Text: Hebrews 5:1-10
8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
The final part in our Six Chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism is The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This follows the Ten Commandments – God’s Law – how God desires us to live, the Apostles Creed – the Good News of who God is and what he has done for us and continues to do in us, and the Lord’s Prayer which leads us in to prayer and communication with God and how he sustains us.
We then follow this with Baptism and the means that God uses to bring us into his family, and how we repent and confess our sin and receive the comfort of the Lord’s forgiveness from the mouth of his under shepherds.
For Luther the sacraments were a unique gift of God. It was both commanded by Christ, conveyed the forgiveness of sins, and had a visible element attached to it.
In baptism Christ commands us to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The water and word united and by the working of the Holy Spirit faith brings we who are born in sin to faith in Christ washes away our sin and marks us as one redeemed by Christ.
In the Lord’s Supper Jesus takes bread and wine saying,
26 … “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt 26:26-28
The supper is a real meal and real nourishment for the soul. It feeds us, it reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice for us, it comforts us with the forgiveness that he won at the cross and it strengthens our faith as we depart in the Lord’s peace.
Luther’s teaching was always very practical. Take God at his word. Don’t say more than God has said – or speculate how this can be and don’t understand less than the clear meaning the words indicate.
Some Christian denominations do just that. They believe less than what the teachings of Christ indicate or the say more in explanation than what the word of God allows. Lutheran’s allow for tension in the word of God.
How can God be one and yet distinct in three persons?
How can Christ be fully God and fully man?
How can God be eternal and born of a virgin?
How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ?
Lutheran’s believe that the bread and wine are and truly remain bread and wine. The words of our Lord also say, “This is my body and this is my blood” indicating the real presence of Jesus body and blood – in with and under the bread and wine.
Real Presence and in with and under are words Lutheran’s use to say that in the sacramental action we receive bread and wine in our eating and drinking but also in a mysterious way receive also the body and blood of the Lord by our mouths. It is not a Spiritual reception only. It is not only bread and wine. It is not only body and blood appearing as bread and wine. It IS truly bread and wine and body and blood – for you - and it is a mystery.
We remember daily all that the Lord has done for us. We can remember all that the Lord has done for us without ever receiving the Lord’s Supper. So why has God instituted this gift? There must be a reason that the Lord commands us to do this in remembrance of me?
Pastor Ron Moritz in my class on the Lord’s Supper some 20 years ago talked about a vacuum cleaner. He drew a picture of the vacuum on the black board and asked what else do we need to get power to the vacuum? A cord! He then drew a cross at the other end of the black board and connected the cord from the vacuum to the cross saying - when we receive the Lord’s Supper we are connected to the work of Jesus at the cross. It is not a re-sacrifice and it is not only a remembrance. We are connected to the once and for all sacrifice for sins and receive that same body and blood given and shed for you each time you do this in remembrance of me.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV
The message of forgiveness in the wonderful proclamation of John’s gospel in John 3:16 is the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ. This gospel proclamation is also the Good News that you receive in the sacrament of the altar. That same forgiveness won at the cross by Jesus is the same Good News received by you.
As Luther explains in the Small Catechism:
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
In the Lord’s Supper or Lord’s Table it is also called Holy Communion or just Communion.
By Definition of Communion Webster says: It is an act or instance of sharing.
There is both a connection between God and neighbor. As we gather in communion to receive the Lord’s Supper we receive from the Lord his gift of bread and wine, and body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin. We also gather with others showing a communion one with another that we believe, teach and confess these truths one with another. This communion, or fellowship, or Koinonía - meaning life together, is seen most beautifully as we together gather in common fellowship to receive the Lord’s forgiveness together.
As Luther says in the Catechism’s explanation:
How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
It is not the eating and drinking indeed that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Faith receives the blessing and benefit given in the Lord’s Supper but it does not require faith to make Christ’s body and blood present with the bread and wine – it is God’s word, this is my body and this is my blood that does that - and is why those who are not baptized and part of the Communion of Saints or believe differently are asked to not communion.
As Luther also says:
But he that does not believe these words or doubts is unworthy and unfit; for the words for you require altogether believing hearts.
One of my classes at the seminary was Heaven and Earth the gifts of Christ in the divine service and as part of this the Lord’s Supper was of great importance. It is where Heaven and Earth meet. It is where we gather to receive the Lord’s gifts and where God feeds and sustains us in Christ. It is a foretaste of Heaven on Earth until the Lord returns to gather us all unto himself and why we should received the Lord’s Supper often.
Do this often … in remembrance of me.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!