did he function as a biological father in the mere act of procreation but in that investiture he was given the estate (stand) of being a father. To this estate God commands the giving of honor and the duty of obedience. For this estate God commands the offering of prayers. This estate is passed from one father to son as the image of the father is genetically conveyed to the son. When the son has become a man he leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife with the desire to fill not only the function of fathering but the estate of being a father. He is to raise his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. He is to be and to function as a parent, ruling his own household.
But once a child leaves the confines of his biological father’s house he passes into another estate, the estate of the world. In God’s care for the children of men he has established a second father, the father of the state. There are many names for this estate. Sometimes the holder of this estate is called king, emperor, dictator, ruler, president, etc., but the fact still remains that all authorities in this world are established by God. This estate is distinct and differentiated from the estate of being a biological father. Some biological fathers may also be king but not all. Sometimes this estate is called the governmental father, the economic father, the civil father or referred to as the powers, the authorities, the state. To this estate God has given unique powers. Only the father of the government can exercise capital punishment. This gift is given to the governmental authority for the preservation of life, but taking of life can never be exercised by the estate of the biological father nor by the spiritual father. To this governmental estate God not only has given His establishment but He has also given to it the right to be honored, to be the object of prayer, to be financially supported and to be obeyed.
As a child of man God has given to this male or female the protection and care provided by two estates, the biological and the civil, i.e. governmental. But the child of man, who has been birthed by Holy Baptism into the family of God, has now become the child of God. To this new member of the family of God, Christ commands that they alone are given not only the fact that but also the right to say God is our Father. When God rips out of His child a cold stony heart and gives to that child the living beating heart of Christ Jesus, pulsating with the blood of the Lamb, that offspring has been thrust into a third estate. When his Holy Mother, the Church, has delivered him by the rush of living waters conjoined with mighty Word, he is birthed a child of the Heavenly Father. Gloriously his Father has adopted him as His own, nurtured him with true Food and Drink, given to him ears that might hear the glorious proclamation of His eternal Gospel.
This third estate of this holy trinity is the spiritual estate. God has established the gnadenmittelamt, the means-of-grace estate. This estate is generally called the pastoral or ministerial estate. It is established by God. He is the One who anointed His prophets, apostle-ized His messengers, called and ordained His Seelsorge, soul care-givers. For the care of His spiritual lambs, God has commanded that the holder of this estate take charge of the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made him overseer, that is, bishop. It is not an estate created by the will of man but by the will of God. Even through the biological father whom we have been given by the will of God yet often may be perceived by us as evil, we must still acknowledge him as our father. Likewise even though the governmental father may be seen as wicked or even as an enemy of God, yet we are to acknowledge them as being placed in that estate by God. Just so your spiritual father must be seen as placed in this estate by our Father. That same spiritual father is the one to be to honored, the one for whom prayers are offered, the one to whom support be given and the one to be obeyed.
Thus we have three fathers not one father, three lords not one lord, and three gift-givers given to us by a generous God to provide for us in their three respective realms, not one gift-giver. We as children of the heavenly Father reside all the time in three distinct yet conjoined realms. We sit upon a sturdy, strong three-legged stool. The culture of the current day is no different than many other times of history. The ego has become the center of our lives. “I’m worth it after all.” We refuse to acknowledge the means which God has given for our care. The three estates, not oneself, bring gifts and blessings from our loving Father. We Lutherans are not Enthusiasts; we do not expect God to directly talk to or effect us. When we Lutherans hear talk of “Jesus did this” or “Jesus led me to do this”, we feel very uncomfortable. Lutherans uncharismaticly are able to rejoice as they move freely through the three estates. In each they receive the appropriated gifts that their loving Father wishes to give them through each respective gift-giver. The three work for one goal, led by one authority. Our Father has come to give life and life abundantly, so He gives a superabundant trinity to provide for His children.
Pr Georg Williams
23 August 2009
22 August 2009
The Large Catechism, The Fourth Commandment
158] Thus we have two kinds of fathers presented in this commandment, fathers in blood and fathers in office, or those to whom belongs the care of the family, and those to whom belongs the care of the country. Besides these there are yet spiritual fathers; not like those in the Papacy, who have indeed had themselves called thus, but have performed no function of the paternal office. For those only are called spiritual fathers who govern and guide us by the Word of God; 159] as St. Paul boasts his fatherhood 1 Cor. 4:15, where he says: In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Now, 160] since they are fathers they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. But here it is bestowed least; for the way which the world knows for honoring them is to drive them out of the country and to grudge them a piece of bread, and, in short, they must be (as says St. Paul, 1 Cor. 4:13) as the filth of the world and everybody's refuse and footrag.
