On Ex Opere Operato and Shining Shoes


This morning I shined my shoes before church. Well, techinically I used the cheater’s shoe shine, but that’s not the point. The point is that I shined my shoes.

This may sound like a little event. But pastors are creatures of habit, as we all are. I have dreaded wearing my collar for a while, but slowly and surely, my pastoral habits are coming back.

What does this have to do with ex opere operato? Well, in reference to the Sacraments, this is a terms that Lutherans typically use to deride those silly Roman Catholics who believe that simply participating in the Sacraments, apart from faith, that a good work has been performed and this you gain points for heaven. (Okay, a slightly sarcastic and overly generalistic view. Run with me here, okay?)

Now the Office of the Holy Ministry has a sense of ex opere operato behind it. We confess that the Sacraments of a Lutheran pastor are effective, entirely apart from the faith in his heart. I remember (but can’t hunt down) the quotation where Luther says that he would receive the Sacrament from the devil himself if he were properly called to do so.

Now this is important, friends. This means that whether I’m depressed or anxious, have some neurosis, or a host of other physical, emotional, and even spiritual ailments, that God is still at work through me, preaching His Word and administering His Holy Body and Blood.

The comfort in this is simple. God is at work in you, pastors, and indeed in everyone according to their vocation. Whether they feel like it or not. Whether they even like it or not.

WHEW!

This is huge, my friends. It gives me the freedom to not be afraid I’m a failure. God is at work. And when I can’t preach and administer the Sacraments, God is still at work. It’s His Ministry, not mine. His Words, not mine. His Water, not mine. His Body and Blood, not mine. His Holy Absolution, not mine. He will alwas care for his people. Where I have sinned, I am forgiven. But it is not a sin to be sick. It’s a result of sin.

And the God who makes all things new will see me (and you) through your travails. So I shined my shoes today. Who knows what God will bring next week?

-DarkMyRoad

7 thoughts on “On Ex Opere Operato and Shining Shoes”

  1. I must confess my sins. You see, when I was at seminary, Dale Meyer was the resident fieldwork supervisor, and he lectured us on the importance of the little stuff like polishing your shoes. I’ve never heeded them sense, stubborn fool that I am. Well, okay, if they look positively terrible, I will use the cheat stuff and swipe them too, but not to Dale’s satisfaction, I’m sure. : )

    Great thoughts, and very comforting. Thanks for sharing them.

    About ex opere, a friend once suggested to me that the simplest idea of ex opere as it is condemned in the Confession is that the Sacraments work without being received. Thus, the sacrifice of the mass for the dead or for certain intentions is in view. An interesting view that I’ve thought about for a while, but really haven’t checked out.

  2. I must confess my sins. You see, when I was at seminary, Dale Meyer was the resident fieldwork supervisor, and he lectured us on the importance of the little stuff like polishing your shoes. I’ve never heeded them sense, stubborn fool that I am. Well, okay, if they look positively terrible, I will use the cheat stuff and swipe them too, but not to Dale’s satisfaction, I’m sure. : )

    Great thoughts, and very comforting. Thanks for sharing them.

    About ex opere, a friend once suggested to me that the simplest idea of ex opere as it is condemned in the Confession is that the Sacraments work without being received. Thus, the sacrifice of the mass for the dead or for certain intentions is in view. An interesting view that I’ve thought about for a while, but really haven’t checked out.

  3. For our faith and the sacrament must not be based on the person, whether he is godly or evil, consecrated or unconsecrated, called or an impostor, whether he is the devil or his mother, but upon Christ, upon his word, upon his office, upon his command and ordinance; where these are in force, there everything will be carried out properly, no matter who or what the person might happen to be. (Luther’s works, vol. 38: page 200)

    And, even if his shoes are not shined.

    :=)

  4. For our faith and the sacrament must not be based on the person, whether he is godly or evil, consecrated or unconsecrated, called or an impostor, whether he is the devil or his mother, but upon Christ, upon his word, upon his office, upon his command and ordinance; where these are in force, there everything will be carried out properly, no matter who or what the person might happen to be. (Luther’s works, vol. 38: page 200)

    And, even if his shoes are not shined.

    :=)

  5. This is truly good news. Every step is important. Congratulations.

    As to ex opere Pr. Weedon is right on the money. What renounce is the idea that the Sacraments are effective and God-pleasing in a vacuum, this also gets into the who intended use thing.

  6. This is truly good news. Every step is important. Congratulations.

    As to ex opere Pr. Weedon is right on the money. What renounce is the idea that the Sacraments are effective and God-pleasing in a vacuum, this also gets into the who intended use thing.

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