Friday, October 31, 2003

Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.

Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints
may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good
works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the
example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his
country; For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the
invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets
before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High
Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has
promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He
approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be
called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate
with the Father, etc.

And this from Melanchthon's apology:

"Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she quicken? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility]."

It seems clear that the emphasis is on saints as examples. Saints do not propitiate for us, for this is the proper work solely of Christ. Although they may pray for us, we are not to invoke them because there is no command to do so. The problem, in essence, is that invocation for the saints immediately becomes confusion with looking to them as intercessors.

Another related question though, is this- where are the blessed saints? Melanchthon grants that the blessed Mary prays for us, which is no small thing to find its way into our confessional documents. It certainly seems to put her in a different place before God than those who have entered into sleep and are awakened at the resurrection. But here again, M.'s allowance is for the sake of lifting up Mary as a saint, not as a mediator. Her proper work is not to do Christ's work, but to point to Christ, in all humility. Our belief in her praying for us is not related to mediation, but rather is a model of the faith, that which the saints do before God, which is they pray to and through the one who hears us, Jesus Christ.

This doctrine of the church lacks some of the conceptual coherence of other doctrines, but rightly, because we speak of those things we see by faith and not by sight. Nevertheless, we can claim these things, quotes from my good friend and confessor, Greg:

Death cannot separate a community that has at its center one who has death in His past.

Clint, you and I will spend an eternity together in Christ.

And finally, an emphasis for preaching this week, when we forget about death and its coming, we forget also the one who died for us.

For the one who conquered death has indeed died, only then to be raised by the Father.

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