Is The Lord A Bush? Examining The Lutheran View Of Communion

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Sometime ago I read the best explanation of the Lutheran’s view of Communion that I’ve ever encountered. It turns out that the illustration is one that was used by a 16th century reformer named Martin Chemnitz. I am unable to locate the original source of this explanation, so my apologies. Even though I don’t have the source, hopefully my memory will communicate his explanation and illustration.

In Exodus 3:1-21 we see Moses encountering the Lord in the story of the burning bush. This story should be familiar to most people. In reflecting on this story in connection to communion, we can ask several questions:

“Is the Lord a bush?”
To this we would obviously say, “No.”

“Does the bush represent the Lord?”
To this we would also say, “No.”

“Does the bush turn into the Lord?”
Again, “No.”

So, how would we explain what is happening in Exodus 3:1-21? We would say that in a profound way that the Lord was, “in, with and under,” the bush. The bush did not turn into the Lord nor did the bush merely represent the Lord. Rather, the bush was fully present, “burning, yet not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2) The Lord was also fully present, “the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” (Exodus 3:2)

It is no different with the Sacrament of Communion. In the bread and wine the Lord is present in, with and under the elements. “Take and eat; this is my body… Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant.” (Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus does not say, “Take and eat; this represents my body… Drink from it, all of you; for this represents my blood of the covenant.” Nor does Jesus say, “Take and eat; this changes into my body… Drink from it, all of you; for this changes into my blood of the covenant.”

Just as the Lord was in, with and under the bush, so it is with Jesus in communion. Thus when we receive the elements in communion we receive the real presence of Jesus in, with and under, for the forgiveness of sins.

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at:


Is The Lord A Bush? Examining The Lutheran View Of Communion — 2 Comments

  1. “Dr. Chemnitz’ book, The Lord’s Supper, even though written over
    400 years ago, clearly presents not only why Lutherans believe what they do about the Eucharist, but also what is at
    stake in defending that belief. The book is especially applicable in the context of the United States, where the
    Sacramentarian or Reformed view of the Eucharist is more prevalent than the position of the Roman Catholics.”

    “The phrase “this is my body” could be a regular predication. But this would mean that the bread and body combine in
    some kind of freakish material that is neither one substance nor the other. Dr. Chemnitz uses the example of the phrase
    “this man is a bull”, describing the half-man, half-bull minotaur, as an example of this type of predication. We do not
    recognize as regular predications other similar Scriptural passages that have as subject a natural animal or object and as
    predicate some exalted thing, such as the Holy Spirit or God. Examples of this include the burning bush, and the
    tongues of fire at Pentecost. Therefore “this is my body” should not be seen as a regular predicate either. “This is my
    body” is also not a metonomy, such as using the word “sword” to designate “kingdom”. A metonomy never occurs in a
    construct with the word “is”. Neither are the words of institution an interpretive passage. The Lord is not saying that
    the bread “represents” his body, as if he were explaining a dream or vision, since the Last Supper was neither a dream
    nor a parable but a real live event. Last, it is not referring to a change, for example saying “this is (now) my body”,
    since Paul in 1 Cor. 11 still speaks of the presence of the bread even while referring to it as the Body of Christ.
    Therefore, the “is” of this passage must be something different than all these manners of predication. Luther calls it a
    “synecdoche”, while others refer to it as a “sacramental” or “irregular” predication: in other words, the words describe
    the union of two substances. Examples of such predications were given above, and include the burning bush being “the
    God of your father”, and phrases such as “Jesus is God”.”

    “What this means is that the bread of the Eucharist is not simple bread, but bread and the Body of Christ, joined and
    united together but yet unmixed and distinct.”

    All quotations are from: Chemnitz, Martin, The Lord’s Supper, trans: J.A.O.Preus, (Concordia Publishing House, 1979)

    The Lord’s Supper: Why the Fuss?
    A Report on the Book by Dr. Martin Chemnitz
    Charles St-Onge, May 18, 2003


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