Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 21, 2011

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Let us not give up eating together

  • Order of Service: Divine Service II (CW: Supplement, p28)
  • Lessons: John 18:1-40, Exodus 12:1-14, 1 Corinthians 11:23-28, John 13:1-15, 34
  • Hymns (Christian Worship and CW:Supplement): 714, 98:1-4, 231, 741, 317:1, 310

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Some of you here might remember a time when the Lord’s Supper was offered four times a year.  Some of you can also remember a time when the Lord’s Supper was offered once a month.  More of you can remember some of the discussions that led to the Lord’s Supper being offered twice a month here.  And, it’s safe to say, all of you have noticed the increase in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as it has been added to Christmas, Easter, midweek services, and this year to Pentecost and Reformation.

 It’s also safe to say, because I’ve had the conversations, that not everybody is on board with, or understands why this has happened, or why it’s a big deal.  There are some who would argue twice a month, or even once a month is more than enough.  To do it more is to run the risk of creating robotic attendance or a de-valuing of the sacrament.  Some of this is concern, some, “This is how it’s always been done and it worked fine.”

 This discussion’s being had not just at St. Mark.  The question, “How often is whenever?” is everywhere and especially in the last few decades has it heated up.  Sadly, though, the debates often center on me or on feelings.  “You’re making me have it.”  “You’re making me uncomfortable.”  “You might make someone else feel uncomfortable by having communion all the time.”  They also focus on the freedom given by Christ.  “We don’t have to have it all the time.”  It is true that Jesus said, whenever you drink it (1 Cor. 11:25).  It is up to you how often you receive this meal.  If you don’t want it when it’s offered, you don’t have to take it.  There is no pope here forcing you to come to the sacrament at least once a year, as he still does today and has done since 1215 under Pope Innocent III (Code of Canon Law, Book IV, Part 1, Title III, Art. 2, Canon 920.1).  Thus, Luther writes in the Large Catechism:  “However, you may say, ‘But the words are added, ‘As often as you drink it’; there He compels no one, but leaves it to our free choice.”  I answer, “That is true, yet it is not written so that we should never do so.  Yes, since He speaks the words ‘As often as you drink it,’ it is implied that we should do it often.  This is added because He wants to have the Sacrament free.  He does not limit it to special times, like the Jewish Passover…” (LC V:47).

 It’s safe to say that if I stopped preaching every week, or reading the lessons, or if we eliminated hymn singing, or stopped praying the Lord’s Prayer and confessing the Creed, someone would protest.  Sure, we could do it, but why would we?  Why would we stop doing that for which we assemble – gathering around God’s Word to be afflicted in our comfort and comforted in our affliction, to be reminded of our great sin and assured of God’s great grace through the sacrifice of Christ?  The psalmist says, He has caused his wonders to be remembered (Psalm 111:4) – because I, and you, need to be reminded.  Forgive us our sins (Luke 11:4), you pray, because you still sin.  You still need forgiveness.  You still need Christ.

 And here He comes.  Paul writes:  I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).

 The Sacrament’s not about you, but Jesus.  You do this in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:24-25).  His body was given, not yours.  His blood was shed, not yours.  His death you proclaim until He comes again.  It’s not about how often you ate and how often you drank.  It’s Christ giving His body and blood for you.  It’s Christ’s death proclaimed.

 But, you ask, “Isn’t it about me just a little bit?  I mean, isn’t it about the forgiveness I need?”  Ah, yes.  The Large Catechism:  Besides this, you will also have the devil about you. You will not entirely tread him under foot, because our Lord Christ Himself could not entirely avoid him. Now, what is the devil? Nothing other than what the Scriptures call him, a liar and a murderer. He is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it, so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour. If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible. But there is no reason why we walk about so securely and carelessly, except that we neither think nor believe that we are in the flesh and in this wicked world or in the devil’s kingdom (LC V:80-82).  This Sacrament is about you to this extent – it was given to you for you.  Christ shed His blood as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Christ instituted this meal so that you might have access to that atoning blood, so that that blood of forgiveness might be offered, given, and received.  Believe that and you have what is declared:  the forgiveness of sins, and, as the Small Catechism says, where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation (SC VI:2).

 In other words, Holy Communion is the fuel you need for your new life in Christ, the fuel that keeps your body and soul in working order until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).  Here is the remedy for the sickness of sin.  Surrounded by evil, surrounded by sin, here is the place to run.  For here the death of Christ is proclaimed, to you and by you to the world!  Here is not your work, but Christ’s work, done for you, once for all, given to you whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup (1 Cor. 11:26).  When is whenever?  Whenever you need to proclaim Christ’s death.  Whenever you need forgiveness.  And when won’t there be those needs?  Let us not give up eating together.  Amen.

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