161] Yet there is need that this also be urged upon the populace, that those who would be Christians are under obligation in the sight Of God to esteem them worthy of double honor who minister to their souls, that they deal well with them and provide for them. For that, God is willing to add to you sufficient blessing and will not let you come to want. 162] But in this matter every one refuses and resists, and all are afraid that they will perish from bodily want, and cannot now support one respectable preacher, where formerly they filled ten fat paunches. 163] In this we also deserve that God deprive us of His Word and blessing, and again allow preachers of lies to arise to lead us to the devil, and, in addition, to drain our sweat and blood.
164] But those who keep in sight God's will and commandment have the promise that everything which they bestow upon temporal and spiritual fathers, and whatever they do to honor them, shall be richly recompensed to them, so that they shall have, not bread, clothing, and money for a year or two, but long life, support, and peace, and shall be eternally rich and blessed. 165] Therefore only do what is your duty, and let God take care how He is to support you and provide for you sufficiently. Since He has promised it, and has never yet lied, He will not be found lying to you.
The Ordination of Women and Ecclesial Endorsement of the Ordination of Women: Is there a connection?
By call and ordination to that office, the pastor serves as the representative of Christ, the Bridegroom, for the administration of the means of grace, for the benefit of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Those who serve as public assistants to the pastor for the administration of the means of grace are extensions of him and therefore should also be male.
FROM THE FORMULA OF CONCORD:
For this reason, too, believers require the teaching of the law: so that they do not fall back on their own holiness and piety and under the appearance of God's Spirit establish their own service to God on the basis of their own choice, without God's Word or command. As it is written in Deuteronomy 12[:8,28,32], "You shall not actall of us according to our own desires," but "listen to the commands and laws which I command you," and "you shall not add to them nor take anything form them." Furthermore believers also require the teaching of the law regarding their good works, for otherwise people can easily imagine that their works and life are completely pure and perfect [FC-SD VI, 20,21].
Every pastor knows, or should know, that there are cases when a discussion is impossible and the only answer to a question can be that ‘Be gone, Satan!’ which Jesus spoke not only to the devil (Matt 4:10) but also to his faithful confessor, Simon Peter (Matt 16:23). Not every question can be settled by means of a friendly discussion. It is necessary to remember that in an age which has a superstitious belief in dialogue as the infallible means of settling everything. There are questions raised by the devil to destroy the Church of Christ. To achieve this, he may use as his mouthpiece not only ambitious professors of theology, his favorite tools, but also simple, pious souls. Why women cannot be ordained is one of these questions.
- Hermann Sasse - The Lonely Way: Volume 2 (1941-1976), “Ordination of Women?
What Sasse says, surely cannot be disconnected from the Smalcald Articles:
In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning [from the first fall] to the end of the world, [its poison] having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power [life], and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mohammed. 10] Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. 11] It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments. [Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VIII]
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations!13 And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall gaze at thee, they shall consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17 that made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities thereof; that let not loose his prisoners to their home? 18 All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, every one in his own house. 19 But thou art cast forth away from thy sepulchre like an abominable branch, clothed with the slain, that are thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a dead body trodden under foot.
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, thou hast slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall not be named for ever. 21 Prepare ye slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers, that they rise not up, and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities. 22 And I will rise up against them, saith Jehovah of hosts, and cut off from Babylon name and remnant, and son and son's son, saith Jehovah.
But what is worse, if you ask me, is what passes for the "conservative" resistance. Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) will be hosting a meeting in Indianapolis in September for all disaffected ELCA folks to talk about future plans.
But here's something from their FAQs on Human Sexuality:
Is it true that ordaining people who are in same-sex sexual relationships is the same as the
ordination of women or as changes in church teaching regarding slavery?
No. There is significant Biblical support for the ordination of women. The ELCA’s predecessor
churches made the decision to ordain women by studying the Bible and based their decision on
Scripture. It also was through reading Scripture that Christians came to challenge slavery as an institution. Those asking for the ordination of practicing homosexual persons are asking the ELCA to reject the clear teaching of Scripture on homosexual behavior and the consistent teaching of the Christian Church for nearly 2,000 years. They are asking that we make this decision on a basis other than what the Bible teaches and in spite of what the Bible teaches.
