What We Share In We Care About
“You do that too?” Years ago I got into using fountain pens. And what I found out by using fountain pens, is that, if you have fountain pens, you need special paper for those fountain pens. And that’s expensive. And even worse, books full of paper are even more expensive. So I got into the habit and hoppy of binding my own books. And so, one day, I went into Michael’s to get some supplies. And the lady who was cutting the cloth was asking me what I was using the cloth for and I told her. And you would have thought that she rediscovered her long-lost best friend. She said, “You do that too?” And instantly we had this common bond. It was a reminder to me that what we share in we care about. But, we, as Christians, have so much more and so much better that we share in. And this evening God’s word reminds us of that fact. In 1 Corinthians we read: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16 CSB17)
In the Lord’s Supper we share in Jesus’ body. In the Lord’s Supper we share in Jesus’ blood. Notice what Paul is so clearly explaining to us. The Lord’s supper is not just a remembering of or picturing of Jesus’ body and blood. It is Jesus’ body and blood. Along with bread and wine there is Jesus’ body and blood. And in that body and blood Jesus delivers to us the forgiveness of sins. Because of this, the ancient theologian, Augustine, called baptism and the Lord’s supper the visible gospel. On Sunday morning we hear the gospel in our sermons and readings. But in the Lord’s supper we see, taste, touch and feel the gospel.
I was reminded how special and important that fact was years ago. About at decade ago I visited an elderly lady named Catherine. She couldn’t see very well. She couldn’t hear very well. So, when I visited her I would park myself next to her ear and share last week’s sermon with her. And she would take it in without any sign of either disagreement. But, after that, I gave her the Lord’s Supper. Much of what I preached in her ear was lost because of her hearing damage. But, when it came time for the Lord’s Supper, she sat up. Her hand trembled with reverence. And after she received Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine there were tears that stained her cheeks—tears of joy. There was such reverence in her because she knew that the gospel she couldn’t hear she could taste and touch.
And it’s my fear that we can be tempted to not care in the forgiveness that we share in the Lord’s Supper. And we can be tempted in this way by simply being too hasty in the Lord’s Supper. Today, we are way-too-time-conscious. We face this temptation to streamline the Lord’s Supper. We can do this by removing the parts of the liturgy that prepare us for the Lord’s Supper. We can do this by creating an atmosphere of rushing the distribution, as if we are some sort of assembly line for Jesus’ body and blood. There’s a reason that some of those communion hymns are so long. And it’s not just because there’s a lot of people to commune. It’s because people long ago didn’t want to rush what they shared in. They wanted to savor it. How sad it is when two Packer or Vikings fans meet on the street they can savor that time together. But here we share something so much more important, and we are tempted to rush it.
Our sin is showing that we do not care about what we share in. And that’s what what we are about do share in is so important and cherished. For in that bread and wine along with Jesus’ body and blood we receive forgiveness—even for that sin.
What we share in we care about. We share in Jesus’ body and blood. But we also share a common confession. We read: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:17 CSB17)
There is one loaf of bread. There is one body of Christ, his church. And because of this, we have one, shared understanding and confession. This is why the Christian Church spends months and months teaching and training people before they join a church and before they share in the Lord’s Supper. For when you come forward to this table you are saying that you believe the same thing with the person beside you. That’s why what will happen at the end of next month on Confirmation day is so special. For these young ladies will be saying with their actions, “I believe what this church teaches. And now I get to share Jesus’ body and blood with the rest of them.”
But here too we face the temptation to sin. For if there is great joy in seeing people join our church and say and show that they believe what we believe, there is also fear. What about visitors to our church? Will they get angry when they hear that we aren’t completely on the same page with them yet? Will they come once and never come again? And with that fear comes the temptation to not care as much about the common confession we share.
But that too is why we receive the Lord’s Supper, so that we can be forgiven for that sin too. Jesus’ body and blood forgives our unfounded fears. But there’s more. Jesus’ body and blood here along with this bread and wine strengthens and guards our sharing. Years ago I took a class on Church Fellowship with professor Brug at our Seminary. And he mentioned how our practice of close communion is a great blessing to our church. First, it’s the Holy Spirit’s way of weeding out those who really don’t care about what we teach. Think about that for a minute. If a person gets angry at you because they cannot commune here with us at this table, what they are really saying is that they care so very little about what’s going on here that they don’t want to learn what the bible says. And second, it’s a blessing because it nudges fence-sitters off the fence. Professor Brug told this story about a kindly lady who was a member of his church. Her husband’s church had some huge theological problems. So he started coming to her church. And he really appreciated the truth of God’s word that he heard. But he great frustration was that he couldn’t commune with his wife. And this went on month after month. Finally then, the pastor sat down with the husband and said, “I can see that you appreciate what you are learning and hearing here week after week. If not being able to commune with your wife is the stumbling block, then just go through class. And if you agree with what we teach, then join our church.” So the guy finally gave up and came to class. And he was a faithful member of that church for many years.
I mention both of these blessings because we so very often are tempted to conclude that close-communion is something we have to endure. But it is a great gift that God has given his church both to ‘weed-out’ those who really don’t care enough about his word to learn it and to ‘nudge’ people into a church where they belong and can be pastored and fed with God’s word.
And so, my dear friends in Christ, what we share in we care about. We share in Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. Hold his supper in holy awe and in holy joy. We share in a common confession. Care for it by practicing close communion. Amen.