August 14, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Christ Lutheran Church
August 15, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Jesus said these things while teaching in the Synagogue of Capernaum. Upon hearing these things many of his disciples said, “This is intolerable language, how can anyone accept it?” … as a result many of his disciples turned back, and no longer walked with him. (John 6:59-60 & 66)
The Christian religion weathered many great storms in the last 2,000 years; but no single article of faith has been the target of so much spluttering controversy as the one we learn in clear terms in today’s gospel – the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion – and not only from outsiders who portrayed our religion as a cannibalistic cult that assembled to eat human flesh, and drank human blood.
But even more from the insiders who, to this very day, take every opportunity to vilify what for us is the pinnacle Christian worship, and Christian witness. “For as often as you eat THIS bread, and drink THIS cup you show forth the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:26)
But for all the bitter defiance, the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood rose to the top! So that the church of the first four centuries –though acrimoniously persecuted by government, and ridiculed by culture was, by definition, a Eucharistic Church. And God’s people looked to this food, to the Lord’s Body and Blood in the consecrated the Bread and Wine, to sustains them, to make their hearts light, to lift up their minds, and to make them superior to every enemy so that not even death could: separate them from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)
But the war was not over yet!
Because after four centuries of glorious sacramental life a certain reversal began to take place. By the end of the 5th century people largely stopped communing with Christ!
Knowing how holy this precious Substance was, and how unworthy they were, a great reversal occurred. Soon people developed what church historians call: The Dread Of The Sacrament. And for over 1,000 years, to the time of the Lutheran Reformation, people rarely communed.
Making matters worse the church raised the bar of participation very high. Rigorous fasting and a detailed confession of all sins to the priest – among other things kept people away from the altar.
The situation had deteriorated to such a degree that by the year 1215 A.D. (Fourth Lateran Council) the Church stated that all Christians were required to confess to a priest, and receive Holy Communion at least once every year during the Easter Season.
Against such a back drop we can understand why Luther writes in his Small Catechism:
Q: Who receives this Sacrament worthily?
A: Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training, but the person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. But anyone who does not believe these words, doubts them is unworthy and unprepared. For the words, “for you” require all hearts to believe.
With the onset of this teaching a great burden was lifted from the shoulders of God’s people. A collective sigh of relief was heard and people once again Communed with God.
But the victory was short lived.
Soon after the Lutheran Reformation took hold a more Radical Reformation (Revolution) gripped Europe, Scandinavia and England that mightily disputed the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament.
For the Radical Reformers, and their followers even to this very day, the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol and reminder of Christ’s death on the cross. End of story. It has no power, no benefit, no remission of sins, no communion with Jesus.
And it wasn’t long afterwards that even many Lutherans, like the disbelieving followers of today’s gospel, turned back and no longer walked with Jesus. And this reversal followed Lutherans to America when they settled here.
Early Lutheran practice in America was to commune 4 times a year. Later once a month, and today most Lutheran parishes commune only every other week. Our own Christ Lutheran Church had that sad practice until by the mercies of Christ in 2004, the Spirit restored weekly communion to us.
And so you can see that the Blessed Sacrament has always had a target painted on its back.
Things have reversed for the Roman church over the centuries. Today most RC’s who attend Mass do hunger for, and receive the Sacrament. But their practice of giving only the Body, and not the Blood is questionable at best; and degrades the Sacrament at worst.
Nor are things tickety-boo in many Eastern churches where such rigorous preparation is still required that in a typical liturgy virtually no on communes except the priest.
In the mean time there are other assaults on our Holy Communion, elemental ones. Some think that grape juice is a viable option in place of, or along side, the Sacramental wine. It is not.
Some think that so called “gluten free bread” which is no bread at all is a viable option in place of, or along side natural bread. It is not.
Others in the last 18 months have practiced drive by communion; parking lot communion, and even attempted to celebrate the Holy Sacrament over the internet: which is akin to satisfying your hunger by watching a cooking show on television.
Such controversy makes the hearing and study of St. John Chapter Six, where we have spend 3 glorious weeks, all the more compelling. For it is the New Testament’s most clear and perfect teaching on the Lord’s Supper.
Nor should we be surprised that St. Paul includes the admonition in Ephesians 5:16 “Redeeming the time for the days are evil.” But invariably both the translation and interpretation of this verse is wrong in most English bibles.
The ESV, which you have on your inserts, says, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Based on that wrong translation preachers then go on to instruct us that we should be good stewards of our time (which of course we should). But not based on this verse.
Because when St. Paul writes these words, “redeeming the time” he is telling the church to “celebrate Holy Communion; for the days are evil.”
Indeed they are so evil that there is only one antidote, One Good – the very thing we are engaged in at this time. For as often as we eat THIS Bread, and drink THIS Cup: Jesus is invading chronological time with liturgical time. That is to say: with redemption! With blessed promises to care for us now, and always.
But as we learn from today’s first reading we are doing more besides! By her Eucharist the church calls from her steeple tops tothe whole world:
"Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!”
“To the person who has no sense she says, ‘Come! Eat my bread, and drink the wine that I have mixed.’"
And to all of humanity she says, “Leave your simple ways, and live! and walk in the ways of blessed insight.” (Prov. 9:4-6)