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.
Monday, June 27: Isaiah 40
Like a large majority of people I tend to pay attention to food, but I did not truly have a sense of how important food is to the health of the body until I began working at a hospital. When I review patient charts seeking information that will help me understand their condition one of the things I can see is how much a patient has eaten. I can see recommendations the nutritionist has made so patients are not being underfed, overfed, or somehow being given food that is harmful to them. Anyone who works in the hospital knows, the food that goes into a patient’s body is of the utmost importance. The same is true for us as Christians. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we are being offered spiritual food on which to feast. As the catechism says, “[Christ] wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal [our physical] life, to assure us by this visible sign and pledge, that we through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his one true body and blood, as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally suffered and paid for our sins (Question & Answer 79).” We are called to the Lord’s Table to remember the gospel promise, to be sure, but we are also called to find nourishment and sustenance there. That same gospel invites us to a life of belief in God’s love and justice, to a life of redemption through Christ’s mercy and grace, and to a life of action prompted and sustained by the generous Holy Spirit. Just as certainly as we receive the bread and wine at the table, so without a doubt we receive this gift of life. As we continue to study and explore the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, I pray that you will open your arms and receive this gift.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn