For Forgiveness of Sins

You may have heard the story of the woman who is bustling about her house, cleaning it from top to bottom. “Honey, what are you doing that for?” her husband asks. “The new cleaning service will be here in half an hour.”

“That’s right,” says his wife, snapping her dust cloth. “But you don’t want them to think we need them, do you?”

It would be pretty silly to clean up just before a cleaning service arrived. There would be no point in hiring the service and, at the same time, trying to make it look like you didn’t need it. But many Lutherans take a very similar approach to coming to Holy Communion.

The Lutheran church has always emphasized proper preparation for the  Lord’s  Supper.  The  Scriptures  teach that “a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Because the Lord’s Supper can actually harm a communicant who receives it improperly, every communicant  at  the  Lord’s table needs to ask, “Am I prepared?”

Unfortunately, many people take “Am I prepared?” to mean “Am I good enough?” They search their hearts for warm, pious feelings about God and their church. They search their consciences for uneasy feelings of guilt. They search their memories of the past week for sins they’ve committed. Then if they find some, or even if they simply find that their relationship with God or their church “doesn’t feel right” today, they decide not to commune.

The Lutheran church has always emphasized proper preparation for the Lord’s Supper.

But “Am I good enough?” is the wrong question to ask.   In the Lord’s Supper we receive Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for the remission of all our sins. When Luther listed the blessings of the Lord’s Supper in his catechism—forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation—the forgiveness of sins comes first. It’s the benefit of the Sacrament that we as sinners need most. It’s the blessing from God on which all other blessings depend.

So the right question is “Do I need forgiveness?” And   just as only dirty houses need cleaning, only sinners need forgiveness. The people who  belong  at  the  Lord’s  Table are precisely those who sense a growing coldness in their hearts toward God and his church, whose consciences bother them, and who know of sins in their recent pasts.     If you’re one of these penitent people, then come to the Lord’s Table without delay! His forgiveness  will  cleanse you. His peace will surround you. His Spirit will strengthen your resolve to battle against sin more vigorously in the week ahead.

Your spiritual house will be spotless, inside and out— and without lifting a finger. You have received the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for the remission of sins.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Use Carefully

What would you think of a doctor who let his patients write their own prescriptions? How about a pharmacist who let his customers help themselves to whatever medication they thought might help them?

“Dangerously irresponsible” would be about the kindest way to describe such a health care provider. The fact is, medicine isn’t quite the same as food. Everybody needs and wants food. People can handle most foods perfectly well. Except for allergic reactions, there is little danger.  In deciding what to eat and when, most people rely on personal taste and a little common sense.

Medicine is different. The effects drugs may have on people are very specific and often very powerful. The same drug can be a godsend for one patient and fatal for another. Even combinations of beneficial drugs can cause problems. For that reason, we rely on health care professionals to tell us what to take, how much, and when. We know that medicine is a complicated science and that when something doesn’t work, the results can be disastrous.

The Lord’s Supper is more like medicine than it is like food.

Odd as it may sound, the Lord’s Supper is more like medicine than it is like food. It is, first of all, powerful stuff. At the Lord’s Table, we come into the presence of the Son of God himself, who gives us his true body and blood to eat and to drink. From the earliest times, the Christian church has considered the Sacrament as a sacred, spiritual power. Whenever celebrating this Sacrament, the church always tries to treat the Supper with solemnity and respect.

Second, Scripture makes it clear that the Lord’s Supper is prescription medicine—in other words, not for everybody. It comes with a warning label, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Like medicine, when administered to the wrong person, the Lord’s Supper can actually bring harm rather than help.

We would never want to see that happen to anybody in any congregation. That’s why we don’t simply give the Lord’s Supper to anyone who cares to receive it. To administer the Lord’s Supper responsibly is, at the very least, to see that every communicant thoroughly understands what he or she is receiving. That requires instruction, and that usually takes time.

We know that, for some people, that makes our church “strict” about the Lord’s Supper. But Christian love for our communicants demands nothing less.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

A Meal Together

Do you believe that people in America are free simply to be themselves and do whatever they want? If you do, here’s a test you can try. Walk into a restaurant, approach a party of complete strangers, and sit down at their table. Here’s another test. Sit down by yourself at an empty table, and when some complete strangers walk by, ask them to join you.

