Lutherans actually do not teach that worshipping and venerating Christ who is truly present in the Lord’s Supper is idolatry. Where we differ from Roman Catholic teaching is that our veneration and adoration of Christ in the Sacrament is to be done within the Supper that Christ instituted, not outside of the Lord’s Supper (for example when a consecrated host is paraded in a procession or put on display). This is because the benefit of the Lord’s Supper, that is, forgiveness, life, and salvation, are tied to that which Christ instituted, namely, that we eat and drink His Body and Blood in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. For Jesus says “eat” and “drink.”
This is why we gladly sing the last stanza of the Lenten Hymn, “Glory Be To Jesus”
1. Glory be to Jesus,
Who in bitter pains
Poured for me the life-blood
From His sacred veins!
6. Lift we, then, our voices,
Swell the mighty flood,
Louder still and louder
Praise the precious blood!
We address this in the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord in more detail:
85] [Let us now come also to the second point, of which mention was made a little before.] To preserve this true Christian doctrine concerning the Holy Supper, and to avoid and abolish manifold idolatrous abuses and perversions of this testament, the following useful rule and standard has been derived from the words of institution: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum (“Nothing has the nature of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ”) or extra actionem divinitus institutam (“apart from the action divinely instituted”). That is: If the institution of Christ be not observed as He appointed it, there is no sacrament. This is by no means to be rejected, but can and should be urged and maintained with profit in the Church of God. 86] And the use or action here does not mean chiefly faith, neither the oral participation only, but the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ, [to this indeed is required] the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking [manducation] of the consecrated bread and wine, [likewise the partaking] of the body and blood of Christ. 87] And apart from this use, when in the papistic mass the bread is not distributed, but offered up or enclosed, borne about, and exhibited for adoration, it is to be regarded as no sacrament; just as the water of baptism, when used to consecrate bells or to cure leprosy, or otherwise exhibited for worship, is no sacrament or baptism. For against such papistic abuses this rule has been set up at the beginning [of the reviving Gospel], and has been explained by Dr. Luther himself, Tom. IV, Jena.
88] Meanwhile, however, we must call attention also to this, that the Sacramentarians artfully and wickedly pervert this useful and necessary rule, in order to deny the true, essential presence and oral partaking of the body of Christ, which occurs here upon earth alike by the worthy and the unworthy, and interpret it as referring to the usus fidei, that is, to the spiritual and inner use of faith, as though it were no sacrament to the unworthy, and the partaking of the body occurred only spiritually, through faith, or as though faith made the body of Christ present in the Holy Supper, and therefore unworthy, unbelieving hypocrites did not receive the body of Christ as being present.
89] Now, it is not our faith that makes the sacrament, but only the true word and institution of our almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ, which always is and remains efficacious in the Christian Church, and is not invalidated or rendered inefficacious by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, nor by the unbelief of the one who receives it. Just as the Gospel, even though godless hearers do not believe it, yet is and remains none the less the true Gospel, only it does not work for salvation in the unbelieving; so, whether those who receive the Sacrament believe or do not believe, Christ remains none the less true in His words when He says: Take, eat: this is My body, and effects this [His presence] not by our faith, but by His omnipotence.
Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
Messiah Lutheran Church
La Crescent, MN