HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 28, 29, & 30
How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you are in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts?
In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup. With this command he gave this promise: First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?
It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as members of our body are by one Soul.
Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?
In the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “The Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This promise is repeated by Paul in these words: “Is not the cup of Thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
No. just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ’s blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply God’s sign and assurance, so too the bread of the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the actual body of Christ even though it is called the body of Christ in keeping with the nature and language of the sacraments.
Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood? (Paul uses the words, a participation in Christ’s body and blood.)
Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life. But more important, he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood, as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally suffered and paid for our sins.
How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?
The Lord’s Supper declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ which he himself finished on the cross once for all. It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, which with his very body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he wants us to worship him.
Who are to come to the Lord’s table?
Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.
Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom until they reform their lives.
Tuesday, June 26: Genesis 11-12
When Jesus and his disciples gathered in that Upper Room in Jerusalem the night before his death, they weren’t eating a normal supper. They were celebrating the Passover Feast. This feast was held every year to memorialize God’s liberation of the slavery-bound nation of Israel from the oppressive Egyptians by showing His great power through the miraculous Ten Plagues. Passover gets its name from the last plague, when the Angel of Death passed over the door frames of the faithful Israelites, who had slaughtered the sacrificial lamb, and had painted the blood on their doorways to signal they were part of the Abrahamic Covenant community. The firstborns – young and old – of those who had not painted their doorways were taken by the Angel of Death, and the Pharaoh of Egypt set the Israelites free. If those liberated slaves had previously doubted they were the chosen people who lived under the Covenant Promise, I imagine that for a moment, as they walked out of Egypt, those doubts were put to rest. Jesus, as he so often did throughout his ministry, turned the ritual remembrance of the Passover feast on its head. Paul explains it this way: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (I Corinthians 11:23b-26). When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we remember not a faceless lamb slaughtered in the night by an ancient Israelite slave thousands of years ago so he could escape his cruel master’s whip. We remember the true Sacrificial Lamb, slaughtered on the cross in our place so we could escape the cruel grip of Satan and sin and death. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our identity in Christ. It is the place where we retell the Gospel story, defined by a grace and peace given to us by God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:4)” by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but no longer was the blood shed by the Lamb wiped only on the doorframes of Abraham’s descendants. Instead “[God] redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14). The Lord’s Supper is our Covenant Meal, a visible sign that calls us to remember, to believe, to find assurance that Christ’s broken and resurrected body, that Christ’s poured-out and cleansing blood have been given for you and for me. As we continue to study and explore the Lord’s Supper, I pray that you will remember the gospel promise laid out for you in the Covenant Meal.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn