03 June 2008

Good Thoughts from Chris Jones

These remarks of Chris's were posted over on David Schütz's blog, but I thought it was such a fine statement of Lutheran theology that I asked and obtained permission to post it here also:

The answer to the question "Is a valid Eucharist dependent on a valid priesthood?" is emphatically Yes, because the priest who offers the Eucharist is our Lord Jesus Christ. His "orders" are perfectly valid. The pastor stands in the place of Christ and celebrates in His stead and by His command.

Ordination confers the right and duty to stand in the place of Christ at the altar, not the "power" to confect the Eucharist. That power belongs always and only to Christ. This prayer (though non-Lutheran) says it well:

Enable me by the power of Thy Holy Spirit so that, being vested with the grace of priesthood, I may stand before Thy holy Table and celebrate the mystery of Thy holy and pure Body and Thy precious Blood ... for Thou, O Christ our God, art the Offerer and Thou art the One offered; it is Thou Who receivest the offering and Thou art Thyself the offering which is distributed.

If a lay person presumes to stand in the place of Christ at the altar, the difficulty is not that he does not have the "power to confect" (which a properly ordained priest does not have either); it is that he has presumed to stand in Christ's place when he has not been called to do so. The faithful ought always to be able to be confident that the celebrant does, in fact, stand in the place of Christ. When a lay person, absent a proper call to that role, presumes to celebrate, the faithful cannot have that confidence.

18 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I thought perhaps two prayers by a Lutheran (namely, Luther) might fit here.

"Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word. Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should
be on my own, I would easily wreck it all."

and the one I pray before every sermon I preach.

"O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known Thy glory and to nurture and serve this congregation. But since Thou hast appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teachings and the instructions, O be Thou my helper and let Thy holy angels attend me. Then, if Thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Thy glory and not to mine or the praise of men, grant me, out of Thy pure grace and mercy a right understanding of Thy Word and that I may also, diligently perform it. O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Thou Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, send Thy Holy Spirit that He may work with me, yea, that He may work in me to will and to do through Thy divine strength according to Thy good pleasure. Amen"

Neither of those deal with me exercising power - but rather God placing me in an office and using me to accomplish His goals. Frankly, I like that a lot more than having "power".

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

Thank you for passing on the thoughts from Chris Jones.

Anonymous said...

"When a lay person, absent a proper call to that role, presumes to celebrate, the faithful cannot have that confidence."

You got scripture to back this up? It just seems a bit presumptuous. I'm not opposed to this as a matter of good order, but is it sustainable from God's word? Please tell me.

William Weedon said...

1 Cor. 4:1

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

So long as what is done is according to the mandate and institution it is without doubt. “Offices and sacraments always remain in the church; persons are daily subject to change. As long as we call and induct into the offices persons who can administer them, then the offices will surely continue to be exercised.”9 Again, with regard to the office and the Supper, Luther continues in the same passage:
When the pastor celebrates mass diligently, note this difference: Insofar as he observes the institution of Christ and also administers the sacrament to others, be assured that Christ's body and blood are certainly there on account of Christ's ordinance and not on account of the pastor's work or holiness.
Insofar, however, as he does not observe the ordinance and intention of Christ but changes and
perverts them, it is not necessary for you to believe that it is Christ's body and blood.

Lest we think that the mandate and institution may be followed without a man in office, Luther remarks
with respect to an exceptional situation in Turkey:
And what must the Christians do who are held captive in Turkey? They cannot receive the sacrament
and have to be content with their faith and desire which they have for the sacrament and the
ordinance of Christ, just as those who die before baptism are nevertheless saved by their faith and
desire for baptism. What did the children of Israel do in Babylon when they were unable to have
public worship at Jerusalem except in faith and in sincere desire and longing? Therefore, even if the
church would have been robbed completely of the sacrament by the pope, still, because the ordinance
of Christ remained in their hearts with faith and desire, it would nevertheless have been preserved
thereby, as indeed now in our time there are many who outwardly do without the sacrament for they
are not willing to honor and strengthen the pope's abomination under one kind. For Christ's
ordinance and faith are two works of God which are capable of doing anything.10

