Monday, May 28, 2012

Invocavit Sermon 5 Thursday March 14, 1522

Thursday dawned with a cold drizzle and Freyda decided to stay at home near the fire. Heinrich and Sarah bundled up before heading out into the cool, wet streets. The weather cut the attendance down slightly, so they were able to get a fairly good seat. Luther was a little more than half way through now and he spoke on a topic which would become a point of contention for all that followed him, both literally and symbolically: the eucharist.
“But you may say: We live and we ought to live according to the Scriptures, and God has so instituted the sacrament that we must take it with our hands, for he said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” The answer is this: though I am convinced beyond a doubt that the disciples of the Lord took it with their hands, and though I admit that you may do the same without committing sin, nevertheless I can neither make it compulsory nor defend it. And my reason is that the devil, when he really pushes us to the wall, will argue: Where have you read in the Scriptures that “take” means “grasping with the hands”? How, then, am I going to prove or defend it? Indeed, how will I answer him when he cites from the Scriptures the very opposite, and proves that “take” does not mean to receive with the hands only, but also to convey to ourselves in other ways? “Listen to this, my good fellow,” he will say, “is not the word ‘take’ used by three evangelists when they described the Lord’s taking of gall and vinegar? You must admit that the Lord did not touch or handle it with his hands, for his hands were nailed to the cross.” This verse is a strong argument against me. Again, he cites the passage: Et accepit omnes timor, “Fear seized them all”, where again we must admit that fear has no hands. Thus I am driven into a comer and must concede, even against my will, that “take” means not only to receive with the hands, but to convey to myself in any other way in which it can be done. Therefore, dear friends, we must be on firm ground, if we are to withstand the devil’s attack. Although I must acknowledge that you committed no sin when you touched the sacrament with your hands, nevertheless I must tell you that it was not a good work, because it caused offense everywhere. For the universal custom is to receive the blessed sacrament from the hands of the priest. Why will you not in this respect also serve those who are weak in faith and abstain from your liberty, particularly since it does not help you if you do it, nor harm you if you do not do it.
Therefore no new practices should be introduced, unless the gospel has first been thoroughly preached and understood, as it has been among you. On this account, dear friends, let us deal soberly and wisely in the things that pertain to God, for God will not be mocked. The saints may endure mockery, but with God it is vastly different. Therefore, I beseech you, give up this practice.
But if there is any one who is so smart that he must touch the sacrament with his hands, let him have it brought home to his house and there let him handle it to his heart’s content. But in public let him abstain, since that will bring him no harm and the offense will be avoided which is caused to our brothers, sisters, and neighbors, who are now so angry with us that they are ready to kill us. I may say that of all my enemies who have opposed me up to this time none have brought me so much grief as you.
This is enough for today; tomorrow we shall say more.”
The rain had stopped during the service so the walk back home was easier. As they navigated around puddles, Heinrich said, “I wonder what Mother would say about the eucharist?” “Let’s ask her,” said Sarah. They spoke no more until they were back at home. 
Freyda greeted them with a kiss as they came through the front door. “How was the meeting? she said. Heinrich replied, “The subject was the eucharist; he’s going to talk about it tomorrow as well.” Sarah asked, “What do you think about the sacrament?”
Freyda smiled as she imagined that last night’s disclosure was the first of many such discussions. She was somewhat concerned that such talk could lead to others hearing about the discussions - “others” who were not so understanding. So, she said somewhat defensively, “I’m happy to speak with you, but unfortunately we live with those who are not so understanding; please be discreet with your words.” Both Heinrich and Sarah nodded with agreement but not with the same concern as their mother.
“The eucharist is like an excerpt taken out of context and ‘elevated’ - with this word she raised her hands as though she were holding a round wafer - to a mystical level that Jesus never intended. She “broke the wafer” with her hands and then lowered them as she continued. You see, the event was a Passover dinner with four cups of wine that were drunk throughout the meal as they re-enacted the Passover story. This historical event was repeated for hundreds of years until the Messiah came to show that he was the Passover lamb. Just as the elements on a Passover plate are symbolical, so the elements of communion are symbolical. Judaism is not into mysticism, so the idea that the bread becomes Jesus’s body and the wine becomes his blood would be foreign to Jesus. Yes, He used shocking words like “this is my body or this is my blood” to say that he was about to die. It’s a pity that you have never gone through a seder. Your father and I discussed this many times. But the Catholic church looks down on anyone who even talks about such things, let alone does them. Still, now that the “cat is out of the bag”, we should do it sometime; it will show you many amazing things. God help us all.”
Heinrich and Sarah both felt that they learned more in 5 minutes than they had in all of Luther’s sermon, and it felt exhilarating! “Thanks mother, you’re amazing”, said Heinrich, with Sarah nodding profusely as well. They both knew that they were beginning to explore new things and wondered where it would lead. 
Heinrich continued to think about these things until he went to bed. He fell asleep and dreamed of Biblical ideas that turned into crazed priests burning innocent people.

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