“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the LORD in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the LORD. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves”. 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29
Most Lutherans are familiar with this verse which tells us that we should “examine ourselves” before partaking of Holy Communion. However, are we clear on what that means? Some find it a bit scary. Does it mean we must track down and confess every sin we’ve committed? Does it mean we should abstain if we’re not sure our heart is entirely in the right place? It’s actually fairly simple. In our congregation the Pastor reads this exhortation before the words of institution which clarifies the issue.
“Dear friends in Christ! In order that you may receive this holy sacrament in a worthy manner it is necessary that you carefully consider what you must now believe and do. From the words of Christ, ‘This is My body which is given for you’, ‘This is My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’, you should believe that Jesus Christ is Himself present with His Body and Blood, and the words declare. From Christ’s words, ‘For the forgiveness of sins’, you should in the next place believe that Jesus Christ bestows upon you His Body and Blood to confirm to you the forgiveness of all your sins. And finally, you should do as Christ commands you when He says: ‘Take, eat’, ‘Drink of it all of you’, and ‘This do in remembrance of me.’
If you believe these words of Christ, and do as He has commanded, then you have properly examined yourselves and may rightly eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.”
In other words, to examine ourselves, we must understand that we are sinners and that Christ has given Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. We must understand that He is truly present in the Sacrament and that it is meant to be a reminder of the great gift we have received. We should accept it thankfully and live accordingly. Are we clear?
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