I’ve been at Good Shepherd for a little over nine months. Recently I’ve heard that there are questions about the practice of Holy Communion at GSLC. I thought it might be helpful to share information about the practice of Holy Communion, the communion ware, and the setting of the table.
You may remember from your Catechism studies Luther determined that there were two sacraments as opposed to seven. A sacrament was a holy act instituted by Jesus as found in scripture. Both Baptism and Eucharist are outward signs of God’s command and promise. They are signs of divine grace, forgiveness of sin, as well as profession of faith.
The elements of both sacraments are simple and from the earth; water, bread, and wine. All in keeping with what God created as well as basic life sustaining foods of the day. Three of the four gospels record the first time that Jesus shared this holy meal with the disciples. They can be found in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:15-20. When these texts are side by side the similarities can easily be seen in the Words of Institution spoken first by Jesus and by the pastor today each time the meal is shared. The promise of forgiveness for each person is repeated as the bread and wine are distributed. “This IS the body and blood of Christ given for YOU”. (The emphasis is mine, but I think the intent is meant to be personal.)
How did the church decide who would share in Eucharist? The early church began instructing people in the faith prior baptism. Remember, the known world was made up of Gentiles (people who were not Jewish) and Jews. Developing a common understanding was important. Truth be told believers of all ages are still working out a common understanding. Which leads us to the next question.
Who is welcome at the table of the Lord? Everyone is welcome. It is the Lord’s table. What we know from scripture is that Jesus included all people. He associated with everyone from the socially unacceptable tax collectors, those who were sick or diseased, and prostitutes. Jesus welcomed the children wherever he went. Like widows, children were the most vulnerable in society.
How did the church determine who would come to that table and when? That question will be addressed in the next Food for the Flock. Then I will share information about the elements and their symbolism as well as the setting of the table. If you have other questions regarding the sacraments, send me an e-mail.