Which do you Elevate Higher, the Offering Plates or the Body of Christ? by Pr. Rossow

Pastor Weedon has  collected a great list of quotes from Luther and the  Lutheran Confessions  that support liturgical worship. One of them prompted me to write this little piece that has been swirling around in my tiny, confused brain for some time now. It was this quote from Luther on elevating the host:

We do not want to abolish the elevation, but retain it because it…signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember Him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, and yet Christ’s body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the Sacrament. In each case, He is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives His body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us. — Blessed Martin Luther, *The German Mass* AE 53:82

When I came to my current congregation 17 years ago, I copied the associate pastor’s habit of turning toward the altar and lifting up the offering plates to God upon receiving them from the ushers. It is a nice gesture of praise to our God who provides all good things for us. A few years  ago  I heard Dr. Arthur Just (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne) utter one of the most provocative things I have ever heard about the practice of the liturgy. He asked the class of graduate  students I was with why it is that so many Lutheran pastors lift the offering plates higher than they lift the body of Christ, if they elevate it at all.

Guilty! From that day on I started elevating the body of Christ and  presenting the offering plates to God with a simple motion and without any elevation. It reminds me of how we often fail to  believe what we believe and how our practice belies our incomplete understanding of our confessed  doctrine.

The body and the blood of the Lord are truly present in His supper and we ought to act in accordance with this great and gracious truth in all that we say and do.

The congregation cannot see it because I have my back turned to them, but thanks to Dr. Just’s fine teaching, each time I offer the plates to God without elevation, I have a little smile on my face, thankful that I was taught to better practice what I preach and with an eye peeking ahead  a few moments in the Divine Service when the true and godly elevation shall occur for all to see.

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