Easter 5 A

Kind of all over the place this week, but with the consistent reminder that if Jesus is the Way, then that has some direct implications on our worship.

1 Peter 2:2-10

Verses 4 thru 6 are either cited by editorial insert or directly quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.239) in refutation to an argument from the Confutation that, quoting 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins meaning that our love "overcomes sin and death" (AP 4.238). Verses 4 thru 6 are cited to show that Peter was not talking about our loving being salvific, but love of neighbor. 1 Peter 4:8 in particular, which is a quote of Proverbs 10:12, shows that the love we have for each other is about living in community, not salvation.

Verse 5 is partly quoted a little later in the Apology, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.26) as the verse names "a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices." Melanchthon moves quickly to show that these spiritual sacrifices are worship done in the Spirit rather than legalistic rituals done to appease or control a god.

'Spiritual worship' refers to worship where God is recognized and is grasped by the mind, as happens when it fears and trusts God. Therefore, it is contrasted not only to Levitical worship, in which animals were slain, but with any worship in which people imagine that they are offering God a work ex opere operato. (AP 24.26)

Ex opere operato is the notion that this ritual works because of the ritual itself rather than from the faith and engagement of those who worship.

Verse 5 is also cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 6: Third Use of the Law (SD 6.22) along with several other passages to show how good works are please to God, namely, through faith because of Christ.

Verse 6 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.65) to drive home the point that the forgiveness of sins come through faith in Jesus, not through our own works.

In a parallel thought, verse 6 is quoted a little later in Article 21: The Invocation of the Saints (AP 21.31) to show that Jesus' intercessions carry God's promises and are worthy of our trust, while the merits of saints do not carry such promises.

Verse 9 is quoted in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 69) to argue that ordination belongs primarily to the Church rather than the bishops. Since Peter declares the church a royal priesthood, and the early practice of the Church was for local congregations to ordain pastors, the authority to declare who is and who is not a pastor still rests in the hands of the congregations.

John 14:1-14

Verse 6 is quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 20: Faith (AC 20.10 Latin) only in the Latin edition. The verse is used to drive home the point that those who trust in their own works to earn God's grace "despise the merit and grace of Christ and seek a way to God without Christ"!

Verse 6 is also cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.66) just like John 10:9 from last week. To reiterate, these statements of Jesus as the way and the gate are cited as evidence that "the Father decided from eternity that those whom he wanted to save, he wiled to save through Christ." This exclusive language can strike us as very judgmental, but what the Lutheran reformers were trying to describe is how God saves us. If the gospel is indeed good news for us, then we join in God's saving action and tell others, for "The Father wills that all people should hear this proclamation and come to Christ" (SD 11.68).

TheoThru

If Jesus is the Way, then just going through the motions is unfaithful and possibly idolatrous. The challenge is trusting that the Spirit will be present. There are many ways to try and engage people in worship, but not even engagement is worship is sufficient to make the worship efficacious without the presence of the Spirit. It might be time for a refresher course on the difference between an eternal candle and the sanctus candle.

  • How do we attend to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit?
  • Where are we just going through the motions, thinking that worship will be efficacious just because we're worshiping?
  • How do we deny Christ's merit and rely instead on our own works?