Monday, April 17, 2017

Sacramental Order

By Larry Beane

I recently drove a festive couple of Uber passengers who were trying to remember the mnemonic for Beverage Order: Was it "beer before liquor" or "liquor before beer"?  There are different opinions on this matter, but there is indeed an old adage concerning this order that has apparently been debunked as a myth.

Unless I'm quite mistaken, it's a universal practice in the Christian Church across denominational lines that Holy Baptism precedes the Holy Eucharist, that disciples are made by the former rather than by the latter, and that only the disciples are to participate in the Lord's Supper.  

Of course, admittance to the table is a thorny and contentious issue in our Synod, which has historically - with some limited pastoral exceptions - endorsed Eucharistic fellowship only with members of LCMS congregations and of those church bodies in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.  This practice is sometimes called "closed" or "close" or "close(d)" communion - although I find these distinctions hard to understand.  Actual admission practice varies widely, as any visitor to other LCMS parishes will conclude just by looking at various communion statements.

In the above Facebook post, a non-baptized visitor has taken part in the Eucharist on Good Friday at an LCMS congregation.  He is now ready to take the "next" step by being "signed up" for the next "baptism."

Of course, keeping track of communicant visitors from other LCMS congregations is difficult at times (and this is exacerbated during festival services), and certainly any pastor who has served for any amount of time in the parish has, no doubt, accidentally and inadvertently communed people whom he mistook for someone else, or mistakenly believed should have been communed.  The best construction is that this is the case here.

However, this post does raise an interesting question: are we bound by the traditional Sacramental Order: "Baptism before Supper is proper, Supper before Baptism is schism"?  Or is this just a New Wives' Tale that Snopes and Mythbusters will denounce as Fake Sacramentology?  Is there good reason to retain the traditional Sacramental Order?  What would the ramifications be of communing people prior to Holy Baptism?

By the way, the old saying goes:

Liquor before beer, you're in the clear.
Beer before liquor, never been sicker.

To my knowledge, Gottesdienst has never taken an official position on Beverage Order, nor have the Scriptures, the Confessions, the COP, the CTCR, nor the CCM... though it is quite possible, if not probable, that the issue has been taken up in conventions.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Out of the barn

Oh, and by the way, the Easter issue is out of the barn. Coming to a mailbox near you, hopefully just in time. Unless you're not a subscriber, which you can easily fix.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Calling all subscribers: APB

Dear subscribers and friends of Gottesdienst

This, as you may have heard, is our 25th anniversary year. Our Christmas issue will be our 100th.

In the course of looking the last 25 years over, we discovered that there is a missing issue. So, we're putting out a BOLO, an All Points Bulletin.

We need your help!

And here's an offer: the first person who can come up with this missing issue and provide us with the issue itself, or photocopies of its pages, or a pdf or Word or some other version of it receives a prize: 

we are prepared to offer a four year subscription, or addition to your subscription to this helpful Gottesdienster.

Here's the missing issue we need:

Advent - Epiphany 1994 - 1995 (Volume 3 Number 1)

Anyone finding this, please let us know!

Friday, February 24, 2017

A New Heart

a guest editorial by Pfarrer Dr Gottfried Martens
translated by Dr. John Stephenson

God says, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26 RSV): comments on the ecumenical text (Losung) chosen for the year 2017, which happens to be the Five Hundredth Jubilee of the Reformation.

When we engage in electronic communication with other people these days, we often employ so-called emojis, symbols that aim to give non-verbal form to feelings. By this point there are so many emojis that we can even find an Emojiwiki on the Internet where we can look up the meaning of all the many emojis. We there find explanations of what a yellow heart stands for in an electronic message; it stands for optimism, encouragement, and joy in life.

We see nearby a yellow heart on the image with which the artist Ulrike Wilke-Müller interprets the Text for the Year (Jahreslosung). And yet we would completely misunderstand this picture if we saw in it only an emoji offering a brief and instantly comprehensible message that could be put in words as “Hold your heads up high and think positively!” No, it would be worthwhile to subject this image to a much more precise inspection.

Whatever may be the case with emojis, a yellow heart is and remains unusual; we are much more familiar with a red heart as a sign of love. And yet Holy Scripture makes it abundantly plain that our human heart, that which stands for our inmost essence, that which pushes us on and defines us, has a radically different colour. From our first heartbeat on it is black, closed to God’s love, hard, and turned in on itself. And this black heart has no future, it cannot endure before the eyes of God when He examines and judges our hearts, our inmost essence, that which defines and stamps our lives.

And yet in the Losung for this New Year 2017 we hear a grandiose promise of God: He Himself removes this black heart and replaces it with a new heart; with us as the patients, He undertakes a lifesaving heart transplant. Let us pay close attention to what God promises here. He doesn’t say, “You must make an effort to purify your hearts”! He doesn’t say, “I’ll give you tips how to change your hearts”! He doesn’t say, “You have to take a decision for Me, and then I’ll give you a new heart”! On the contrary, God Himself sees quite clearly that we ourselves can do nothing to get a new heart and a new spirit; we can do zilch to cooperate in our own salvation.  He Himself really must do the whole thing for us, He must turn us into people who are open to Him and His Word, to Him and His love.

Yellow indeed, as a sign of God’s presence, as a sign of something completely new that God creates. A yellow new heart bestowed by God and suffused with His presence—what  a marvellous promise! And now it behoves us to look more closely at Frau Wilke-Müller’s artwork.

We see as it were rays that shine fom above into this heart and suffuse it: God places His new spirit in us and suffuses it with His own Spirit. Shades of blue surround the heart on the left side, a reminder of Holy Baptism in which God carried out this heart transplant upon us, in which God gave us a new heart and bestowed His Spirit upon us.

We see here how a Cross shines above the heart and reaches into it. The new heart is determined by the love that God Himself has proved to us by surrendering His own Son to the Cross.  Our heart only becomes luminously bright through the Cross, only through the forgiveness we receive by the Cross do our black guilt and failure retreat from the centre of our lives.

In the centre of the heart we see an opened door. The One who has bestowed the new heart does not remain outside, but lives within us and makes our hearts His dwelling. No, we must not “let God into our hearts”. God already invites Himself inside and comes in. Shades of red dominate the right side of the picture, a reminder of the blood of Christ that washes us clean from our sin, the blood that we receive in the holy sacrament of the altar, the blood in which Christ takes up residenc e in us and continually nurtures and strengthens our new heart.

If we look closely, we see that the heart is formed by the two Tables of the Law, by the Tables of the Ten Commandments. What a marvellous image—as Christians we don’t need to adhere to thousands of discrete legal prescriptions. On the contrary, God’s will itself is written in our heart, when we have received this new heart. The way we follow God’s will is for God’s Spirit to move us, the Spirit who makes us God’s children, people whose hearts cling wholly to their Father and His Word.

And when we take a final look at the image, in the very centre of the heart, where the two sides intersect, we notice a grain of wheat. Yes, we already have the new heart, we can already live as new people. And yet there is oftentimes so little outward evidence of this in our lives. The grain of wheat is already planted in us, but everything that is still to develop from this will only be fully perceived at the goal of our lives, in God’s new world. And that we arrive at that point, despite all our failure, this is something that God Himself takes care of, He who bestows the new heart upon us and places the new spirit within us. This is the whole point of the Lutheran Reformation past and present!

I wish you a blessed Reformation Jubilee Year 2017,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Memento, homo...

... that you are dust, and you look fabulous!"

Here is a new rubric for Ash Wednesday.

It seems that they are missing the entire point of the ashes.