Pastor’s Pen June 2016
Dear Holy Trinity family,
Such a treasure: our Lord Jesus’ real presence in the blessed bread and wine of Holy Communion! What can compare?? In The Large Catechism Luther wrote:
…[W]e go to the sacrament because we receive there a great treasure,
through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins…
Christ bids me eat and drink in order that the sacrament may be mine
and may be a source of blessing to me as a sure pledge and sign --
indeed, as the very gift he has provided for me
against my sins, death and all evils. (22)
Therefore, it is appropriately called the food of the soul
since it nourishes and strengthens the new man… (23)
The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance,
so that our faith may refresh and strengthen itself and not weaken in the struggle
but grow continually stronger. (24)
This is certainly news that’s more-than-good-enough to share! As our church friend Edith Derres used to remind us, if the neighbors and community knew that God’s amazing wealth is being given away free, there’d be a line out the door and down the block whenever we gather to worship!
But there isn’t a line out the door. Do people not know about the Gift Given in the Lord’s Supper? Forgiveness of sins? Life? Salvation? The very Presence of our Lord? Do they not value it? Do they not need it?
Luther wrote this:
Suppose you say, “What shall I do if I cannot feel this need
or experience hunger and thirst for the sacrament?”…
I know no better advice than to suggest that they put their hands to their bosom
and ask whether they are made of flesh and blood. (75)
If you cannot feel the need… at least believe the Scriptures. (76)
Some feel their need deeply, but their unworthiness even more intensely. To them Luther says:
But suppose you say, “What if I feel that I am unfit?” (55)
If you choose to fix your eye on how good and pure you are,
to work toward the time when nothing will prick your conscience,
you will never go. (57)
…[T]hey alone are unworthy
who neither feel their infirmities nor admit to being sinners. (74)
Could it be that some stay away because they realize the commitment they would make by coming to the Lord’s altar and receiving His Body & Blood in the blessed elements of bread and wine? We who receive these gifts from a loving God are commissioned to go forth and share God’s love with the world. The Sacrament is about forgiveness, yes, but isn’t it true that God’s mercy showcases God’s love?!
Here your heart must go out in love
and learn that this is a sacrament of love.
As love and support are given you, you in return must render love and support
to Christ in his needy ones…
You must fight, work, pray, and – if you cannot do more –
have heartfelt sympathy. (9)
For the sacrament has no blessing and significance unless love grows daily
and so changes a person that he is made one with all others. (58)
So it is that we are reminded that the Body of Christ is more than the consecrated host or bread that we receive in Holy Communion. The Body of Christ is the baptized people of God. God intends our Christian faith to be nurtured, lived out and to flourish in community. Someone has used the metaphor of a burning ember that dies out when separated from the larger fire. Christianity is a very personal but not a private religion. Christ calls the members of His Body to support each other, to multiply joys and divide sorrows, to call each other to faith and to service, and to call each other onto the carpet when necessary. The community keeps us accountable. Christ doesn’t call us to rugged individualism but to Life Together. We are members of one Body whose Head is Christ. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a hand cannot do without the leg, an eye without the heart, or any body part without the head. We are called to be dependent on Christ and interdependent with each other.
Ah, more good news!
Therefore take heart and be bold. You are not fighting alone.
Great help and support are all around you…
All of these afflictions [worldly woes, devil’s wiles, our own sins]
make us weary and weak,
unless we seek strength in this fellowship,
where strength is to be found. (7)
Luther wrote this in 1519 in a sermon named “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods.” 497 years later, the message still rings true! Seek the Body of Christ for your soul nourishment. Enliven the Body of Christ with your welcomed presence.