Friday, October 15, 2010

Five Minutes Daily with Luther - October 15

(Reprinted with permission from Five Minutes Daily with Luther: Daily Lessons from the Writings of Martin Luther, by John Theodore Mueller.)

“And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3.

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In these words Christ shows what eternal life is. He says: Eternal life is this — and My disciples shall receive it in this way — “that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Let him who would walk safely flee and avoid all those things which natural reason and human thoughts are accustomed to advance concerning this article; for there is no counsel and wisdom that can avail against the seducing delusions of the devil, nor anything but our having a steady faith in the plain and simple words of the Scriptures, not at all relying upon our own thoughts and speculations, but saying: Whatever Christ has said must be true, although it may be beyond my comprehension, or that of any other mortal, how it can be true. For it is utterly impossible that human reason should grasp even the least article of faith. Nor can any mortal have any right thought or sure knowledge of God whatsoever, without the Word of God. The farther and more deeply human reason goes in the investigation of God, His works, His will, and His counsel, the farther it gets from the knowledge of them, until it comes at last to know nothing and to believe nothing of God at all. Here you see the words are plain: Christ gives to all who believe eternal life; but no one can give eternal life except God only; wherefore it must incontrovertibly follow that Christ is truly and naturally God.

Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line,
Whom David Lord did call;
The God incarnate, Man divine:
And crown Him Lord of all!

7 comments:

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

Thank you!

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

St. John, despite his (very) simple koine Greek, is among the most profound and liturgically-minded of his fellows. Luther enjoins John's epistle this fashion, "Eternal life is this — and My disciples shall receive it in this way — 'that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.'"

While the hearts of the Emmaus disciples verily burned, as the veiled Christ opened the Scriptures to them -- they came to understand that all Christianity is Christology, to tweak a phrase --they came to know the Lord upon the act of the breaking of bread. Of course, we Lutherans, with our every-other-Sunday-Suppers (if that), recognize that the "breaking of bread" was primitive-Churc- talk for the Holy Supper. So our Lord began communing His sheep with His Body and Blood, quite as soon as He triumphed mightily over death on our behalf. So His disciples received it [eternal life] in this way, so that they might know their Shepherd of Life.

Luther again: "Here you see the words are plain: Christ gives to all who believe eternal life; but no one can give eternal life except God only; wherefore it must incontrovertibly follow that Christ is truly and naturally God."

We the believers are indeed given eternal life, in a mystical yet tangible way, by truly God who gives of His Body and Blood. He is the true Manna. He is our transcendent or supernatural Bread (N.B.: the Greek of the Fourth Petition can be better translated this way, according to the Rev. Fr. Eckardt, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Kewanee IL), which forgives sin (cf. Fifth Petition, linked intimately to its predecessor by a conjunction "and") and dispels the temptations which beset us, through its frequent use (cf. Sixth Petition, which is again grammatically linked to the preceding). The heavenly Bread delivers us from evil, as confessed in the Seventh Petition; and indeed, the Crucified Bread of Life delivered us from evil, on Golgotha. It is a laudable thing, then, for Christians to sign themselves with the seal of Baptism, at this point of the prayer, in remembrance of Him and what He finished, for all time and for all believers.

Is the Lord's Prayer intimately tied to the Verba? Yes!

Was St. John the Seer fully acquainted with St. Luke's accounts? Yes!

Did the early Christian community of one mind commune weekly, to receive Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation? Yes!

Does the WELSian community commune weekly, carrying forth the faith was delivered to the saints, to receive Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation? The ballots are being distributed to the Voters' Assemblies, at this very moment ...

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

My WELSian community (my congregation) celebrates Communion every Lord's Day and on festivals. I agree that Communion deserves more attention, and especially, appreciation than it's normally given.

But it's quite an interpolation to interpret the Emmaus supper with the Lord's Supper. It's completely out of context. Yes, breaking bread was sometimes used to refer to the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper. Sometimes, it was just breaking bread. For one, these disciples weren't even there on Maundy Thursday. Second, as Jesus was giving them bread, he disappeared. Hardly a Communion.

As for the Lord's Prayer, again, it's superimposing things on the text that simply aren't there. Daily bread is daily bread, as the Catechism clearly explains. It's really OK to let the Lord promise bodily aid here rather than view every reference to "bread" as a reference to Communion.

There is plenty of good reason to use and take comfort in the Sacrament without seeing it where it's not.

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

St. Luke, in the Holy Ghost-breathed Acts, emphasizes that the faithful disciples of Christ's early Church "broke bread" weekly. Why that emphasis on a behavior, which we are now asked by an ordained servant of Christ to consider as perhaps being on the order of the routine, the "three squares" of each day?

To assume that the writer was but speaking of a means of daily nourishment, is "quite an interpretation" in itself. "Just breaking bread?" Why didn't St. Luke mention that the members of the early Church drank water, each week? Because the dearly inspired man is making references, with his "the breaking of bread" phrasing, to something possessing a deeply spiritual nature.

"Yes, breaking bread was sometimes used to refer to the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper."

Indeed, it was. But in the context of the New Testament Scriptures, and the occasions where the ancient saints gathered ... when was it not? Do you have an example, when the "breaking of bread" referred to lunch?