And there you have it: significant Biblical support for the ordination of women.
The folks at CORE and Word Alone and Society of the Holy Trinity just don't see the connection between the Scriptural mandate of a male ministry, human sexuality, and gender in the reflection of the image of God.
If you have a friend who is in the ELCA, I think that's the conversation to strike up at this time. This article by Pless might be a good place to start. Does anybody remember that quote from a Logia article a few years ago? Some European bishop, maybe Jobst, said something like, "If Galatians 3:28 means that it doesn't matter if a pastor is a woman, then it also means that it doesn't matter of a wife is a woman." Wish I could find that quote. . .
21 August 2009
Lutheran Church–Canada News
A statement from Lutheran Church–Canada
Ordination of Homosexuals in the Lutheran Church
AUGUST 21, 2009 - In Minneapolis this afternoon, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a resolution to allow for the ordination of those in committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships. The vote was 559 in favour, 451 against. The following statement was prepared at the request of President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada by Dr. Edward Kettner, professor at Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton.
As the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at its current convention has approved the ordination of people in “committed same-sex relationships,” it needs to be noted that the ELCA does not represent all Lutherans in the United States or North America. In its actions the ELCA is going against, not just the history of the Christian Church and against the practices of the covenant religion of Israel as expressed in the Old Testament (First Testament), but against the Bible, which the Christian Church has always recognized as the very Word of God itself. The traditional Christian understanding continues to be held by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) in the United States and by Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) in Canada, as well as by a number of smaller conservative bodies in both countries.
For more than two hundred years much of Christendom has come to reject the previously universal recognition of the Bible as the Word of God written. By using methods of scriptural interpretation which see the Bible as a human book, a record of human response to the idea of God, rather than as God’s declaration of Himself, His nature, and His activities to the world, parts of the church on earth now look at Scripture with what is called a “hermeneutic [biblical interpretation] of suspicion” rather than the traditional hermeneutic of trust.
Under this new method of interpretation, words which previously were seen as the authoritative Word of God revealed through His apostles and prophets are now viewed as words composed by men seeking to maintain their power over others. In this understanding, the words of Scripture regarding marriage, which declare it to be the union of man and woman, and ideally one man and one woman in a lifelong union, are replaced by a preference for talking about “intimacy,” and commitment between two people that may not always include marriage in the traditional sense, or even, in recent years, a relationship between a male and a female.
Behind this change lurks an understanding of “freedom” which is in fact license, which flies against God’s clear word in Genesis 1 and 2 and restated by Christ in Matthew 19:3-6. Since a pastor is one who is to have a good reputation among Christians and before the world, for the church to ordain people who clearly flout the Word of God in their actions throws both the Word of God and the office of the Holy Ministry into contempt, and gives the rest of the world an excuse to continue in its sin.
LCC and Homosexuality
Lutheran Church–Canada desires to reach out with the Gospel to everyone, including the homosexual, to provide real healing of the person, so that their lives may begin to reflect the holiness God desires of all of His people. Those who may have such inclinations and who struggle against them are welcome in our churches, will receive forgiveness of their sins, and may serve in the office of ministry. Those who flout the clear Word of God, refuse to call sin what it is, and who seek to justify their behaviour, disqualify themselves from the office and indeed put their eternal salvation in jeopardy.
We recognize that our view is decidedly counter-cultural, but we know that we must continue to maintain the clear teaching of the Scriptures. We regret the decision of the ELCA, which, even by its own admission in its resolutions at this convention, goes against everything the Scriptures clearly teach and which the church has confirmed over the last 2000 years and even before.
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20 August 2009
ELCA Adopts Full Communion Agreement with the United Methodist Church - News Releases - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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We know well enough what our adversaries are always saying. "Whenever were you united? You always have been fighting, -- and how long has it been that you have boasted of a Church again? It is not long that you have spoken in this way, and not a very long time ago you yourselves forsook your Confession and were not the Church, which now you boast yourselves to be." But our adversaries' mockery does not frighten us. We are not afraid to say the whole truth, -- we have the courage of repentance, and in this courage a fresh life which our adversaries cannot slay, which it were better for them to fear.
