Holy Communion, the 2nd of the two sacraments of the Lutheran Church.
Holy Communion, where we recall the saving acts of God through Word, Bread, and Wine.
Holy Communion, which connects us with Christ and with Christians from every time and place.
Holy Communion, where we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.
It seems like such a simple thing, eating together every week, yet it is worth pondering for a moment or two, asking the questions:
What is Holy Communion?
What are its benefits?
How does it happen?
And how should we prepare?
Let us pray
What is Holy Communion?
It is the true body of Christ and blood of Christ attached to the bread and wine with God’s Word.
It is an action commanded by Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all are aware that this is something Jesus tells us to do.
If Christ commands it of us, who are we to disobey?
Communion is a gift God give to us Christians. Some people, for one reason or another, abstain from communion.
Why shun a gift from God?
Perhaps you do not feel good enough to receive communion?
Not Holy Enough?
Well, John records that Judas ate from Jesus’ very hand… you’re at least as good as ol’ Judas right?
After all, just as Churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints,
isn’t communion medicine for the sin sick soul?
What are its benefits?
Communion is no small thing
within this meal we share together,
within this weak sign of bread and wine,
razor thin crackers and thimbles just filled
—we are told of our salvation—told about that night, in which he was handed over.
—we receive the very bread of life, the flesh of Jesus Christ, within which there is eternal life!
—we physically ingest God’s forgiveness.
How does this happen?
Now, when Luther was explaining Holy Communion, he was doing so while faced with two different understandings of the Lord’s Supper which both rely on Logic instead of Faith.
In the first case, Luther is standing against a Medieval Roman Catholic understandings of the Lord’s Supper, which rely on the science of the time, Aristotelian Logic, in order to explain what happens during communion.
Jesus is in Holy Communion because logic dictates he is. Luther responds, “No, Jesus is there, because he promises to be there.”
In the second case, Luther is standing against other protestant reformers like the French John Calvin and Swiss Huldrich Zwingli. They too, he felt, clung to logic instead of faith.
When they debated with Luther about the Lord’s Supper they clung to a literal understanding of scripture—specifically that Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Father… which to them meant Jesus clearly couldn’t show up in bread and wine here on earth, because he was up in heaven.
Luther countered that The Right Hand is a Hebrew way of saying strength or power, and so the Traditional understanding of that power involves the ubiquity of Christ
—at essence, ubiquity means Jesus isn’t bound to any one place.
For example, if you read the end of several of the Gospels, Jesus walks through walls, shows up on the road to Emmaus, and so on. So clearly he’s not stuck on a cloud somewhere, clearly he can show up in bread and wine if he promises he is going to show up there… here.
So convinced was Luther of the real presence that he met with Zwingli in Malburg and they went round after round for days and days about the real presence and Luther began to etch into the table they sat at “Est ist est.” That is “Is means Is.”
As we read in the 1st letter to the Corinthians today “this IS my body” and “this IS my blood.”
To be clear, we receive Christ’s body and blood through faith.
We trust his words to be true. We trust that when Jesus promises to be somewhere he’ll be there, because he doesn’t lie. When he RSVPs to this meal, he shows up.
His words, his promise, echo forth from 1st century Jerusalem to 21st century Jersey.
The words “for you,” are not an abstract you.
Not a disinterested you.
But you, in that very moment! Jesus for you!
For you today.
For you in all your peculiarities. For you at this very moment, just as you are!
How should we prepare?
There are many spiritual calisthenics people practice surrounding Communion.
Some refrain from eating until they’ve partaken in communion.
Some break wafers on their tongues to remind themselves they are complicit in Jesus’ crucifixion.
Some refrain from chewing on the wafer out of respect for the body of Christ.
Some read the passion story on Sunday morning before going to Church.
Some go out and feed the hungry on Saturday night.
What matters in all of these things is that the spiritual practices you do surrounding Holy Communion help you to trust more fully Jesus’ promise to meet you in the Meal.
Siblings of the faith,
Jesus commands us to come to communion,
where he promises to meet and feed us,
forgive us and save us,
Jesus is trustworthy and his words are true!