Liturgy in the Local Congregation XI

Holy Communion: The Preface, Proper Preface (p. 24-25)
Following the Prayers, the Pastor reads a statement in which he reminds those present of the importance and seriousness of this holy Sacrament. Lutherans believe that Jesus comes to us physically and truly in His Supper. Because of His words and promise, His real, physical Body and Blood are present along with the visible elements of bread and wine. We cannot explain or understand how this happens, just as we cannot explain or understand how Almighty God could become an infant born from the womb of a virgin. But because Jesus has said it, we believe that He will give what He promises. Thus, this Sacrament is His gift to us and we dare not change His words so that they make logical sense to our finite minds.

Because Lutherans take this gift so seriously, we also take seriously that it is possible for those without faith in Jesus’ words to receive His Body and Blood to their judgment and harm (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). Holy Communion is Christ’s gift to the Church, and since the pastor in each place is the shepherd of God’s people in that place, he is the one who has responsibility for those who take Communion. Just as it would be a grave sin to refuse to commune someone to whom Jesus wants to give His Body and Blood, so it is also a grave sin to give His Body and Blood to one who would receive it to his or her judgment.

Communion has two aspects which are held together by Lutherans. First, that Jesus brings us into fellowship with Himself by His crucified Body and shed Blood. Second, that eating and drinking with our brothers and sisters who share “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5), we are brought into ever closer fellowship with them and with God’s people in all places and at all times. Because of the Body and the Blood that were broken and shed on the cross and that we eat and drink in the Supper, we are transformed into the holy Body of Christ, the Church (Ephesians 5:29-30). When we commune, we are not individuals who have chosen to be part of a human organization, but we are Christ’s Body, which He has chosen and which He feeds and cares for.

As this one Church, then, we pray the Preface (probably the oldest and least-changed part of the liturgy) and Proper Preface. We begin, as with the Collect, with the Salutation, in which we ask the Lord’s blessing upon one another. In the Sacrament, Jesus has promised that He will be with us! In joyful thanksgiving we respond to the call to lift our hearts with the words, “We lift them up unto the Lord.” He has answered the prayer of the Offertory and given us clean hearts. For this we give Him thanks, as it is “meet [good] and right so to do.” The Proper Preface (as in “proper” to a particular time or season of the Church year) connects us once again to the earthly life of Jesus or to His eternal prayers for His Church, which are His merciful work on our behalf.

[Timotheos]

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