Thursday, September 23, 2010

Combating Receptionism

Continuing with Fr. Stuckwisch's theme of reverence at the Lord's Supper. . .

Did you ever think we'd see the day when the Missouri Synod had a man in the presidium who was a forthright and well-spoken opponent of receptionism? The Rev. Dr. Scott Murray wrote a wonderfully clear and concise demolition of receptionism for Logia a while back - you can read it here; it would make a great study for a Winkel. He carefully examines the historical circumstances that made this error popular in the Missouri Synod from a perspective of deep and abiding respect for the theologians he is taking to task. It is an excellent example of churchmanly rebuke.

So there's one idea for combating receptionism - spread around that article by our new Fifth Vice President.

And here's another: genuflect (or if your knees are bad: deeply bow) after each of the consecrations on Sunday. All ceremonies teach - and this ancient ceremony makes clear our confession that once Jesus speaks his Word, reality adjusts itself accordingly.



  1. I just read some of a book of essays by Bodo Nischan called Lutherans and Calvinists in the age of confessionalism. In it, he details how seriously (even I was a little surprised by this) people took certain ceremonies as a mark of their confession. The biggest of course were the fraction and baptismal exorcism, but the elevation was also a big deal. The Reformed would not do it and Lutheran laity insisted on it as evidence their pastor was not Reformed. I'm increasingly convinced that in Protestant areas of America pastors should seriously consider both genuflection and the elevation as confessions of the Real Presence. These ceremonies really do teach something.
    Bethany Kilcrease

  2. Yes, of course. And in addition, why, one might even consider a fit receptacle for the reliquae! Oh, say, a tabernacle? Running for cover . . .

  3. Dear Bethany:

    FWIW, I agree with you 100%. These ceremonies confess and teach, and do so in the matter of a couple seconds without a rambling discourse in the sermon and without academic newsletter articles that no-one will read.

    We should do these things and not wring our hands and apologize for doing so. It's a miraculous manifestation of God, for crying out loud.

    Thanks for your wise words!

  4. Not only Sunday, but at every Mass.

    Also, I do not recall where it was, must have been someone else's blog, or facebook, or something, very recently someone objected to genuflection because the pastor is adding a work to the Sacrament, which should be a time of grace. And the question was raised, perhaps sarcastically, why the pastor who does this doesn't also have the people do similarly. Therefore, it is worth mentioning here that 1. when our people (and pastors & seminarians) are taught just how deep and immense and real is the grace we receive in the most blessed Sacrament, worship with our bended knees will no longer seem so out of place, but in fact natural for such an evangelical moment. 2. And in fact, when one thinks about it, the people get the opportunity to take their bodily worship of our Immanuel in the Eucharist even further than the pastor does. For the celebrant genuflects, which is to say that he lowers to his right knee only, and just for a brief moment; however, the people can kneel on both knees for the entire consecration and communion.

  5. But do note, the Rev. Dr. did NOT endorse the use of a tabernacle and adoration/veneration of the allegedly "ever present" Christ in the elements you shut up in a box.

    I know. I'm beating a dead horse.

    But, I still challenge you dear Rev. Dr. Father F.E....

    *IF* in fact what is shut up and away in that tabernacle on your altar, then why do you not have the institution of perpetual adoration, 24/7/365?

    OK, I've had my little say on the tabernacle, again.

    And I've had my own little say recently on the silliness that is receptionism. See:

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  7. The adoration of the present Christ is consequent to the sacrament's being given to the faithful. This is how the SD handles it:

    "Likewise, when it is taught that the elements or the visible species or forms of the consecrated bread and wine must be adored. However, no one, unless he be an Arian heretic, can and will deny that Christ Himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper, should be adored in spirit and in truth in the true use of the same, as also in all other places, especially where His congregation is assembled."

    In some our congregations - I would guess several hundred, actually - this distribution of the Sacrament takes place over days and in many places rather than over minutes and in one place. I, myself, am not a fan of this practice. However, a parish I formerly served did practice it. Certainly, it is a question of pastoral direction as the practice is certainly not forbidden in the Scriptures.