It is true that our fathers contended; in the bright light of our Church they they saw little inequalities in the way, yes, motes in the air; and over these they contended. But it was for us they fought. Now there is rest. We are one, and our unity grows apace! We have conquered each other. We can go forward with one mind. -- It is true! There was much unfaithfulness in our borders. We had almost dropped out of sight. But we had not died out, -- or then whence came we, who fight against you? We are the proof what we teach, that the Church can be small, but also that it is immortal; that it can wane like the Moon, but also that it can increase like the Moon. Or would you that we had died out?
Let us use your own position. For our new life has been kindled by the Scriptures, which in that point are clear, as indeed they are everywhere. Therefore here is a manifest shining example that you are wrong who say that the Scriptures are not clear. Or would you prefer to say that our new life was enkindled by the writings of our fathers? Good! Then may you well be amazed before these relics of ours, before these dumb words of our sleeping fathers now first learned by us to their least part, in which we learn both how we must fight, and how we must not fight. Enough! Here is the Lutheran Church. Behold, it was dead, and it is alive again. It is the old Confession, but new times and new strength are here!
Permit us to carry our speech higher, yet we will not therefore allow ourselves to lie. This Lutheran Church, inasmuch as it holds Word and Sacraments in a pure Confession, is the wellspring of truth, and by her waters all who thirst in all other Churches are satisfied. The children of this Church in cheerful peace with shining faces and sharp swords stand around the spring, from which all are saved who are saved. Here is Israel's host and, in the midst, the Ark of the Word and Sacraments, and over the Ark of the Lord. Yes, here is the Holy of Holies of the House of God; and if one say: "The Lord send thee help from the Sanctuary and strengthen thee out of Zion," the Sanctuary and Zion are here with the Church of the pure Confession, in whose Word and Sacraments the Lord dwells more gloriously than in the Temple of the Old Testament! Hence proceeds all salvation; for here is uncovered, not partially but completely, so far as it can be on this side of the grave, the clear truth of the Gospel.
Whatever other truths other communions possess, are here united in the Truth. The perfect Truth, kept in the fire of the centuries, the Truth that overcometh the world, is here! Here it is confessed, here is protest against every perversion of it, here not a little word of it is yielded. So it was, and so it is again. Therefore, here is the Church par excellence. Do they gainsay this? Let them take away from us the standards and marks of the Church! Let them prove, what they never can prove, that our Confession declines from the Word! So long as they do not do this, the Lord is with us, and it is from us, from our perfect fulness, that all other Churches live. Till then let us rejoice in what we have, be a blessing to all other Churches, refuse their error, take pleasure in all their truths; -- fight against their wrongdoing, and feel at one with them in all they do that is right.
Wilhelm Loehe. Three Books Concerning the Church: Offered to friends of the Lutheran Church, for Consideration and Discussion. Translated from the German by Edward T. Horn. [Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908] pages 103-106
19 August 2009
I've often heard Lutherans use the term "heresy" to describe the excessive Marian devotions rejected by our confessions. Is it "heresy" (or is it merely "error") to pray to Mary and refer to her as "Mediatrix"? Do such practices remove one from the Church? Should we refer to people who hold such Mariology by the honorific "Saint"?
Is there any consensus among us Lutherans on this?
--- Rev. Larry Beane
17 August 2009
The Truth is not always surrounded by an equal number of confessors; the number is an adiaphoron, an accident, a matter of no importance, -- it is not to be asked how many confess, but what they confess; Word, Confession, doctrine, -- that is all, everything else is subject to change. If the Church is only Apostolic, then it is great enough whatever its numbers; the word "Catholic" is not to be defined by a normal number, but finds its explanation in the doctrine of the universal grace of God, which seeks to spread the true doctrine and Church as far as possible, and would spread it if the wickedness of men did not withstand it; for, according to the unalterable determination of the Lord, His grace can be turned back by no opposition except that of the sinful heart of man.
