On Wednesday in my adult Confirmation class, we were discussing the Lord’s Supper. One of the things we talked about was what we think about while receiving the Lord’s Supper. I said that I couldn’t speak to specific thoughts, but rather the general attitude. When we use Settings One and Two of the Divine Service we get to pray the Eucharistic Prayer during the Communion liturgy. I think they summarized our Lord’s Supper attitude perfectly in this one sentence: “With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His Body and His Blood on the cross.” While it’s an oxymoron, it’s the paradox that is the Christian heart during the reception of the Sacrament.
When we think of Israel’s sacrifices, the first animal that comes to mind is the lamb. As Christians, that image of Jesus as the Lamb of God dominates our thoughts. But there were other animals, like goats and doves and pigeons and rams. The ram is one we forget about, but we shouldn’t. There’s a good reason why a ram was the animal provided when God spared Isaac. The ram’s greatest glory was found in his sacrificial use, his standing in the place of others and giving of himself for greater purposes.
As is typical of the disciples, they have a good idea, but get off track in its execution. In the case of tonight’s Gospel, they understood that physical problems are the result of sin. There was no blindness, lameness, deafness, cancer, homelessness, or death in Eden. They were right—the blind man had sinned, as had his parents, all the way back to his first parents. They were right—the man was blind because of sin. But they weren’t right about his blindness being the result of a specific personal sin, a punishment visited upon him for a transgression, an external mark of an internal uncleanness.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.