I used to be nonchalant about the words “This is my body” and “This is my blood”. I understood and believed those words but never really thought about them. The Sacrament of the Altar; a great gift from God that is sometimes put on the back burner or even pushed out of the Divine Service all together. For what reason? Maybe a longer sermon, a children’s message, more announcements, or even wanting to have a service to be under an hour. Lutherans should desire the body and blood of our Lord anytime they can get it. It has been given to us by Christ to strengthen us in the faith and forgive our sins. The Sacrament of the Altar is one of the most important things the church has been given to “do” instituted by Christ Himself, which is way it’s a sacrament. Preparing for the Sacrament of the Altar is very important and should not be taken lightly. As the apostle Paul wrote in Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (ESV) 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Examine yourself; we all know where we stand – guilty of countless sins against God and our neighbor. Looking at our lives in light of the Ten Commandments can and should be a painful reminder of just how corrupt we are. The first step we must take before receiving the Sacrament of the Altar is to repent. Just as we confess our sins in the Confession and Absolution; we must also confess our sins before the Sacrament of the Altar.
Consider the words of institution “This is My body” and “This is My blood”. Think about your body and blood. Maybe you’re getting older, you get out of bed a little or a lot slower then you use to. Your body is dying, in fact it’s dead, sin has taken care of that. There is no amount of push-ups, doctor’s visits or protein shakes that will help your body.
Now consider the body and blood you are about to eat. This is Christ’s body, this is Christ’s blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. His body and blood are living, without sin and resurrected. Best of all, it’s for you. The same body that was nailed to the cross with all our sins is there for us in the Sacrament of the Altar; take and eat. The same blood that poured out of our Lord’s body as he died; take and drink.
I remember hearing a story from my mother about my grandfather. He felt receiving the Sacrament of the Alter only a few times per year was sufficient. I know the number of times you receive the Sacrament of the Altar has no bearing on your salvation. Our salvation has already been determined by the perfect faith of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Sacrament of the Altar is so comforting to Christians because it points us back to Jesus Christ. He gave us the ultimate comfort; the forgiveness of our sins paid for with his body and blood. Yet he gives us even more to be thankful for with this sacrament. Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me”. Remembering Jesus is to remember the cross he bore for us all. The Sacrament of the Altar is the cross of Jesus. Every Christian struggles with sin and the devil is constantly attacking us from every angle. On top of that you have the world telling you what you should and shouldn’t believe and confess. Then you have this gift from Christ; that he gives us freely to help strengthen us in faith.
I consider myself very lucky to be attending an LCMS church which offers the Sacrament of the Altar every Lord’s Day. I can’t imagine the divine service without it. The divine service begins with the Confession and Absolution and ends with the Sacrament of the Altar. Both bring us to our knees in repentance and then raise us up justified because of Jesus Christ alone. If you are reading this and attending a Lutheran church that is not offering the Sacrament of the Altar every Lord’s day; I ask you to respectfully ask your pastor – Why?