We are so blessed in the Lutheran church with hymnody that clearly explains our beliefs concerning the sacraments. In fact, this is one of the clearest reasons why it is so important for us to use Lutheran worship resources in our worship life.
One of our communion hymns for this upcoming Sunday is Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared, by 17th century court physician Samuel Kinner. There are eight stanzas included in Lutheran Service Book, all of which are meaningful and worthwhile. Let’s jump right in with stanza 1:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You have prepared
This feast for our salvation;
It is Your body and Your blood,
And at Your invitation
As weary souls with sin oppressed,
We come to You for needed rest,
For comfort and for pardon.
The sacrament of the altar is a little preview, or foretaste, of the heavenly banquet that is being prepared for us by Christ. Our prayer before communion states, “Gather us together, we pray, from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.” Christ is our host, who invites us weary sinners to this meal to receive pardon for our sins and comfort for our souls. Christ is not only the host at this meal, He is also the meal itself. The bread and the wine are His true body and blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
Stanzas 2 and 3 form one thought, so I will include them together.
Although You did to heav’n ascend,
Where angel hosts are dwelling,
And in Your presence they behold
Your glory, all excelling,
And though Your people shall not see
Your glory and Your majesty
Till dawns the judgment morning,
Yet, Savior, You are not confined
To any habitation;
But You are present even now
Here with Your congregation.
Firm as a rock this truth shall stand,
Unmoved by any daring hand
Or subtle craft and cunning.
As we confess in our creeds, Jesus has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. He is still there, seated at the right hand of God, and we eagerly await His second coming. However, this does not mean that Jesus has left His church alone on earth. He has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28), and He has promised that where two or three are gathered together, there He is among them (Matthew 18). The sacrament of the altar forms a concrete, specific, physical way in which Christ is present among us today, as the next stanza shows.
Stanzas 4 and 5
We eat this bread and drink this cup,
Your precious Word believing
That Your true body and Your blood
Our lips are here receiving.
This Word remains forever true,
All things are possible for You,
For You are Lord Almighty.
Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces:
Your body, Lord, is even now
At once in many places.
I leave to You how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing.
When we receive the bread and wine, we receive the true body and blood of our Lord who is ascended into heaven. How is it possible that Christ can be seated at the right hand of God and also be present in bread and wine all over the world at the same time? We are not given the metaphysics to have an answer to that question, but we do trust that all things are possible for our Lord. “I trust its truth unfailing.”
Lord, I believe what You have said;
Help me when doubts assail me.
Remember that I am but dust,
And let my faith not fail me.
Your supper in this vale of tears
Refreshes me and stills my fears
And is my priceless treasure.
We are now back where we started, as weary, oppressed sinners who struggle through our lives. This stanza is an earnest prayer to God for help when we are overcome with doubts. When we pray in this stanza that we are but dust, we are admitting to God that we are so weak in our sinful state that we cannot possibly stand up to the attacks of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. We then turn to our source of strength, the body and blood of our Lord, which refreshes us and is the most priceless treasure that we have.
Grant that we worthily receive
Your supper, Lord, our Savior,
And, truly grieving for our sins,
May prove by our behavior
That we are thankful for Your grace
And day by day may run our race,
In holiness increasing.
As we leave the communion table, the pastor says “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart in peace.”
We, who are but dust in our sin, are strengthened by this meal to live a life of service. This life of service is lived purely out of thanksgiving to God for the life and grace that He freely gives to us. We pray that our holiness may always increase.
For Your consoling supper, Lord,
Be praised throughout all ages!
Preserve it, for in ev’ry place
The world against it rages.
Grant that this sacrament may be
A blessed comfort unto me
When living and when dying.
I won’t even attempt to go into all the different abuses that have come against the sacrament over the ages, but there have been many. Satan wants nothing more than to pull us away from this blessed, life-giving treasure and focus us on our sinful flesh and the world. We pray that God may preserve us and keep us focuses on His sacraments throughout our lifetime, so that we weak sinners may be comforted and forgiven unto life everlasting. Amen.