It is important to note that a greater frequency in church attendance and greater frequency of partaking of the Sacrament of the Altar does not necessary make one a ‘better’ Christian than the Christian who receives the Sacrament less frequently or attends church less frequently. Otherwise stated, Christians who attend and partake more often are not elevated into a ‘Superior-Christian’ category, resulting in other Christians becoming meager minions. This is obviously a faulty conclusion. Rather, what is interesting is that many Christians, who promote faithful church attendance and faithful reception of the Supper, are typically coming at this issue from the exact opposite perspective. In other words, the reason why they advocate for frequent communion and consistent church attendance is probably best stated in the words of St. Aurelius Ambrose, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.”
I know for myself that it typically gets really bad throughout the week, as well as the majority of the parishioners that I have come to know. Daily I fail in my vocations of pastor, father, and husband. Add to that the 10 Commandments and I have run dry come Sunday each week. Thus, I go to church, along with others, as a beggar who is hungry and empty; I go to church with the week’s memories of doing the very things that I should not have done and failing to do what I ought to do. I come each Sunday to the Divine Service as a damned, weak, and tired sinner.
There is hope though.
In the Divine Service, as printed in the Lutheran Service Book, I get to go to church and receive not only the Word but also the Sacraments! Yes, all three! As we come into the Divine Service we confess our sins and hear the Word of Absolution. We even make the sign of the cross numerous times in remembrance of our Baptism. The Divine Service delivers to us lessons from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospel as well. Don’t forget the Sermon! Then, the Divine Service ushers us into the Sacrament of the Altar. Yes, the Divine Service in the Lutheran Service Book delivers all three means of grace. No stinginess at all! It is like combining my birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month into one incredibly fabulous event! We hear absolution and are reminded of our Baptism; we are pulled out of our man-centered narcissistic narratives into God’s narrative (i.e., the Word of Law obliterates the old Adam and the Word of Gospel grants us grace and faith); and we get to see, smell, taste, feel, and eat the body and blood given and shed for us. All of our senses are involved in receiving forgiveness! (And thank God for we surely need it every Sunday.)
Indeed, grace is found and delivered in: the Absolution and the remembrance of our Baptism, the proclaimed Word, and the Sacrament of the Altar. And get this, all of this is better than a birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month combined into one event. Yes, all three means of grace are given to us ‘every’ ‘single’ ‘week’ at the Divine Service—for the forgiveness of our sins.
It makes one laugh with elation to think that Sunday is abounding with gifts, gifts, and more gifts for us poor miserable sinners! So, the questions that arise now are, “Why exclude the gift of Communion from Sunday services? Why would one want to miss out on attending a weekly Divine Service?”
My friends, we do not go to church or promote more frequency of the Lord’s Supper in order to ontologically climb to a new Superior-Christian status, but we advocate for these things because we always sin and thus, we always need the good, free, and gracious medicine—poured, proclaimed, given, and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Indeed, gifts and more gifts—for us. They are freely given. That is the way it is with our Sunday Divine Service, where the Lord serves us.
This WE Disquisition article is by: Pr. Matt Richard