Quite otherwise, much truer and much loftier does it sound to say: Twelve men, unlearned, of lowly condition, in a few centuries spread among all peoples a teaching which contradicts human reason and self-love, with no other means than their faithful and united confession, and thus gathered one Catholic community out of all people and races and tongues. This is indeed a testimony to the Church, so small in its beginnings that it could be compared with a mustard-seed; this is indeed an answer based upon numbers; for it proves that to overcome the world not many men are needed, but only the almighty co-operation of the Truth; it proves, as we have said, that all depends not upon the numbers, but upon the weight, of the voices. -- It is quite different now, since the Church of God has been acknowledged in the world by the testimonies of centuries; it is no longer a disgrace to bend the knee before Christ; the history of eighteen hundred years has proclaimed that the Church is the highest and most beautiful of conceptions; now the world itself wishes to be inscribed among confessors and even does confess in certain particulars; many from the highways and hedges sit down at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now the majority is no longer a proof of the presence of the Lord; on the contrary, it might be the case that not only on the side of Rome but also on the Lutheran side there are too many, and that the Lord before setting forth to His last great victory through the Church will have to sift and reduce His little flock as He did in the day of Midian by means of the Shibboleth of a true Confession. So little have we to fear a truth based on a majority that on the contrary we may ask who is injurious to the community, who hinders its work by his presence, who ought to leave us, who ought to be driven away. So little should we be concerned about numbers, that we ought to be happy if they go away from us who do not belong to us. It is indeed sad that some are lost through schism, but notwithstanding it is true that thousands of true confessors fulfill their calling as a pure Particular Church more easily on account of the witness borne by their spirit and life, than millions would among whom the thousands could have neither power nor voice; because sin and wickedness always are louder and more easily come to the front. If the majority counts, how should it be at the end with the Church of which it is written, Luke 18:8, When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith upon the earth?
Wilhelm Loehe. Three Books Concerning the Church: Offered to friends of the Lutheran Church, for Consideration and Discussion. Translated from the German by Edward T. Horn. [Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908] pages 117-119
16 August 2009
15 August 2009
Distinguishing Between the Person and Office of the Pastor in Communion Within the Divine Service
Rubrics are the directions in red print in the hymnal and other liturgical books that give instructions and suggestions on the “how” of the liturgical rites and ceremonies. In Altar Book of our new hymnal Lutheran Service Book, the following rubric is given for all five of the Divine Service settings:
The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants. Then they distribute the body and blood to those who come to receive… [LSB Altar Book, pages 168, 207, 249, 270, 285].
Likewise, Martin Luther’s Formula Missae [Luther’s Latin Mass] (1523) notes: “Then, while the Agnus Dei is sung, let him [the liturgist] communicate, first himself and then the people” [Luther’s Works American Edition, volume 53, p.29]. Luther Reed, in his important book, The Lutheran Liturgy, states:
Self-communion of the minister has always been an open question in Lutheran liturgics. Luther himself approved it and repeatedly defended it (deinde communicet tum sese, tum populum [Formula Missae (Luther’s Latin Mass)]). It is quite certain that for a generation or two this liturgical action, which belongs to the integrity of the rite, was usual in Lutheran services. Later when liturgical knowledge and feeling had declined, dogmatic Biblicism and pietistic subjectivism brought about its disuse. The dogmaticians, however, generally allow it, though advising that if another minister be present he should administer it to the officiant. The Schmalkald Articles forbid self-communion only when this involves reception apart form the congregation (Part II, Art. II). Chemnitz says the minister includes himself in the confession and absolution and he may include himself in the Communion. [Luther D. Reed. The Lutheran Liturgy, p.372]
As pointed out above, the “private mass” that Lutherans condemn is not the pastor communing himself in the midst of the regular Divine Service of the congregation. The “private mass” that is condemned is a mass or Divine Service where no one communes or where only the pastor communes without the congregation. Unheard of until the latter half the twentieth century was communion of pastors by those who were not called and ordained. This is why the circuit “Winkel” conference was instituted during the time of Pietism where pastors would commune among each other. While upholding Augsburg Confession, Article XIV, the sad fact was that during Pietism those pastors did not want to be seen communing, lest the congregation think the pastor had sins! But honoring Augsburg Confession, Article XIV and having the pastor commune with the congregation is the most evangelical and biblically faithful. Of course, if there is more than one pastor present, it is certainly fitting for them to commune each other, but it is still not necessary for it to be that way.
