Learning Old Things

During the eighteen months since I was installed at Trinity, we have been studying the possibility of offering the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. This ancient practice of the Church dates back to Pentecost, as seen in Acts 2:42. Doctor Ken Wieting, in his book The Blessings of Weekly Communion, goes into much greater detail than I can do in a simple blog post.

The question has been asked, “Have we been wrong in our teaching and understanding of the Lord’s Supper?” Consider, fifty years ago people communed an average of four times a year, and congregations might have offered the Lord’s Supper less than twenty times a year. Although both the Biblical and confessional writings have not changed, the church practice has changed over the years.

Some of the changes were positive, such as Luther involving the people in the liturgy rather than being spectators. Some of the changes were negative, where human logic replaced the Word of God. In the same way that medicine and education look for the best outcome for all concerned, the Church desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

How the Church approaches this goal has changed. The problems addressed by the Church have changed, which also affects how the truth is taught. During the 1970s, for example, the Missouri Synod was more concerned about the Bible being the Word of God rather than simply containing the Word of God. This fundamental question about the Bible meant that there was less time for the study of the Lutheran Confessions.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as the Missouri Synod recovered from the seminary walkout of 1974, pastors began to spend more time looking at the question, “what does it mean to be Lutheran rather than simply Protestant?” Interest in the confessions grew, as did the study of the liturgy and worship practice.

Because of the growing interest in our confessions and practice, we rediscovered the understanding of worship. What happens on Sunday morning is not our gathering to give praise and service to God, but that God invites us into His presence to receive the fullness of His blessings.

Where the Word of God is proclaimed in its purity, where the Gospel of reconciliation is given to sinners, people will be saved. They were saved by God’s rich grace and favor when the church celebrated the Lord’s Supper once a quarter. The are saved by God’s rich grace and favor when the body and blood, under the bread and wine, are offered weekly.

The question we must ask, which practice (infrequent offering of the Lord’s Supper, versus weekly offering of the Lord’s Supper) provides the greatest blessing and comfort for the redeemed sinner? Let’s not denigrate that which happened in the past based on our enlightened and exalted position of knowledge. Let’s not tear down the statues of the past simply because they don’t agree with our understanding of the present. Let’s move forward, thankful that our Lord has always worked through Word and Sacrament to bring the benefits of Jesus death and resurrection to this sin-sickened world.

May the generations which follow us look back and say that we were correct in our desire to frequently offer the Lord’s Supper, even as we continued to teach the law and Gospel in our sermons, visit the shut-ins, and proclaim salvation by grace through faith for the sake of Christ.