Word Vs. Sacrament?

wasIt is a personal pet peeve of mine: the tendency of people to demean one thing in order elevate the thing they want to laud when there is nothing wrong with the thing they demean.  All of us do it at times, but all of us also should be called on it when we do it.

I have had many real conversations recently that have revealed one area where this seems to be going on, particularly among the younger members of the confessional Lutheranism.  And lest anyone in honor of the Superbowl wants to throw the straw-man flag at me, I will provide actual comments.

What is being demeaned in this case is the preaching of the Word.  It is being demeaned in order that the Sacrament of the Altar might be elevated.  Three examples will follow.

First, there was discussion on a Facebook group about what was appropriate for Vicars (those apprenticing at a church during typically their third year of seminary instruction) to be doing during worship.  The question was why everyone seems to be livid when they see a Vicar consecrate the elements during worship and yet sits comfortably while they preached.  All of this while the article of our confession (AC XIV) that would not allow administration of the Sacraments to one without a regular call also forbids preaching to the same. I ended up having this exchange with one Vicar from our Fort Wayne Seminary after asking him why he felt so comfortable preaching and so uncomfortable consecrating the elements:

Vicar: I feel comfortable preaching because I am being trained to preach. It is like a med student learning to diagnose a patient. They have the tools but they are still learning. Once they are done learning they give them the license to be A Doctor. To me it is the same, preaching is diagnosing the issue, but I am not ready to give them the medicine till I have my training done.

Philip Hoppe: If you do not think you are delivering medicine in the sermon, you need to rethink preaching.

Vicar: Well it is medicine, but not the strong stuff, the body and blood of our Lord.

Someone else thought his distinction brilliant.  I say it demeans preaching in an effort to laud the Supper.  And demeaning the preaching of the Word stands against both the Scriptures and our Confessions.

A similar understanding must underlie this overture.  It contains this whereas:

Whereas, our Lutheran Confessions state: “nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call (rite vocatus).” (Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), Augsburg Confession, Article XIV, page 36);

And yet, there is no resolved that deals with publicly teaching or preaching.

Thirdly, the following comment was posted on a thread about long sermons being a bad practice:

A long sermon is Satan filibustering the Eucharist.

This was received with high fives all around.  This despite that it suggests that the preaching of the Word unless kept brief is tool of the devil.  Again, we see in this the idea expressed and applauded that the sermon should be brief in order that we can get to the real thing, the Eucharist.

I could add also that  I have seen posted several times in discussions about having the Lord’s Supper weekly a statement that suggests many feel that if they go to a worship service where the Supper is not present, they are not sure what the point is or why they are there.  Again, I agree that weekly communion is the Scriptural precedent and a blessing to those who have it, but why act as if a service where the Word is preached and Absolution is delivered is nothing?  It may not be the fullness of the Divine Service, but it is something I rejoice to receive.  Where the Word of God is preached and forgiveness is received, there is Jesus.

Brothers, laud the Sacrament.  Long and Loud.  I will join with you on every occasion. . But but do not demean the preaching of the Word.  Through it comes faith.  Yes, even the faith which receives the gifts of the Supper.


This entry was posted on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Word Vs. Sacrament?”

  1. Chris Says:

    I don’t think anyone is talking about elevating tge sacrament at the EXPENSE of preaching but RESTORING the Eucharist to its former and rightful place as the center of the Divine Liturgy of what God has done for us.

  2. Youngerlutheran Says:

    1) Vicars shouldn’t preach. Pastors shouldn’t offer Holy Communion every other week. Our Confessions are clear. Perhaps the person who thought the vicar’s distinction was brilliant recalled an erroneous sermon.
    2) That is good, though incomplete. Are there overtures dealing with the lack of weekly Communion?
    3) The person was in error. Unless they meant to imply long sermons replace Holy Communion because “The service can only last X minutes!” so you get long sermons or the Sacrament.

    Possible lack of attendance could be the use a proclamation of grace and the sinful flesh saying it can listen to a Service away from church, so if there is seemingly no reason to attend, why bother?

    It’s like preaching leads to Holy Communion. 🙂

  3. Don Neuendorf Says:

    “Through it comes faith…” Yes, and not only that, but it’s is only through the word that we have the sacraments. Or at least that’s what Martin Luther taught.

  4. Chris Says:

    but it’s is only through the word that we have the sacraments.

    Yes, the word is Christ Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. Quit trying to reduce the word, every time it is mentioned, as meaning only exclusively the written word and hence, the Scriptures.

  5. Jim Wagner Says:

    Good post, Phil. I could not agree more. As one who has served in weekly communion churches for the last thirty years, I have always believed that sermon and sacrament are complementary, not in competition.

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