The Sacrifice of the Mass

So as I understand it, in the Holy Supper the Father is giving us His Son that we would be made holy (sinless, etc.), but it is also we offering or holding up the Son before the Father so that the Father would receive us on behalf of the Son. It’s a both/and. The Father gives us the Son and we, in turn, plead our case by the merits or righteousness of the Son.

So the chief difference between Rome and Lutherans, then, is not who sacrifices who or what is given or offered and to whom and by whom (though certainly different areas are emphasized by the different theologians), but rather the chief difference is that Rome teaches that mere participation, regardless of faith is legitimate (ex opere operato), while we confess that proper participation is born of faith.

So the chief difference is this: do we receive the benefits because we partake, or because we believe? Because we believe. Moreover, we partake because we believe. So faith both receives and yearns for the Sacrament. So the Small Catechism once again becomes for us the most blessed and sacred teacher: “The words, “Given and shed for you” along with the eating and drinking are the main thing in the Sacrament…whoever believes these words has exactly what they say…the words ‘For you’ require all hearts to believe.” Beautiful.

Communion Practice

The survey: Communion Practice (click on the link to view the survey and results (PDF)).

This post is for mainly for those who completed the survey “Communion Practice” though anyone may certianly read it. The attatched link is a PDF of the survey and the responses.

First of all, thank you for your responses to the survey. I sent it via email and facebook, so I double invited some, but it was limited to only one response per computer, so even if you got a double invite, you could have only filled the survey out once. Of course, it was a very limited survey (I would have to have paid quite a bit of money to expand it), so I realize that some of the questions and/or responses were somewhat limiting. However, the survey served its purpose.

Of the 60 or so I sent, I – to date – have received back 31 (I’m closing it today). And I found that the responses were favorable to bringing young children to the Sacrament (68% said they’d like to have young children receive the Sacrament – question 7); 55% understand St. Paul’s use of the word “body” in 1 Cor. 11:29 to refer to both the host and the Church (question 9); and 55% understand St. Paul’s caution to “examine one’s self” to mean that one must discern what he is eating (the body and blood of Christ) as well as with whom he is eating and drinking (the church, the Body of Christ). (For some reason question 10’s responses didn’t print, and I can’t get them to. Sorry.) The survey was sent to a great variety of people, some with whom I strongly disagree. In particular, 22% understand that St. Paul’s words “examine one’s self” means to examine his or her cleanliness or uncleanliness. I don’t think this answer can be exegetically supported.

Therefore, the biggest thing the survey may have done, though, is to show us that our church is not in agreement in this matter. We shouldn’t point fingers and accuse, but should engage in dialog, exegetical dialog. Our practice is a reflection, a living out of our doctrine. We need to study the Scritpures to remain true to Christ and His Church in practice. I submit that perhaps our practice has become the doctrine so that we defend our practice, ignoring what is actually written. Just a thought.

Let a Person Examine Himself (1 Corinthians 11:28) – again

We are all familiar with the apostle Paul’s admonition concerning receiving the Lord’s Supper that a person ought to examine himself before he eats and drinks so that he doesn’t eat and drink to his judgment. But what does the apostle mean, examine yourself? What exactly are we to examine about ourselves? Well, to begin, here are St. Paul’s words:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29, ESV)

