From The Moment

It is a tradesman. His principle is: Everyone is a thief in his trade. “It is impossible,” he says, “to be able to get through this world if one is not just like the other tradesmen, all of whom hold to the principle: Everyone is a thief in his trade.”

As far as religion is concerned-well, his religion is actually this: Everyone is a thief in his trade. He also has a religion in other respects, and in his opinion every tradesman ought to have one. “A tradesman,” says he, “should, even if he has no religion, never allow it to be noticed, because this can easily become harmful by possibly throwing suspicion on his honesty; and a tradesman should preferably have the prevailing religion in the land.” As for the latter, he accounts for that by the fact that the Jews always have a reputation for cheating more than the Christians, which he claims is by no means the case. He claims that the Christians cheat just as much as the Jews, but what harms the Jews is that they do not have the religion that prevails in the land. As for the former, the advantage that having a religion provides with regard to favoring one in cheating, he refers to what one learns from the clergy. He claims that what helps the clergy to be able to cheat more than any other social class is simply that they are so close to religion; if such a thing could be done, he would gladly pay a handsome sum to obtain ordination, because it would pay for itself splendidly.

Two or four times a year this man dresses up in his best clothes and goes to Communion. There a pastor makes his appearance, a pastor who (like those figures that jump out of a snuflbox when the spring is touched) jumps as soon as he sees “a blue banknote.” And then the holy ceremony is celebrated, from which the tradesman, or rather both of the tradesmen (both the pastor and the citizen) return home to their ordinary way of life, except that one of them (the pastor) cannot be said to return home to his ordinary way of life – after all, he had not left it, has been much more engaged as a tradesman!

And one dares to offer this to God in the name of the Sacrament of the Altar, the Communion of Christ’s body and blood! The Sacrament of the Altar! It was at the Communion table that Christ, himself consecrated from eternity to be the sacrifice, for the last time before his death was together with his disciples and consecrated them also to death, or to the possibility of death if they truly followed him. Therefore, in all its solemnity, what is said about his body and blood is so dreadfully true, this blood-covenant that has united the sacrifice with his few faithful blood- witnesses, which they surely would become.

And now the solemnity is this: to live before and after in a completely worldly way – and then a ceremony. Yet to instruct people about what the New Testament understands by the Lord’s Supper and its commitment – for good reasons the pastors guard against that. That others have been sacrificed, to live on this is the basis of their whole livelihood; their Christianity is to receive the sacrifice. To suggest to them that they themselves be sacrificed would be regarded by them as eine sonderbare und hochst unchristliche Zumuthung [a strange and highly unchristian presumption], totally in conflict with the New Testament’s sound doctrine, which they presumably would demonstrate with such colossal learning that no individual’s lifetime would suffice to study this thoroughly.

The Moment No 7, Hong 231

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