    Such a case is far different from a hypothetical celebration of the Supper where the elements are never meant for consumption. This is the practice our Confessions attack. They do not attack pastors who, for their own pastoral reasons, choose to distribute the Supper to some on Sunday in church and to others in nursing homes on Monday.

    Again, I prefer a different practice. But to cast doubt upon the Sacrament that my former parishioners receive on Monday morning is deeply distressing to me. These elements have been consecrated on Sunday and are distributed on Monday. How this is different in kind, rather than merely in degree, from the elements being consecrated at 10:37 am and being distributed at 10:53 am I will never quite understand.


  8. Your guess is, I would guess, is way off on the number of LCMS congregations practicing the reservation of the elements.

    The point I keep trying to make to the one who prides himself on consecrating more elements than he needs during the Divine Service, precisely so that he can shut Jesus up in a box on his altar is that he either doesn't believe it really is Jesus in that box, or just doesn't care.

    If he did, he would have 24/7/365 perpetual vigil and adoration.

    But perhaps I'm expecting a consistency in practice that is not realistic?

  9. Fr. McCain,

    You write: " the one who prides himself on consecrating more elements than he needs during the Divine Service, precisely so that he can shut Jesus up in a box on his altar is that he either doesn't believe it really is Jesus in that box, or just doesn't care."

    A couple of points.

    1. I honestly don't know anyone who fits your description, so you've set up a bit of a straw man. The senior pastor at my former parish reserves the elements to distribute to shut-ins on Monday. He is a good man of far less than average "pride." If you want to call him to talk over his practice, I would encourage you to do so (email me privately for his info). He's not a reader of this blog or, generally speaking, one of the "Gottesdienst crowd" - but I know he'd be glad to talk to you.

    2. I would urge you to moderate your rhetoric. Accusing folks of "shutting Jesus up in a box" sounds a whole lot like the impious Calvinists who accuse us of "shutting Jesus up in your mouths."

    All the best,

  10. Paul McCain wrote these words:
    "*IF* in fact what is shut up and away in that tabernacle on your altar, then why do you not have the institution of perpetual adoration, 24/7/365?"
    And these:
    " the one who prides himself on consecrating more elements than he needs during the Divine Service, precisely so that he can shut Jesus up in a box on his altar is that he either doesn't believe it really is Jesus in that box, or just doesn't care.
    If he did, he would have 24/7/365 perpetual vigil and adoration.
    But perhaps I'm expecting a consistency in practice that is not realistic?"

    A response: The consecrated Host is still bread several days after the Mass, and therefore I for one believe what Jesus says about it. For this you say I am guilty of a belief in a "perpetual presence." But I won't agree to terms and phrases that you have invented (and have not really defined). But those who both 1. believe that the consecrated bread is the Body of Christ while it is being reserved, 2. and who therefore believe that it is fitting to reserve it in a reverent and becomming manner, are told that the only consistent practice to that belief is to practice perpetual adoration. If the first debating trick is to invent terms and categories for your opponent, the next trick is to draw up, as natural conclusions, what truly are silly and illogical claims. One supposes that the purpose of this particular trick is to get us to admit how "Roman Catholic" we are. It is as if you suppose that perpetual adoration is practiced wherever there is a Roman Catholic tabernacle containing the consecrated Host, which of course is not the case at all. Are those RC churches that do not have perpetual adoration guilty of not caring about the Sacrament? This is all rather sophomoric.

    In fact, by what you say, and do not say, in these discussions, what is clear is that "shutting Jesus up" in an expensive tabernacle made of precious material, with a sanctuary lamp keeping 24 hr vigil, makes less sense to you than "shutting Jesus up" on a shelf in the sacristy in a plastic jar. It no longer sounds like you are quite so interested in consistency in practice, when you clearly reserve your juiciest attacks for those who treat the Sacrament too reverently for your taste.

  11. Why is it that we cannot do exactly what our dear Fr. Luther said we should do, and in fact what our dear Lord Jesus has bidden us to do: Take and Eat!

