Ministry, Chalices and the People of God

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33  I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)

15 Even if we grant the freedom to use one kind or both, how can they make the withholding of one kind mandatory? But the church cannot arrogate to itself the freedom to call Christ’s ordinances matters of indifference.  (1)

On Saturday, I wrote a blog that stirred up a bit of controversy among some Lutherans. The proposition was simply, we share our hope in Christ Jesus because we are transformed to love others, as we live in Christ.  I started with the opposite corollary; to not share the good news which gives us the ability to trust in God for our life, for our salvation, is nothing less than a violation of God’s plan for us not to murder, and the plan that we should love people.

Such was on my mind this morning as I went through my devotional reading. I came to the section of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession where the discussion was about the Lord’s Supper, and that people should be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.   This was a bone of contention back in the early days of the Reformation, and some in the Catholic Church mandated that the chalice, the blood of Christ was only for the ordained clergy.  It was a bad enough that some forbid lay people the right to do so.

Not for a good reason, (say perhaps they didn’t have enough wine), or so the Lutheran writers tell us. The confessions make the case that this was because of a religious caste system.  That somehow those who were ordained or pledged to a religious life were different, and the chalice was restricted to them.

BTW – this blog is not to question that practice (the Catholic Church has since clarified it), but a practice that is becoming popular in some parts of the Lutheran Church today.

Instead of denying the people of God the chalice, they deny the people of God the ministry entrusted to the church, the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry that Paul defined simply as pleading with people to “be reconciled to God.”   For some reason, some clergy and some lay people would deny this grace, the ability to see God work through them, to lay people.

It’s not their responsibility, some claimed.  Or you can’t make us do it!  If we read your words and feel guilty, well then you are using the law to make us do it by guilt, another claimed. Ultimately the justification was that the ministry of evangelization belongs only to the clergy.  So you can’t tell us that we have to do it, after all, the clergy doesn’t do it

And people who are broken, who desperately need to know the love of God, are denied it.

Ultimately it comes down to

1)  We don’t see the grace of God, His mercy, peace and love to be so overwhelming, to be so healing that we realize that everyone needs it.

or

2)  We don’t love them enough to respond to their brokenness.

In both instances, the issue isn’t clergy versus laity.  It is simply sin.

We conveniently justify ourselves by laying the burden on pastors and priests, on religious workers and those who are “special”.  It would be like seeing a woman bleeding on the side of the road, and saying, “I can’t help, but there are doctor’s and nurses, paramedics and others trained for this.” as you walk away without even dialing 911.

If this post is causing some stress, some tension in you, if you are getting angry at it, or coming up with ways to justify inaction, ways to define this as something other than a sin of failing to do what one should, I ask you to consider where that feeling is coming from.

Is it a reaction to theology that you don’t like, or

Is it the old Adam rising up again, trying to justify not doing what you know you should?

The idea of denying the ministry to all is wrong.  Yes, there are ministries, preaching and administering the sacraments, which are the responsibility of those ordained to do that work.  But Paul wasn’t writing to them when he wrote about imitating him as he imitated Jesus.  He was talking to the entire church.  And the context is clear – that some might be won to Christ, freed from sin. That is evangelistic, that is the ministry of reconciliation, that is the work God has prepared for those in Christ.

Look around you, see those broken by sin, oppressed by guilt and shame, traumatized and in need of someone to love them enough to reach out to them, and give them hope.

You are there, for this moment… reach out with the love of Christ.  And find God’s grace and worksmanship bringing about what God has planned.. and find yourself more in awe of God’s grace!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 238). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on July 6, 2015, in Devotions and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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