Either way, you’ll find out very quickly that there are strict social rules in America, just like anywhere else. You usually don’t sit down with just anyone.

It’s interesting how many of our social conventions have to do with food. People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance. Eating with some- one presupposes a certain level of intimacy. We just don’t intrude into someone else’s mealtime. When we invite people to share a meal with us, we are sharing special time with them. We invite them to a closer relationship. And when we accept an invitation to eat with someone else, we participate in creating that relationship.

If that’s true when we share a sandwich, it’s profoundly true when we share the Lord’s Supper. To share the Lord’s Supper with someone presupposes a certain level of spiritual intimacy. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). To partake of the

People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance.

Lord’s Supper in a congregation says, “Together, we, who are gathered here to receive Christ’s body and blood, form one body. We have the same Savior. We believe in him with the same faith. Together, we hold to the same teaching— the teaching of Christ.”

That’s why we Lutherans want to be sure we can honestly say all those things before we commune someone. We can’t simply assume that we know the beliefs and thoughts of all those who might be present in our worship service on Sun- day morning. So if a visitor comes to our service, we’d like to get to know that person a little better. Strangers don’t sit at our table in a restaurant, and we want to be sure those who come to the Lord’s Table are disciples of Jesus.

And again, that works both ways. We think it would also be natural for strangers to want to get to know us better— for example, through a Bible information class—before they decide to come to the Lord’s Table together with us. Practically, that might mean that a stranger would not attend Communion his or her first time in church. But it also means that when that person does join us for the Lord’s Supper, our communion can be a true, spiritual “coming together.” Just as it was meant to be.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Coming Together

Communications companies bombard us with advertising that appeals to a basic human need: the need to connect in a meaningful way with other human beings. Slogans suggest “connecting people” and “bringing people together.” Deep down, even the most independent of us need to feel that we are not alone. We need to talk to others. We even need to touch others. Newborn babies do not develop properly if they are deprived of the touch of another human.

God created us with this need to connect with one another. Since he understands our need to make connections, the Lord Jesus gave his church a way to satisfy this need on the deepest level imaginable.

There’s a reason why the church refers to the Lord’s Supper as “Holy Communion.” The word communion means “coming together,” and the Lord’s Supper is a coming together in three different ways. First, in the Lord’s Supper, the bread that is blessed and distributed to us communicants comes together with the body of Christ and the wine comes together with his blood. In this way, we receive both a physical element and a divine element—bread and body, wine and blood— indistinguishably and inseparably joined together.

Second, at the Lord’s Table, we communicants come together with the Lord Jesus himself. Here he is truly present with us as he is nowhere else—with his true body and blood, to give to each communicant his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

What unites us together at the Lord’s Table is vastly more profound than the differences that set us apart.

But there’s a third coming together too. The apostle Paul referred to it when he wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). Communicants at the Lord’s Supper are not only united with their Lord; they are united with one another into one body, his church. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor—at the table of the Lord, believers of every size, shape, personality, and back- ground blend together in one harmonious whole. There is  one Lord who has one body, which is exactly the same for every communicant who receives it. That means that what unites us together at the Lord’s Table is vastly more pro- found than the differences that set us apart.

It also means that when I partake of Holy Communion, I am not simply enjoying a private moment alone with my Lord. This helps us understand why the beliefs of each communicant are not simply a private matter that’s between  the individual and God.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Practical Christianity

Pick the word from the list that doesn’t belong:

mathematics      auto repair         socialism          Christianity

Most people, I think, would pick auto repair. It’s easy to understand why. They think of the other three as groups of ideas that involve the mind. Auto repair is different; it takes intelligence but also a skilled pair of hands. I think that many people might see auto repair as operating on a different level from the other three things. It’s more down to earth, less theoretical and more practical.

The interesting  thing about the little test above isn’t what   it reveals about how people think of auto repair. What’s interesting is what it shows about how people think of Christianity. They tend to think it’s mainly a matter of the mind. It’s about words and ideas, not things. So for many it’s in the same category as a discipline like mathematics or a philosophy like socialism. For some it’s just another subject on the long list of religious “isms” in the world. Sadly, that means that people think of Christianity as something more theoretical than practical. To them it’s something far removed from the everyday world. It may be handy at a few crucial moments in life, but it can safely be ignored the rest of the time. People seem to get along fine without it.

