A Heavenly High Five
Some things will always remain a mystery. Like the Bermuda Triangle. Or who ate the last donut at church last week? Why did God think it was a good idea to create spiders and snakes? How is it that when we partake in the Lord’s Supper, we are consuming not only bread and wine, but the actual physical body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ? Some things will remain a mystery.
I’d be willing to bet that if you were to randomly poll a member of any church in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and asked them if they believe what the Scriptures teach about the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, you would get one of two answers: 1) It’s a spiritual, memorial presence, or 2) What do the Scriptures teach? In other words, I’d be willing to bet that most Lutherans (or Christians for that matter) have a very clouded vision of what this meal is and does for us. Which leads me to an even greater mystery, though perhaps it isn’t a mystery at all.
Why do people always look so sad when they leave the altar after celebrating the Lord’s Supper? You somberly walk to the altar, examining your heart and confessing your weekly and daily sins, fully understanding that you do not deserve a place at this table. So you approach the altar with caution. You kneel or stand with your hands outstretched, head looking down refusing to look at the person giving you the wafer. You eat it. You reach toward the tray with the individual plastic cups of wine or hold your hands out to receive the common cup. You drink it. You walk away with the same gloomy look on your face that you had when you first got to the altar. Why?
I want to make a bold statement that might make some of you clutch your pearls: Stop looking so devastated when you leave the altar. High five someone. Do a dance. Yell out, “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” or “Praise be to Christ!” Have some gosh-darn emotion!
The Lutherans in particular seem to have had all the emotions beaten out of us. Heaven forbid we put our hands up during a hymn, call out “Amen” when the pastor makes a strong Gospel punch from the pulpit, or even clap after a moving choir performance. Perhaps this is part of the reason we don’t ooze excitement after the Lord’s Supper. But maybe the real reason is that we just don’t know what is happening.
As Martin Luther teaches from Scripture in his Small Catechism, the Lord’s Supper is the TRUE body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.
But how do we know it’s the TRUE body and blood, for man cannot be trusted? Glad you asked.
Matthew, Mark and Luke, together with St. Paul, write this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
This IS my body. This IS my blood. Not represents. Not spiritually body and blood. This IS my body given for you for the forgiveness of your sins. This phyiscal gift of Christ himself is undeniably a mystery. But what we do know is that the Word of God does not lie to us and that Jesus, himself does not lie to us. So if Jesus says, “This is my body,” I think it would be wise for us to take Christ at His word, don’t you? Even if we can’t understand it.
But what we can certainly understand is that our God is a giver of life, salvation and the forgiveness of sins, all gifts that we are promised to receive when we come to the Lord’s Supper. So we prepare our hearts, we examine ourselves and we kneel in angst.
And then time stops as Heaven meets earth.
We touch. We taste. We consume. The fruits of the cross on which our Lord dies for us. His body and blood, cleansing us from the inside out, renewing our hearts and forgiving our sins, making it possible for us to stand before the throne of God and be declared “NOT GUILTY on account of Christ.” We approach the altar and we get to touch the very God who created, the God who redeems, the God who forgives, and the God who does not change.
You are shaking the hand of the God who created you and loves you more than anything else. The hands that were pierced for you. The hands that healed you. The hands that hold you in an embrace that will last forever.
You are high-fiving our Lord Jesus because He has done it all for you. He has won the victory. He has given that to you and celebrates with you. He is overjoyed to have his blood pour from his side, into your cup, for you to consume because that means He gets to spend eternity with you.
So yeah, show some passion. Give the person next to you a hug. Dance back to your pew. Give your pastor a high five.
You have just touched God.
You are forgiven. You are loved. You are an inheritor of the Kingdom of God.