by Chad Kyler
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.
After being raised in a non-Lutheran, Christian tradition, the thing I’ve found most comforting and reassuring about my adopted Lutheran identity is our biblical understanding of the Lord’s Supper. As a child and young adult, I was taught by my church that Holy Communion was a mere symbol or memorial of the Lord’s death. It was celebrated infrequently and only then as some outward act we performed in obedience to God. The bread was only bread, and the juice was only juice. No wine was used. And there was no consideration given to the scriptural teaching of Jesus about the true nature of this sacred meal.
It was only later in young adulthood as I began to read many of the various Christian writings from history, including those written by Luther, about Holy Communion that I came to recognize the full meaning and importance of this Sacrament. I thank God each day for that realization as well as the strength it has given me in my walk with Christ.
Scripture teaches us that Jesus gives us His true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine. In Matt. 26:26–28, we read, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” There is a deep sense of comfort in knowing that I meet my resurrected Lord in this Sacrament and have the opportunity to commune with Him in His Supper, which He instituted before departing this world.
Luther’s Small Catechism tells us that the benefit of receiving Holy Communion “is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
Each and every time I receive the Lord’s Supper, I believe that I receive the forgiveness of sins and new life that Christ won for me through His shed blood and broken body. I am strengthened by His presence for the tasks ahead of me in the work week. I am refreshed and ready for the continued daily duties I have as a son, a father, and a husband in my family. I am reminded of my personal need for a Savior and of my reliance on Him alone for my salvation, and I am renewed in my desire to serve Him as best I can in all areas of my life.
I am grateful to God for the knowledge that every time I approach the Lord’s Supper, I am approaching the very same body that was incarnated in the Virgin’s womb and that was bruised for my iniquity. I am awed by the fact that the cup of redemption we share is indeed the cup of His blood that was spilled on Calvary’s cross hundreds of years ago and is still present for the healing, restoration, and forgiveness of our sins.
I am thankful for God’s Word that helps me understand these truths and that strengthens me to put my total trust and faith in Christ alone, and I am thankful for a church body that isn’t afraid of teaching the truth of God’s Word regarding the Sacrament of the Altar.
About the Author: Chad Kyler is a member of Hope Lutheran, Rochester, N.Y.