One should not read into the pastor’s “self-communion” a motive of thinking he is “holier than thou” by this practice. Hopefully one would accord the pastor what Luther explains in the eighth commandment by “putting the best construction on everything.” It is simply distinguishing between the person of the pastor as baptized and forgiven sinner vs. the office that he holds by call and ordination. (If he thought he had no sin, why would he desire to commune and so receive the forgiveness of sins?) We confess in our Augsburg Confession, Article XIV that, “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called”[Latin rite vocatus/German ordentlicher beruf]. The doctrine of the royal priesthood of believers (I Peter 2:9) is not so much about “everyone a minister” or “everyone a pastor” but it is about being a “go between” between your neighbor and the Lord for their sake. We do not appreciate either as a gift if we only compare the pastoral office and the royal priesthood of believers with each other in terms of who does what – each is a unique gift. If one upholds a confessional understanding of the duties of the pastoral office in regard to administering the Lord’s Supper, and if it is still asserted that the pastor could not commune himself, then one is left with the also untenable position of the pastor communing only at pastors’ conferences (and only among other pastors!). So where there is one pastor, and since he too needs the forgiveness of sins given in the Holy Supper, the pastor rightly distinguishes between his person and his office and benefits from the Lord’s Supper that way also – just as he does in absolution or when the Scriptures are proclaimed. So in the Formula of Concord’s denial that, “No man's word or work, be it the merit or speaking of the minister,” brings about the real presence is not to deny that the body and blood are, “distributed through our ministry and office” (cf. FC-SD, VII.74-77). When an elder or deacon assists the pastor in the general distribution to the congregation, he does that as an extension (auxiliary) of the pastor for the sake of the rest of the people and for good order. In conclusion, it is certainly proper and well within orthodox Lutheran practice (and historic Christianity) for the pastor, in distinguishing his person and office, to commune himself in the midst of the congregation in the Divine Service. So the pastor also benefits from the sermon and absolution he speaks within the congregation – his individual person benefits from the ministry of the pastoral office for the church.
The 2009 national convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is set to begin in just a few days. Because of the similarity in names, this church body is sometimes confused with ours – the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. But the contrast between these two bodies is much more significant than a mere difference between the words “Church” and “Synod.”
For many decades now, the ELCA, and its predecessor bodies, have been thoroughly infected by a “historical-critical” approach toward Sacred Scripture. It is impossible to find a seminary professor in the ELCA who believes and teaches that the Scriptures are supernaturally inspired by God in such a way that they are completely true and accurate in everything they say. This loss of faith in Biblical authority has had predictable results. Women are ordained as pastors, contrary to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (and other pertinent passages). Church fellowship has been established with liberal Reformed churches and other non-Lutheran bodies, contrary to Romans 16:17 (and other pertinent passages). At this year’s convention, the most controversial matter that will be debated is the ELCA’s policy regarding the moral standards for its clergy, specifically whether men and women who are living in homosexual relationships will be considered to be fit for a call to the pastoral ministry. The official policy of the ELCA currently forbids this, but to an increasing extent this policy is being ignored by ELCA bishops. A measure will be placed before the convention in a few days that, if adopted, would remove the hypocrisy, and put the ELCA officially on record as being in favor of allowing practicing homosexuals and lesbians to serve as pastors.
Regardless of how this vote goes, it is very likely that the discussions and actions of the ELCA convention will be widely reported by the news media. Friends who are not familiar with the “alphabet soup” of Lutheran synods in America, and who know that we are “Lutherans” of some kind, may think that these news reports pertain to the church body to which we belong. We should therefore be ready to respond, in a three-fold manner.
First, be prepared to explain that our church body, the ELS, is not the same as the ELCA, and also that our church body is not in fellowship with the ELCA, because of the serious differences in doctrine and practice that exist between us. On the issue of homosexuality, the public teaching of the ELS is as follows:
We confess that Scripture condemns homosexuality and extra-marital relations (fornication and adultery) as sin. Nevertheless, when an individual caught up in such sins truly repents, the forgiveness of the Gospel is to be fully applied. We confess that the divine institution of marriage is to be heterosexual, in which, according to God's design, a man and a woman may enjoy a life-long companionship in mutual love. We teach on the basis of Holy Scripture that marriage is the only proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy and for the procreation of children. See Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9, 18 and 7:2-9, John 4:17-18, 1 John 1:9, Gen. 1:27-28 and 2:18-24, Matt. 19:4-6.
Second, if you are approached by ELCA friends who are fed up and offended by what their church body is now teaching in regard to these matters, and who are ready to depart from their church because of this, assure them that they would be able to find a spiritual home at Redeemer or Sun of Righteousness, where their traditional Lutheran beliefs and values are still honored. Invite them to get in touch with me if they want to find out more about our congregation and synod.
