Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Idle Chit-Chat

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” These are the Words of the apostle John as his eyes beheld Jesus Christ during the revelatory vision he recorded. At the presence of our Lord the apostle finds himself at Christ's feet as though dead. In the Formula of Concord, article 8 of the epitome the confessors write “Christ may give His true body and blood in the Holy Supper, as one who is present—and it is very easy for Him to do so. He does not do this according to the mode or ability of the human nature, but according to the mode and ability of God's right hand. Dr. Luther says this in accordance with our Christian faith [as we teach it to] children: this presence <of Christ in the Holy Supper> is not <physical or> earthly, nor Capernaitic; yet it is TRUE and SUBSTANTIAL, as the words of His testament read, “This is, is, is My body,” and so on” (R.E. Of the Book of Concord p. 493). It seems that Confessional Lutherans have believed and believe that Christ is present in the Divine Service, not in some hyper spiritual sense as our modern “evangelical” and charismatic friends would have us understand, rather He is truly and substantially present with us (in one undivided person both Divine and human natures,) not only in the Sacrament of His body and blood, but also in the public reading of the Word, Confession and Absolution, the proclamation of the Gospel etc. Utilizing the Office of the Holy Ministry our Lord comes to meet His people to serve them the means of grace which lead us to life. So my question is, “Why are there so many in our congregations who wish to fill what they might deem as down-time during the Divine Service into moments for idle chit-chat?” Whether it's before the Divine Service begins, or during the Distribution Hymn, or the Offering, or worse yet the Sermon, should we not keep remain quite and consider the falling down as though dead of the Apostle John?

Luther describes three modes of Christ. I will provide the latter two because they are significant in understanding Christ's presence with us, though unseen:

Secondly, there is the incomprehensible, spiritual manner of being present. According to this, He neither occupies nor vacates space but penetrates all creatures, wherever He pleases, just as, to offer a crude illustration, my sight penetrates and is in air, light, or water and does not occupy or vacate space; as a sound or tone penetrates and is in air, water, board, or wall and also does not occupy or vacate space; again, as light and heat penetrate and are in air, water, glass, crystal, and the like, and also do not occupy space. Many similar illustrations could be presented. This manner He used when He left the closed sepulcher and when He came to His disciples through closed doors, when He is present in the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper and also, as people believe, when He was born of His mother.

Thirdly, there is the divine, heavenly manner. Since He is one Person with God, all creatures must, of course, be far more penetrable and present to Him according to this manner of being present than according to the second manner. For if, according to this second manner, He can be in and with creatures in such a way that they do not feel, touch, circumscribe, or comprehend Him, how much more marvelously will He be in all creatures according to this sublime third manner of presence, so that they do not circumscribe nor comprehend Him, but that he rather has them present before Him, circumscribes and comprehends them. For you must place this Being of Christ, who is one with God, far, very far indeed, outside the creatures—as far as God is outside them; again, as deeply into, and as near to, all creatures as God is within them. For He is inseparably on Person with God. Where God is, He, too, must be, or our faith is false. (What Luther Says, point 516 p. 178)

The last sentence might be the most important concerning this discussion. We believe that God is present everywhere and where the divine nature of Christ is, there his human nature also resides, so not to divide the person of Christ, but allow Him to remain the same Christ that came into the flesh “born of woman, born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4b) and was crucified for our sins on the tree of the cross. Most especially is He present with us through the means of grace. The preached Word and the visible sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. During the Divine Service we experience the presence of Christ in a way that we do not throughout the rest of our week. This is a time set aside to be served by the triune God who has his fullest revelation in the Person of Christ. So if the divinity of Christ is present there too his humanity is present which means he is no less substantially present as when the apostle John encounters Him on the island of Patmos. Of course this is too much for our sinful flesh to comprehend, but believe the Word of God which testifies to Christ's presence even though he is unseen.

How many times have we all been caught despising the Word of God and not paying due reverence to the Christ who comes to feed His flock? This should not be. As a matter of confession we should remain in silent reverence during the “down-time” of the Divine Service revealing that we believe that Christ is truly and substantially present with us and for us. If Jesus was standing right before your very eyes I dare say that you might thrust yourself to the ground just as John did. Brothers and sisters in the Lord, show fear and reverence for the Christ who is present for you, to offer you forgiveness, life and salvation. Believe that Christ is present where he promises to be present, and if not for you do so for the love of your neighbor who's Divine Service you may be interrupting when you're chatting during the Distribution Hymn instead of singing along.

Lord's blessings to you as you hold your tongue, unless you are addressing one another in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” or receiving into your mouths the very body and blood of your Lord for forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, life and salvation

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment