19 November 2009

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ever since that hour when, in the celebration of the first Supper on the night when he was betrayed, Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of the Father, as at once the High Priest and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, distributed his true body and blood to his circle of disciples under bread and wine, thereby making them members of his body and bestowing on them forgiveness of sins along with life and salvation, the heart of the church has been beating in the Lord's Supper. -- Hermann Sasse, *Lonely Way* I:425

5 comments:

John Frahm said...

I think there's a typo in the italics.

Anonymous said...

It was my response to a similar posting that got me kicked off Cyberbrethren, but I am unrepentant and will risk getting kicked off this blog as well. But it must be said: Regardless of who says it (i.e. bearing in mind the fallacy of the ad hominem argument; in this case the profound respect we all have for Hermann Sasse) we must not succumb to the idea that any string of pious words is edifying, without understanding what those words are saying. My question then is, “what is the Lutheran doctrine of the ‘Heart of the Church’?” By asking that question, I by no means mean to deny the truth of what he wrote before these words. But I see the possibility of a thousand analogies being drawn from “the Heart of the Church” until, one day we have a “Society of the Sacred Heart of the Church.”

I do not have “Lonely Way” in my possession, nor does our local library carry it, so I do not know the context from which the excerpt was taken. I have read everything Sasse has to say about the Lord’s Supper in the “We Confess Anthology,” but I can find no reference to “the Heart of the Church” there. Does Sasse explain the function, purpose, and nature of “the Heart of the Church” or is it just an idiomatic expression that carries no meaning by itself?

Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

It was from his 1938 Church and the Lord's Supper. His point here (as in numerous other places) was that PREACHING of the Gospel dies where the Supper is no longer actually being celebrated. This was the situation he was facing in Germany at the time where the celebration of the Supper in congregations was horrifically rare. His argument is that the preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the Sacrament belong together as a whole in the chief Divine Service and that either is mutilated without the other, to the damage of Christ's Church. Like Luther before him, he saw and recognized "this Sacrament IS the Gospel" or as Krauth would later say, of the fundamental articles, it is the most fundamental. This because here justification is not merely proclaimed but constantly enacted: the Lord who is our Righteousness comes to us with His forgiveness, His divine life, and His everlasting salvation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: thank you for your response. Together with your earlier posting about the relationship of the vitality of the Roman Catholic church to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, you present me with a problem, that contradicts the fundamental beliefs that I have acquired over a lifetime. More than forty years ago, during a Lutheran (LCMS) service, I first heard the words from Amos 8: 11 “’Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’” Because of my deep personal involvement with Russia and the Soviet Union, this verse immediately made me think that this was really the answer to the question about why there was no proclamation of the Gospel in the then Soviet Union. Our Lord, I realized, rules the world not for the benefit of various nations, but for the benefit of His Bride, the Church. Therefore, in this case, God’s judgment fell on His Church, because, as I had become convinced earlier, that church’s failure to proclaim the Gospel. But during all of the centuries, while the Russian church abandoned the flock for which they were supposed to care, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in a manner to which the LCMS does not object, or at least even less than it does to the practice of the Roman Catholic church (with the exception of communing children, a form of open communion with which we are much more likely to agree than with the form we so categorically oppose). The Gospel had been abandoned centuries ago, and no amount of celebrating Holy Communion has brought it back to this day.

Something similar can be said about the Roman Catholic church. Whatever the vitality they supposedly have, or even have had throughout their existence, it is not one which one would characterize as being noticeably marked by the proclamation of the Gospel. At least not in its official dicta; though I am personally acquainted with Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox believers (Members of the Orthodox Church in America are, I think, in a very different category from those in Russia, while formally having the same beliefs) who joyously espouse the Gospel, and I am certain that there are many others.

Everything I have ever learned leads me to the conviction that the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom (as our Lord said in Luke 4:43,” for I was sent for this purpose.”) is what gives the Church life and vitality, and leads to a proper, beneficial, nourishing practice of the Lord’s Supper. When the Gospel seems to disappear, it is the duty and joy of the “remnant’ to shout it from the rooftops, even in the face of death, and thereby to renew the Church.

Having written what I have, I want to make it clear that together with all the saints, I fully believe in the life giving, faith strengthening, salvation bearing quality of the Body and Blood of our Lord, which we receive in His Supper. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Church is not so much to maintain the faith of the saints, as it is to fulfill the “Great Commission,” and that has to start with the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Luke 19: 10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

I don't think you and Sasse (or you and I) are really disagreeing on this. Sasse pointed out that there was a great commonality between an Abyssinian Mass celebrated in NY City and the Baptist preaching service - in neither one was the saving Gospel heard anymore. The one was Sacrament without Gospel; the other was Word without Gospel. But when we see that they go together in the Lord's intention and the message of the Crucified, Risen, and Coming One is not merely ancient history or far off future, but that He truly does come to us in the Sacrament bringing the gift that is always His unique gift among all gifts: forgiveness of sins, then we see that preaching, to be preaching of the Gospel, must deliver the same!