Tag Archives: Holy Communion

A Feast to Remember

Standard

Recently, in honor of Veteran’s Day, my husband and I were invited to dinner at a friends’ house.  There were a number of veterans there, and as we ate, they sat around the table telling stories about their time in the military.  There were funny stories and scary stories;  there were stories about the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marines;  there were stories about the Vietnam War, World War II, Korea and Qatar.  All these men (and one woman) had a shared experience and it was good to have an opportunity to remember it together.

The ancient Israelites had a feast like this as well,  called Passover.  The Passover was a time to repeat and remember their experience as slaves in Egypt and how the Lord rescued them.  Even though the people celebrating the feast had not participated in the actual events, God wanted them to remember it as part of their personal history, part of their life as God’s people.

As Christians, we celebrate a regular feast as well.  Some name it The Lord’s Supper, others Holy Communion or the Mass, depending on the denomination.  We also come together to remember an experience from our history as a people, the night that Jesus last ate and drank with His disciples before His Crucifixion and Resurrection. For Lutherans, it is much more than just a symbol — it is Christ Himself, coming to us in His body and blood, what we call “the real presence.”  Here’s some of what Martin Luther says we receive in this feast:

“For here in the sacrament [Communion] you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils” (The Large Catechism — p. 98).

Luther said we should partake of this sacrament often.  Why would we want to miss out, simply to sleep in?  A feast is set for us.  A feast where we meet with Jesus and our fellow believers, to not only remember, but receive His blessings today.  It gives us strength and nourishment for daily living.  Don’t miss out — did you go to the feast this week?

Advertisements

Examine Yourself

Standard

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”  1 Corinthians 11: 27-29

See the source image

Lutherans take the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously.  We believe that the bread and wine remains physically bread and wine, however, Jesus is present “in, with and under” the physical elements. Participants should examine themselves to be sure they rightly understand and appreciate the great gift being received.  Of course, many might say, “what does it mean to examine oneself?  How do I do that?”  In our congregation,  the Pastor reads what is called an “Exhortation” before we commune which explains this.  I thought it might be helpful to non-Lutherans and Lutherans alike to print it here.

EXHORTATION

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, as 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.

You should, also, unite in giving thanks to Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for so great a gift, and should love one another with a pure heart, and thus, with the whole Christian Church, have comfort and joy in Christ our Lord.  To this end, may God the Father grant you His grace;  through the same, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

Note:  The Exhortation Before Communion is taken from The Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship

The Greatest Bible Study

Standard

“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32

This has always been one of my favorite passages of scripture, titled in my Bible, “On the Road to Emmaus.”  Two followers of Jesus meet him on the way to a village called Emmaus, shortly after the crucifixion. They do not recognize him and tell him how their teacher was crucified, and that some of the women in their company claimed that He had risen.  Jesus proceeds to lead them in the greatest Bible study of all time:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27

Finally he reveals himself to them at the evening meal, when he blesses and breaks the bread and gives it to them.  Wouldn’t you love to have an experience like that?  Well, guess what, you can.  We have the very words of Christ, recorded for us in the New Testament gospels;  we have the opportunity to meet with Him in the celebration of communion.  You can meet Him on the road of your own journey.  Ask Him to open your eyes;  do you feel your heart burning?

Image result for images on the road to emmaus

Learning from the Liturgy

Standard

I’ve always belonged to a liturgical church and I can’t imagine my spiritual life without it.  The liturgy isn’t just a ritual;  it doesn’t lose meaning because it’s familiar.  The liturgy is a powerful tool for teaching.

In the liturgy, I learn to know Christ better.  I meet Jesus through the words of Scripture, the confession and absolution, the sacrament and the sermon.  It’s personal.  Jesus speaks to me through these human and physical means.

Liturgy teaches me that my faith isn’t just about me and God.  It’s about me, God, and my sisters and brothers in Christ.  I’m joined with my fellow members in a mystical way that doesn’t happen anywhere else. We become one body as we sing, recite the creeds, and pray.  I see Christ on the faces of others and I know that they see Him in me.

Through the liturgy, I learn to feel comfortable in the larger church.  If I visit another Lutheran congregation while traveling, I find myself at home in the faith.  The service may be more contemporary, the logistics of communion different, but the elements of the liturgy themselves provide a reassuring familiarity.  I belong without knowing a single person’s name.  This comfort runs through time as well as place.  The earliest Christian services from the 4th and 5th century are strikingly similar to the Lutheran liturgy today.  I am connected to my forbears in the faith through our shared worship experience.

My participation in the weekly liturgy makes the unseen real to me.  When we say in our service that we worship along with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” we’re serious.  It is a “foretaste of the feast to come.”  My actions outside the sanctuary take on a heavenly significance and temporal concerns pale.

The liturgy teaches not only through words, but through shared experience.  It can be heard on the lips of preschoolers and whispers of the aged and dying.

The liturgy is the song of the church.  Live with it.  Learn from it. Love it.

 

In Remembrance

Standard

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  In the same way he took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Lutherans consider communion a sacrament because:

  1. God instituted it
  2. It includes a visible means
  3. It works salvation–this doesn’t mean communion saves us, but it strengthens our faith in the work of Christ

Isn’t it amazing that God comes to us in the simplest things:  the water of baptism, the bread and wine of the Eucharist?  Isn’t it wonderful that He choses a meal, an every day occurrence as the way the for us to not only remember Him and all He has done, but to experience His real presence with us and in us?

Meals are social occasions.  Sometimes at meals we celebrate, and sometimes we just enjoy life with family and friends.  The feast Christ prepares for us in communion is both.  We give thanks and praise to Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and we do this with the family of God, our congregation.  A Pastor once told me that the cross represents both:  the vertical bar is our relationship with God, the horizontal our fellowship with one another.  It is, as Paul said, “a profound mystery.”

Next time you commune, remember the gift Christ gave you, and remember the gift of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s a time of oneness with Him and with each other.  Celebrate the mystery!

Image result for images of do this in remembrance of me

 

 

 

In Remembrance of Me

Standard

We hear those words on Sunday when we take Communion.  We need to come to the altar with the mindset of remembering that Jesus died on the cross for us.

Being the music person I am, I found a song.  “Remember” by Laura Story is a beautiful song, very simple, but the words are true:

This is the body that was torn for us
This is the blood that was spilt
Points to the pain you endured for us
Points to the shame, the blame, the guilt

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come
Move our hearts to remember

This is the Lamb who was slain for us
So we the church may enter in
So bitter sweet when we think of You
The One who bore our curse, our sin

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come
Move our hearts to remember, to remember

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come
Move our hearts to remember

 

Whose Feet Have You Washed?

Standard

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26-28.

 

In a few days our congregation, and many others will be celebrating Maundy Thursday, commemorating the institution of Holy Communion.  It is customary during the service to hear how before the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

 

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Them he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  John 13:3-6

 

This would have been astounding.  It was customary at the time for the lowliest servant in the household to wash the dirty feet of those coming in from dusty roads.  Even peers did not wash each others feet, except on a rare occasion as a sign of great love.  I don’t know what would serve as a comparable example in our world – maybe being honored by having the President of the United States over to dinner, only for him to get up after the meal and say, “let me scrape and wash the dishes and take the garbage out for you”  How would we react?  Probably like Peter, protesting, “Oh no sir, we can’t let you do that!”

 

Jesus did this to give us an example of humble servanthood.

 

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13: 14-15

 

Jesus calls us to a life of sacrifice and humility.  Whose feet have you washed?

To be continued ….