Before I get to today's topic, I just want to remind you that you, too, can lend a hand to agencies working to clean up after Hurricane Katrina.
Many people in the Gulf Coast area and beyond are in terrible situations and need our help. There are many ways to do this. My wife and I made a donation to the Salvation Army, so I've given you a link for that. But however you choose to help, please do.
And to give you a sense of how it is there, here's part of an e-mail from a Baton Rouge friend:
". . .we didn't lose power, which was amazing, because most of Baton Rouge did. And we live in an old downtown neighborhood with lots of big old trees. During the storm, we had A/C, TV and cold beer. But we're not celebrating our good fortune. We have four friends from New Orleans staying with us, and it's heartbreaking to see them glued to the TVs, trying to identify their neighborhood from the aerial shots and wondering when they can go home and what will be there when they return. Multiply their stories by thousands and you have some idea of the immense human cost of this storm."
Thanks for whatever you can do to help.
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Although I didn't know him well -- had never, in fact, met him in person -- I was saddened to learn of the death recently of Prof. Walter R. Bouman of Trinity Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, at age 77.
Bouman was a prominant Lutheran theologian and retired professor of systematic theology at the seminary, which is one of eight seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
More than 10 years ago, I wrote a column after President Bill Clinton partook of Holy Communion in a Roman Catholic Church in South Africa. As a rule, non-Catholics are not invited to do that, though the White House staff had cleared it with the priest at the church (who turned out to have, in effect, misread rules from the bishops).
At any rate, Clinton's participation stirred up a firestorm of protest, and I wrote about it. That led to an international Eucharist E-Mail Discussion Group I put together from among the many people who e-mailed me about my column. That group went on for some months. That, in turn, led to my putting together a talk about all of this.
But to get a better understanding of the Aristotelian science that underpins the Catholic understanding of transubstantiation, I sought out some theologians and corresponded with Bouman, who was very helpful even though he had no obligation to be so. I'd like to share with you what Bouman wrote about how to grasp the ancient science behind transubstantiation in an era when that science has been replaced at least twice -- by Newtonian and later Einsteinian science.
Here's what Bouman wrote to me: “We need to look at matters in terms of an Einstenian four-dimensional world-view. Jesus is not somewhere in outer space from whence he must come by special miracle (Roman Catholic transubstantiation) or to which we must go by faith (Zwingli).
"He is in a different time: the final eschatological future of the Kingdom of God. He comes to us from the future with the power of the future. The Eucharist is anticipation of the final messianic banquet. Jesus is present as his self-offering to enable the offering of ourselves in service to the Kingdom of God. "I think this is how to understand Calvin’s ‘Real Presence’ as ‘spiritual presence,’ for the Holy Spirit is the down-payment (Ephesians 1:13-14, etc.) on the final consummation of the Kingdom of God. I think this also is how to understand Luther’s confession of the ‘Real Presence’ and also how to understand the Roman Catholic doctrine.”
Well, all of this may seem like counting angels dancing on pin heads (I've been accused of being one -- pin head, not angel), but I think it's crucial subject matter if Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians are ever going to find Eucharistic unity. So I was grateful to Walter Bouman and sorry to learn of his death caused by colon cancer.
By the way, I have an electronic copy of the longish talk on this Communion subject I'd be happy to e-mail to anyone who is interested. Just let me know.
See my About page to find out how to read online what I've written for The Kansas City Star.