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Friday, June 1, 2007

What Makes a Lutheran So Hungry?

It is time, once again, to learn what makes a Lutheran! Last time I mentioned we would be talking about the sacraments. I have discussed baptism and in this month's article we will be talking about the Lord's Supper.

What exactly do we believe about the Lord's Supper? This doctrine is what trips most people up about Lutherans. Roman Catholics think we are way out of line because we don't usually teach that the bread and wine change from being bread and wine into skin and blood. At the same time, Protestants think we are Catholics because we teach that Jesus is physically present in the Lord's Supper. I think we just like to be difficult and tell everyone else they are wrong! (Disclaimer: That last line is a joke, please do not take offense!)

So what is it that we believe? Lutherans believe that Christ is present IN, WITH, and UNDER the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. These three prepositions emphasize the fact that Christ is actually there in the bread and wine. We don't believe, like the Roman Catholic church does, that the bread and wine change into skin and blood, but we do teach that Christ's physical body and blood are there in, with, and under the bread and wine. The elements are at the same time bread and wine and body and blood. Jesus is actually in the meal! Weird, huh?

Now, where do we get this from? Well, of all places, the words of Jesus! When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper he said, "This IS my body given for you; do this (eat the bread) in remembrance of me...This cup IS the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:19-20) Jesus says, quite plainly, that the bread and the wine are his body and blood. Paul backs him up on this when he says, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving 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) The assumed answer to these questions is "Yes!" Paul says we are participating in the very body and blood of Christ, in other words, we are eating and drinking his body and blood in the bread and wine!

So what? What does it matter if we are actually receiving the real body and blood of Christ anyway? Isn't it merely a remembrance meal of what Christ did for us on the cross? Well, yes and no. It most certainly is a meal of remembrance given to us so that we remember what Christ has done for us on the cross. But it is not just that. Christ's body and blood are given to us for the forgiveness of our sins on the cross, and since that body and blood are what we have at the altar, we receive that forgiveness there too! We remember what Christ did for us on the cross ("Do this in remembrance of me.") AND then we receive the blessings of what he did for us on the cross ("This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins")!

The point is this, we are going to struggle with sin our whole lives, therefore we are in constant need of forgiveness and strength. When we gather to eat at the Lord's Supper we actually receive that forgiveness and strength won for us on the cross by Jesus. Now, this is a hard teaching. If it brings up any questions in your mind at all, don't hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email and we can discuss it further. I look forward to the opportunity!

Pastor Bob

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