1 Corinthians 11:27-32
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Betty, Servant of Her Lord
On this day when we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper, it is important to remember the old Latin theological dictum: “Lex orandi. Lex credendi” (Literally, “The law of prayer; The law of belief” but best rendered, “How we worship declares exactly what we believe”).
For fifteen hundred years, Christ’s Church (West and East) believed, taught, and confessed the Real Presence of our Lord in His Supper. The spirit of rationalism that was so heavily part of the zeitgeist in 16th century Europe broke with the Great Tradition by insisting the Eucharist was a merely spiritual experience or a mere ordinance to be ignored at will. Martin Luther disagreed with how the Real Presence was being explained in the West but never with the truth that communicants receive the Lord’s true Body and most precious Blood in the Host and Cup even absent faith, for the Lord is present by His Word of promise as truly God and truly human.
How we approach the Lord’s altar to receive Him, how we receive Him, and how we treat the consecrated elements afterwards shouts much louder than what is printed in bulletins or in catechisms (Lex orandi. Lex credendi). In First Communion class, we teach those preparing for the Sacrament to make a throne for Jesus with their hands (right hand over left). Simply put, the King should have a throne. After the words of institution (in Latin, “verba”) are spoken over the elements, which are signed with the cross, the pastors genuflect (bend the knee). By such liturgical action, we make clear Who is present and how we should approach Him. He is both Lord and God. We are poor, miserable sinners in need of His grace and mercy. Before and after receiving the elements, we pray in recognition of Whom and What we are being given. With that eating and drinking of our Lord’s true Body and most precious Blood, we have His gifts: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Where Jesus is, there are His gifts for us sinners!
LINOS (Lutherans in name only) reveal what they believe and don’t believe by how they handle and receive the Lord’s true Body and precious Blood. Failing to keep separate the consecrated elements from unconsecrated elements shouts loudly that one does not believe Christ is truly present by His Word of promise. Indifference to receiving the Lord’s Supper shouts loudly one’s unbelief. Rationalistically parsing our Lord’s words as if they were only metaphoric, only spiritual, or only symbolic shouts loudly that our Lord is not welcome. And He acknowledges that unbelief.
Betty, beloved neighbor and mother of my dear surrogate sister Patricia, was a devout Anglo-Catholic for many years until the Episcopalians began to ordain women. Betty went to Rome because “Lex orandi. Lex credendi” and she didn’t believe in the ordination of women. In reality, Betty anticipated by several decades what Pope Benedict approved, “The Anglican Ordinariate,” whereby Anglicans were received into the Roman Catholic Church but were allowed to worship using a modified Book of Common Prayer liturgy. Betty acknowledged what she had always believed.
When I was a child, I might ride with Betty and Patricia to the Church of the Holy Trinity on a Saturday afternoon. They would both don the “mantilla” veil before entering God’s house. The nave was dark and bore the residual smell of incense. The sanctuary light was burning to signify the Real Presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. Very prayerfully and with great care, Betty would prepare everything for the next day’s Eucharist. There may be Anglicans, who only believe in a spiritual presence, but Betty made clear in Whose presence she was and that she loved Him.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Betty and all the servants of the Lord who demonstrate such care with the Sacrament. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put forty-four pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.