Over on my blog “The Tenth Letter…” I wrote a piece last week about seeing reality as far richer than we typically see it. You don’t have to read that post to get the whole gist of what is being said here, but it could help, at least a little.
Essentially my point was that our ‘worldview’ determines how well we see reality. I made mention of my son discovering a waterfall in our yard with a newly formed lake that it was spilling into. It was a real waterfall, with a real body of water at the bottom, but what most of us would see is a mere downspout and a puddle. Nonetheless, the waterfall was not mere imagination, it was reality, but it was my son’s view of the world that allowed him to see reality for what it really was. I made further mention of my valiant defeat of a monster with hundreds of eyes that fed on carcasses and vomited its prey everywhere, of course to the rest of the world I merely swatted a common housefly. Nonetheless the reality of my monster slaying was not some imagined feat, it was actual reality. In that post I made mention of how my worldview was once shaped by aggressive inline skating which allowed me to see stairs, hand railings, and planters as a playground with infinite possibilities. My skating worldview was grounded in a literal reality, but not a reality that was visible to the non-skater, nonetheless the urban playground was as real as the screen you read this on. I proceeded to remind the reader that all reality has been spoken into existence by the word made flesh, the Christ Himself, and that this spoken world of His is not limited to the reality that we can see, but that it includes the real waterfalls, hundred eyed monsters, and urban playgrounds, that are utterly invisible to those who are unable to see them. If you need to see this line of thinking in greater detail head over to the The Tenth Letter… and read about it.
If we view this world, with all its realities, as a world spoken forth by Christ then we are quickly opened up to all sorts of possibilities. We are free to see that the spoken words of Christ are more than mere teaching, but that they create the very realities they speak of. For instance, “Let there be light” when spoken forth by the Godhead actually creates the reality of light. When Christ speaks forth “You are the salt of the earth” indeed by the power of His spoken proclamation you are the very salt of the earth. What he says is true, the realities He speaks of are actually created by his speaking of those realities. Again, go to that post for a more in depth treatment of this. Just like my son’s view of a waterfall, and my valiant endeavors as a monster slayer were actual real realities, they are realities that can only be seen when viewed aright. The same is true with the spoken word of Christ, the reality which those words create are only seen through a worldview that views the words of Christ by faith as actual created realities. Do you believe you are the salt of the earth? Why? Because Christ has spoken it as truth! The very One who speaks forth reality has spoken forth that reality about you.
As I have wrestled with this line of thinking (and please this is not some uber-philosophical mind game, it really is not) I have begun to think about some other words of Christ. What of the words “This is my body?” Is that not a reality that has been spoken into existence by the Christ? When I had a skating “worldview” a hand railing was still a hand railing, but because of my worldview it was far more than a mere hand railing, it was a very real piece of playground equipment, not an imagined one, but an actual piece of playground equipment that I played on. Do not tell me it was not real, it was, I have scars to prove it! When Christ speaks of bread as His body, it remains bread just as the hand railing remained a hand railing, there is no transformation, it does not become something different, it is what it always was, but because Christ spoke regarding that bread, the reality of that bread is far deeper than what the naked eye sees. Just as the hand railing is far more than what the standard pedestrian sees. The bread is the very body of Christ, not is some mystical transformation, but it is His body because of the reality Christ’s words gives to it. I am not sure if what I am saying is in line with the Lutheran doctrine of real presence or not, but the truth is that because Christ has spoken, and because he speaks in the words of institution (they are his words are they not?) the bread REALLY IS His body. Is it still bread? Yup, and the hand railing is still a hand railing. Is it really His body? Yup, and the hand railing really is a piece of playground equipment, and the fly really is a monster with hundreds of eyes, and I really am a monster slayer and the downspout really was a waterfall.
I have wrestled for months on the doctrine of “real presence”. I have been frustrated by it, it has never fit into any sort of logical framework that I could deal with. Until I began to look at the very doctrine of creation, and began to see that all reality has been created by Christ and for Christ by His word. The urban playground, as well as the standard function of the urban setting is all created by Christ. It is not that Christ has created a mere place to go to work in the city, and it is not that he has created a mere skate park for punk kids, he has created both ‘realities’ among countless others for the urban seting. With this in mind I have no issue with bread being body, if his word has spoken (thus created) it as such.
When I say to my congregation “This is the body of Christ” I actually mean what I say, I mean it as much as if I had said to a fellow skater that “there are some stairs for you to jump off of.”
I hope this sparks a little conversation, I know I have not treated this with much depth at all (I wrote this way too quickly), but if you can come to the realization that ACTUAL various realities exist based on your worldview, and actually believe that the world which Christ speaks is true, then it is not a difficult step at all to believe in ‘real presence’ with regard to the sacrament.