Luther's teaching here is consistent with Augsburg Confession XIV, that no one should publicly teach in
the Church or administer the sacraments unless he be rite vocatus (or ordentlicher beruf). This is a
position which belongs to the mature Luther. 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).
Chemnitz states clearly that, “it is with those who are legitimately chosen and called by God through the church, therefore with the ministers to whom the use or administration of the ministry of the Word and the
sacraments has been committed.”11 The office is not the source of the authority but the means by which
Christ serves His people in the Lord's Supper, the Divine Service. It is “apostolic” in that pastors are
called and sent by Christ. They have His authority in the mandates He has given the holy office. Thus we
may point to Apology XXIV, under the discussion of the term “Mass,” where the liturgy is identified with “the public ministry.” There is no promise given to “lay consecration” of the Supper or whatever it might
be in that case. Even if the “emergency” case is cited from the Tractate, it must be pointed out that this emergency only mentions Baptism and Absolution and not the Holy Supper.

Augustinian Successor said...

Lutheran ministers do not OFFER the Eucharist. The DISTRIBUTE the Lord's Supper. The Eucharist is foreign to Lutheran terminology. It is the Lord's Supper which is the Lutheran understanding. That is, the Last WILL and TESTAMENT of Jesus Christ.

This understanding is BASIC to LUTHERAN theology.

Pr. Lehmann said...

Augustinian Successor,

The corrective remarks to your statement at Chris Jones' blog also apply here.

But I'd add that also basic to the Lutheran confession to the Lord's Supper is that we don't accept Augustine's terminology of validity.

Anonymous,

The biblical basis for saying we don't have confidence that the Supper is there when a layman "celebrates" it is the Lord's own words. He gave it to pastors to do when He instituted it. If we don't do it according to His institution, we don't know if it's His Supper.

Rev. C. D. Trouten said...

Aug. Succ. claimed: "The Eucharist is foreign to Lutheran terminology."

Concordia Publishing House's 1943 edition of Luther's Small Catechism, page 193 states, "The Sacrament of the Altar is also known as . . . the Eucharist."

Moreover, "Eucharist" appears 5 times in the Triglot, found on ppg. 61 [AC XXII], 65 [AC XXIV], 353 [AP XXI], 359 [AP XXII], and 407 [AP XXIV].

It seems that the Eucharist is not so foreign after all.

Adam said...

Rev. Jack Bauer,
Do you have a reference to Luther's comments about Christians stuck in Turkey? What an interesting comment, esp. regarding his other comments about Christians living under Mahometisch Reich.

Thanks in advance for any reference you might have.

William Weedon said...

AS,

As others have pointed out, Eucharist is perfectly acceptable in Lutheran theology and you can find the term used across the Lutheran fathers and continuing into the present. As for "offer" - Chris noted that the prayer did not come from the Lutheran tradition. He offered it as an example though of the notion that the celebrant does not consecrate via some hidden "power" but by virtue of operating in Christ's place and speaking His words.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think too often we make this discussion about power or ability - do I have the power to do this, do I have the ability to do this?

That's not quite the proper question. I suppose I have the power and ability to buy a gun and go shoot all the dogs in town. If I did it, sure, they'd be dead. But does that mean it is good, right, and proper for me so to do? By no means.

Pastors aren't dealing with a special power or ability that they have - rather this. They are fulfilling an office they have been placed into - and unless you have been placed into that office, you shouldn't take it upon yourself. You would in no wise suddenly announce one day, "I am now the town mayor - listen to me." Nor would you suddenly say, "I'm now a policeman." You might have the abilities to do all these things - but if you aren't placed there, you shouldn't be trying to do the things that pertain to those offices.

The Pastoral office is the same way. Our God is a God of order - He is a God of authority and who uses authority. When people try to buck that order or avoid proper authority - bad things happen. Thus, it is best to simply do things as God provides for them to be done.

Dixie said...

Pastors aren't dealing with a special power or ability that they have - rather this. They are fulfilling an office they have been placed into - and unless you have been placed into that office, you shouldn't take it upon yourself. ...

The Pastoral office is the same way. Our God is a God of order - He is a God of authority and who uses authority. When people try to buck that order or avoid proper authority - bad things happen. Thus, it is best to simply do things as God provides for them to be done.


