Luther writes, “We are all consecrated priests through baptism, as St Peter says in 1 Peter 2, ‘You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm’” (LW 44.127).
Avis explains that this entails laity the right to administer the sacraments, judge doctrinal questions, and to teach the faith. It also allows every believer the right to grant absolution to those who repent. He quotes Luther saying:
I may go to my good friend and say to him, ‘Dear friend, this is the trouble and the difficulty that I am having with sin,’ and he should be free to say to me, ‘Your sins are forgiven, go in the peace of God.’ You should absolutely believe that your sins are forgiven as though Christ himself were your father-confessor- as long as your friend does this in the name of God (WA 10. III. 395).
Paul Avis, The Church in the Theology of the Reformers pg. 101
Some of the recent criticism of “the centrality of the word” in the worship service has arisen due to the fear of rationalism and an over-intellectualizing of the gospel. Combined with the ongoing liturgical renewal, folks will also challenge this concept for being gnostic, supposing that stimulating our brains is much more important than our bodies.
There may be well something to these fears when we have in mind the entity that they are currently responding to, but it is just as important to pay careful attention to the historic position of the Reformers when they advocated the centrality of the word. They had something specific in mind, and it may not be the same thing that we think of today.
In fact, there’s no reason to pit the word in opposition to the sacraments or the liturgy because all of these are working towards the same goal. Every aspect of Christian worship is for the purpose of receiving Jesus Christ. This is true of the sermon as much as the Eucharist. On this note, Paul Avis writes:
For the Reformers, the word is nothing less than Christ, revealing and communicating himself to us in divers ways– through the Scriptures, the preaching of the gospel, the Christian brother or sister, or the visible words of baptism or communion. These are all facets of the external word. Continue reading