Von Uhde’s “Christ with the Peasants”

 

XIR198475 Christ with the Peasants, c.1887-88 (oil on panel) by Uhde, Fritz von (1848-1911); 50x62 cm; Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France; (add.info.: Le Christ chez les Paysans;); Giraudon; German, out of copyright

More from the Lutheran artist Fritz von Uhde, another variation on the theme of “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.”  Also note von Uhde’s common theme of Christ coming to ordinary, lowly folks.  This painting is titled “Christ and the Peasants.”

By Fritz von Uhde, 1887-1888, – 1. magnoliabox.com2. The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 198475, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33788904

A painting of “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. . .”

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In researching yesterday’s post on Saying Grace, I came across this painting.  I said to myself, that’s the Lutheran table prayer!

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest

And let these gifts to us be blest.  Amen

I used to look down on this prayer, when I first became a Lutheran, because it sounded just like a children’s prayer.  I do prefer Luther’s Table Prayer given in the Catechism:

The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing

Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts,

Which we receive from your bountiful goodness.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

But I’ve come to appreciate the Common Table Prayer.  It draws on a powerful Lutheran teaching:  Christ’s presence.

Lutheranism is a theology of presence, and this is at the heart of Lutheran Christology:  Christ’s real presence in the Sacrament, yes; but also His omnipresence thanks to the communication of attributes with the Father, so that He is present in the Divine Service, in the world, in vocation, and, yes, with families when they sit down together in His name for a meal.

I had never heard of the artist, Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911).  It turns out that he was a well-regarded German artist and a devout Lutheran.  A pioneer of the realistic style, von Uhde did many works with Christian themes, rendering Biblical scenes with realistic contemporary characters and picturing Christ appearing to common, ordinary folks, including the lower classes and the poor.

This painting, at the Berlin National Gallery, is called “Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest.”  This and his other works in this vein (which I think I’ll also blog about)  was criticized by Roman Catholic critics for lacking reverence.  But he is simply portraying the Lutheran theology of Christ’s presence!

After the jump, read what his Wikipedia article says about him. [Read more…]

Walther on our “mystical union” with the Holy Spirit

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Yesterday was Pentecost, the great festival remembering God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks to my fellow Patheos blogger Rev. Jordan Cooper for posting some excerpts from a sermon by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, on Pentecost.  In these profound words, we learn that Lutherans do believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer.  In fact, this is an important teaching that goes by the un-Lutheran-sounding name of “the mystical union.”

I quote the excerpts after the jump, but you’ll want to read also Rev. Cooper’s discussion.  He relates Walther’s words to his understanding of sanctification.  More controversially, he suggests that Walther is articulating a Lutheran form of the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis.  (I don’t know about that.  Yes, Walther alludes to St. Athanasius’ words on the subject, but in saying that the Holy Spirit restores the “likeness” of God, he wouldn’t play that off against justification as the Orthodox tend to.)

See also David Jay Webber’s collection of quotations on the mystical union from the Lutheran confessions, a concept that refers also to Christ’s indwelling, and, indeed to the indwelling of the Triune God:

For while it is true that God, together with the whole fullness of deity which he always has with him, dwells in believers, he does not do so bodily nor is he personally united with them as is the case in Christ. (Solid Declaration VIII:70, p. 604)

 

Anyway, read what Walther says about the Holy Spirit after the jump. [Read more…]

Guilt and shame

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There is guilt, the inner torment that comes from doing what is wrong.  And there is shame, the torment that comes from other people knowing that we have done something wrong.  Guilt is private; shame is social.  Guilt has to do with how we see ourselves; shame has to do with how others see us.

We might do something we know is wrong, but feel only mildly guilty about it.  But if other people found out, our shame–consisting of embarrassment and a ruined reputation–would be devastating.

Lifeway did a study of what feeling people want to avoid the most:  guilt, shame, or fear.  38% of Americans said shame.  The breakdown according to age, education, and religion–given after the jump–is interesting.  (“Nones,” for example, those with no religion, are especially plagued with guilt.  Religious people are more worried about shame.)

The problem of shame in our culture today shouldn’t surprise us.  Moral relativism might assuage guilt, but it doesn’t help us with shame.  On social media, shaming other people has become a national past time, leading some targets to misery and sometimes suicide.  Social norms, especially of the politically correct variety, are enforced by shaming the violators.

The fear of shame might be considered shallow.  “You worry about your reputation more than the wrongness of your behavior.”

But the Bible says a lot about shame.  It seems to be an aspect of God’s judgment–that our sins will be disclosed, so that we will be “put to shame.”  Yet  Jesus endured shame on our behalf.  The Cross, reserved for the lowest offenders, involving being nailed naked to a tree and lifted up for all the world to see, was considered an especially shameful way to die.  And yet,  “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

As a result, the Cross of Jesus Christ gives us forgiveness for both our guilt and our shame:  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 9:33).

[Read more…]

“Now He Is Very Near”

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Happy Ascension Day!

Some people think that Christ’s ascension into Heaven means that He is no longer with us.  Not so.  His ascension back into the Godhead means that now He can be with us, more so now than when He was in the flesh two millennia ago.

Because of His ascension, He can promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age”  (Matthew 28:20).  The Ascended Lord is with us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, where two or three are gathered in His Name, in the hearts of those who believe in Him, and in His Church.

Far from being gone, Christ now “fills all things”:

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:10)

All things!

After the jump, read a profound passage from a sermon by Martin Luther on Ascension Day. [Read more…]

The cup for the laity

The communion practice of the Roman Catholic Church, up until Vatican II, was for the priests to drink the wine.  Laypeople were only given the bread.

Brian Stiller, writing on the Christianity Today site, reflects on Luther and the Reformation as he sits in the City Church of Wittenberg.

He sees a detail in Lucas Cranach’s altarpiece–one that I hadn’t noticed before– that gives him a flash of insight into the Reformation.

Now Luther would not be happy with all of what the author says about Holy Communion, since Stiller believes that the Lord’s Supper consists of symbols rather than the true Body and Blood of Christ.  Stiller even extrapolates his conclusions into meals in general.

But he does pick up the detail that Luther is sitting around the Table at the Last Supper with Christ and His disciples.  And Luther gives the cup to a servant–a layman, not an apostle.  Stiller explains why this is so significant and why offering the cup to laypeople–imaged here on the altar–is so expressive of the Gospel as proclaimed in the Reformation.

UPDATE, FURTHER THOUGHTS:  We shouldn’t take this privilege for granted.  John Hus was burned at the stake largely because he insisted on giving laypeople the Blood of Christ. For us laypeople to receive the Cup means that we are all priests (the doctrine of vocation) and that there is no spiritual superiority of one caste or another in Christ’s Kingdom. And that He poured out His blood for all.

[Read more…]