Friday, June 18, 2010

Christ have Mercy / The Lord's Supper

We are taking our sweet time with this study.  This is alright because it gives time to digest.  There is plenty to think about.

We are in Matthew Harrison's book:  "Christ have Mercy.  How to put your Faith in Action" , now looking at chapter 7.

In planning to write about the Lord's Supper and the Means of Grace in general and how that is all tied together by mercy (chapter 7 and 8), I have got myself reading the entire Part IV of Timothy Lull's "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings" on The Promise of the Sacraments.

(You think I am insane.  Pages 235 to 404.  I can read Luther all day long.)
The reason I need to read all this is because I do not own an edition of Luther's Works.  Whenever Harrison quotes Luther at the beginning of the chapter it seems a bit deus ex machina to me and the reference is to a book I  have.  I need the context.  I need the document.  Having a little quote plopped down does not work for me.  It reminds me of Germany, where the only Luther I'd ever heard was a short saying somewhere between hymns (aside from the hymns themselves).

(Just to illustrate.)

Let's move on. At the beginning of this chapter 7 in  "Christ have Mercy" we have the title:  "Christ's Body and Blood" with subtitle "With Might and Main For Our Neighbor."  We have our leading Bible verse:
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.  1 Corinthians 10:17
And we have our Luther quote:
O this is a great sacrament... that Christ and the church are one flesh and bone.  Again through this same love, we are to be changed and to make the infirmities of all other Christians our own;  we are to take upon ourselves their form and their necessity..... That is real fellowship, and that is the true significance of this sacrament.  Martin Luther (p. 87)

The reason I gave this long introduction about Luther documents is that this quote does NOT represent something torn out of context and set up as a novelty.  It is not making a major out of a minor.  Luther's writing on the Lord's Supper is woven through  with this thought, that the partaking of the body and blood of the Lord unites us into this one body that rejoices and suffers together through the bond of love.

We may take out our Lull from our Introduction to Luther course.  Or find it on-line.  James Swan probably has them all on his blog.  ("Confession Concerning Christ's Supper".  "The blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body and Blood of Christ, and the Brotherhoods".  "The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ--Against the Fanatics.")

Here is just one long quote from one of the documents.  Enjoy.  Chopped up by myself.

The significance or effect of this sacrament is fellowship of all the saints.  From this it derives its common name synaxis [Greek] or communio [Latin], that is, fellowship.  And the Latin communicare, or as we say in German, zum Sakrament gehen [go to the sacrament], means to take part in this fellowship.  Hence it is that Christ and all saints are one spiritual body, just as the inhabitants of a city are one community and body, each citizen being a member of the other and of the entire city.  All the saints, therefore, are members of Christ and of the church, which is a spiritual and eternal city of God.  ...

To receive this sacrament in bread and wine, then, is nothing else than to receive a sure sign of this fellowship and incorporation with Christ and all saints.  It is as if a citizen were given a sign, a document, or some other token to assure him that he is a citizen of the city, a member of that particular community.  St. Paul says this very thing in I Corinthians 10: [:17], "We are all one bread and one body, for we all partake of one bread and of one cup...

Again all sufferings and sins also become common property;  and thus love engenders love in return and unites.

In this sacrament, therefore, man is given through the priest a sure sign from God himself that he is thus united with Christ and his saints and has all things in common [with them], that Christ's sufferings and life are his own, together with the lives and sufferings of all the saints.  therefore whoever does injury to [the believer], does injury to Christ and all the saints, as he says through the prophet [Zech. 2:8], "He who touches you touches the apple of my eye."  On the other hand whoever does him a kindness does it to Christ and all his saints;  as he says in Matthew 25, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren,you did it to me."  Again, man must be willing to share all the burdens and misfortunes of Christ and his saints, the cost as well as the profit.  Let us consider more fully these two [sides of the fellowship].

Now adversity assails us in more than one form.  There is, in the first place, the sin that remains in our flesh after baptism:  the inclination to anger, hatred, pride, unchastity, and so forth.  this sin assails us as long as we live.  Here we not only need the help of the community and of Christ, in order that they might with us fight this sin, but it is also necessary that Christ and his saints intercede for us  before God, so that this sin may not be charged to our account by God's strict judgment.  Therefore in order to strengthen and encourage us against this same sin, God gives us this sacrament, as much as to say, "Look, many kinds of sin are assailing you;  take this sign by which I give you my pledge that this sin is assailing not only you but also my Son, Christ, and all his saints in heaven and on earth.  Therefore take heart and be bold.  You are not fighting alone.  Great help and support are all around you...

