The State Of The Sacrament
It seems to me that the most embattled doctrine of the Christian religion is not the Divinity of Christ, the Cross, Baptism or Justification By Grace, but the Eucharist.
There is a reason. "THIS CUP is the New Testament."
The celebration of the Eucharist constitutes the practice of the holy Christian religion. Apart from joining in it the Faith is but head knowledge, and there will be little if any fruits of faith in evidence. And so it seems that he who "was a murderer from the beginning," the "father of lies," has attacked the faith at its most vulnerable point. It's actual practice.
I imagine he thinks: let them believe that Christ is God (we devils know it, and tremble). Let them be baptized, let them see the cross, and believe in justification by grace. But don't let them come to the altar! Because every time a believer kneels to receive the Lord's body, the ceiling of hell further crumbles upon us. Sin, death, devil and hell are judged, and the sinner is brought into ever closer union with the Holy Trinity, and removed farther and farther from my grasp.
From the beginning the Eucharist constituted Christian worship, it still does today. But if we look at the practice of it over the ages here is what we find. Beginning some time in the 5th century, the dread of the Sacrament out-weighed the blessing of it. People were taught that they were unworthy of it, and they believed the lie, and began to abstain in number. This condition lasted for over a thousand years, and was remedied by the Lutheran Reformation. But that only lasted for about five minutes.
Soon the Radical Reformation rejected the Sacrament (and baptism and much more), and the condition of the people was no better than before.
While Rome abused the Sacrament in many ways, Protestantism likewise under-mined people's faith in it by teaching that it is not the Body and Blood of Christ, but only bread and wine. Strictly a memorial, a psychological recall, nothing more.
In the mean time Lutherans, whose faith was focused in Christ's bodily present among his people, also rejected the Sacrament. A combination of Rationalism, Pietism and Lutheran Orthodoxy (where doctrine became everything) made Holy Communion nothing more than an appendage to be celebrated from time to time. That condition still persists in the LCMS today. Without doing a survey I doubt that more than 25% of our parishes celebrate the Eucharist every week (even though it is, and constitutes, the practice of the holy Christian faith).
Meanwhile in the East the Orthodox church prays perhaps the most beautiful liturgy on earth (if you remove its mariology). But to what end? Their people don't commune. They celebrate every Sunday, but only the clergy and a handful of worshipers, a tiny percentage, receive. It is distressing to see. Why all this devotion, beauty, effort to say nothing of expense to maintain such wonder, if no one wants the Christ who comes to us in it? After making some calls and asking some questions I found out that this is not the universal practice of the EO, nor are there any canons teaching such behavior. It is simply a sad tradition among some sectors.
As it turns out Rome, the once dreaded enemy of Lutherans, is the keeper of the Eucharist! But if you look under the hood her wrong teaching on it is astounding. This is not to say that she doesn't have the true Eucharit. I believe she does. So does the East, and so do Lutherans. I don't know about the others.
Further gumming up the works in recent times is the introduction of grape juice in place of wine. I believe that this nullifies the Sacrament, though few will say that out loud. And to add icing to the cake there is the gluten scare, which I also believe nullifies the Sacrament for two reasons (as does grape juice). First, the change in elements. Secondly, there are now two loaves (cups) not one. This removes the "union" from communion.
That seems to be the state of the Sacrament today.
What's the point? A time of refreshment has been poured out in our day. There is a new Lutheran Reformation afoot in America. And its hallmark is the restoration of the Eucharist to the people, and people to the Eucharist.
Let us repent then, one and all, and fall down in grateful thanksgiving (eucharistia) before our God and Father, as he unites us to Christ our Bridegroom in Holy Communion each Sunday.
More in Pastor's Blog
December 17, 2017The History Theology And Practice Of Christian Worship - Part 7
December 17, 2017The History Theology And Practice Of Christian Worship - Part 6
December 16, 2017Next Christmas