When St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth concerning the Holy Supper of our Lord, he was concerned because they were so divided among themselves. There were such sharp factions and divisions that even at the Lord’s Supper there was fighting, betrayal, and neglect. The rich came early and ate their fill, even getting drunk, while their poorer brothers, who had nothing, received nothing (11:21). Because of this wicked division, the apostle goes so far as to say that those who caused this division were despisers of the Church of God. And because they despised the Church of God, it was not the Lord’s Supper they ate and drank.
To correct the abuses and mend the brokenness of the Corinthian’s gathering, St. Paul repeats again from them what he had received and passed on. That our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you …” In the same way, He took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” By giving the Lord’s words again to the church in Corinth, Paul is doing two things: 1) He is reminding the Corinthians whose supper it is as well as what it is (the body and blood of Jesus), and, 2) he is reminding them that our Lord has given His Supper it to His Body, the Church, without distinction to class, race, or sex. After all, the words, “For you,” require all hearts to believe. But despising the Church by their divisions, the Corinthians were not celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They were sinning against the body and blood of Christ and against the Church of God, itself!
The amount of bread and wine does not matter (that is, the amount you receive, cf. 11:22). The place and time does not matter. The paraments and vestments don’t matter. Only two things matter: that you gather in Jesus’ name and that Jesus’ words are spoken. So, for example, if you sat down at table and ate bread and drank wine with a group of atheists, even if the words of Jesus were spoken over the bread and wine, it would not be the Lord’s Supper because atheists don’t gather in the name of Jesus. Gathering with atheists, you would not have gathered with the Body of Christ. How do you know you are gathering with the Body of Christ? Because where two or three gather in His name, He is there. Atheists don’t gather in the name of Jesus! And whoever does not gather to Him scatters and does not have the Lord’s Supper, even if they were to repeat Jesus’ words ad infinitum. To illustrate further, let’s say Hollywood puts out another movie about Jesus. When the actors gather together to enact the scene of the Lord’s Supper, they say the words, they eat and drink, but they do not actually celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It’s not because they’re not in a church building that they do not have the Lord’s Supper, but because they are not gathered in Jesus’ name. They are gathered in the name of the maker of the movie. Since they have not gathered in Jesus’ name, Jesus is not there to give them His Supper.
It matters that you understand with whom you gather to eat and drink — the Church, who gathers to her Lord to receive from His hand. Therefore, St. Paul says to the Corinthians, since you despise the Church of God by shunning and shaming your brothers, since you do not gather in Jesus’ name but your own, you do not eat the Lord’s Supper. Instead, you profane the body and blood of Christ, which is not given to just some Christians, but to the entire Church. Since the local congregation is the Church gathered in the name of Jesus, she doesn’t have the right to discriminate, receiving some and shunning other who rightly belong to her (no matter their wealth, class, race, age, or sex).
But that is exactly what the Corinthian congregation did; they discriminated against their brothers and sisters. So the apostle continues, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy matter will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Therefore, let a person examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup, for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (vv. 27-29). Take note: no less than four times the apostle writes “body and blood” or “eats and drinks,” never separating the two until he writes that “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body (singularly) eats and drinks judgment on himself.” No mention of discerning the blood even though the apostle nowhere else separates the two elements or actions. Why does St. Paul do this? What does it mean?
It means that the apostle’s admonition to “discern the body” is not merely an admonition to believe that the bread is the body of Christ. He has already cleared this matter up in chapter 10, when he writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (10:16). So the bread is the body of Jesus and the cup is His blood. But then Paul writes that because we eat of the one bread, we are one body. Our unity is in our eating the Lord’s body together. So unless we discern the body (11:29), that is, unless we discern what we are eating and with whom we are eating, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves.
Therefore, examine yourself. Not to make sure you’re aware of all your sins or to make sure you’re not angry with anyone or that no one is angry with you (the Bible itself says you are unable to do this!), but rather examine yourself so that you confess what you are eating and with whom you are eating it. This is why during the distribution of the Sacrament, many pastors simply say, “Body of Christ.” This reinforces that you are eating the body of Christ, that you are the Body of Christ, and that you eat with the Body of Christ, thus fulfilling the apostle’s admonition to examine oneself and so discern the body.
Now understand, it is not by knowledge or wisdom or understanding that one discerns the body. It is by and through faith. Thus the Small Catechism, “That person is truly worthy [to receive the Sacrament] who has faith in these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.’” Luther, like St. Paul, says one must discern the body, for in the words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” we have the words and will of Christ. What is given and shed? Jesus’ body and blood. To whom is it given? To those who gather in His name, hearing His words, “For you.” Why is it given? To grant pardon and peace (forgiveness) to the one who eats and drinks. Thus, the words of Jesus along with the bodily eating and drinking are the main thing in the Sacrament. To discern the body is to have faith in Jesus’ words.
By the by, Luther ends the Large Catechism with these words: “Since the children are baptized and received into the Christian Church (the Body of Christ), they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us. They must all certainly help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.” Even a child know what the Church is.

Let a person examine himself… (1 Cor. 11:28)