Whoever is in despair, distressed by a sin-stricken conscience or terrified by death or carrying some other burden upon his heart if he would be rid of them all, let him go joyfully to the sacrament of the altar and lay down his woe in the midst of the community and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual body...

When you have partaken of this sacrament, therefore, or desire to partake of it, you must in turn share the misfortunes of the fellowship, as has been said.  But what are these?  Christ in heaven and the angels, together with the saints, have no misfortunes, except when injury is done to the truth and to the Word of God.  Indeed, as we have said, every bane and blessing of all the saints on earth affects them.  Here your heart must go out in love and learn that this is a sacrament of love.  As love and support are given you, you in turn must render love and support to Christ in his needy ones.  You must feel with sorrow all the dishonor done to Christ in his holy Word, all the misery of Christendom, all the unjust suffering of the innocent, with which the world is everywhere filled to overflowing.  You must fight, work, pray, and--if you cannot do more--have heartfelt sympathy.  See, this is what it means to bear in your turn the misfortune and adversity of Christ and his saints.  Here the saying of Paul is fulfilled, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" [Gal.6:2].  See, as you uphold all of them, so they all in turn uphold you;  and all things are in common, both good and evil.  Then all things become easy, and the evil spirit cannot stand up against this fellowship.

When Christ instituted the sacrament, he said, "This is my body which is given for you, this is my blood which is poured out for you.  As often as you do this, remember me."  It is as if he were saying, "I am the Head, I will be the first to give himself for you.  I will make your suffering and misfortune my own and will bear it for you, so that you in your turn may do the same for me and for one another, allowing all things to be common property, in me, and with me.  And I leave you this sacrament as a sure token of all this, in order that you may not forget me, but daily call to mind and admonish one another by means of what I did and am still doing for you, in order that you may be strengthened, and also bear one another in the same way."

This is also a reason, indeed the chief reason, why this sacrament is received many times, while baptism is received but once...  There is the devil, the world, and our own flesh and conscience, as I have said.  They never cease to hound us and oppress us.  Therefore we need the strength, support and help of Christ and of his saints.  These are pledged to us here, as in a sure sign, by which we are made one with them--incorporated into them--and all our woe is laid down in the midst of the community...

There are those, indeed, who would gladly share in the profits but not in the costs.  That is, they like to hear that in this sacrament the help, fellowship, and support of all the saints are promised and given to them.  But they are unwilling in their turn to belong also to this fellowship.  They will not help the poor, put up with sinners, care for the sorrowing, suffer with the suffering, intercede for others, defend the truth, and at the risk of life, property, and honor seek the betterment of the church and of all Christians.  They are unwilling because they fear the world...

For this reason slanderers and those who wickedly judge and despise others cannot but receive death in the sacrament, as St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 11 [:29].  for they do not do unto their neighbor what they seek from Christ, and what the sacrament indicates.  They begrudge others anything good;  they have no sympathy for them;  they do not care for others as they themselves desire to be cared for by Christ.  And then they fall into such blindness that they do not know what else to do in this sacrament except to fear and honor Christ there present with their own prayers and devotion....

And Christ values his spiritual body, which is the fellowship of his saints, more than his own natural body.  To him it is more important, especially in this sacrament, that faith in the fellowship with him and with the saints may be properly exercised and become strong in it;  and that we, in keeping with it, may properly exercise our fellowship with one another.  This purpose of Christ the blind worshipers do not perceive.... 

In conclusion, the blessing of this sacrament is fellowship and love, by which we are strengthened against death and all evil.  This fellowship is twofold:  on the one hand we partake of Christ and all saints;  on the other hand we permit all Christians to be partakers of us, in whatever way they and we are able.  Thus by means of this which seeks the common good of all;  and through the change wrought by love there is one bread, one drink one body, one community. This is the true unity of Christian brethren.
(Lull, p. 243- 260.  Sacrament of the Body and Blood of  Christ.)

There is so much more. And already this is so much to think about.  Again, this quote I dug out and chose myself.  It is not from "Christ have Mercy", so as not to misrepresent the book.

Stressing this point is also not doing justice to chapter 7.  However, this is something Harrison does want to bring out.  Chapter 7 is actually a very nice overview on the teaching of the Lord's Supper and I would recommend it as an excellent introduction.
I'll quit here for now.  There is only so much one can blog about at a time.  My husband will want some supper.

I like this picture.  I sent it to my nephew.  He will start confirmation next year.  I am praying his father will go with him.


Bryan Bond said...

Fantastic stuff. Thank you!

Brigitte said...

Hello Bryan! Thanks.