Feed My Lambs
In a desperate reaction to closed churches when people needed the church more than ever, a noticeable number of Lutheran pastors instituted what is known as "online communion".
It consists of Christians watching a communion service online; conducted by the pastor in the church; and they, at the same time having bread and wine of their own, consecrate the elements along with the pastor. Thus they partake of what they consider the Lord's Supper.
The Commission of Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the LCMS has written a formal document in order to show and correct the errors of such practice.
Good on them.
But there is a problem in that the document only gets to the edges of the problem, and hardly reaches the center. Below is a letter I wrote to the LCMS president (from whose office this letter came to pastors). By it I pray that all Lutherans may enjoy a refresher course on foundational Eucharistic theology and practice.
Dear President Harrison:
God strengthen you in your calling.
Good Father and Brother in Christ the CTCR document as regards "family online communion" both encourages and discourages me.
I am glad that they have promptly spoken against it.
I am troubled by the wide-spread poverty of Eucharistic understanding among our pastors and laity. We need a new Luther to write a new catechism on this mystery alone to combat the wide-spread lack of knowledge of both clergy and laity.
Not to be simplistic, but the matter is settled when we acknowledge that the Eucharist IS the New Testament; IS Christian Worship; IS the practice of the Christian faith. And that this worship is always and only incarnational, never virtual or docetic. And when we further understand that the church can do nothing without its bishop (pastor) to use the language of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
May we as Lutherans also leave behind our 500 year old knee-jerk reaction (now reified) to Rome and acknowledge that the ordained celebrant, in persona Christi, consecrates the Holy Communion. Also that only the celebrant, in persona Christi, appointed by the Bridegroom himself, feeds the nuptial meal of Christ's own Body and Blood to the Bride. The Celebrant does it with his own hand, and his own articulation of the distribution formula. Also: Christians can only eat from the one loaf and drink from the one cup at the same incarnational / factual / actual table. Thus the pastor fulfills the Lord's command: Feed my Lambs.
There is no other Meal in the church.
This is all basic and yet lost to us as Lutherans because we have limited ourselves to understanding the Lord's Supper as a purely dogmatic reality; leaving the doxological reality of it behind; and forgetting the highly nuptial nature of it. It is not a "means of grace". It IS grace itself. And to partake in it IS Christian Worship. But apart from Great Congregation of the baptized, it cannot be had.
Peace in Christ,
Rev. Dean Kavouras, Pastor
Christ Lutheran Church