I’ve been attending the national convention of our church denomination all this week. One of the hallmarks of our time together is worship, morning and evening. Tonight we shared a service of Holy Communion. Probably not all that different from services you attend. There is music, the reading of Scripture, and the consecration of the Sacrament. The Celebrant declares in the words of Scripture, “Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying ‘this is my body given for you.’ Then He took the cup instructing all to drink of it, saying ‘this is the new covenant in my blood shed for you.'” The bread and wine are then distributed to the congregation. I was sitting near the front, within ten feet of the Celebrant who was distributing the bread as people filed by. I heard him repeat, probably a hundred time, “This is the true Body of Christ given unto death for your sins”. The words couldn’t have been more clear. In this bread, in this cup, I received the forgiveness of all my sins. Whatever had gone before in my life; whatever thoughts or actions I had done or failed to do, were gone. They were cleansed in the broken body and shed blood of my Savior. I was free. And not only me, that broken body and shed blood redeemed you, and all mankind. In Christ you are free. Those are the most serious and most freeing words spoken on earth – given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Hear them and live in the Joy of your Lord.
[category Good Morning]
We had the privilege last evening of sharing in a service of holy communion with several hundred others. We were at a gathering of Lutherans celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The music was magnificent with organ, choir, and five piece brass ensemble. Eight clergy in white albs and stoles served. The Gospel was spoken clearly in liturgy and homily. The congregates came forward to receive the bread and wine, the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, with its assurance of forgiveness, cleansing, and new life. All that surrounded the service was a glorious worship experience. But I had to also think of the service of Holy Communion that I will share with my home congregation on Sunday morning with 20 people, and without choir or brass ensemble. Also the many other congregations of our size and even less who will do the same. The truth is that the worship we will share is no less glorious because the presence of God’s Holy Word is there, and the bread and wine of the blessed sacrament are give. All the additions are nice, but the true church is present where the Word of God is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. And that is true whether 2 or 200 receive it. We give thanks and praise for God’s abundant grace.
“In the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had blessed it, He broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also, He took the cup, and when He had supped and given thanks He gave it to them saying, ‘All of your drink of it. This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.'” These words that you hear at every communion service are not a mere remembrance of something Jesus did at a Passover service two thousand years ago. They are a present reality of God’s grace. When you come to the altar hearing the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins” Jesus is present with his forgiving grace. In this present act of God’s grace you have the assurance of your cleansing and new life. That is the marvelous gift given to you on this Holy Thursday.
Life giving. What is life giving? There are many pill commercials, and various procedures that are advertised as life giving. They will improve this, or heal that. The Church has something to offer each week, or at least frequently, that is more life giving than anything found anywhere else. I am speaking of Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. When Jesus first gave it to His disciple on a Thursday evening in Jerusalem He said,”take and eat, this is my body, … this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”(Matthew 26:26-28) We call this a sacrament, a sacred act, an act commanded by God that we continue, an act that conveys God’s grace to the receiver. As we kneel or stand at the altar, and receive the simple elements of the communion, we are receiving the true presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. The words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins” are real and personal. We are assured of our cleansing and righteousness before God. Further, we know that we have been made a part of His Body. We are one with each of the brothers and sisters at the rail with us, and all those who have gone before us in the faith. We are forgiven, cleansed, and made a part of Christ’s Body. What can be more life giving than that? We should never want to miss it. It is better than anything pill companies have to offer!