The Blessings of Every Sunday Communion

chalice-1427662-mBy the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ both my dual parishes receive the blessed Sacrament every Sunday. This is joy for me as pastor and for parishioner as well. Jesus so loves us he gives his gifts in many and different ways where he has promised.

It is true that many parishes in Synod do not have every Sunday Communion. But the good news is that at nearly every District and Syndical Convention resolutions are overwhelmingly passed encouraging congregations parishes in this direction.

At times parishioners are hesitant to change. This is understandable when “… change and decay in all around I see” (LSB 878:4). Perhaps the following suggestion will be helpful in our thinking. If change leads us away from Jesus—meaning the proposed change gives us less of Jesus—then I am resistant to such change. However, if change leads us to receive more of Jesus—to receive more of Jesus’ gifts—then I am all for this type of change. How about you? People are quite happy when a change in medical practice gives more healing. People are resistant to change and rightly so when such change brings less service and healing.

Our desire to receive the Lord’s Supper every day is enhanced when we realize the Divine Service is gospel—Jesus giving himself to us through his gifts. We come to church to “worship” Jesus. Our Lutheran Confessions teach that the highest and most holy way to worship Jesus is to receive in faith the gifts he offers. That is why Lutherans prefer to use the words, Divine Service to speak of what happens on Sunday morning. The divine, Jesus, serves us with the forgiveness of sins. Read below how our Confessions define worship and explain this truth.

 The service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God… The greatest possible comfort comes from this doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is the desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.[1]

Jesus desires that we receive his gifts often. In the Preface to his Catechism Luther writes: “Christ did not say, ‘Omit this’ or ‘despise this,’ but ‘This do, as often as you drink it,’ etc. He most certainly wants it done and does not want it left undone and despised. ‘This do,’ He says.”[2]

 “‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Cor 11:26). The operative word is often. The Church’s mission is to proclaim the Lord’s death for the sins of the world, and as the Lord’s Supper does exactly that, ‘often’ is far better than ‘occasionally.’”[3]

A Godly concern is expressed by those who believe every Sunday Communion would make the sacrament too common and people will not appreciate it. The cure for not appreciating the gifts of Jesus is not to withhold the gifts but to repent over our ingratitude or whatever is lacking in us; for there is nothing lacking in Christ’s gifts. Allow me to reason from the Third Commandment.

 “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”[4]

Paraphrasing Luther we could say:

“We should fear and love God so that we do not despise [Holy Communion], but hold it sacred and gladly [commune].”

The problem with treating the Lord’s Supper in a common way lies in our sinful hearts, not in the availability of the gift.

Before Lutheranism was influenced by non-Lutheran theology in the United States our churches received the sacrament every Lord’s Day. Quoting from Luther’s Large Catechism our Small Catechism, which I use with our confirmands, teaches the youth as follows:

 In the New Testament, the Sacrament was a regular and major feature of congregational worship, not an occasional extra (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 33). In Reformation times our churches celebrated the Sacrament “every Sunday and on other festivals” (Apology XXIV 1).[5]

In addition to the aforementioned comment that “‘often’ is far better than ‘occasionally’”[6] in regards to Communion participation additional evidence for every Sunday Communion comes from the Table of the Bread of the Presence in the Tabernacle which God directed Moses to build.

 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the Lord. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord’s food offerings, a perpetual due” (Lev 24:7-9).

Notice the priests were to eat the bread of the presence every Sabbath day. Alfred Edersheim, has written, “… the apostolic practice of partaking the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day may have been in imitation of the priests eating the shewbread every Sabbath.”[7]

On the Table were also flagons and bowls for drink offerings (Ex 25:29). Though Scripture is silent as to what beverage was used being that these people were Hebrews it is safe to assume the beverage imbibed was wine—not grape juice!

Often parishioners express a longing to be closer to Jesus. In the Old Testament the High Priest came closest to God when he entered past the veil and officiated in the Holy of Holies sprinkling blood of the lamb upon the Mercy Seat (Lev 16:15-16). In an even more profound manner we come closest to Jesus this side of eternity in Holy Communion where his crucified and risen body and blood are lovingly distributed.

