Either/Or

It’s either/or – it always has been so.  In our days of many shades of gray, there is still the black and white of Scripture, and its doctrines we confess.  Folks are always looking for a way to cause us to give in here or there for the sake of their given pet cause, or point of view.  And our reward for saying “No!” to such efforts and remaining faithful, is to be called inflexible and unloving.  It is what it is.  I long ago came to terms with that.

“Ah,” say some, “Never fear, the Gospel will always carry the day, and win in the end.”  I agree that the Gospel will still “be there at the end of the day” – but I do not for a moment believe the Gospel will always win.  In fact, Scripture and Our Lord clearly say that “few will be chosen.”

We are not cruising high and mighty as the Church – we are down in the trenches.  It’s not an issue of what this person or that thinks, but – “What is satan’s hand in it all?”  That is one of the great failures of the Church, to appreciate the dark Lord of this world and his overwhelming power in this world.

Satan never asks us “What do you think, or believe?”  We are most accustomed to such things, and we find ourselves unable to resist when he asks his “killer question” –

“What do you want?”  Satan bypasses all of our carefully erected barriers to evil, and goes to the heart – to our very sinful natures, and asks the question he knows we cannot refuse to answer positively.  And thus, he plays us like a fiddle.

Pastors give away a lot of free Small Catechisms.  I have, too.  They are a great way to help the flock see what’s what.  I refer to it constantly in Bible Studies and sermons.  But I also have kept on hand a number of Luther’s Large Catechisms.  For my part, I believe his explanation of the Lord’s Supper in the LC is essential – one of the finest pieces of practical theology ever written – and especially so when a troubled soul comes to me, fearing for the life of their faith and their own mental well-being over the subtle attacks of satan that invariably lead us into sin.

Yes, I know – I need no lectures.  The preaching of the Word and careful, dedicated study of the Word, our Holy Baptisms and the Resurrection they contain within – I know and adore the Lord’s gifts in all of those!

But the Lord’s Supper – it reaches down to the level of the grittiest, nastiest parts of this life and the nature of sin.  For my part, which I teach, it is in part due to it being the culmination of the Lord’s intentions for us – encompassing every single promise which He made to us, all of His many words and mine and those of faithful preachers everywhere, that He began shedding His blood not on Calvary, but in Gethsemane just after giving His Apostles His Body and Blood.  They slept – and He bled and prayed and was tempted beyond anything we could ever in this life know.   The Lord’s Supper is the “in the trenches” of the wrestling against the powers and principalities, of our own bloody failures to be faithful, of our silly whining at being so easily offended or taken advantage of – to everything that befalls us in caving to satan.  He means to consume our souls, and when we are alone and honest and not piously holding ourselves up as some sort of shining example of Jesus to others and to Jesus Himself (!), we see and recognize our horrible, damning dilemma!

And then, Luther points us yet again to the Altar from which we can never feed enough, and says –

“Go!  Find Jesus there for real, and give Him your Gethsemane; give Him your failures to love God with your whole heart or neighbors as self.  Forgive us when we fail to speak well of, or defend our faith which is our only hope.  Forgive me – of me!  LORD!  Feed me YOU!”

I am rough and unpolished and many days able only to digest the milk, if I am fortunate, and not the meat of the Word.  Speaking from my own experience, what do we become when we, or the Church, unbelievably, puts many long days or hours between the nutrition our souls crave and need?

So, yes, I spend many days a month reading the LC on the Supper, and also – praying.  Let especially the faithful take off the blinders and see the ever-present need for that which feeds the soul, and truly protects us from the evil one, who does not only come on this day or that day each month to consume our souls.  What nonsense!

I know I am pipe-dreaming, but imagine the Church actually rising up and demanding to be fed every day!  Is there any “program” out there that would not simply burn up for being so useless next to that?  Would not the people of God actually become what the Lord intends?  And would someone please awaken me from this dream?

Sigh.

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