Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts when late to the party

I hesitate to bring this up here because this is one of the long debates - but several weeks agao a discussion was had on the duration of the real presence -- i.e. how long the Lord's Supper remains the Christ's Body and Blood. There are some who say that it remains Christ's basically forever, because God's Word has been applied to it, it has been set aside for this purpose, and it endures. There are others who say that once the "sacramental usage" has concluded (i.e. you aren't going to be distributing it to anyone anymore) it is no longer Christ's Body and Blood.

This is a simplification of a discussion that has many nuances and the like. And it gets quite messy when you start asking a lot of questions and the like. . .

In the comments, Pastor Weedon posits a good question. For a totally bizarre thought... this whole thread strikes me as mirroring the matter of the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. If I may put it so, the question is whether when God sanctifies for His holy use, does he desanctify when He's done using it, or does its sanctity perdure for having been so used of Him.

This strikes upon another debate that goes on amongst some Lutherans - whether Mary was always and remained a virgin (or, whether or not after the birth of Jesus she and Joseph had a normal marriage). On this one, I tend strongly towards the latter - mainly because Scripture speaks of Jesus' brothers and sister - and the simplest way to understand is. . . Mary and Joseph had kids later.

Be that as it may, Pastor Weedon raises the question of whether or not God ever "desanctify" something. My answer to this question (which I think he expects to be "no") is yes. And I'm thinking here of many things from the Old Testament. When that which is holy - that is set aside for a purpose - has accomplish its purpose, it is no longer holy in the way it was.

Consider, for example - the Sabbath Day. The 7th day in the Old Testament was sanctified - it was set up to be holy. However, when Christ came, the Sabbath was fulfilled - He rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, and as such the Church has not viewed the act of resting on Saturday to still be binding. Saturday as the day of rest has come to a completion - it is no longer sanctified in the same way.

Or one might consider the distinction of meats that the Jewish folks followed - some were declared clean - that they were set aside for usage by the Jewish people. Or even the Jewish nation as a whole and all of its distinctive laws - with the coming of Christ the reason for these laws (which set the people of Israel apart from the world, including the other Godfearers of the Old Testament) is no longer needed, for the Messiah has come. There is no more need to have the people who proclaim that the Messiah will come when He has in fact already come. Hence - the nation of Israel is. . . no longer set aside as THE holy people. There is a respect that ought to be given (as Luther points out, God didn't decided to become man by taking flesh from some pigheaded, drunken German, but from a Jew - that's something no other race or tribe can claim - we get cool points for that - did I mention that I am 1/8th Jewish?) - but there is no longer the same usage or purpose attached to the Jewish people in any particular way.

On this basis, I would argue that it is fair to argue that God does allow things that are holy to be returned to normal usage. After our Lord's birth, there is no more need to sanctify the virgin's womb, so hence, if she and her husband were indeed able to enjoy the blessings of being man and wife - it does no damage to the Christian faith, nor does it contradict the example of Scripture.

I would also contend that this shows that there is reason and logic behind the idea of the Sacrament no longer remaining Christ's Body and Blood outside of the sacramental usage -- however, the fact remains - we don't know. Hence, the idea has been "If you consume the leftovers, we never, never have to answer this questions".

Just some thoughts thrown out here.

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A few additional thoughts. Perhaps this ties into the fact that so often we forget that nothing of this world endures or will endure. I love my wife, she is a wonderful gift - but only 'til death do us part. For eternity she will no longer be my wife - she will be something even more profound and wondrous - what she is now although because we are both tainted with sin we see it not - my sister in Christ.

My father is a wonderful gift to me - and I would never think of addressing him by his given name - but that is the way of this world. In the next, why would I not call my brother Gregory William, his baptized name, for there will be be those who have been baptized and united into the Body of Christ.

None of this is to say that God is so crass as to "desanctify" marriage or the family - but rather that these things are simply (I'm going to say the word that I know a lot of people get annoyed when I use) tools God uses to provide us blessings. My wife and my parents are masks of God, whereby He shows me love now in this life - but then, there will be no more need of them to act as masks of God, for I will see Him face to face - and I will see these other people for who they are in Christ without any thought of how they relate to me. All things will be in Christ.

We are beings in the world - but we are not of the world. The things of this life, even the most glorious wonderful things, will fade away. Just as Old Testament Israel gave way to the New Testament Church, at some point (come quickly, Lord Jesus!) the Church Militant will gladly give way to the Church Triumphant.

Sometimes we seek permanency and security in this world, a desire for the end of change here. It will not happen - for that is a longing for eternity, and while we have it now, we also have it not yet. All in this life is as but grass - and so we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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