Christianity is all about such simple, humble things as eating bread and drinking wine.

It’s almost as if the Lord Jesus foresaw all this. Before his death, he instituted something that removes Christianity completely from the list of religious “isms” in the world and makes it far more than another set of ideas. Something, in other words, that makes Christianity less like mathematics and more like auto repair.

Before his death, Jesus took bread, broke it, gave it to   his disciples, and said, “Take; eat. This is my body, which is given for you.” Then he took a cup of wine, gave it to them, and said, “Take; drink. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is not some vague, abstract idea. He comes “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. The disciples of Jesus take bread and eat it together. They take wine and drink it together. When they do, Jesus gives them his body and blood—and with them, the forgiveness  of all their sins. Through the simple, down-to-earth, physical act of eating bread and drinking wine, Jesus gives his followers the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation— blessings that constitute the heart of the gospel.

You see, Christianity is all about such simple, humble things as eating bread and drinking wine. Christianity does not belong only to the world of words and ideas but also      to the world of things. In our everyday world of words and “isms,” Jesus has given us something practical to help us cling to his promises.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

With Reverent Joy

What does it mean when a reviewer describes a book or movie as irreverent? Usually it’s meant as a compliment. We think it’s great entertainment when someone pokes fun at what many consider to be serious. We’re suspicious of authority and rules. We love to mock serious things. Even death, marriage, and love get their shares of irreverent laughter.

If that’s true, then our attitudes may need adjusting before we approach the Lord’s Table. Everything surrounding the Lord’s Supper tells us that it is an awesome mystery that demands our deepest reverence. This Supper isn’t just a church rite or custom. It was instituted by the Lord Jesus himself. The honor and respect we give to the Lord extends    to this special Supper.  Luther said that it was rightly called  the Lord’s Supper, not the Christian’s Supper. It isn’t our property; it’s the Lord’s. Therefore, we hold it in the highest regard, as we do him. Because it is the Lord’s, we carefully administer it according to his wishes.

Besides that, it was instituted on the night Jesus was betrayed. He was about to experience the agony of crucifixion, separation from God, and damnation—all so that we would never need to experience those things ourselves. Fully conscious of what the next 24 hours would bring him, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as his “last will and testament” for his disciples. Ever since, we as disciples of Jesus have celebrated the Supper with an attitude of sober reflection in our hearts.

The pastor invites us, “Lift up your hearts.” And we do. “We lift them up to the Lord.”

Most of all, it’s the gifts given to us in the Supper that call for solemn awe. Here we receive not just a message about the Lord Jesus but the Lord Jesus himself. Here we receive his true body and blood “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. Above all, here we receive God’s full and free forgiveness for all our sins.

So we come, mindful of our sins, of the price paid to redeem us from them, and of the amazing depth of our Savior’s love for us. We gratefully receive the gift of forgiveness with joy. But it’s a joy mixed with solemn awe and touched with the deepest reverence.

Our joy is the reason that, at the beginning of our celebration of the Lord’s  Supper,  the  pastor  invites  us,  “Lift up your hearts.” And we do. “We lift them up to the Lord.”

Then we receive the Lord’s body and blood with joy—in many of our churches, on our knees.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

How Can This Be Christ’s Body and Blood?

“How can Jesus give us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper?” It’s been asked time and again. Usually, what the questioners really mean is “Jesus can’t be giving us his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper—and here’s why.” Then follows a list of reasons. For instance: “That can’t be Jesus’ body and blood because it looks, smells, and tastes like nothing but bread and wine.” Of course, the assumption is that if we can’t see, smell, or taste something, it must   not be there. But that’s just an assumption. Even carbon monoxide can be present though we can’t see, smell, or taste it.

Another person considers, “Jesus can’t give us his body in the Lord’s Supper because his body is at God’s right hand.” True, Jesus’ body is at God’s right hand. But God’s right hand is not a place like your living room or favorite chair. In fact, as Luther said, “God’s right hand is everywhere.” Jesus ascended to God’s right hand so that he could fill the whole universe (Ephesians 4:10). Jesus’ sitting at God’s right hand doesn’t take him away from us at the Lord’s altar. Instead it assures us that he is there.

