Lectionary 21 B

Spiritual warfare as one way God calls us to attend to faith formation and a return to two of last week's John 6 citations.

Ephesians 6:10-20

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
-- Ephesians 6:11
With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
-- Ephesians 6:16

Verses 11 and 16 are partly quoted in The Large Catechism, Introduction with the citation in a footnote (LC Intro.14, n. 14) as a very graphic encouragement to spend time in the catechism every day. This section (lines 14-16) gives good insight into Luther's understanding of spiritual warfare and his frustration with people who don't take faith formation seriously.

Verse 16 again partly quoted in the body of The Large Catechism, Part 3: The Lord's Prayer, Sixth Petition, with the citation in a footnote (LC 3.104, n. 186). In this section, Luther expands on the idea of the devil leading us into temptation. The list of how the devil tempts us is expanded to include "false security, and stubbornness" as well as the expected "denial of God, blasphemy, and countless other abominable sins" (LC 3.104).

John 6:56-69

Again we turn to verses 52 thru 65, which are cited in a footnote to Formula of ConcordSolid Declaration, Article 7: Holy Supper (SD 7.64, n. 202) that explains the word "Capernaitic." This uniquely Lutheran word is scattered around Article 7 in both the Epitome and the Solid Declaration to point out one kind of misunderstanding the sacramental reception of communion. Capernaitic is deeply insider language used as a shorthand for misunderstanding communion as a literal eating and drinking of Jesus' body and blood that would amount to cannibalism, which is how those at the synagogue in Capernaum misunderstood Jesus.

[Jesus said,] "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
-- John 6:58

And again we turn to verse 58, which is cited in a footnote to Formula of ConcordEpitome, Article 7: Holy Supper, Affirmative Thesis 6 (Ep 7.15, n. 50), which is the first use of  "Capernaitic" in the Book of Concord. The footnote explains that Lutherans were being accused of having this understanding of communion. This is why so much time is spent in both parts of the Formula refuting the Capernaitic understanding. (I've now used that work four times in this post, too, making eight times over two weeks! That's definitely enough.)


I get a strong sense of the difference between concrete and abstract thinking this week. The "whole armor of God" passage is definitely in the abstract range, as is Luther's reflection on it and his understanding of spiritual warfare. But Luther was raised in a time when people felt very close to the spiritual world. I also wonder if John 6 becomes a way that Jesus (or at least the Johannine community) separates the concrete thinkers from the abstract thinkers. Peter's declaration certainly seems to indicate a level of abstract thinking.

Not that Jesus only saves abstract thinkers, but there is something about faith that helps us look past what is immediately in front of us. The idea of God, or of spiritual warfare, or of all Christians all over the world and whenever it happens eating and drinking Jesus' body and blood demand a level of abstract thinking that opens us up to what God is doing in our life, the lives of others, and the world. If the teaching is too hard, maybe we're taking it too literally.