In the interest of preaching the Gospel in accord with the faith once delivered to the saints, I write of what I believe to be a serious matter: the communion of the young.
Since we must say that we never withhold the Sacrament from anyone based on our presumption of whether or not they have faith – because we cannot see another’s faith – faith, then, cannot be the reason we commune some, and the lack of faith cannot be the reason we withhold communion from others. We cannot,therefore, say that we do not commune children because they have no faith, as we know that this is categorically false since Jesus Himself says that we must have the faith of a child. Therefore we know that children do believe and have the Spirit of Christ, for no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit. Moreover, we have the testimony of Scripture which attributes faith to many children and infants such as John the Baptist before he was born, and to king Josiah who was 8 years old when he became king of Judah and “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chr. 34:1-2). So also we know that children can and do have faith, and even live in their faith. Because they are included in those who are to be baptized, preached to, taught, and instructed in the way of the Lord we know that the Lord delights in them and desires that they be counted among His people.
So we cannot say that children do not have faith or are not yet truly members of the Church and so cannot commune just as we do not say that those who do not commune with us because we are not in fellowship with their churches do not have faith. Faith is never the issue since it cannot be seen or judged.
So what is the issue? Well, I believe a closer look at 1 Corinthians 10 & 11 will provide insight into this issue of whether young children should commune and what the implications are if they don’t.
The reason that is given as to why we do not give the Supper to young children is because St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 11:27-29, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” It is extrapolated from this that a child cannot examine him or herself and so should not receive the Sacrament (see Walther & Pieper).
And when asked, “What is this examination?” the answer given is either, “An examination to see if the child really believes that the bread is the body of Christ and that the wine is the blood of Christ,” or the answer given is, “The communicate must examine himself to see whether nor not he has unconfessed or outstanding sins that he or she has committed.” This last answer is based on a faulty reading of Matthew 5(23-24), when Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” The problem with this referring to the Lord’s Supper – for Lutherans – is that the Lord’s Supper is not our gift to the Father (such as Roman Catholicism teaches) but rather it is the Father’s gift to us, which is what John writes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The offering Jesus is speaking of is the offering of thanksgiving for the mercy of God, which speaks against us when we have not had mercy on one another.
But the chief argument for why we don’t commune young children is based on St. Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth; specifically, the verses mentioned above (1 Cor. 11:27-29), as proof that one must believe the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is the blood of Christ. But, let us take a closer look at 1 Corinthians and see what we see (get your Bible out).
In chapter 10, the apostle argues that because the cup that we bless is the blood of Christ and the bread that we break is the participation in the body of Christ then we who are many are one Body because we eat of the one bread (vss. 16-17). Then follows the apostle’s injunction that we who partake of Christ and so are united to Him, cannot participate also in the altar of demons (v. 21). This is the apostle’s warning against idolatry. It also shows that the unity of the congregation is found in the eating of the bread, which is Christ’s body.
Chapter 11, then, is the apostle’s admonition and rebuke that when they come together they do not do so as the Body, but as factions in rivalry with one another. In verses 17 – 22, St. Paul chastises the church in Corinth because when they come together as a church they are divided – not just arguing but they are actually eating what they believe to be the Lord’s Supper in envy, jealousy, and one-upmanship. They are divided in spirit. The rich ignore the poor and the factions are separating themselves from one another. Thus the apostle writes in reproof, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (v. 20). It is not the Lord’s Supper because they are not eating in unity but in disunity, which is contrary to what Paul wrote concerning this Holy Meal in chapter 10 (v. 17), that “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The congregation (the Church) finds her unity in the bread that we eat together, which is the Body of Christ. But when the Corinthian congregation gathered, they gathered in opposition to one another and so were not celebrating the Lord’s Supper, which brings unity, but by their distinctions and sectarianism they were profaning His body and blood (11:27).
So, because they are not eating in unity but disunity, not in love but in scorn and envy, St. Paul asks the rhetorical question in v. 22, “Do you scorn the Church of God?” By their grotesque division and segregation of the rich and the poor – the have’s and have-not’s – they are sinning against the Body of Christ, the Church. Thus his question, “Do you scorn the Church of God?”
Then the apostle says, “What I received from the Lord I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed, took bread…etc.” He reminds them what the Holy Supper is – the body and blood of Christ given and shed for them, and that when they eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood they are proclaiming His death, resurrection, and return. Thus the apostle writes, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes in the future.” (Jesus can’t “come in the future” unless He is risen from the dead, thus the Supper proclaims Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return.)
Those who eat and drink the Supper of our Lord participate in the Body and Blood of Christ (10:16), and find their unity in the bread that we eat (10:17). When we eat, then, in disunity and strife with one another (not just disagreeing about things, but in hatred of one another) then we sin against (hate) the Body of Christ, which gathers to eat and drink the Lord’s Supper. We sin against the very ones with whom we are supposed to be in unity with.
Those who eat and drink in an unworthy manner (11:27) are those who eat and drink and yet believe that they are distinct – separated – from others who also eat and drink the Lord’s Supper, denying the unity of those who eat and drink. The apostle is not arguing for the Real Presence, but is presupposing it. In chapter 10 (v.16) the apostle presupposes that the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is the blood of Christ when he writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Because it is His body and blood, we who eat and drink of it are participating in His body and blood.