And third, also make sure that people know that individuals who may struggle with temptations toward same-sex attraction, but who know in their conscience that this kind of attraction is wrong and contrary to God’s will, are likewise welcome in our midst. As Christians who admit that we are all sinners, and who struggle with a wide array of inner weaknesses, we will welcome as our companions on the journey of repentance and faith those who may struggle also with this sort of problem. Jesus established his church as a community of healing and a beacon of hope for lost humanity. With the Lord’s help we will not take the easy way out, and get ourselves “off the hook” from our calling to be the body of Christ in a fallen and hostile world, by approving what God condemns, or by ignoring the inner trials of those who need our help in their difficult walk of faith. We will, in keeping with our official ELS statement, fully apply the Gospel to all those who repent of their sins – sins of thought, word, and deed – even as we rejoice to know that the Gospel of our Savior is continuously applied to us when we repent of our transgressions.
I was raised in a predecessor body of the ELCA. It gives me no pleasure at all to take note of the serious theological and moral problems that are inwardly destroying that church body. But in the midst of this sadness, we can all be thankful that God has preserved for us a congregation where his unchanging law is still acknowledged, and is preached to us in such a way as to call us to repentance when we violate God’s will. And we can also be profoundly thankful that God has preserved for us a congregation where his unchanging Gospel is still acknowledged, and is applied to us in sermon and Sacrament in such a way as to lift us up into the joy of eternal fellowship with our loving Savior Jesus Christ.
13 August 2009
"I hope, however, that such Christians and preachers do not boast or pretend that it was Luther who first advised and taught this. For where I could see and be certain that they suck such a poison from my books and lay all the blame on me, would have to spare no pains to scrub each one a little around the eyes and set their spectacles on their noses and bid them not to read my books through colored glass. For I know well enough to give the devil and his apostles credit, that wherever they turn my words upside down and afterwards are able to lead the people astray with my name, there they do not let it lack persuasion. This is something these same sectarians have often done to me, pulling my words into their own meaning."
"An Open Letter to Those in Frankfort on Main" (1533) Trans. Jon D. Vieker, CTS Press, Ft. Wayne, 1991, paragraphs 16-17, pp 8-9.
A hat tip to the Rev. Br. Latif Gaba, deacon of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, for passing this document on to me.
--- Rev. Larry Beane
12 August 2009
The undersigned will be giving the plenary presentation on the Freedom and Fundamentals of Faith in Worship. The goal will be to address the criteria by which adiaphorous rites and ceremonies are received, evaluated, selected and practiced in the service and support of the Word of God, in faith and love.
Also at the workshop, Dr. Paul Grime will be leading sectionals on the Church Year and on the criteria for the selection of choral music. Kantor Kevin Hildebrand will do a sectional on the criteria for the selection of organ music. Pastor David Koeneman will speak on Communion practice, and Pastor Richard Heinz will speak on the topic of the parish at prayer. Mrs. Lois Prahlow will do a sectional presentation on child-friendly ideas for visually adorning the church's worship.
The modest cost of the workshop ($25) includes lunch in the middle of the day. Again, more information and the registration form are avaible as a pdf from the Indiana District website. We'd sure be pleased to have you join us. Mail the registration by Holy Cross Day (14 September), if possible; or else, show up on the 19th.
The Genesis account of the garden of Eden speaks of all the permitted array of foods, as well as the one forbidden fruit. The Old Testament sacrificial system involved offerings of food - some of which was burned, others of which were given to the priests and their families to eat. Much of the ceremonial law involved clean and unclean foods. It was a famine that drove the Israelites into Egypt. And the Exodus was centered around the Passover meal. The Lord provided Manna to the children of Israel in the Exodus. The promised land was a land of "milk and honey." In Psalm 23, we pray to our Lord the Shepherd to lead us to "green pastures" and to "prepare a table" for us. In Psalm 34:8, we are exhorted to "taste and see that the Lord is good." The prophet Ezekiel was given a scroll to eat, served to him by the Lord Himself.
The New Testament is likewise filled with the imagery of food. Our Lord begins His ministry by fasting. He participates in the Jewish feasts. His first miracle is at a wedding banquet. He gets in trouble for eating with sinners and because His disciples do not follow the table rules. He feeds the multitudes. And when He raises the 12-year old girl from the dead, he exhorts her parents to "give her something to eat." He tells us to consider the birds who do not sow or reap, and yet are fed by their Heavenly Father. Jesus tells many parables concerning feasts and banquets. Our Lord was even accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. He calls Himself the Bread of Life, and tells us to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The Book of Revelation is filled with glorious imagery, including the scroll that St. John, like Ezekiel, was instructed to eat and which was served to him by an angel, as well as the reappearance of the Tree of Life and its 12 types of fruit in the final chapter.