    Seriously, all this talk of reservation of the elements, of distributing consecrated elements over a period of days, etc., is ridiculous. Consecrate what will be eaten right then and there. Eat and drink all of it. Problem solved.

    Here is my pet peeve with this practice of reservation and extended suppers: They go beyond the clear word of Jesus. Jesus says: "This is my body." At no time does he ever say, "This is not my body." So, this leaves us with the question: What to do with the reliquia? Luther has the right answer: eat and drink it, and thereby avoid these fruitless questions which do nothing in the end but cast doubt upon the clear words of Jesus: "This is my body. This is my blood."

    It is not difficult. Yes, it is more challenging for a large congregation, but you should know, even then, who is communing, and have a reasonable count in advance, with extra host left over that may be eaten by the pastors or the deacons at the tail-end of the distribution. The same is true in regards to the wine. If indeed we fall short, wafers can be divided, or more elements can be consecrated.

    As for these extended suppers where the elements are consecrated and then distributed at a later time to absent members, I find this practice equally ridiculous. We have abbreviated forms of the mass for private communion for a reason. Anytime I commune shut-ins or the sick, I consecrate the elements right then and there, at the bed-side, or at the home, and communicate myself and the individuals to whom I am ministering. Why would I deprive a shut-in of witnessing for themselves the consecration, to hear once more the words of our Lord? Once again, everything that is consecrated is eaten and drunk.

    Questions such as crumbs, drops of wine, etc., are equally fruitless. We do what Jesus bids us to do within the limits of our human abilities, and leave the rest to Him, for our Lord knew that bread has crumbs, and that wine clings to the sides of a chalice. Yet He bids us: "eat and drink!" That is what we should do, and be grateful for this precious gift.

  12. Pastor Diers:

    We can see that you ridicule the reservation of the Sacrament, but that does not prove that reservation is ridiculous.

    The Reformer instructed, on more than one occasion, the reservation of the Sacrament, so your appeal to his words is hardly an open and shut case.

    In fact, what you paint as being an extreme, extra-Lutheran practice, has always subsisted within the Lutheran tradition, and does so today. Check even what McCain lamely terms the "accepted worship resources" of the Synod.

    And where is all the outrage and concern about "fruitless questions" arising from the irreverent shelving of the Sacrament in sacristies all over the country, or in the sacrilege of the combining of the reliquiae with unconsecrated bread. You can tell us that these, too, go against your preferred practice, but I never seem to hear the same outrage aimed at such things, though they are more common than reservation in a tabernacle or pyx. Those practices just don't have a blog, as far as I know, where their defense has found a home. But you have a voice, and perhaps a blog. So where is the outrage?

  13. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    As has been said before, there is no good reason that Fr. B.E. needs ever to have elements remaining after one of his Divine Services, in a parish with very low attendance, such as his has. I'm not pointing this out as a commentary on his parish!

    I'm merely saying that Pastor Diers' remarks are spot-on, dead-accurate.

    It is highly misleading, and I think the good Deacon knows it, to suggest that the use of a tabernacle and reservation of the elements was anything like a widespread practice throughout Lutheranism in Germany and elsewhere.

    These are all false alternatives that Deacon introduces.

    We do not combat one set of errors and problems by embracing another set of errors and problems!

    Best way to proceed is simply to consecrate and consume, not play the game of "I'm consecrating and I'm going to consume a few days from now's all good."

    The fact that these stupid debates continue to be stirred up by those who insist on their aberrant practices, on either side, is proof enough that the best way to proceed is to do what Pastor Diers has sketched out in his excellent comment.

  14. It is a lie to say that I suggested that reservation was widespread. I stated that it has always subsisted within the Lutheran tradition; it stretches from Luther's career to the present day, with the synod's own present books, your inexplicable labeling it as "aberant" notwithstanding.

    Pastor Diers has the right to have his say, and I welcome all semireasonable participation in a conversation of this sort, but for you to say his was an "excellent comment," with its throwing around of terms like "ridiculous," begs the question of how you got to be called an "editor."