So also in chapter 11(17ff) the apostle is not concerned with the Real Presence; not because he is denying it or doesn’t think it important, but because it is a non-issue. Of course it is the body and blood of Christ, that’s what Jesus Himself calls it. Rather than arguing for the Real Presence, the apostle is concerned with sinning against the Church, the Body of Christ. If we sin against the Church, we eat and drink to our judgment, for the body and blood are given to the Church.
The apostle is saying that when we hate the Body of Christ, the Church, by ignoring her and treating her with contempt by honoring some and despising others (see also James 2:1-7), then we profane the body and blood that we eat, which is supposed to be our unity (10:17). If we eat of Jesus’ body and blood while scorning (hating) those to whom it is given, our brothers and sisters in the faith, then we profane His body and blood, eating and drinking to our judgment.
So, let a person examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup in a worthy manner. For whoever eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself (v. 28-29). The apostle is warning against and condemning sectarianism and favoritism. He is chastising the congregation in Corinth because they scorn one another, treating one another as though some were more important and others as less important. They are behaving towards one another with malice and envy, causing some to go hungry and others to get drunk. The whole language and approach of the apostle is towards the attitude the congregants have toward one another. St. Paul is rebuking them for being divided; chastising them because they are denying that they are unified by the very thing that Christ gave for unity – the body they eat and blood they drink.
When one scrons (despises/hates) the Body of Christ, when he does not discern that those with whom he eats and drinks are also the Body of Christ, the beloved of the Lord, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, then he eats and drinks judgment on himself. Therefore, discern the Body. That is, acknowledge with whom you are eating. Do not sin against the Church, the Body of Christ, by thinking they are separate from you, else you eat and drink to your judgment.
In summary, the context of St. Paul’s admonitions, corrections, and appeals in 1 Cor. 11, is in the corporate setting of the congregation coming together for what is supposed to be the Lord’s Supper. The context is not a doctrinal argument for the Real Presence, which seems to be assumed and used as proof that our unity is in the eating of the bread (10:17). Moreover, the examination of oneself has to do with acknowledging/knowing with whom he or she is eating and drinking and treating them accordingly. It doesn’t seem to be an examination of belief in the Real Presence (or even further off the mark, an examination of one’s sin and righteousness). So we eat with those with whom we have fellowship and are united, and we refrain from eating with those with whom we do not have fellowship.
Now we know that children are members of the Body of Christ. They are baptized with us into the one Body (Eph. 4:4-5), having put on Christ in Baptism (Gal. 3:27). The Word of salvation and promise of the Holy Spirit is for them also (Acts 2:39). Since they are members of the Body of Christ, they are heirs and co-heirs with Christ just as adults are. Moreover, since the Christ’s kingdom is built on the confession of His name (Matt. 16), we know that those who confess His name belong to Him.
So what do we do? How do we process all this information?
Well, to be sure, we don’t go off willy-nilly and offend everyone’s conscience by ignoring long-standing traditions and begin communing the children without anyone’s knowledge or consent. But we also cannot ignore the implications of this.
Now some may wonder why this has never been taught before. Well, it has. In the Large Catechism, Luther writes, “Since children are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us. They must all certainly help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.” So we believe, teach, and confess (according to the Confessions of the Church) that children should be receiving this Sacrament.
To be sure, the training of children is not optional. The Scriptures are very clear that the head of the family should teach his children in the chief articles of faith (Eph. 6:4). So don’t just start communing and stop training and teaching. But what are the chief articles? Or more pointedly, what is the Chief Article? Simply this: that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord; who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is most certainly true. Upon this article everything that we teach and practice depends, in opposition to the devil and the whole world (SA 2, I, 5).
In the Christian Questions and Answers in the Small Catechism, we ask the children, “Now how do we know that Christ died for us and shed His blood for us?” They answer, “From the holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament” (emphasis mine). Now how can they answer this way when they have never been given His body and blood in the Sacrament? How do they know it’s for them if no one ever gives it to them or invites them to eat and drink? By our actions we are telling the children that the Supper is not for them! It seems that we try and soften the blow by adding the consolation, “yet” as in, “it’s not for you yet,” but today is the day of salvation, not tomorrow. Besides, given that we don’t give the Sacrament to the children until they have been Confirmed, it’s no wonder people think they have earned the right to the Sacrament and think that they may or may not take it as they want to, according to their own tastes and preferences. According to this way of thinking, the Sacrament is not a gift based on confession but a right earned by study and accomplishment.
I will leave off for now, but one final comment: We don’t give the Sacrament to those who understand because no one understands. No one understands how the bread is His body or how the cup is His blood. No one understands how eating and drinking deliver life and salvation. We believe that they do. We eat and drink in faith, clinging to Christ’s word and promise. So the question comes: do we say a child cannot eat and drink because they cannot believe that the bread is the Body of Christ and the Cup is the Blood of Christ? Or because they cannot believe that such eating and drinking do the very thing that Jesus says it does: give the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation? Our children believe the same way we believe, because the Word preached. The little ears that hear, “this is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you,” cause the little hand to reach out and the little heart to covet the gift of God. Jesus’ words to His little ones cause them to confess the truth as they say “Amen” to His words. It is written, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matt. 21:16). A child’s confession, because it is born of faith, is more powerful and more convincing than all the theological treatises ever devised about why such a little one of God is denied the very thing our Lord gives for her.