 Jesus joins Himself most intimately to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. He comes so close as to serve us the most precious gifts in the universe—the very means with which He purchased our salvation—the life-giving fruits of His Sacrifice on the cross. …  To commune is to be in intimate communicating with something, and one can’t be in a closer communion with the Holy Son of God than to eat His body and drink His blood.[8]

Communion is a holy and special time when we are united with our loved ones for heaven is a lot closer than we think. When families have lost a child or loved ones a spouse I intentionally insert the name of the loved one who has just died in the place of “John Doe” as seen below. The gift of the historic liturgy lovingly teaches that we in the Church Militant are untied with those who have entered the Church Triumphant. When people realize this mystical truth beautiful joyful tears flow as they knowingly commune with their loved ones who have died in the faith. This truth is of great comfort and aids in their healing of grief. It is seen with these words:

 “Therefore with angels and archangels [with John Doe] and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:[9]

The blessings and benefit of every Sunday Communion are seen on any number of fronts.

Those who have died in Christ are always with Him, even when He comes into our midst each week to teach us, and to feed us. Their bodies are temporarily buried or otherwise at rest, but their living souls are with Christ. In Holy Communion the seen and the unseen, the temporary and the eternal intersect. As the King of heaven comes into our midst, His Body of believers is with Him. This means that The Sacrament of the Altar is not only the closest meeting point between us and our Lord, it is also the closest meeting point between us and his saints. Our loved ones who have died in Him are with Him who comes daily to feed us.

 “Not only does Jesus give His body, blood, and forgiveness, but He also brings everyone in heaven to be one with the believers on earth. It is a family feast with so many children that we cannot count them” (Lutheranism 101, p. 161). The barriers between time and space become thin. We commune with everyone who is a believer in Christ. All of the company of heaven unites in this Supper, which is a foretaste of the feast to come. All who believe, both living and dead, stand before the Lamb who was slain and lives again. It is heaven on earth.[10]

At times concern is raised that we do not want to force anyone to come to Communion and having every Sunday Communion would be forcing people to communion—and we don’t want that! Tis true; we don’t want to force anyone. And that is precisely why we offer every Sunday Communion. Think about it: to not offer the Sacrament on any given Sunday absolutely, unequivocally forces or coerces people to not commune. And we don’t want to force anyone. While-on-the-other-hand offering the Sacrament every Divine Service frees people from being forced which withholding the Sacrament certainly does. Should an individual not want to commune they certainly are free to remain in the pew for reasons known only to them and the Holy Spirit.

Dealing with completely different motivations of spiritual self-sufficiency and confidence there are those who do not desire the Sacrament. Martin Luther would lovingly say the following to such people.

 20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?

To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body    to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.

Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that   there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John   2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around 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; and 2 Timothy 2.[11]

The early church referred to Communion as the medicine of immortality. Referencing Luther’s Large Catechism Synod’s Small Catechism teaches that Communion benefits our bodies as well. This is a benefit I need and want especially as the effects of sin and age are seen all-the-more in my mortal clay. How about with you? This is addressed in question: “296 What is the benefit offered in the sacrament?” Since the section found the Large Catechism is so beautifully written and is such a stirring invitation to partake of the Sacrament frequently I will end this article with Martin Luther’s words from the Large Catechism.

 We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved. Why, then, do we act as if the Sacrament were a poison, the eating of which would bring death?

… [T]hose who are mindful of their weakness desire to be rid of it and long for help. They should regard and use the Sacrament just like a precious antidote against the poison that they have in them. Here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin. It contains and brings with it God’s grace and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune.[12]

In Christ,

Pastor Weber

 



[1] Apology, IV, in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. and ed. Theodore Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959), 155:310.

[2] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 251.

[3] Scot A. Kinnaman, gen. ed., Lutheranism 101 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 158.

[4] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 12.

[5] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 237, q. 295, Note.

[6] Scot A. Kinnaman, gen. ed., Lutheranism 101 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 158.

[7] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, updated ed., (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, Pub., 1991), 145:

[8] Ken Wieting, Lutheranism 101: The Lord’s Supper (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 78-79.

[9] “Proper Preface, Common 1, Divine Service, Setting Three,” Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 241.

[10] Ken Wieting, Lutheranism 101: The Lord’s Supper (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 81.

[11] “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 43.

[12] “Large Catechism, Article V, The Holy Supper,” in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2nd edition, gen. ed., Paul T. McCain (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 438:68-70.

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.

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