Written by Pastor David Ude / February 2016
You just can’t get that at home! That’s what I want to be saying when I leave a restaurant. It’s why I don’t order steaks anymore. They are almost never as good as what I can make at home (Sweetwaters in Eau Claire was the exception. It’s closed now, a tragedy of great proportions!). And they are always far more expensive. If I can make it better, why go to a restaurant?
Do we ever think about church this way? In today’s world, so many of the wonderful gifts of the Divine Service can be had at home: God’s Word in our own language, podcasts, videos of services streamed online – even live! Who needs to go to church? Can’t you just get all that at home? There are many things in the Divine Service you cannot get at home and therefore many reasons to go.
Let me tell you about one of those things: the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted it with His disciples in the upper room and clearly indicated its importance when He said, “Do this as often as you drink it!” It’s something we should earnestly desire, something which should send us out of church saying, “You just cannot get that at home!” Here’s what makes it so wonderful.
1. It’s real. When Christ said, “This is My body,” and “this is My blood,” (Matthew 26:26-28) He meant it! In a miracle far beyond all human telling, Jesus spreads this feast of feasts before us in humble elements transformed by His powerful Word. You will never partake of something so miraculous, so out-of-this world.
2. It’s for you! Jesus said this body and this blood was “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” The only reason we aren’t all lined up at the church door every Sunday begging for this blessed supper more often is we don’t fully understand the depth of our own sinfulness. God had to die for you, that is how terrible your sins were. Peer with the apostles and prophets at Calvary’s cross, see Him moaning there, groaning there, dying where you should be, paying for your sins. The suffering on that tree, those thorns pressed into His brow, the screeches of pain echoing around the hill all bear terrible testimony to the depth of your depravity. You need this. And He gives it for you! He forgives you here.
3. In the breaking and the pouring, He does so in a unique way. If you were to print this article out and read it, you would remember it and understand it better than by reading it on a screen. Why? More of you is involved. On a screen, it’s just your eyes. On paper, it’s sight, it’s touch, even smell! It’s the same concept good teachers employ – the more of you is involved, the more you will learn and remember. God is the best of teachers. There is one thing He wants to teach us more than anything else, “Your sins are forgiven!” He knows how great our sins are. He knows how easily we doubt and how distracted we get. So He gives us the forgiveness of sins in many unique ways: reading His Word, conversation with other Christians, confession and absolution, the preaching of the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. All of these, when apprehended in faith, ultimately give the same thing: the full and free forgiveness of all sins for Christ’s sake. So each one should be valued for its own unique beauty and exceeding comfort.
4. You are “proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Every time you come to church to receive His body and blood you are confessing your faith in all He did for all the world to see. You are saying, “This is real. This is important. I need this. This is for me. It’s for you too.” What then do you confess by staying home? What do you confess when you treat this Supper carelessly?
5. You’re keeping pretty good company. One reason people sometimes go out to eat is for the company of friends (and so they don’t have to do dishes!). When you come to the Lord’s Table and proclaim the Lord’s death, think of what company you keep! First, right beside you are your closest brothers and sisters in the faith and you are confessing to them and they to you, “This is His body, this is His blood. This is for you.” Then, you are also communing together with the Church of God, with the whole assembly of the firstborn. You are partaking of the feast of heaven, you are enjoying here a taste of the glory there (Matthew 26:29, Revelation 7:9-14)! The Holy Spirit wrote about this in Hebrews 12:22-24, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
6. Jesus invites you. “Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25). If a loved one gave you a dying wish, how important would it be to you? Jesus’ dying wish is more, it’s also a living wish! He knew that He would rise. In fact, Christ’s giving of this supper proves that. He knew He was going to rise. When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we confess His rising and foretell our own. We do not eat the body and the blood of a dead failure but of the Lamb who was slain and now lives forever!
This is what you receive when you take and eat. This is what He gives you. It’s a feast you need more than any other, one only He can give, enjoyed with the best of company and giving the most precious of gifts. This is one meal you absolutely cannot make at home.