Look Three Ways

Back in November, while visiting family in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I attended a small Presbyterian church.  The week we were there, one of their Elders gave a short temple talk about communion.  He made the very valid point that we most often understand the Lord’s Supper as a time to reflect upon our relationship with God.  After all, Jesus told his disciples:

“Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24

It’s appropriate to look up as we drink the bread and wine, giving thanks to the one who made us and saved us.

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He went on to explain that before partaking, it is also essential to look within ourselves.  The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church:

 “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 judgement upon himself.”  1 Corinthians 11:28-29

Lutherans also consider this a necessary part of the communion service.  At our church, the Pastor reads a pretty detailed explanation of “what we should believe and do.”  (see Examine Yourself). So, this Elder concluded we should “look both ways” during communion — up and in.

That’s right as far as it goes.  However, I believe we actually need to look three ways– up, in and around.  The Lord’s Supper is a community event, which binds us not only to God, but to one another.  In the same chapter of Corinthians already referenced, Paul reprimands the congregation because they are communing without regard for the needs of their fellow members.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”  1 Corinthians 11:20-21

Paul makes it clear that this meal involves the entire body, an experience which promotes unity with God and with each other.  We are not to simply satisfy ourselves.

“So then my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another … so that when you come together it will not be for judgement.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

When you come together at the table, examine yourself.  Look all three ways — up, down and around. It’s the sign of the cross.

For more about communion see:

Clarity about Communion

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3

 

 

 

 

 

The Agnus Dei

“Agnus Dei” is a Latin phrase which literally means, “lamb of God.”  If you are a Lutheran (or Catholic or Anglican) you will know that it is a liturgical prayer addressed to Christ, our Savior, the lamb who was sacrificed for us. It is based upon these words spoken by John the Baptist:

   “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1:29

It has been included in the liturgy since the 12th century, and used in choral pieces by many famous composers.  In our church we sing it before Holy Communion.  These are the words:

“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us! Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace!”

The themes are forgiveness and sacrifice, appropriate as we approach the table of the Lord and remember His last supper with the disciples.

For more on the liturgy go to these posts:

Learning from the Liturgy

The Laity and Liturgy

Liturgy as Prayer

 

 

A Feast to Remember

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?