    Finally, why do you remain one of the chief disputants in what you call "stupid debates"?

  15. I also notice again, by the way, that the outrage against the truly "widespread" practice, namnely, of enclosing the Blessed Sacrament in tupperware, or a jar, or back with the unconsecrated bread, is expressed by simply saying things like, "two wrongs don't make a right." Way to go. I'm sure that really stings out there in the church.

  16. Fr. McCain,

    I think you err in assuming that the only reason one would reserve the Sacrament would be out of a necessity caused by a misestimation of the number of communicants.

    Again, take the example of the parish I formerly served. They reserve the Sacrament to be distributed on Monday to the shut ins.

    This is not my preferred pastoral practice. But it is certainly not ungodly; many of our congregations do so.

    And many others follow the rubrics of TLH and LSB and reserve what is not consumed at one service to be consumed at the next service. Again, this is not my preferred practice - but there it is right in our official altar books.

    So there are two reasons to reserve the Sacrament which are godly. They result from pastoral decisions that I would not make - but I don't think I have the right to disturb the peace of the church or, even worse, cast doubts upon the efficacy of the Sacrament in those places.

    In places where those pastoral decisions are made - how would you have the Sacrament be reserved? We must all of us deal with the world as it is. You can say that you would rather have everything be consumed at each service - and this is my practice. But we also have folks following the rubrics of our agreed upon altar books who have a different practice. Surely, in such places if the pastor has the Sacrament stored separately from regular old bread in a locked cabinet adorned with the traditional art of the Church this is a positive, not a negative.

    Unless and until our fellowship passes some canon law repealing what our agenda says, we should proceed with charity toward brothers who follow the current agenda, even if we advocate a different practice.


  17. I think this matter does speak to a general need within our churches that the pastor should commune shut-ins on the same day as he distributes communion, and delegate that the elders handle other functions such as visits to other parishioners. I have noticed a lack of coordination between LCMS churches when it comes to communing shut-ins. I have talked with one pastor who has had trouble going to a assisted-living place where my mother resides, which is 20 miles away from the church, but the LCMS churches I called which were nearby the facility were reluctant to give her communion, because they didn't know if she was LCMS. There should be a better way to handle this to make sure people who truly want the sacrement receive it.

  18. Deacon Gaba,

    My appeal to the words of the Reformer, in this case, is nothing less than an appeal to our Confessions, which include, by reference, the Wolferinus letters. We do not, and have never, taken every practice implemented by Luther as a practice to be emulated. Considered carefully, certainly. However, we explicitly endorse Luther on the reliquia in the Formula of Concord.

    Furthermore, where in this discussion is anyone suggesting that reliquia be mixed with unconsecrated elements? I once did this. I was ignorant and foolish. I will never do so again. It is now an abhorrent practice to me. In fact, I speak more on this very issue among my brethren, than any other Sacramental practice. But that is not the issue in question in this discussion.

  19. I suggest that one and all here read the comments of a post last year on this topic. In particular, Pastor Weedon's remarks regarding the practice of the Reformers.

  20. Martin, FYI, the "Gottesdienst Crowd" does not recognize the FC's force in this argument, though they do love the aside about the Semper Virgo in the FC.

    : )

  21. Pastor Diers:

    I read over again the blog post you cited from August of 09, and its comments. I do not agree that the letter advances ("forcefully" or otherwise) a position absolutely against reservation. Luther in this writing simply does not address the scenario of taking Communion to the sick, which he does elsewhere. The point of the letter is otherwise altogether. In fact, it is arguable that to read such a prohibition into the letter borders on doing that against which he warns, viz., to define the sacrament too strictly within itself, instead of over against what are clear abuses outside of it.

  22. I have a question.
    If I arrive at the service just at the end of the distribution; not having been present for the confession and absolution, or the consecration, should I, nevertheless, be allowed to commune?

