The Rev. Dr. Adam Koontz, Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, discusses his experiences in church planting with Communication Specialist Rebecca Ahlersmeyer.
The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) put together an addendum on Communion and COVID-19. It was written to address a document on online/home communion that has been circulating in the LCMS, endorsing communion at home through an online format (“Communion in Homes During Times of Crisis: Scriptural and Confessional Principles”). Four of our faculty members serve on the CTCR: Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., President; Prof. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions; Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Professor of Systematic Theology; and Dr. James Bushur, The Carl and Erna Weinrich Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Church Studies. The addendum was written at the request of Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS.
While the CTCR finds both common ground and empathy with their brothers in the ministry who seek to serve their people and congregations faithfully through online Communion (see, in particular, reason 1), they disagree with the conclusions that these brothers draw, fearing that, when practiced in such a way, the Sacrament raises doubts rather than strengthens faith.
From reason 2. It is the Lord’s Supper, not our supper:
The Sacrament of the Altar is not ours to do with it as we please. It is the Lord’s Supper and He is the true “officiant” since it is He who acts in the Words of Institution — and who instructs us regarding the proper use of His Supper.
“Our Lord Our Lord [sic] Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.’
“In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
In these words, He calls us (His disciples) to repeat His holy meal (Do this) in His remembrance. He tells us what to do (taking bread and the cup of wine), what we are eating and drinking (His body and blood) and what we receive with it (forgiveness). The synoptic Gospels reinforce one another in these essential facts while St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians corroborates them in the earliest church, showing both how they may be wrongly and rightly enacted…
“It is not a question of can one communion alone; rather, it is a question of should one commune alone.”* Similarly, the CTCR’s primary concern with online Communion is whether one can do it with certainty — whether it is a right use (“truly good, right and salutary”) of the Sacrament “according to Christ’s institution.”
Concern over right use is clearly evident in the Formula of Concord… These are matters of right use — the usus or actio that the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration discusses:
“In order to preserve this true Christian teaching on the Holy Supper and to avoid and eliminate many kinds of idolatrous abuses and perversions of this testament, this useful rule and guide is taken from the Words of Institution: nothing has the character of a sacrament apart from the use [usus] instituted by Christ or the divinely instituted action [actio]. (That is, when Christ’s institution is not observed as he established it, there is no sacrament.) This rule dare not be rejected in any way, but it can and should be followed and preserved in the church of God with great benefit. The usus or actio (that is, the practice or administration) does not refer primarily to faith or to the oral partaking, but to the entire external, visible administration of the Supper, as Christ established the administration of the Supper: the consecration, or Words of Institution, and the distribution and reception or oral partaking of the consecrated bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood. Apart from this practice it is not to be regarded as a sacrament — for example, when in the papistic Mass the bread is not distributed but is made into a sacrifice, or enclosed [in a tabernacle], or carried about in a procession, or displayed for adoration.”
This is very much pertinent to this conversation about online Communion. The “useful rule and guide” offered here is that “when Christ’s institution is not observed as he established it, there is no sacrament.” It has to do with “the entire external, visible administration of the Supper” and includes consecration, distribution and reception according to Christ’s institution.
And from reason 4. Emergency Baptism? Yes. Emergency Communion? No:
As we have noted, both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have much in common. Both are instituted by Christ and depend entirely on the Gospel Word that empowers them and that defines their benefit — that both bestow forgiveness, life and salvation.
Yet, the different Means of Grace are also unique. The written Word can be disseminated in a variety of forms, while always retaining its character of divine inspiration and truth and offering throughout its pages the Gospel of salvation (e.g., John 5:39; Acts 17:1–2, 10–11; Rom. 1:1–3; 2 Tim. 3:16). The spoken Word of the Gospel, proclaimed individually by countless members of the royal priesthood and preached from pulpits as well as scattered abroad (“broadcast”) as far and wide as sound can be carried and without any restrictions on who would hear it, always retaining its character as the power of God for salvation (e.g., Matt. 13:3–9; Rom. 10:17; Luke 24:34). Baptism, administered always with water and always to a particular individual (even if thousands are baptized on the same day), retains its individual character as a means by which we receive discipleship, adoption, the Holy Spirit and new birth. And, in an emergency, any Christian baptizes (e.g., Matt. 3:11; 28:19; John 1:33; Acts 2:38–41; Rom. 6:3–4; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).