Pastor Brown,

I honestly don't think Herr Schutz (David, if you are reading, chime in.) would disagree with you at all, in principle, with this.

The disagreement would come at doing things as God provides for them to be done. Some Lutherans say the Holy Spirit calls through the congregation. The Catholics (and some Lutherans) say the Holy Spirit works through the Bishop and some other Lutherans say it could be either way. That is the real crux of the discussion because if the starting point ain't right then everything done after that becomes dicey.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dixie (and by the by, do you ever whistle?),

I haven't looked at Herr Schultz's post at all. . . my comment was based simply on the thread as put here.

Now, just with what you have introduced, I would point out what both a congregational based call and what a Bishop based call have in common - they are extra nos - they are where the pastor is given that duty by someone other than himself - he is placed into office - and in both cases, congregation or bishop, with the understanding that God is working His will in the calling/placement.

I guess I'd fall into the either camp of Lutherans - I think it is folly to demand one over the other - and I don't think you can demand one over the other from the example of the early church (where bishops appointed clergy, and yet bishops were elected by the congregation - ack!) But I hadn't seen that as the context of Jones' quote or the discussion here.

Dixie said...

Pastor Brown,

I don't whistle and I don't sing. Alas, I am musically impaired. But, I do live in the heart of Dixie and love boiled peanuts, red pickup trucks and the laser show at Stone Mountain...if that counts for anything.

Regarding the relationship of your comments to Herr Schutz's post...actually your comments just added clarity in my mind as to where the real issue was...at the start of a sequence of events that begins long before the words "This is My Body" are spoken.

kjslutherisch said...

For anyone interested, I had a moment and tracked down Jack Bauer's Luther quote about the situation in Turkey.

The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests (1533) American Edition, Volume 38, pg. 207.

Schütz said...

If a lay person presumes to stand in the place of Christ at the altar, the difficulty is not that he does not have the "power to confect" (which a properly ordained priest does not have either); it is that he has presumed to stand in Christ's place when he has not been called to do so. The faithful ought always to be able to be confident that the celebrant does, in fact, stand in the place of Christ. When a lay person, absent a proper call to that role, presumes to celebrate, the faithful cannot have that confidence.

So what is the consequence? Okay, they doubt that this guy is the "real deal"--but is the eucharist he is attempting to administer to them still the "real deal"? Should they commune? Should they adore the Eucharist he hands out as the body of Christ? Or is it just bread? Do the Words of Christ still effect what they promise when someone speaks them who is not authorised to do so?

Chris's point is a good one, and Catholics would agree, but it wasn't my original point.

William Weedon said...

Well, as I said over on your blog, Lutherans disagree about how to answer the question. But most confessional Lutherans, I would think, would NOT receive the Sacrament consecrated by a lay person simply because this is a violation of God's established order.

Some will hold that Christ will graciously keep the promise of the Verba even when the person who administers it is not authorized so to do - an uncovenanted grace, if you will. Others will hold that we simply don't know what it is, and that it may well be only bread and wine. These doubts and questions arise when we depart from God's established order. But when the called servants of Christ administer the Sacrament with His Words, we know that we receive in fact exactly what our Lord has promised: His body and His blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Josh S said...

I think it is simple when you think in terms of royal order. A famous theologian once described this whole business as the "kingdom of heaven," so I think it's apt.

An "apostle" is one who is sent. Clement calls his own ministry apostolic before the word came to mean "The Eleven Plus Paul," and it's no leap to understand pastoral ministry in that sense of being sent by God.

Now if a king sends a herald to deliver a message to the town, the townsfolk listen to that man as though he were the king himself. Or should the king send a judge to adjudicate disputes, the citizens bring all their cases to him to be judged with truly royal authority.

But what if an ordinary citizen simply stands up and declares that he now is to act as representative, delivering the king's words and meting out the king's judgments? He has no mandate from the king, and the citizens would not do well to listen to him or follow him, as the king tends to be displeased with fellows such as this.

One does not have to theorize about speculative metaphysical powers in order for the ministry to be something real.