Preparation for Receiving the Lord’s Supper
OUR COMMUNION PRACTICE:
On the basis of Christ’s own Word and institution, we believe “that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and are truly distributed with those things that are seen, the bread and wine, to those who receive the sacrament.” We also believe that “fellowship at the Lord’s table is a testimony of consensus, harmony, and unity in doctrine and faith, as Paul says: ‘We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor. 10:17).”
Confirmed Lutherans in confessional unity with our church (ELS and WELS) who repent of their sins, and who in faith seek the forgiveness and spiritual strength that Jesus offers in his Holy Supper, are welcome to commune with us. Visitors who have not previously communed in our congregation, or who have some questions about their participation in the sacrament, are asked to speak with the Pastor beforehand. Visitors are also invited to speak with the Pastor about the catechetical classes we offer for those who are interested in communicant membership, or to ask him any other questions they may have about the beliefs and practices of our church. |(The quotations are from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and from Chemnitz’s Examination, Part II)|
THE TESTIMONY OF GOD’S WORD:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? |(1 Corinthians 10:16, NKJV)|
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. |(1 Corinthians 11:26-31, ESV)|
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. |(Hebrews 10:19-23, ESV)|
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. |(Acts 2:42, NAB)|
UNWORTHY AND WORTHY COMMUNICANTS:
The unworthy guests at this Supper are...those who go to the sacrament without true contrition or sorrow over their sins and without true faith or the good intention to improve their lives. With their unworthy eating of Christ’s body they bring down judgment upon themselves, that is, temporal and eternal punishments, and they become guilty of Christ’s body and blood.
The true and worthy guests, for whom this precious sacrament above all was instituted and established, are the Christians who are weak in faith, fragile and troubled, who are terrified in their hearts by the immensity and number of their sins and think that they are not worthy of this precious treasure and of the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity; who feel the weakness of their faith and deplore it; and who desire with all their heart to serve God with a stronger, more resolute faith and purer obedience. As Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), and, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). “God’s power is made mighty in the weak” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and Romans 14:1, “Welcome those who are weak in faith, ...for God has welcomed them.” For “whoever believes in the Son of God,” whether weak or strong in faith, “has eternal life” (John 3:16). |(Formula of Concord, Book of Concord, Kolb/Wengert edition)|
A GUIDE FOR SELF-EXAMINATION:
Do you believe that you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it; I am a sinner. How do you know this? From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept. Are you also sorry for your sins? Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God. What have you deserved from God by your sins? His wrath and displeasure, temporal death and eternal damnation. Romans 6:21 and 23. Do you also hope to be saved? Yes, such is my hope. In whom, then, do you trust? In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Who is Christ? The Son of God, true God and man. How many Gods are there? Only one; but there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What, then, has Christ done for you that you trust in Him? He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Did the Father also die for you? He did not; for the Father is God only, the Holy Spirit likewise; but the Son is true God and true man. He died for me and shed his blood for me. How do you know this? From the holy Gospel and from the words of the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament. How do those words read? “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
You believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament? Yes, I believe it. What induces you to believe this? The word of Christ: “Take, eat, this is My body ... Drink from it, all of you; this...is...My blood.” What ought we to do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and thus receive the pledge? We ought to remember and proclaim His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us: “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Why ought we to remember and proclaim His death? That we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins but Christ, true God and man; and that we may learn to look with terror at our sins, and to regard them as great, indeed, and to find joy and comfort in Him alone, and thus be saved through such faith. What was it that moved Him to die and make satisfaction for your sins? His great love to His Father and to me and other sinners, as it is written in John 14; Romans 5; Galatians 2; Ephesians 2.
Finally, why do you wish to go to the Sacrament? That I may learn to believe that Christ died for my sin out of great love, as before said; and that I may also learn of Him to love God and my neighbor. What should admonish and incite a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently? In respect to God, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord should move him; and in respect to himself, the trouble that lies heavy on him, on account of which such command, encouragement, and promise are given. But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15 and 16; 1 John 2 and 5. Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; 2 Timothy 2. |(Christian Questions and Answers, Luther’s Small Catechism, ELS edition)|
Luther distributing Holy Communion