As I walked down the middle aisle of the auditorium, along with many other Lutheran youth at the Higher Things Crucified conference this last summer in Logan, Utah, I soaked in the glistening hymns being sung. I stepped down toward Pastor Mark Buetow, who served me the body of Christ saying, “Daniel, take and eat the body of Christ given for you.” Again, when I received the blood of Christ, my name was spoken, and I was given Christ’s blood, which was shed for me. How great it was to hear it proclaimed BY NAME that Christ is for me! He is real. Communion is for REAL.
For those of you who have seen the movie Heaven Is For Real, I have no doubt that the movie itself was heartwarming and encouraging in its own way. I am not using the “is for real” part of the name for any specific disregard of the movie. Rather, I am declaring that the Sacrament of the Altar, Holy Communion, should be held to at least the same standard of reality as heaven. The Lord’s Supper is a taste of heaven on earth and points to the time when Jesus comes again and we celebrate/feast with Him forever. After all, it is Jesus’ own sacrifice for us on the cross, made personal and tangible to us through His very own Body and Blood given with the bread and wine, as expressed in An Explanation of the Small Catechism, “The bread and wine in the Sacrament are Christ’s body and blood by sacramental union. By the power of His word, Christ gives His body and blood in, with, and under the consecrated (blessed) bread and wine” (An Explanation of the Small Catechism, CPH, 1991). The beauty of this is that we are not simply eating and drinking in remembrance of Christ, but that we, through Christ’s word, are forgiven of our sins by looking to His sacrifice as we eat of His Body and Blood. By our faith in Jesus, we freely receive the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.
Honestly, I think our non-Lutheran brothers and sisters miss out on a great deal when it comes to Communion. I have watched them look for Jesus, or try to get close to Jesus, in all the wrong places, like in the emotions they feel through music, various church programs and even through Jesus “speaking to them.” If you believe Communion is only symbolic, then it’s like closing a door in Jesus’ face when He’s coming to YOU. Think about it. Jesus took on flesh and blood for us. He became human in every way but was without sin. He created us to think and experience things in physical terms, so how good He is to us to give us the gift of His Supper—something we can taste, smell and see with our senses. It’s like when Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” So what did Jesus do? He offered Himself for Thomas to do just that. “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:25-28). Communion is for REAL.
Pastor Timothy Pauls had a great breakaway session in Logan, where he compared various teachings of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Reformed and other Protestants. I was surprised at some of the background information, especially how it came to be that many Christians see Communion as a memorial only. He had it laid out so well and really helped me to understand the differences and appreciate what we celebrate as Lutherans. Surely non-Lutherans do partake of the Lord’s Supper, however they often serve it inconsistently and rarely, but it seems to me that what it really comes down to is the lack of value they give it. I have learned over the years and personally experienced myself that this gift from Jesus may seem like only bread and wine to most, but in reality, it is the REAL Body and Blood of Christ, the REAL sacrifice broken and shed for us, and is the REAL deal. Communion is for REAL.
Every conference I attend (Logan was my third) has magnified this reality for me. We begin and end with the Divine Service. Whenever I am blessed to receive the Body and Blood of the perfect Pascal Lamb, who was crucified for all of the sins I have and will ever commit, I get to depart in peace because I have true peace, completely confident that I have received REAL forgiveness of sins, from Christ himself. What can be more REAL than this?
Daniel Baker is a freshman at Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, where he attends Peace Lutheran Church. He spends his time studying exercise science to become a physical therapist and playing soccer and has his sights set on being a CCV at the Te Deum conference next summer in Las Vegas. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.