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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Do This

Here follows the summary conclusions from my recent post on the Blackbird's Blog, stemming from my presentation on "Consecrationism vs. Receptionism" at the Indiana District Church Workers' Conference in October 2011. Of course, you are welcome to read the entire post, but these three points are the bottom line.

To begin with, only as much bread and wine should be prepared upon the Altar for the consecration as may reasonably be expected to be necessary for the distribution. Exactness is difficult, if not impossible in some cases, but close approximation should not be hard: certainly not where regular pastoral care of the congregation is being exercised. In any event, deliberately preparing and consecrating far more bread and wine than will be needed for the distribution is irreverent and inexcusable. Better to estimate too low on occasion, and then to consecrate additional elements as needed, than deliberately to aim too high.

Following the Word of Christ Jesus, "This is My Body," and "This is My Blood," then, whatever a pastor's particular ceremonial may be, let his posture, movement, demeanor and conduct confess the truth of that Word! Please, dear brothers in Christ, do act like you believe it. Not only for the sake of a clear confession and consistent catechesis, but, above all, because it is true. Not as though the Lord would punish you for any frailties or mishaps, but because it is "truly meet, right, and salutary" that you should take care, and behave with dignity and decorum, as you handle and administer the holy Body and precious Blood of Christ.

The third specific thing that I do want my colleagues to do is really nothing more nor less than what our Lord Jesus Christ has given us Christians to do, namely, to eat and to drink His Body and His Blood. That seems so simple, and so obvious, and yet it isn't followed when it comes to the reliquae. Questions concerning what to do with the consecrated elements that remain at the conclusion of the distribution — which is to speak of the Body and Blood of Christ, as He Himself has declared, also concerning this bread and wine — are easily answered with the same Verba: "Take, eat." "Drink." Either immediately at the Altar, before concluding the Divine Service with the Post-Communion, or as soon after the Service as reasonable possible. For Luther and his followers in the 16th-century, the Sacrament extended from the consecration to the consumption of all the consecrated elements.

This practice, in harmony with our doctrine, rests solidly and simply on the Word of Jesus. So, yes, brothers, I do want you to do that. Because I want you to do what Jesus says. "Do whatever He tells you," the Blessed Virgin Mary also spoke to the servants of the feast. If care is taken in the quantities of bread and wine that are prepared for the consecration, it isn't difficult to consume whatever may remain. If, on any given occasion, more of the precious Blood of Christ remains than a pastor should consume by himself — since it is also wine, which is intoxicating — then he should enlist the assistance of other communicants (as the early Lutheran Church Orders also instruct).

This is that I want you to do. Not as a matter of ceremonial preference, but as a faithful and reverent administration of the Lord's Supper. Let's talk about ceremonies, too, as belonging to the catechesis and confession of the Sacrament. But do not suppose that I'm attempting to lay any weight upon your conscience concerning adiaphora. What God has left free, is free. But my real concern is with a more fundamental stewardship of this sacred Mystery of God.