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Feed: Steadfast Lutherans Posted on: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:09 PM Author: Norm Fisher Subject: The Blessings of Weekly Communion
My church has "forever" had communion every Sunday, but at alternate services. Early service for the 1st and 3rd Sundays, and late service for the 2nd and 4th Sundays. So people who wanted every-Sunday communion could do it by simply alternating which service they attend each week.
I'm pleased that as of Easter Sunday 2011, we moved to communion in every Service. We spent a year working with the congregation talking about the change (We are Lutherans .. we don't like change!), which included using CPH's book, The Blessings of Weekly Communion.
I can say that after several months, the congregation has fully accepted the practice and we are all enjoying the benefits of communion offered at every service.
Here is the article written by our pastor from our April 2011 church newsletter; mailed out to all congregation members prior to the change. I thought it well written to describe the reasons for making the change, and perhaps useful for other congregations who are interested in moving towards every Sunday communion.
Your Pastors and Elders have been studying the biblical wisdom of having Holy Communion at every Sunday and Wednesday service for well over a year now. During this time the Board of Elders and Pastors have read and discussed a very persuasive book entitled, "The Blessings of Weekly Communion" filled with convincing reasons why we should restore this practice of every service, every Sunday Communion.
To appreciate the Sacrament of the Altar, and desire it regularly, you first have to understand what it is, and why Christ wants us to receive "often". Far too many regular church-goers don't understand. They think that they are doing God a service by coming to church. While they're willing to do this for an hour or so each week, they're unsure whether they want to commit to the longer Communion worship format each week. They feel like we are asking them to "up" their commitment to the Lord by asking them to stay in church twenty minutes longer every other Sunday morning or Wednesday evening.
But attending church is not a service we perform for God's benefit. It's the other way around. God is doing us a far greater service when we come to church. For God has gifts that He wants to give to us in the divine service. Gifts found only in His Word and Sacraments. God's reason for wanting you in worship is so that you can freely receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. For worship is where God gives us these gifts in His Word and Sacraments.
Long ago, Jesus Christ won forgiveness and peace with God for us by His cross. Then Jesus Christ gave us eternal victory over our enemies sin, death, and the devil by His resurrection. We call this good news — the Gospel. Christians gather weekly to hear this Gospel preached to us, and to receive this very same Gospel visibly, tangibly, and personally by receiving Christ's body and blood. God wants to give us a double portion of His love and grace for us in Christ in worship centered on His preached Word and distributed Supper of forgiveness.
As Christians we gather weekly in the confidence that Christ is present among us in His Word and Sacrament. For these, along with Holy Baptism, are the means of grace by which Christ has chosen to save us. Just as we come to church in order to hear about what Christ accomplished for us by His obedient suffering and death, so we come to receive with our lips that same Christ who comes to us in His own true body and blood.
Like the sermon, the sacrament is the way that Christians shed their sins, receive God's mercy and Christ's forgiveness. Do we have to receive the Sacrament of the Altar weekly? Of course not. But should the church make the Lord's Supper available for those who do desire it that frequently? Yes. When you realize that the Lord's Supper is God's gift to His people in Christ to strengthen faith, to forgive sinners, to turn hearts back to God, and to bring us Jesus — making it available every Sunday and every Wednesday really seems like a "no brainer".
Luther and the Lutherans after him thought so too. In our Lutheran Confessions, which all Lutheran Pastors and Congregations are sworn to uphold, we learn that during the Reformation Era and after, it was the practice of every Lutheran congregation to celebrate the Lord's Supper at every service on every Sunday because of the extremely high importance that Lutherans have historically placed on the Gospel comfort that Holy Communion provides. The early Lutherans understood that as sinners Christians are constantly in need of what the Lord wants to give us in the Lord's supper.
It's unfortunate that in the years following the Reformation that this church practice of offering the Sacrament of the Altar in every service faded away and was forgotten. Pietism and other spiritual movements within Christianity lessened the importance of the Lord's Supper in the life of the Lutheran Church. When these lower views of the Sacrament became dominant, it lessened the frequency of a Christian's desire to receive the Sacrament. People even became afraid of the Sacrament which God had intended only to bring abundant comfort and reassurance to believers. At this, the Lutheran Church's lowest theological point, the Sacrament was only celebrated four times a year so that members did not run what they considered the great risk of receiving it unworthily. This happened as strict spiritual preparation for the Lord's Supper became more important than the Gospel intent of the Lord's Supper. Over time our Biblical understanding of the Lord's Supper as Gospel, and the frequency of its use have made a comeback in Lutheran congregations.
Most of the arguments against the practice of every Sunday, every service Communion are really not biblical objections at all, but rather utilitarian concerns such as: "Won't it take too long?" Others will worry that it will take away from the specialness of the Lord's Supper. However, we preach the Gospel every Sunday without any similar concern or objection. Others will fear that it will turn into a form of legalism by making members feel that they must come forward to the altar every time the Lord's Supper is offered. However, we want it to be abundantly clear that our congregation is only making the Sacrament available to those who may desire it on a given Sunday, without making any judgments about those who will continue to prefer taking it less often. Finally, there are some logistic concerns that we need to work out. We are concerned that the service not run too long. We are also concerned with how to continue to fit in the children's message. We ask for your love, your prayers, and your patience as we work through these details to get them right.
I am thankful to serve a congregation in our more secular times which still recognizes the biblical importance of the Lord's Supper and treasures its Gospel reassurance. I hope you are thankful to belong to such a church.
God's Steward of the Mysteries of God, Pastor Mark Elliott St John Lutheran Church Champaign, IL