So also, then, we receive the Lord’s Supper as a unique means of grace. It is not received by meditative reading alone, like the written Word. It is not scattered abroad, like the spoken Word. Unlike Baptism, it is not administered to the isolated individual except for when the pastor, who is called by the assembled church, carries the Sacrament on behalf of the assembly to the sick member. We value the Sacrament highly, but we restrict its administration rather than sharing it freely, having those with doubts and questions, visitors from other confessions and even our own children wait until they can share our confession (1 Cor. 1:10), examine themselves and rightly discern Christ’s body and blood. This is especially true in view of the sobering fact that the apostle’s instructions for the right use of the Supper contain a unique warning that its misuse can actually be harmful to the uninstructed and unprepared communicant both physically and spiritually (1 Cor. 11:27–32; see below under #5). Each of the Means of Grace is rightly used in a manner appropriate to it.
You can read the full 13-page addendum, positing ten reasons to question online Communion as good, right, and salutary by clicking here.
*Another resource is an unpublished paper written by Pr. Trevor Sutton (LCMS). His paper is “Making Sense of Online Communion: A Certain and Best Celebration of the Lord’s Supper,” dated January 17, 2020, available from the author.
THE 35TH ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON EXEGETICAL THEOLOGY
1. The Cross, the Atonement, and the Eucharist in Luke and Hebrews (Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr.)
2. Substitutionary Atonement in the Joseph Narratives (Dr. Jeffrey H. Pulse)
3. Sacrificial Atonement and the Wrath of God in the Light of the Old Testament (Dr. John Kleinig)
4. Reckoned Among the Lawless: The Gospel as the Law’s Fulfillment (Dr. Peter J. Scaer)
5. Penal Sacrificial Atonement? (Dr. Walter A. Maier III)
6. Christ Under God’s Wrath: A Pauline Perspective (Dr. Adam C. Koontz)
7. Panel Discussion on the 35th Annual Symposium on Exegetical Theology
THE 43RD ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS
1. Hermann Sasse: A Stand Alone Lutheran (Dr. Matthew C. Harrison)
2. The Splintering of Missouri: How Our American Context Gave Rise to Micro-Synods as a Solution to Theological Conflict (Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn)
3. A Confessional Lutheran Church in a Lutheran Environment (Dr. Werner Klän)
4. Trinity as Doctrine on Which the Church Stands (Dr. David P. Scaer)
5. Johann Georg Hamann as an Advocate for Classical Lutheran Theology to Its Unenlightened Critics (Dr. John Kleinig)
6. Benedict XVI: Is He Really Catholic? (Dr. Roland F. Ziegler)
7. Confessional Provinces: Church or Not? (Dr. Rune Imberg)
8. Martin Franzmann: Theologian in Between (Rev. Matthew E. Borrasso)
9. Panel Discussion on the 43rd Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions
Below today’s post is a picture of an LCMS Timeline, which breaks down the Synod’s history from 1845 to the present according to LCMS President, CSL President, CTS President, CTS City, and Convention City. It was created by Jason Iwen, who both works in the IT Office here at CTSFW and is also attending the Seminary as an MDiv student. He explained why he created this timeline:
“As I began the pre-course readings about a week ago, I realized quickly that I was going to need some sort of a mental framework in which to fit all of these events. I thought what might help me was an LCMS timeline including presidents of synod, presidents of each seminary, where CTS has been located, and when and where all the conventions were held. Originally, I was only including the era covered in this class, but have expanded it to span from founding to present. It’s been a slow process, but I’ve referred to it often during class and while reading – even at various stages of incompleteness.”
He was gracious enough to allow me to share this personal project online, but with the caveat that it is a work-in-progress. If anyone notices any needed corrections, please share those with us either in the comments or by message, and we’ll pass that along to him. Please note that I also had to convert the version he sent to me into a picture file in order to share it; rendering it, unfortunately, nearly unreadable. If anyone would like a copy of the original Excel spreadsheet for their own use or edification, please contact us at [email protected] to request a copy.
Dr. Ryan Tietz, Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology, has led “Hebrew at Lunch” every Friday at noon for the past couple of academic years. With remote work suddenly the temporary norm for the whole campus, Dr. Tietz has taken the opportunity to expand this informal class to include pastors and students from multiple states and even Brazil. In short, all are welcome to join him online, every Friday. Or, in his words:
“The Bible has many funny names. Join Dr. Tietz every Friday noon EDT via google hangouts to translate and discuss those guys with funny names, the Minor Prophets. Listen in or ask questions. It is up to you. We continue with Zephaniah 2 this week.”
