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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Words & sacrament

Are we making theology out of semantics?

For years I’ve heard that the Lutheran and Roman Catholic understanding of the Real Presence is based on Jesus saying, “This is my body,” not “This represents my body.” Isn’t this making theology out of a semantic point that may have no bearing? We use the word “is” in ways where it really means “represents.” Why is it so important that we be able to define and explain communion?

It isn’t. In fact, the nature of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine is a mystery, and we are content to let it be that way. The most important thing about the eucharist is that we receive it as Christ’s gift of himself—his body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine as pure grace.


Martin Luther was captured by the word “is” because it bore witness to the fact that in the sacrament we are given the true gift of Christ’s body and blood for our salvation.

Weissenbuehler's answer to this question continues, and he also responds to this question: "In a college Bible class I learned historical and literary critical methods of biblical interpretation and that many of our pastors follow such methods. Why don’t they share these with congregations?"


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

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