"As for the Lord's Prayer, again, it's superimposing things on the text that simply aren't there. Daily bread is daily bread, as the Catechism clearly explains.

The Small Catechism of Blessed Martin Luther is profound in its teachings and examples, but it is not Scripture. Dr. Luther affords a very grounded explanation of "daily bread" for us Christians to contemplate, which is fine in so far as it goes. However, our physical bread is but a reflection of what is the bread for man's survival: Jesus, the Bread of Life. I know this is a hard saying for many. Many disciples departed from our Lord, when He made a claim they could not ... digest.

But man shall not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God ... a dominical promise advanced on Maunday Thursday, that the Altar's consecrated bread provides the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Rev. B.F. Eckhart has argued that the expression "daily" in Luke 11 is a translation of "epi-ousion," which can be legitimately (and perhaps better) be rendered as "above nature."

This makes sense, in the setting of a Church that didn't start in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Missouri, in the American 19th century.

The Church has associated the Verba with the Lord's Prayer for centuries. This tight association continued in the Masses of blessed Martin Luther, who removed the extraneous excesses of the canon of his day ... but preserved these elements quite faithfully. You can look it up.

"There is plenty of good reason to use and take comfort in the Sacrament without seeing it where it's not."

Oh, I quite agree. I merely raise a possibility that there may exist those, who are blind to other places where the Pearl of Great Price (and Peace) can be found.

I appreciate the opportunity you provide to exchange views, Reverend. You are generous and gracious.

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

And crown Him Lord of all!
Focus...

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

I'm not certain that my "interpolation" is any different in quality, from a conflicting interpretation made by those calling themselves "intrepid Lutherans." This poor, miserably sinful Lutheran suggests that it wasn't necessary or a requirement to be at the Maundy Thursday Supper, in order to experience the Supper officiated by the God-man in Emmaus. For one thing, perhaps the unnamed disciples heard of the account of the first Holy Meal, from their colleagues sometime during the wrenching days of Friday and Saturday. Communication was going on, about the Passion events; Scripture indicates such, clearly enough: "Are you the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know what things have happened there these days? (St. Luke 24:18)" Is it impossible that Lord Jesus' stricken followers, in extreme mourning, would not recount what happened in those hours before His death? Is that something alien, to our understanding of how we poor miserable sinners behave?

It's quite an extrapolation, to suggest that they did not. Scriptures indicate that there was a good deal of discussion, about events and happenings, among these folks (cf. St. Luke 24:22,23).

For another: If the Sacrament is indeed nonverbal Gospel, given for the forgiveness of sins and a holy means of communing with God and His Church, then it is not inconceivable that the Risen Lord would earnestly officiate such a gift in Emmaus. Lutherans emphasize the blessings of Word and Sacrament; the Emmaus disciples, I contend, received both, on the road and in a dwelling, from a most gracious Shepherd.

The sudden "disappearing" of our Lord does not disqualify the event as a Holy Supper; what Scripture (St. Luke 24:30) indicates is that there was a thanksgiving (as happened in the Upper Room), a breaking of bread (as happened in the Upper Room) and a distribution (as happened in the Upper Room). It reads very much like the first celebration of the Lord's new testament, one sealed by His true Body and true Blood. The Supper is a moment where we see, through the eyes of faith, our Salvation. It is not simply a carbohydrate snack. The writing style of the Evangelist, and the understanding of the early Church (Acts 2:42,46) must be appreciated. Eutychus did not attend a meeting officiated by Paul, at Troas, in order to grab a "sandwich" at the potluck (Acts 20:7). The dear Christians, with whom we are most certainly in fellowship (remember what we claim we believe, in the Sanctus), broke bread. On the first day of the week, no less. The language speaks volumes, to the primitive Church, surely, and to the poor, miserable Lutherans of today who are open to it.

My take: that gathering of two (or three), at Emmaus, assembled in the Name of the Lord, was quite a Communion! After all, the Name Himself presided!

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

"But it's quite an interpolation to interpret the Emmaus supper with the Lord's Supper. It's completely out of context. Yes, breaking bread was sometimes used to refer to the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper. Sometimes, it was just breaking bread. For one, these disciples weren't even there on Maundy Thursday. Second, as Jesus was giving them bread, he disappeared. Hardly a Communion."

Zondervan's NIV expresses Lk 24:30-31 this way: 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

It is quite an interpolation to deduce from this, that the Lord disappeared as the bread was being given. What the translated passage indicates is that the disciples' eyes were opened ... that they saw their Salvation, as the post-communion canticle Nunc Dimittis exults every week, in Lutheran churches ... in the course of the distribution. The Lord disappears from their sight, some time after this recognition. There is nothing in the text, I contend, to exclude the belief that the Meal was completed at the time of the Christ's disappearance. Again, I think it was a remarkable Communion. I don't think the intrepid Lutherans have convincingly discredited the thinking.

In this regard, one may wish to compare the Zondervan text above, with that of the NKJV alternative: 30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

The Lord vanished after the disciples recognized Him, most certainly; but the phrasing once more does not give conclusive support to a Scriptural extrapolation, that the disappearance took place during the eating.

Cheers! He is Risen indeed! And He verily comes to the Altar, of poor, miserable, and repenting Lutherans ... who faithfully break bread, on the first day of the week.

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