Lutherans can be a little lonely among Protestants in believing Holy Communion to be a Sacrament and that we are actually extended the forgiveness of sins in the meal. Somehow that seems to be stretching things and assigning too much to a rite many consider to only be a symbol.
So Luther anticipated the objection, namely that eating and drinking could do all this. And the good Doctor responds in the Small Catechism, “It is not eating and drinking that does this, but the words, given and shed for you for the remission of sins. These words, along with eating and drinking, are the main things in the sacrament. And whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, forgiveness of sins.”
And you might anticipate the objection to once again be, well if it is the words that matter than why bother with the eating and drinking? And the response would have to simply be because our Lord himself combined the words with the eating of bread and drinking of the cup. He must have felt it worthwhile for us to chew on the promises and then to swallow them.
Earlier in his public ministry, in fact on the heels of his miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had spoken words that many found offensive. They are recorded in the sixth chapter of John. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” What on earth did he mean?
For many Christians, Lutherans included, we believe that in the meal Christ himself instituted, our Lord gave the ability for us to eat Christ’s body and drink his blood. Of course we are speaking of our Lord’s supernatural body and blood, but this is no less his actual body and blood! And believers receive the benefits of his presence, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Since You Asked…
How are we to understand the Easter Feast?
“Easter is to be understood as the crown of the whole year, the queen of feasts, and as such it lasts not for a day, not for a week, but for a week of weeks – a week not made up of seven days but of seven weeks. So the Sundays of this season are called the Sundays of Easter. It is one extended feast. …
The Gospels for the Sundays of Easter present the themes of resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit as aspects or stages of the Easter Mystery…” (from the Manual on the Liturgy a companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, publ. by Augsburg)