We Lutherans have two sacraments — only two. Baptism and communion. That’s it. Each of us is baptized only once, but we will probably experience the gift of grace called communion frequently in our lives. Whether you call it Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Meal or Holy Communion, this blessing of bread and wine (or grape juice) that contain Jesus’ body and blood in, with and under it can have great value in our lives. “The Use of the Means of Grace” says that in Holy Communion, “we receive Christ’s body and blood and God’s gifts of forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation to be received by faith for the strengthening of faith” (p. 36).
We commune weekly because we live real life daily. In previous generations, weekly communion was seen as very frequent. But think about it, have you ever made it from one Sunday to the next without experiencing temptation, trouble, doubt or sin? I’m sure I haven’t. When I used to lead worship at a church with two services, I always communed at both — because honestly, I have already experienced enough and done enough (in the church building, within an hour or so) to remind me that I need God’s grace in whatever form, fashion or type that I can get it!
When I leave the communion table, I take that grace with me, and that grace helps me face tough times or painful situations in my life. I don’t mean to treat God’s Holy Communion as a talisman or a good luck charm. I don’t mean to say that Jesus died so that I could be a little more comfortable. I don’t mean to say that the sacrifice of the cross boils down to me feeling better about myself. But some days I feel the stinging reality of original sin more acutely — when my kid is teased, when people blame gay and lesbian people for the downfall of the American family, when someone questions how I (a woman) can be a pastor, when I lose my temper and lash out at my children, when yet another teenager is shot in my community, when I find it hard to speak in love to my fellow Christians.
And in today’s increasingly fragmented society, I am soberly reminded that opportunities for human community, interpersonal communion, communal experience, open communication, common cup and communing together are few and far between. Those words all have the same root, the Latin word “communitas” (cum, “with/together” + munus, “gifts or duties”). Although we are ever more in communication (text messages, emails, cellphones attached to our hips), we are at the same time always talking past each other, always ultimately left to ourselves in our times of darkness, always feeling the sting and hurt of daily life.
There is something wonderful about that moment of Holy Communion, where we gather around a table or altar, where we pause to meet our brother or sister in Christ, where we function like hungry souls in need of sustenance, where we act out a meal that binds us to believers from many other times and places. There is something wonderful about meeting Jesus in that moment of the Lord’s Supper. We may not be in deep, desperate need that very second, but wait a minute and I’m sure some trial, trouble or difficulty will come your way before you get very far out the door of the church.
“This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” When we hear those words, we can rest in the fact that Jesus lived for us; he died for us; he healed for us; he taught for us; he loved for us. Jesus’ body and blood (through bread and wine) is a gift for you — for you when you are told that your work isn’t valuable — for you when you hear a racial slur or some other derogatory name directed at you — for you when you discover that someone who claimed to be a friend just betrayed you — for you when you find yourself alone and lonely while facing a tough situation — for you when the diagnosis is life-threatening. This is Jesus’ body which is for you for You for YOU remember that and cling to it as if your very soul depended upon it.
Carla Thompson Powell serves Salem Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation on the south side of Chicago, as their pastor-redeveloper. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Darryl (also an ELCA pastor), her three kids (one each in elementary, middle and high school), and a cinnamon cockatiel named Willow. She believes it is an honor and a privilege to take communion weekly and to preside over communion weekly.
This post originally appeared on Living Lutheran.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of CarlaThompsonPowell.