In America, we are generally not accustomed to simply eating what is set before us by a servant. We like to be in control. At a sit-down restaurant, we often substitute one item for another, or ask for our meal to contain more of this, less of that, or none of those.
And perhaps the most quintessential American approach to food of all is the buffet. You eat what you want, when you want, as much as you want. Service is kept to a bare minimum - if at all. You know exactly how much it is going to cost. You leave whenever you want because you have paid up front. You can simply feed yourself. You become the sole judge of what is best for you.
And along with the buffet, America gave the world TV dinners and microwave cuisine - designed for eating alone, "self-feeding" if you will.
This individualism has even had an effect on the Christian metaphor of feeding on the Word of God and in the non-metaphorical feeding of the Lord's Sheep in the Lord's Supper.
Here is an interesting snapshot as to how the "feeding" metaphor is employed by a Protestant and Emerging/Emergent church and pastor (or more accurately, the pastor's wife).
Notice the "self-feeder" language and the shift in emphasis from the Sunday Divine Service to the home. The notion of the Lord's people needing to be fed is even mocked in a crass way that is alien to the teaching of Holy Scripture. The author tries to make it seem ridiculous for people to want to be fed by recounting a stunt in which a "youth pastor" wore a diaper in the church. I find it hard to believe that any pastor has never fed the Lord's Word, if not His body and blood, to adults wearing diapers. In infirmity and in age (as well as in infancy) is where we often see the lowly service of our Lord to helpless sinners in their most humble estate. This is the theology of the cross and of the monergism of grace at their clearest. It is too bad that this is used as a way to discourage people from seeing themselves as in need of being fed by mocking such helplessness. Our blessed Lord Himself also wore diapers, and was cared for in love and holy service.
It's not my desire to throw stones at Pastor Kimball or his church. Rather, my purpose is to highlight the difference between the traditionalist, Catholic view - grounded in Scripture and the history of the Church - vs. the modern American Protestant view that tends toward the pragmatic. The two emphases are diametrically as opposed to one another as are the theology of glory and the theology of the cross.
Jesus never tells the people they must feed themselves as individuals. For if we could "feed ourselves" we could be saved by the law and would need no Redeemer. In fact, He explicitly tells the apostles: "You give them something to eat" (Matt 4:16, Mark 6:37, Luke 9:13). He specifically uses His ministers to serve the multitudes: "Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds" (Matt 14:19). Our Lord never tells the people they are on their own and must "self-feed."
In John 21:15-19, the Lord specifically commissions St. Peter, as the leader of the apostolic ministers, to "feed my lambs" (v. 15), "tend my sheep" (v. 16), and "feed my sheep" (v. 17).
This is not to discourage Bible study. Far from it. But pastors are given to the people of God to "feed" them with the Word and with the Sacrament of the Altar - nourishing them as a community in the faith that makes us all members of one body. This is why pastors are to be "apt to teach" (1 Tim 3:2). The modern American view of religion is, by contrast, individualistic and focused not only on "study" (rather than "mystery") but also on "self" (rather than "community"). Christian bookstores even sell individually packaged one-shot "communion" kits, with a plastic creamer-style container of grape juice and an attached wafer for individual consumption. To many, study Bibles take the place of attendance at a Bible class, and watching a sermon on TV has replaced attending a Divine Service in the flesh. We are a nation of do-it-yourselfers, even when it comes to our faith.
We Lutherans need to keep in mind what we confess about not only the Church but also about the Sacraments (especially Holy Communion - which is, by definition, communal) lest we fall into the trap of individualism and reducing the mysteries of God to intellectual knowledge or Bible trivia.
The eternal heavenly banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb is not a self-centered buffet where you take what you want (and believe what you want), at your own convenience and according to your individual tastes and wants; nor is it a lonely mouthful of once-frozen industrial grog from a microwave oven, served in a PVC "dish," eaten alone hunched over a computer screen. No indeed! It is a glorious banquet eaten with all the faithful in the presence of the One who feeds us! The Lord has armies of servants - both there in eternity and here on earth - who serve the Lord's people.
The Christian faith has never been about being a "self-feeder." In fact, the one time we were entrusted with "self-feeding" didn't turn out well at all. By contrast, we confess in the words of the hymn from the ancient Liturgy:
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav'nly food. (LSB 621)
--- Rev. Larry Beane