God’s ways are different and deeper than ours.

Still another person objects, “Jesus’ body can’t be in the Lord’s Supper because the Lord’s Supper is being celebrated all over the world at the same time. How can a human body be in thousands of places at once?” That’s true for your body and mine. But why couldn’t a body that can walk on water, pass through walls, ascend into heaven—and above all, atone for the sin of the world—be wherever it wants to be and do whatever it wants to do?

All these objections are based on questionable ideas about Jesus. They’re also built on the assumption that the truth of Jesus’ words—“This is my body. This is my blood”—has something to do with whether we can under- stand or explain them. But there are so many things we don’t understand. God’s ways are different and deeper than ours.

That’s the reason the Lutheran church’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper doesn’t really “explain” it. We simply believe that what Jesus says is true—whether we can explain it or not. As one Communion hymn says:

Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces:
Your body, Lord, is ev’rywhere
At once in many places.
I leave to you how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing. (Christian Worship 312:5)


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

A Promise Kept

“Don’t worry. I’ll always be here with you,” says the hero to his beloved—and then he dies. It’s a lovely sentiment. But even in the movies, it doesn’t take the sting out of loneliness. We know that the dying hero has just made a promise he can’t keep—the promise to remain with the one he loves after his death.

When we lose a loved one, we’re grateful for our time together here on earth. We cherish each memory, and we look forward to a blessed reunion in heaven. But in the meantime, we don’t engage in romantic fantasies about our loved ones gazing down at us from the realm of the twinkling stars above or coming to us on the gentle summer breeze.

The reason is very simple. Death doesn’t work that way. Death separates us from those we love.

Thank God there’s an exception. Before Jesus was betrayed and died, he made us a promise he can keep. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. Then he told them that what they were taking and eating was in fact his very own body. He did the same with a cup of wine. He gave it to them, encouraged them to drink it, and told them that it was, in fact, his very own blood. He solemnly charged them to continue to do this even after he was gone. He wanted them to remember his betrayal, his sufferings and death, and his resurrection.

So the Christian church has celebrated the Lord’s Supper for almost two thousand of years.

When he instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gave to his disciples—and to us—an amazing promise.

When he instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gave to his disciples—and to us—an amazing promise. In every Lord’s Supper, Jesus will come to us. Each time we receive the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, Scripture says, we receive the Lord himself. Not merely his words, his memory, or his love. More than that. We receive his true body and blood. It’s the same body that was nailed to the cross for us and the same blood that flowed from his hands and side. He won complete forgiveness from God for all our sins with that body and blood.

Skeptics have always wondered how Jesus could possibly keep such a promise. But, as believers in Jesus, we know him better than that. We know he’s never yet made a promise he couldn’t keep. We trust his promise in the Lord’s Supper— the promise always to come to us, with his true body and blood, to forgive and to bless.


© 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Home Family Devotions

Home family devotions have always been a good idea! A generation or two ago it was much more common for families to gather together at home to spend time reading and discussing the truths of God’s Word. It’s still a good practice in today’s world!

Perhaps these days of pandemic have led to more parents (Moms and Dads) gathering their family together at home to read and learn God’s Word.

Who could have imagined such a change in the world around us less than a year ago? You know, God still blesses his people, even during such challenging days. Perhaps one of the biggest blessings is the role of family leaders leading their family in God’s Word!

Take a look at the following pages and prayerfully consider how you might incorporate family devotions in your home! Continue reading “Home Family Devotions”

Online Devotion Resources

Home and personal devotions and Bible reading have always been important. Over the years many of us relied upon books and other written materials for our home devotional time.

How times have changed! We are now blessed with electronic access to devotional resources of many types, including videos, live-stream and more.

Whether we are living during a time of pandemic lockdown or not, we have more spiritual growth resources available than ever before!

Following is a list and brief description of a variety of home and personal devotion and Bible reading ideas, and more! Take a look; you may get hooked! Continue reading “Online Devotion Resources”

Our Savior Lutheran Church & School