Let us pray. Merciful God, we do not come to your table trusting in our own goodness, but in your abundant mercy. As we come to your table of grace, help us to discover in this meal the strength and support we need for our life of faith in the world. Amen.
In, With and Under
While nearly all Christians believe that the practice of communion that Jesus instituted at his last supper with is disciples is important, not everyone agrees on what the communion meal means or what is taking place in the meal. For some communion is a memory meal. It is something that we do to remember something that happened a long time ago. For others, the bread and wine of communion is literally being transformed into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus.
As Lutherans, we fall somewhere in the middle in our understanding of what is happening in communion. Lutherans believe that Jesus promises to be completely present in the bread and wine of communion. The bread is still bread. The wine is still wine, but in communion Jesus promises to be “in, with and under” the bread and wine. In the bread and wine, we get a taste of the good news that through the love of Jesus, God forgives us, God loves us and God is completely present with us.
Here’s a video from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary that gives an overview of how different Christians understand what is happening in communion.
Come to the Table
Years ago, people thought that the only way you could receive communion was to have confessed all you sins and be completely pure in heart. To be sure, confession and forgiveness are good for our hearts and for the practice of faith, but God’s gift of communion is given to us not because we have earned it through confession or purity, but out of God’s extreme love for us. God’s gift of communion is for you. It is at this meal that we are strengthened and nourished to be sincere in our repentance in our lives of faith. We will never be completely pure anymore than the air we breathe will ever be completely free of pollutants, but the good news of the gospel is God loves sinners like you and me! This supper, with its bread broken and wine poured out, reminds us that God loves us enough to die for us, to be broken brutally on a cross, so that you and I might live. When you come to the communion meal, you may be excited and happy, you may be nervous and upset or you may be confused and uncertain, but regardless of how you are feeling in that moment, know that this gift is for you.
More often than not, when you come to communion, you will hear someone say “The Body of Christ given for you” or “The Blood of Christ given for you”. The gift of communion is for you. It is not something that is impersonal or far away. Communion is an opportunity for you to be connected in a very real way to Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are united to the promise that Jesus has died, Jesus has risen and Jesus will come again. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are connected to all the other children of God who share in that same meal and that same promise. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are strengthened and nourished for our calling to be God’s heart and hands and voices in the world.
Action and Reflection Questions
- What picture forms in your mind when you think about communion? If you enjoy drawing, painting or crafts, create that picture and share it with a family member or friend.
- Some have suggested that in the waters of baptism, we are welcomed into God’s family of faith and that at the communion table we are fed and nourished for our life of faith in the world. In the comments below, describe one way that sharing communion helps strengthen you for your life of faith.
Let us pray. Almighty God, you provide the true bread from heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant that we who have received the sacrament of his body and blood may abide in him and he in us, that we may be filled with the power of his endless life, now and forever. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers adapted from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.