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Unit 4-C: Holy Communion:
     More Than Just Bread & Wine!

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, 
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
                                            Matthew 26:26-28 (NIV)


Holy Communion:
   Jesus Is Really Present


Jesus' Real Presence

Perhaps the greatest blessing found in Holy Communion is that, whenever we partake in this Sacrament, Jesus is present. He's really there "in, with and under" the bread and the wine.

What Jesus' Presence Means

When we receive Holy Baptism, Luther taught that we receive three benefits. Baptism...

1) Grant us forgiveness of sins;
2) Deliver us from death and the Devil; and 
3) Give eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and
        promises of God declare.

Because it is a sacrament, the Lord's Supper also gives these same three blessings...plus an additional greater blessing: Jesus' "Real Presence."

Jesus' Real Presence doesn't mean that we actually see Jesus standing before us as we might expect. He doesn't appear with hands, feet, eyes and hair. But He is there "clothed" as it were in simple bread and simple wine.

Jesus' Real Presence, however, goes far beyond merely being "clothed" with bread and wine. The bread and wine are His very person. They are really Him. When the bread and wine are consecrated at the altar Jesus' words, "This IS My body" and "This IS My blood" come true right before our eyes. 

Can we see Jesus at communion? Yes! But the way we see Him is different from what we might expect. But we really DO see Him! His body is in the bread and His blood is in the wine. Simple human eyes can only see bread and wine. The eyes of faith truly comprehend what is really there before us. It's Jesus' true body and Jesus' true blood offered for me and you.

A Holy Comm-Union

Unlike the Roman Catholics who teach that the bread and wine are actually transformed into Jesus' body and blood, the Bible teaches that Jesus' body and blood are united with the bread and the wine in a remarkable way. St. Paul wrote,

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving [that is, the cup of wine] for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" 
I Corinthians 10:16 (NIV)

In such a simple way St. Paul simply teaches that, at the Lord's Supper, the bread and wine are always present, participating with Jesus' true body and blood. This participation is the holy union of simple, earthly elements with Jesus' body and blood in a supernatural, heavenly way.

Like Baptism, it's a miracle each time Jesus' body and blood communes with bread and win. It's this miraculous working by which God chose to give us His grace.

The Three Unions In Holy Communion

The first union of Holy Communion between Jesus' body and blood and the bread and wine is just one dimension of Holy Communion. 

The second union in this sacrament is that between God and man, between Jesus and those who receive communion. In Holy Communion, Jesus forgives our sins and comes directly into our lives again--anew--to strengthen and renew our faith.

The third union we celebrate in Holy Communion is the communion shared with other like minded Christians. Whenever communicants receive the Lord's Supper, they celebrate how we are all united at the Table of the Lord. Though sharing in our sin and guilt, we also share in Jesus' grace given for us. In this way the Lord's Supper has a special way of uniting us into the one fellowship, the one communion, the one Body of Christ. 

Communion: Who Should Attend?

This special "closeness" is something that the Scriptures do not take lightly. St. Paul described the consequences for those who disregard or disrespect this special union.

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an 
unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of 
the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread 
and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing 
the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself."   
                                                                           I Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

Clearly Paul teaches that anyone who doesn't recognize that Jesus is really present "in, with and under" the bread and wine "drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner." For this reason anyone--including Christians of other faiths--who does not recognize the body of the Lord should NOT attend communion. 

Nor should they be invited to attend. If anyone takes the Lord's Supper without recognizing Jesus' real presence in the bread and wine, they simply "eat and drink judgment" on themselves.

Should Christians invite others to "eat and drink judgment" on themselves? No! That is why Lutherans practice "Close Communion." The word "close" does not mean "closed." Instead it refers to the Bible's mandate that those who agree (are "close") in what is given in the Lord's Supper ought to receive it. That is why Roman Catholics and non-Lutherans are not invited to attend the Lord's Supper. Since they do not believe Jesus is really present in the bread and wine, they do not recognize the Body and Blood of the Lord. Since they are not united with us in what Holy Communion is, we do not celebrate this holy comm-union with them. 

Communion: Should You Attend?

In his "Christian Questions And Their Answers" Martin Luther presented a thorough listing of questions and answers to help communicants prepare to the receive the Lord's Supper. Central to this preparation are at least two things:

1) Recognizing Jesus' Real Presence "in, with and under" the bread and wine; and
2) Confessing our sins.

Confessing our sins is an essential preparation for this sacrament. Unless we recognize that we are sinners, we will find no need for the sacrament. But, when we confess our sins--publicly in church or privately in our own homes or at the altar rail--we come before Christ as unworthy sinners to receive Jesus' greatest gift...of Himself.

Should you attend? Yes! How often? As often as you need Jesus' forgiveness and grace! Jesus' invitation is to "take and eat"...often. Will you accept His gracious invitation?

Take and eat...and receive Jesus' gift of grace for you!


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