Reformation and Renewal

With this week’s Grace Notes we will complete our tour of Luther’s Small Catechism. I trust you will conclude, as have countless others, that The Small Catechism one of the richest treasures that we have on offer from our Lutheran Tradition. A person would be hard pressed to have a better summary of the important teachings of the Christian Faith!

The great reformers throughout the ages, including Doctor Martin Luther, would agree that reformation is an ongoing need. Certainly we sense the Church in our present culture is in need of reform, renewal, and more urgent outreach.

Many responding to that need today are relying on human ingenuity. With a consumerist mindset efforts are made to market the faith. The attempt is made to attract and hold the interest of others. Often this involves tremendous effort. It sometimes pays in terms of full parking lots and overflowing offering plates. Yet at the end of the day, can it unquestionably be affirmed that this was God’s work?

I would hope that the time we have spent reviewing the Small Catechism has served to remind us that Christ is the master builder of his Church. And that his chief means of grace, that is, the way he delivers to us the benefits of his crucifixion and resurrection, is by Word and Sacrament.

Classically, reform and renewal have come about as more serious attention has been paid to catechesis (teaching), to ongoing repentance (confession and absolution), and to yielding to the Holy Spirit as he gathers believers around the proclamation of the Gospel and the reception of the  Sacraments – Baptism at our initiation, and Holy Communion for ongoing sustenance.

As Luther reminds us, “In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church day after day he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.” This we believe and are compelled to share with others.

Since You Asked…

What do Lutherans believe is given in Holy Communion?

“We believe, teach, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that because of the sacramental union they are truly the body and blood of Christ” (Formula of Concord, Epitome, Art. VII.)

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 that the bread is “a participation in the Lord’s body.” If the Lord’s body were not truly present, the bread would perhaps be a participation in his spirit. But Paul says it is a participation in his body!