Thursday, November 4, 2010

God Is In Our Midst!

I have long argued that the chief reason many Lutherans abolish the Mass, contra AC and Apology XXIV, and replace it with the revivalistic worship styles and forms of the Methobapticostals and Americanized Evangelicals, is a lack of faith in the Real Presence of our Lord.  Advocates of "contemporary worship" among Lutherans vehemently argue to the contrary, but the old saying, "actions speak louder than words," holds forth here.  It is very difficult to believe that one believes Christ is truly Present when the altar is pushed to the side to make room for the praise band, the pastor is clad in street clothes and wont to speak and behave informally, even making it a point to crack a few jokes now and then, the gathered assembly is treated as an audience there to be entertained, and so forth.  Perhaps this lack of faith in the Real Presence of our Lord is due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.  I'm certain that is the case with the majority of the people assembled.  They simply have no clue, and you really can't blame them.  The "worship experiences" they attend do not exactly scream of Christ's Presence.  But, what of these Lutheran pastors, who should know better?  I suppose lack of knowledge and understanding accounts for some, but I'm convinced that many simply believe otherwise.  They have weighed and measured Lutheranism and found it wanting, and proceed accordingly.  They claim that their actions flow from their deep love for the lost.  I believe them.  I know many who have a fervent desire to reach the lost for Christ and work feverishly to that end.  But, what they fail to realize is that, in the process of their "soul-winning" efforts, they end up forsaking their First Love.  

Anyway, I got to thinking about this while reading "Christ's Church" by Bo Giertz this evening, who writes (on pp. 102-103):
God is on our midst!  Also today.  Because what happened once in history is not only something in the past.  The connection that was then opened between earth and heaven has never since been broken.  The same Lord, who came to dwell among us, also built His Church among us.  He is still active there through His Spirit, in the external forms of the word and the sacraments.  The new life still descends into this world of corruption.  The eternal light is still being revealed.  Christ is still doing the work for which He was made man . . . 

God is in our midst!  Just as Jesus once entered the world as God's outstretched hand, as a visible revelation of God's invisible being, and as an audible message of that which no ear has heard, so God's hand is still stretched out at the baptismal font and the communion rails, and so the Word still sounds, not as a mechanical repetition of what the Master once said but as a continually repeated message from the mouth of our Savior.  The Word is not only a teaching but a living call, an offer from God, a herald's summons, that the Eternal One issues to us and that again and again requires from us a response.  It is the same way with the sacraments.  They are not symbols and metaphors but Christ's way to deal with us today, just as real and tangible as He once dealt with people on the fields in Galilee and the streets in Capernaum.  Thus He has given us baptism in order still to receive people into the Kingdom and into the fellowship of His followers.  Thus He is still at the table with us in the Lord's Supper to make us partakers of His atoning sacrifice.  He has not left the world, where He once was born for our salvation . . . 

Living and genuine Christianity is in its innermost essence faith in the incarnation and the atonement.  It is in its innermost essence sacramental, it is the message of God's real and wondrous presence in the midst of the fallen creation, in the Lord Christ and His Church.
Beautiful!  Would that all Lutheran pastors confessed the same, not only with their mouths, but in their practice, believing that Christ is truly Present in the Mass, that they would take seriously their sacred duty to preach the Gospel in its purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ's institution.

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