(Editor’s Note: I serve a church of 2,000 people. We have lay, male sacristans who assist the pastors with the distribution of Holy Communion. We do not do this lightly and I am sure there will be some discussion on these posts about whether this is acceptable or not, and that is fine, even encouraged. Over the next few weeks and months we will be posting parts of our sacristan rubric which I hope will demonstrate that we do indeed take this quite seriously. I also hope that it will be a model for other congregations that make use of sacristans and will overall, raise the appreciation and reverence for the sacrament for all our readers. This rubric was written under my pastoral supervision by laymen Dave Wohlrab. Dave is a great role model for all laymen, demonstrating how much can be attained with years of study of the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. To view the entire rubric click here.)
FAITHFUL LITURGICAL PRACTICE SHAPED BY THE DIVINE GIFTS
A faithful and reverent liturgical practice will catechize. Such a practice is not about a legalistic conformity to a religious law, a ritualistic attention to detail, or our subjective feeling, but a reverent reflection to our Lord’s mandate and gifts. The words of Jesus Christ are at the very heart of the Supper. They give and proclaim His very Body and Blood. Without the words of Christ there is no Sacrament. This is the point made by the Formula of Concord: “Indeed, in the administration of the Holy Supper the Words of Institution are to be clearly and plainly spoken or sung publicly in the congregation, and in no case are they to be omitted. This is done, first, so that Christ’s command, ‘Do this,’ may be obeyed. Second, it is done so that Christ’s Words will arouse, strengthen, and confirm the hearers’ faith in the nature and benefits of this Sacrament (that is, the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood and the forgiveness of sins, and all the benefits that have been won for us by Christ’s death and the shedding of His Blood, which are here given to us in His Testament). Third, it is done so that the elements of bread and wine are sanctified and consecrated in this holy practice, whereby Christ’s Body and Blood are offered us to eat and to drink, as Paul says (I Cor. 10:16), ‘The cup of blessing that we bless…’ This of course takes place in no other way than through the petition and recitation of the Words of Institution” (SD, Art.VII, 79; Kolb and Wengert).
The genius of Lutheranism responds in characteristic forms and ceremonies of worship that have been shaped solely by His divine gifts. Because Christ is present and giving us His very Body and Blood in His Supper, we should… and do… react in utmost piety. Therefore, inspirations behind our actions are not a slip into a form of legalism, but that of faith in action. God’s Holiness, and appropriations of His Grace in Christ Jesus, prompts the common expressions of how the Church fashions its reverent, dignified, and enriching liturgy. Proficiency of such details is the development of an understanding that the liturgy draws believers into Gottesdienst (God’s Service) and the realization that servants of the liturgy help to draw people into what they are there for – to receive His gifts. The Lord never quits giving His gifts, and those gifts do not come in contradiction to what He has already given. They come in the way of their enlargement and vitalization. Our public worship is the privilege and responsibility of the church’s truth to His Word. There is always what is alive and growing in the liturgy. Times, places, forms and settings have been empowered and harmonized by our liturgical practice that desires to express a keen “awareness of the real presence of God.”
In an agreement that everything done in the Church be done with reverence and good form, Bethany’s Sacristans shall closely adhere to the following rubric. It is drawn from liturgical practice that devoutly helps us focus on Christ’s Body and Blood, His Real Presence in His Supper. As Sacristans, you will be assisting the Pastor(s) as Christ’s instruments, bringing forgiveness, life, and salvation to the very tongue of those whom you commune; pouring life-giving drink down the throats of His Forgiven Church.
May God in His mercy grant steadfast faith to us, with a high regard for that of which Christ had spoken over the bread and wine, “This is My Body,’ ‘This is My Blood.” Our simple faith and practice need constant adjustment in the face of Your authoritative speaking. Help us to confess our weakness O Lord, as we confess your strong Word and its power to both give and forgive. Amen – Let it be so!