Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
We celebrate with one accord;
It is our comfort in distress,
Our heart’s sweet joy and happiness.
When you’re considering the prospect of your death, you think about the people in your life—the people you really care about—and you think about how you can provide for them with what you’ve acquired over the course of your lifetime. It’s called a last will and testament. Knowing that His death was near, knowing that He would rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, Jesus provided for His disciples and for the Church with His testament. As the Words of Institution appear in our Catechism: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament, in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’” This was the reason He came as the Word made flesh: to give His people the forgiveness of their sins at the cost of His own life. Indeed,
He blotted out with His own blood
The judgment that against us stood;
For us He full atonement made,
And all our debt He fully paid.
forever true shall be,
He gives a solemn guarantee:
In this His holy Supper here
We taste His love so sweet, so near.
Jesus tells His Church to “do this.” This gift He gives to the Church includes His desire that His redeemed children receive this gift. “Do this…” Take and eat my body. Take and drink my blood. He wants you to partake of His Supper. He wants you to receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation He gives you in this holy meal. But we sinners always seem to give a higher priority to our own notions about what we need and how things work, rather than focusing on what the Lord promises to give. In the Lutheran Church, our public confession of what we receive in the Holy Supper cannot be faulted, for we confess exactly what Jesus says concerning the Supper He instituted. Perhaps our biggest concern, then, the false notion we cling to most, is that the Supper might somehow become less special if we receive it too often.
His Word proclaims and we believe
That in this Supper we receive
His very body, as He said,
His very blood for sinners shed.
We dare not ask how this can be,
But simply hold the mystery
And trust this word where life begins:
“Given and shed for all your sins.”
Paul does not begin with his own opinion. He does not, like so many churches today, consider it a matter of indifference what one believes regarding the Lord’s Supper. Instead Paul begins with what He had received from the Lord. He says: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” He takes Jesus at His Word, and he calls upon you to do the same. Eat our Lord’s body; drink His blood; receive this gift of life. Receive it. Long for it. Cry out for it when it’s not made available to you.
Paul wrote, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Do you believe what Jesus says? Jesus says, “This is my body;” do you believe it? Jesus says, “This is my blood;” do you believe it? Jesus says this “is given for you;” do you believe it? He tells you, “This do in remembrance of me;” do you take Him seriously? Or do you think your opinion is more important? Our hymn tells us:
But blest is each believing guest
Who in these promises finds rest;
For Jesus shall in love remain
With all who here His grace obtain.
In the Sacrament we are given Christ’s body and blood. The very body that was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary to bear our sins and suffer our death is given into our mouths. The blood He shed to redeem us now flows into our lips. The Lord’s body and blood proclaim to you the forgiveness of all your sins. As you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table, you confess Jesus Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We may bring no contradiction of Him and His words to His altar. That is why Paul warns the Corinthians that those who partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner are guilty not of bread and wine, but of Christ’s body and blood.
We give attention to faith—not because our faith establishes the presence of Christ in the Sacrament, but because it is only in faith that we may partake of the Savior’s body and blood in a way which is salutary and beneficial. Therefore, Paul says, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” There is only one way to worthily eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper, and that is with faith in the words of Him who is the Host and Donor. The Catechism says it well: “He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.’” And so, as we prepare to receive this Holy Sacrament, we pray:
Help us sincerely to believe
That we may worthily receive
Your Supper and in You find rest.
Amen! They who believe are blest.
In the name of the Father and of the (†) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.