  23. Dschumacher,

    Traditionally, the absolution is not part of the Divine Service at all: folks were accustomed to receiving absolution individually during the week. The Common Service, in fact, does not include an absolution either - but rather a declaration of grace (a minisermon, if you will). The Lutheran Hymnal lifted the absolution from individual absolution and dropped it into the public Divine Service in 1941. I've written before here and in the print journal at greater length about why I think it is better to follow the Common Service route and reserve the indicative operative "I forgive thee" for individual settings.

    That's a long winded way of saying: coming in late and missing the preparation would not make one an unworthy communicant. Luther's Catechism is clear enough that repentant faith (redundant, I know) makes for a worthy communicant.

    I would not bar one of my parishioners from the Table who happened to come in late. If they made a habit of it, that would, of course, require some discussion.


  24. Regarding genuflecting and other fine outward practices ... never discouraged by the Lutherans of old ... the issue entails a worship that involves the full man as defined by St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians.

    And elsewhere, of course.

    In the first chapter of Job, the afflicted by what he knew not, fell to the ground to worship God. In the Book of Daniel, in an upper room with open windows, the protagonist (about to go through a capital trial threatening life and limb) got down on his knees to pray. He made a custom of it.

    The eyes are the window to the soul. The Lord has spoken; so it is. If the Lutherans are an arthritic people, then our stiff-jointed state in the very presence of Almighty God provides the eyes ... a kind of probing, spiritual MRI ... to the condition of the soul.

    The diagnosis of the contemporary Lutheran condition is more akin to being stiff-necked, or maybe an acquired amblyopia, than ankylosing spondylitis. We are to fear and love God. Note the order (of the words; we're all Antinomians now). Our bodies join our tongues as we confess we know it, when we act as if it still matters. The thanking leper collapsed in front of his Savior. The Lord didn't respond, "What the sam-hill are you doing?"

  25. "The thanking leper collapsed in front of his Savior. The Lord didn't respond, "What the sam-hill are you doing?""

    You've got it, Michael. Not once in His earthly sojourn did our Lord ever stop or rebuke or correct those who would worship Him. Why didn't He say to the leper, "How dare you 'DO' something in such a grace filled moment!" But Lutherans for whom modern Western sensibilities are the measure of all things know better. If seminary & synod bureaucracies could corner Jesus, the Grand Inquisitor might look much different today.

  26. Rev. Curtis writes:

    The Common Service, in fact, does not include an absolution either - but rather a declaration of grace (a minisermon, if you will). The Lutheran Hymnal lifted the absolution from individual absolution and dropped it into the public Divine Service in 1941.

    I think perhaps we end up defining absolution too narrowly. I would contend that the liturgy is nothing but repeated confession and absolution (with appropriate thanksgiving). After all, consider the Pax Domini - the Peace of the Lord be with you always. That is absolution - how can God give you Peace and be at peace with you without forgiving your sin.

    It is off topic here, but I would love to hear your insights on this idea.

    P.S. You know, if we spread the practice of reservation, CPH could sell tabernacles and make money off of it. Maybe this would make everyone happy =o)

  27. "Absolution" is certainly capable of a variety of uses. I would divide them between
    1. a narrow definition,
    2. a slightly wider liturgical definition, and
    3. a general theological concept.

    The first is what Fr. Curtis had in mind, and there is nothing wrong (or too narrow) with such use. By the second one I have in mind some of the formulas in the traditional Latin breviary. They are called "absolutions," but are clearly not the absolution a priest gives to a penitent. The third is the way, eg., by which a theologian might speak of Christ's objective work of paying for the sins of the world with His sacrificial death, or the way you just applied the term to the liturgy generally. Each has its merit.

    Most important of these uses of this term, in my view, is the first, for it helps us distinguish between that clear, effective word by which a man's sins (no matter whom he offended) are absolved by the mouth of the man God sent for this work, on the one hand, and those many and various other ways in which forgiveness flows back and forth in the wonderul dynamics of Christian relationships in this life.

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  29. @Bethany (1st post) Sorry, I'm just seeing this now. I grew up reformed (now, by God's Grace, a confessional LCC Lutheran), and I never saw a reformed pastor who did NOT elevate.


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