Now that we’re a week out from perhaps the strangest graduation—and Spring Quarter—we’ve ever had in the nearly 175 year history of the Seminary, we asked Dr. Peter Scaer, Chairman and Professor of Exegetical Theology, to write up a piece reflecting on this time. We’re preparing to slowly open the campus over the summer, the plans for which we’ll post on Monday, but for today, as we go into the weekend, is this reflection on presence.
Here, in the Presence
By the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Scaer
Zoom fatigue is real, and online teaching just isn’t the same. The coronavirus has taught us quite a lot about the promise and pitfalls of technology. Certainly I have been grateful for video conferencing, emails, internet lectures, and all the rest. They have made it possible to continue our work of teaching the faith, reaching the lost, and caring for all. But they also remind us that this kind of living is not natural, that we were made for more.
I was one of the early advocates for online worship services, and was so grateful to pray and sing along as I logged onto Facebook. But, after a while, it does wear thin. We crave interaction and presence. A big part of seminary life is what we call the ungraded curriculum. This includes not only chapel together, where the voices of others make my voice stronger, but also coffee hour after chapel and Gemütlichkeit on Friday.
To be sure, we have had our share of online happy hours, but they’re never quite as happy as the real thing. While coffee hour leaves me invigorated, ready to get on with the work of studying and teaching, online gatherings often leave us flat, depleted of emotional energy. Apart from the body language of presence, it feels sometimes as if we are in a multi-person staring contest, and the awkward pauses are longer and more frequent.
So, we read the gospels and we see a ministry of presence. Christ is Emanuel, God with us. Not talking to us from a distance, but actually with us. Throughout His ministry, Christ ate and drank with His disciples, walked with them, and entered the boat as together they rowed to the other side. When Peter fell in the water, Jesus reached out with His hand. When our Lord came upon a leper, He touched him. When He saw a child, our Lord embraced him. And it went both ways. A woman reaches out to touch the hem of our Lord’s garment. A woman washes Jesus’ feet with her hair. Thomas wants the flesh and blood of Christ, the holes in His hands and feet. And at the Last Supper, the beloved disciple rests in the bosom of our Lord.
Technology is a blessing, yes, a wonderful supplement to all that we do, but it can never be a substitute for a potluck or pitch-in, or gathering together at the table of our Lord, eating real body and drinking real blood. Popular singers know this. Everyone needs a hand to hold onto.
We all need the human touch because we are flesh and blood human beings, created body and soul. We are not simply souls trapped in bodies; we live as embodied souls. To touch someone’s hand is not simply to touch their body—it is to touch the very person. In the early Church, there was the kiss of peace, perhaps not duplicated by the handshake of fellowship. But the lonely need a hug as much as a word. The elderly, the young, and all those in between need touch.
For the sake of safety, and in concern for our neighbor, we take precautions. Some wear masks, others not, but it must always be done so in love for others and to the glory of God, in a spirit of charity and understanding. But we can never get used to church online or a seminary that does not truly come together, body, soul, and mind, in the classroom, over coffee, at the cafeteria and chapel.
We don’t want symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood, we want the real thing. We are not content with emails, we want to talk face to face, to laugh and smile together. To comfort others in real and tangible ways, to enjoy the kind of human contact that comes naturally to us, as ones made for such things.
So pray for an end to the pandemic and pray that we can join together, replacing emoticons with real and interactive emotion, canned laughter with easy chuckles. Even more, pray that we soon come together, strengthened by each other’s singing, sitting, kneeling, and standing as one, truly together in our Lord’s presence.
Though online for this day and these times, soon we must come together to enjoy the fellowship of real presence, with each other, and with our Lord. More than an online chat, pray that we might soon be together in the house of our Lord.
In light of Call Day and our seminarians’ recent graduation, Rev. Bob Smith who works in our library, wrote the following about ordination:
“Soon an even more ancient rite will take place in about one hundred places around that continent. Called ordination, these new pastors will be recognized by the Church as men sent by God to care for his people. As their fathers in the ministry did for them, other pastors mostly from neighboring congregations, will place their hands on the new pastor, thereby designating the new pastor as minister of the word and sacraments. In an unbroken line stretching back through two thousand years to the day Jesus breathed on the Apostles the Holy Spirit and the church of Antioch laid hands on St. Paul, one generation entrusts to the next to take up the yoke of Christ.”
