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.

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Assault on pro-life doctors

8928257201_d2ce02e317_zThe Hippocratic Oath specifically forbids physicians from committing abortion or euthanasia.  So that oath isn’t used much in the medical profession any more.  But doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in the United States can still refuse to perform abortions on the grounds of conscience.

But now a concerted effort is underway to eliminate that conscience provision.  Lawmakers, professional organizations, and medical ethicists are considering making it a requirement that doctors do whatever their patients request.  “Personal morality has no place in medical practice.”

Under the proposed changes, a pro-life obstetrician must either perform the abortion or arrange for someone else to do it.  Or go into a different specialty.  Or leave the medical profession.

Wesley J. Smith reports on what is happening, linked after the jump, focusing on a recent article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. [Read more…]

A Lutheran Catholic and vocation

Emil AntonOur hosts here in Finland arranged a city tour of Helsinki with Emil Anton.  As he works on his doctorate in theology, he works for a tour company, among other things, and has put together the “Holy Helsinki” tour of religious sites.  But Emil is also quite a Christian thinker himself.  He is a noteworthy author, speaker, and blogger (see this, for which the translator in your browser can give you an extremely rough translation, and this in English).

Emil is a Catholic who loves Luther and Lutheranism.  He says he is the kind of Christian Luther wanted:  an evangelical Catholic, a member of the historic church who, thanks to Luther, understands the Gospel.  Emil is interested in the whole breadth of Christianity.  He reads evangelical authors, such as Ravi Zacharias, and is writing his dissertation on Pope Benedict.  Emil–whose father is Iraqi (an Assyrian Catholic) and whose mother is Finnish and who is married to a Polish woman–is a fascinating model of contemporary Christianity.

Anyway, as he was telling us about the sights of Helsinki, we were also carrying on other conversations.  I commented on how I was struck by the way contemporary Catholic writers were discussing vocation.  Whereas the term “vocation” in a Catholic context used to only refer to the calling to religious orders, I have been seeing it used lately more as Luther used it.  Vatican II documents and papal encyclicals now talk about the “vocation” of laypeople, the “vocation” of marriage, the “vocation” of workers.  More than that, these documents also talk about the concept in ways that reflect the specific content of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation:  God works through human vocations.  The purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

Emil said, “Right!  Which brings us to something I want to show you.”  Huh?, I thought.  What can he show me on a city tour in Finland that would bear on the new Catholic understanding of vocation? [Read more…]

LCMS judge is censured for following her church

We blogged about (here, here, and here) the case of Judge Ruth Neely, a municipal judge in Pinedale, Wyoming, who mentioned to a reporter that, as a Lutheran Christian, she would not be able to preside at a same-sex wedding.  Uproar ensued.

Never mind that no gay couples have ever asked her to do their wedding, so that she never discriminated against gay couples.  Never mind that Wyoming law does not require judges to do weddings of any sort.  But the enforcers of the new morality complained to the Wyoming Supreme Court, demanding that she be removed from office.

The court has now issued its decision:  Judge Neely will be censured, but she will be allowed to keep her position.

After the jump, an AP story about the decision, as well as the reaction of the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Matthew Harrison.

The title of his message puts the case in vocational terms:  “Living Out Vocation under the Cross.”

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In praise of the American farmer

farmer-826912_640American agriculture has virtually eliminated world hunger.  And American farmers preside over an industry that has become an economic powerhouse.

Kevin D. Williamson tells all about the success of American agriculture, what it means for world trade, and how farmers–with their use of technology and innovative techniques–have become the best example of capitalism at its most effective.

Farmers, are you really doing as well as Williamson says you are?

Even if you aren’t, thank you for your vocation.  Through you God blesses us all by giving us our daily bread.

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Run it like a business?

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate.  [Read more…]