Close only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades, and…the Augsburg Confession??

So we are looking at what the Catechism says regarding the Office of the Keys in Bible class (the Synodical Catechism, that is), and it has brought up some good discussion and questions. First important question:

1. Pastor, aren’t Christians supposed to forgive, even if a person does not ask for forgiveness? This question gave me an opportunity to explain the difference between a Christian forgiving from his heart his brother who offends or sins against him, and a pastor speaking on behalf of Christ the forgiveness of sins to repentant believers. Every Christian forgives his neighbor from the heart. But in the Church, only those who are repentant believers are absolved. Forgiveness is withheld from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

2. Today we looked at a quote from the Augsburg Confession from Article XIV. Someone asked, “Pastor, what about elders serving communion?” Good question! What about those elders serving communion, or rather, assisting the pastor with the distribution? AC XIV pretty clearly states that one should not administer the sacraments without a regular call.

Our synod has gotten around this, I think, by saying that the elder is really just assisting the pastor in his work. Good enough. In congregations like mine where there is only one clergyperson, having additional help does serve to contribute to “reverent haste.” I have heard of pastors who have an elder follow them with the individual cups, and the pastor takes the glass and gives it, and says, “The true blood…”

It would be much easier if we just used the Chalice, instead of both glasses and Common Cup. Less steps involved. I explained to this gentleman that asked that based on AC XIV, having elders assist in the distribution is not the ideal practice. Ideally, we would have multiple clergy helping in a bigger church, or just the sole pastor doing it all. But then I asked, “How many in this church would put up with just the pastor doing it all, time-wise?” They got my point.

Our practice is never perfect. We should strive to follow this confessional principle as much as we are able. But even Luther had to deal with some not-so-ideal practices for a while. The same could be said for the vicarage program. So many problems could be solved (vicars having to consecrate, etc.) if we would make the pastor-in-training year a post-call/ordination year, served with a more experienced pastor. But at least we could say in all confidence that we were really striving to follow AC XIV (and here I refer both to preaching and to administration of the sacraments).

For some reason we justify preaching by non-called men, but we draw the line at Administration of the Sacraments. Well, a lot of us do. Why is that? Why is it proper and appropriate for a man to preach, but not administer the Sacrament?

These are things that would be great to dialog about, but I fear the discussions would go nowhere. Someone will always fall back on the old line: “Well, Synod does allow this, so we should not try to rock the boat.” Sounds like someone talking to Luther in the 16th century!

What are your thoughts, O mass of readers (likely a small one now)? Am I interpreting the Augsburg Confession too narrowly?

On a different note, we had a guest this weekend from South Sudan, who is a member of a Missouri Synod church in MN. He is thinking moving his family here. The first place he came when he came into town was our church. If anyone knows of any other Sudanese in Iowa that he could connect with, let me know!


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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9 Responses to Close only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades, and…the Augsburg Confession??

  1. Weedon says:

    We don’t have ideal practice on this either – most weeks an elder does the individual cups; and the pastors take the ciborium and chalice. But the AC is actually quite clear: “reichen.” I don’t think it would be out of place to translate it: no one should publicly preach, teach, or reach the sacraments without a regular call. Of course, if we could call and ordain a deacon or two in each place for such service… sigh.

  2. Ben Mayes says:

    Please don’t say “clergyperson.” 😉

  3. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    @Ben–I do it just to get your goat. 🙂

    Weedon–I have actually wondered of the possibility for this office in our church. At any rate, when you are the only pastor, and you don’t have any retired guys or seminary professors handy, it is hard to sell to the congregation the pastor alone distributing.

  4. Lawrence says:

    “Our practice is never perfect.”

    Very true. Neither is our individual preference every really the point.

    When Jesus set the first example they were all sitting around the dinner table, sharing the food and drink, such as any family would. But that isn’t quite how many view or practice the Sacrament of Communion.

    I have to ask, though, if the food and drink are truly consecrated, what does it matter who serves it?

    I think it does matter, which is your point, but it posses an interesting question, none-the-less.

  5. Lawrence says:

    “Why is it proper and appropriate for a man to preach, but not administer the Sacrament?”

    In my experience it might be asking why is it proper to assist administering the Sacrament, but not also preach?

    This leads back to earlier debates about where Jesus dictates that preachers and church leaders must be “publicly ordained” in order to be considered “called” into preaching service…

    … not intending to open that debate again here.

  6. Lawrence says:

    “Our synod has gotten around this, I think, by saying that the elder is really just assisting the pastor in his work.”

    If the Elders are not there to assist the pastor, then why are they there? Why do we have separate roles and responsibilities of Elder apart from other church leadership roles?

    This use of Elders in distribution, and other services in support of the pastor, has been such a common practice in all my past LC-MS churches, I’ve never considered that they may be overstepping their bounds.

    If anything, it often seems the Elders aren’t involved enough in helping the Pastor and the Congregation. Not that I can judge them given my less than desired church involvement.

  7. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Lawrence–both good questions. I’ll address your previous post first: What does it matter who serves it? I think my D.P. Rev. Brian Saunders has his finger on this issue. He really emphasizes the relationship of shepherd and sheep. Pastor and Flock. As Christ says: “There will be one flock and one shepherd.” There is a relationship that is given by God when a pastor is called to serve a flock of his sheep. The relationship is grounded in the Call. He has been called to serve them by feeding them with the holy things–Christ’s Word and Sacraments.

    A Shepherd knows his sheep. When you have someone other than the shepherd distributing the Sacrament, this pastoral relationship is disturbed.

    As for your second comment, I agree.

  8. Exothermic says:


  9. Exothermic says:

    i just left a reply so i could be notified via email of future posts and comments, brudda!

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