You can read the full article at whatdoesthismean.blog/2020/05/27/laborers-enter-the-harvest-field. The “What Does This Mean” run by Rev. Smith features several authors. Rev. Jason Kaspar, one of our grads from last year, recently joined with the first of three articles on the Athanasian Creed. There’s also another recent piece (also by Rev. Smith) on Luther’s Treatise on Good Works, which is 500 years ago the tail end of this month to the beginning of June. The blog often focuses on the intersection between historical events and Lutheran theology.
Rev. Smith is currently researching one on Leo X. On June 15th, his papal bull Exsurge Domine came out, threatening to excommunicate Luther. Luther threw this one into the flames in October.
CTSFW is offering new worship resources for several upcoming Sundays: eight new Introits for Proper 6A, Proper 7A, Proper 8A, Proper 9A, Trinity 1, Trinity 2, Trinity 3, and Trinity 4.
With many churches around the country considering how to transition back to in-person services in the weeks and months ahead, CTSFW’s Worship Resources page is offering simple settings of the Introit for the first few weeks after Holy Trinity. They can be utilized in small and large parishes alike and only require a soloist or unison choir.
These Introits written by Associate Kantor Matthew Machemer are available for download, printing, and distribution at https://www.ctsfw.edu/resources/worship. Click on the blue bar labeled “INTROITS.” Click on the title of the introits you’d like to download and print. Let us know if you require any assistance in accessing these resources.
With the Easter season fast approaching and many churches suspending activities and rehearsals due to the challenges of the coronavirus, CTSFW Associate Kantor Matthew Machemer has created some free musical resources for the Easter season. He created them with a very specific goal in mind: that they can be done well with only a few musicians and are quickly learned. They are:
1. At the Lamb’s High Feast – stanzas 2 and 6 (two equal voices)
2. O Sons and Daughters of the King – stanzas 3 and 7 (two-part voices)
3. O Sons and Daughters of the King – stanza 5 (two-part voices and organ)
4. Gradual for Easter (unison voice or choir and keyboard)
You can find pdf copies for easy download and printing at www.ctsfw.edu/Worship. Look for the Easter Gradual under the “Graduals” tab and the three hymn settings under the “Hymn Settings” tab. As always, you will find at the bottom of each document that permission is granted to use, reprint, and distribute these resources.
The LCMS has a number of COVID-19 resources on their website at https://www.lcms.org/how-we-serve/mercy/health-ministry/pandemic, but in particular we wanted to point out the recent statement by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) on “Communion and Covid-19,” written to “promote and encourage the proper practice of the Lord’s Supper in faithfulness to the teaching and example of Christ.” President Rast serves as CTCR Chairman.
Here’s a long quote from the piece:
“Such churches are able to find various ways to help members to hear the Word of Christ richly. From telephone calls to emails to website messaging to instant messaging to sermon streaming, the Word is being heard and received in the midst of the coronavirus. But what of the Sacrament of the Altar? The forgiveness of sins is not prevented when one cannot commune, for it is delivered by the Gospel as it is read and preached and spoken by the royal priesthood and also in the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper as well as in Absolution. But it is only in the Lord’s Supper that we eat and drink Christ’s very body and blood. It thereby offers a special assurance that is proper only to it, just as Baptism has its own assurances. The inability to commune is therefore no small matter, but a true hardship!
“We know, however, that the church has known this hardship at other times and not only in our own time. During the early years of colonial America, Lutherans often went weeks or months without the Supper. Congregations without a pastor are often unable to receive the Lord’s Supper in their services because supply pastors are unavailable—sometimes for lengthy time periods. And, in the early 20th century during the great influenza epidemic of 1918–1919, many Missouri Synod churches were not able to meet for any services during a period of time. We are not in uncharted territory.”
The statement then goes into more details about specific unsatisfactory solutions to the unavailability of the Lord’s Supper, which have been tackled in previous CTCR statements. They explain the problems with those solutions, then summarize like so:
“The Lord’s Supper is intended to strengthen faith in God’s forgiving grace, a faith which counts on the Word of Christ’s promise that the bread and wine are His body and blood. To introduce doubts or uncertainty about the Sacrament negates this purpose. We can be thankful that God in His mercy has not given the Lord’s Supper as the only ‘means of grace.’ Instead, he showers us with His grace. The Gospel is not silenced, forgiveness is proclaimed, Baptism will be administered even in emergencies, and Baptism is lived out daily by means of repentance and the new life that God’s Spirit enables us to live in any and all circumstances.”
You can read the statement in full by clicking here. CTCR resources for further study are included at the end of the document.