What is the sacrament of Holy Communion?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ together with the bread and wine, instituted by Christ for us Christians to eat and drink.
Where is it written?
The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Apostle Paul tell us: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
What this means to me
Jesus Himself tells me that in Holy Communion I will receive His body and blood in and with the bread and wine. My mind cannot understand this, but I believe what Jesus says, because He is true God. I am grateful that the Lord Jesus has given His believers the sacrament of Holy Communion as a means through which they can receive blessings for their souls.
Holy Communion is a mystery beyond human understanding. How can the Son of God who fills everything in every way be with us, here and now, fully and completely, delivered through the vehicles of bread and wine, so that we are eating and drinking his true body and blood?
The question we might ask about the Real Presence was the same question facing the shepherds when they first saw their newborn savior: How? How can he who never sleeps sleep? How can He who needs nothing need food? How can He who never changes change? The Shepherds might well have asked themselves such questions but they had the word of God’s angel and that was enough. “The shepherds returned , glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Its the same with the mystery of the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper. Every step we take toward human reason and logic to solve the mystery is a step away from God’s Word. God does not invite us to solve the mystery. He invites us to take him at his word.
We may not be able to fully understand the Lord’s Supper, but there’s nothing mysterious about the way Jesus explains it to us. “Take and eat,” says Jesus, “this is my body. Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant.” Scripture is clear. If an ordinary man had taken bread and said, “This is my body,” we might think he’s lost his marbles or is at least joking around. But the speaker here is the Son of God, who is always truthful and has all wisdom and power. He can back up what he says by making his body truly present.
Jesus’ body and blood were truly present under the bread and wine he gave his disciples in the upper room on the night he was betrayed, and they are present in our use of the Sacrament, too. “Do this,” Jesus tells us. So we do. We pay close attention to Jesus’ words as he instituted this sacrament. Despite the mystery we have clear instructions. In this way we know that we receive the body and blood of our Savior together with the bread and wine of Communion in the same way that the disciples did when they were with Jesus in the upper room.
The Real Presence of Jesus’ body and blood in his Supper matters. Remember who this is. This is the Word of God, made flesh, true God, begotten from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary. “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”. And its not just that he is present in his Supper. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ is really present, for you. You can think of the doctrine of the Real Presence when you hear your pastor open the Communion liturgy saying, “The Lord be with you.”
Perhaps the mystery of Communion seems so other-worldly and heavenly that we miss the help it gives us here and now. The problems we face each day always stem from the problem of sin and its effects. Communion is an incredibly practical gift from God. It’s exactly what you need, not only for a clean conscience, but for strength and wisdom to carry out your roles in life, for the glad willingness to carry your cross, for comfort in time of grief, for the desire to forgive and love the people who are hard to forgive and love, and for the eagerness to be Jesus’ witness to the world. Luther wrote this in his Large Catechism,
“There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes we also stumble. Therefore, the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so that it will not fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger.
Crises of youth, mid-life, and the golden years all find resolution at the Lord’s Table.
More than that, Communion preaches the unity we share as fellow Christians. In it we are connected to Christ and to one another. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” ****
A young father returned to his pew after receiving Communion. His five-year old daughter had been observing him from her place in the pew. She asked him, “How was the true body and blood, Dad?” Her father had been doing more than receiving something. He had also been proclaiming something, and not just to his daughter, but to everyone else gathered at the table and assembled in church that day. Paul says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” To remember Jesus is to proclaim his death.
In Communion, Jesus the Bridegroom proclaims his vow of love to his bride, the Church. His love and faithfulness far exceed that of any other husband. Jesus’ love is real rescue from sin, death and hell. When we receive the Lord’s Supper, he proclaims his love and we also proclaim his love in the same act.
Since the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of everything we believe about Jesus, we pay careful attention to the beliefs of those who join us in the sacrament. We invite only those in our church fellowship to join at the table. Communion expresses the unity of believers. To commune with those whose beliefs do not agree with the clear teachings of Scripture would declare a unity that is not in fact real.
When Jesus instituted Baptism, he said, “Go and baptize all nations.” But he gave Communion only to his disciples and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The Lord’s Supper is only for believers. In fact, Paul says, “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”
Because of this Holy Communion deserves our careful attention. We ought to prepare ourselves before we approach the table. But how? Must we torture ourselves about our unworthiness? What does one need to be properly prepared to approach the Lord’s Table? Nothing more and nothing less than this: Faith. Our preparation consists of belief in the words, “Given” and “poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Saturday isn’t too early to start thinking about Communion on Sunday. As we think ahead to approaching the Lord’s Table we need to leave our pride behind. Our individual sins and faithless worry are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s time to remember what it means that we are by nature sinful. Every moment we desperately need the forgiveness Jesus won. Yet our preparation is filled with joy! At this meal God will provide the antidote for sin’s poison. Here he will serve real food for starving sinners. The Lord is about to bring the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus into the here and now, and he’s going to make it personal: “for you.” Here he offers us the entire treasure he has brought for us from heaven.
Writing about Holy Communion, Gene Edward Vieth, Jr., a convert to Lutheranism, observes:
Without food we would starve to death. We have to eat to fuel our physical life; otherwise we grow weak and waste away. The only food that can sustain our bodies comes from the death of other living things. Whether we are nourishing ourselves from a bloody steak or ripped up plants in a vegetarian casserole, there can be no life, even on the physical level, apart from the sacrifice of other life. What is true for physical life is true for spiritual life-we can only live if there has been a sacrifice. And we can only live if we have continuing nourishment.”
We give you thanks, O Lord, for the foretaste of the heavenly banquet that you have given us to eat and to drink in your Supper. Through this gift you feed our faith, nourish our hope, and strengthen our love. By your Holy Spirit, help us to live as your holy people until that day when you will receive us as your guests at the wedding supper of Heaven.
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