A note from Pastor Goede on communing during the pandemic
This week and going forward, I invite you to commune during the worship service. If you would like to read about communing at home, please follow the links below to read essays and reflections by several members.
Every week, we’ll eat in the simplest way possible. Our blessing for the bread and wine, our table grace, will just be Jesus’ words recorded in the gospels and in Paul’s letters, this is my body, this is my blood. In coming weeks we can add more, but know that this is all that’s needed for the elements to be blessed and for Christians to commune together.
To prepare to commune this Sunday morning, you’ll want to have on hand bread on a plate and either wine or grape juice in a cup. When assisting ministers learn what to do before and after communion, I always tell them that they are just setting the table – putting out the cups and plates we’ll need for the meal, making the table look nice by veiling the chalice, getting ready the way you would for any dinner party.
Jesus is our guest at this dinner, and as he tells his disciples who share the last supper with him, the bread and wine are the way God graces us with divine presence. Jesus asks us to eat and drink together, promises to be present with us and fill us with grace as surely as we are filled with bread and wine.
Resources for Learning and Reflection on Why and How We Commune
Take a look at the ELCA’s statement about the sacraments
To help you think about these things, the ELCA’s “The Use of the Means of Grace” might be a good place to start. It’s long; start at the table of contents and choose wisely.
“The Use of the Means of Grace – Why It Matters” is a four-page summary of the important issues.
Take a look at what Martin Luther wanted us to know about the sacrament
Martin Luther’s Small Catechism is an app that seems an appropriate way to research this question during this time of lockdown and social distancing.
Be a good Lutheran and dip into Scripture
Jesus doesn’t come up with bread and wine and communing together on his own. There’s a long history with our spiritual ancestors of offering hospitality to strangers, gathering because asks us to and sharing the bread from heaven. If you’ve got some time during lockdown, pull out a Bible (or find one online) and check out some of the things behind Jesus’ offer of bread and wine to his disciples.
Abraham and Sarah welcome three visitors (Genesis 18)
Hospitality to strangers in every situation was essential for people living in the ancient Near East. Abraham welcomes three unknown men into his camp, unaware that he is actually welcoming God. Abraham gives the three water to wash their feet, and as he prepares food, Sarah bakes bread for them.
The Israelites eat the Passover meal (Exodus 12)
God is about to strike the Egyptians with one final plague, guaranteed to make them free their Israelite slaves. God directs the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and use the blood to mark the doorposts of their quarters to that the angel of death will know to pass over them. They roast the lamb to sustain them as they escape. They make cakes quickly without leaven, so they have bread for the journey into freedom in the wilderness.
Manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16)
God feeds the wandering Israelites with “true bread from heaven,” manna, a flaky, white substance they gathered from the ground. The people gather it for forty years, all the time they wander in the wilderness.
The widow and Elijah: In 1 Kings 17:7-16, Elijah asks a widow in Zarephath to bring him bread. She says she has run out, and is starving. He promises if she returns home, her jar of flour and jug of oil will never run out. She goes home, and is able to make bread for herself, her son, and Elijah throughout the famine. Elijah does quite the opposite of call for a fast during the famine. Instead, he ordains the woman to be the presider at the meal.
Elijah and the widow of Zarapheth (1 Kings 17)
King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are so evil that God stops the rain and causes a drought throughout Israel. God sends Elijah to a poor widow who welcomes him with water, but she isn’t sure she has enough flour or oil to bake bread for him. But Elijah prophesies that the jar of meal and the jug of oil will not run out.
There are many stories about Jesus that involve eating and drinking, banquets and feasts, wine and bread. Try using a Bible search tool like Oremus Bible Browser and search some of these words in the gospels.
Another good way to survey the landscape is to use a children’s Bible to find some well-known incidents involving Jesus and food and drink and hospitality, like:
Jesus turns jars of water into wine at a wedding in Cana (John 2)
Jesus five thousand with just five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14)
Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet (Matthew 22)
Jesus eats with the tax collector Levi (Luke 5)