24 November 2009

A Tale of Two Communion Visits

After I commune my shutins, I usually comment that it is a joy to be able to bring the Sacrament to them. Yesterday, after I said this, Ruth took my breath away when she looked right at me and said: "Yes, it is the only thing worth living for." Living in a wheel chair, in a nursing home, lonely much of the time, she craves the forgiveness and eternal life which her Savior gives her; the union with Christ which is the gift of the Supper. The only thing worth living for indeed: to become one with Christ!

Today, as I was setting up communion for Elva, I overhear her daughter tell her that I've arrived to give her communion. She replied immediately: "But I'm not worthy." This oldest member of our parish, and so humble in her approach to the Eucharist! Her daughter immediately assured that none of us is worthy and that's why we need the Sacrament. She happily received it and thanked me for bringing it to her.

"Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good!"

12 comments:

Scott Larkins said...

That we should be gifted with such faith to the end. I'm sure you consider it a blessing to be able to bring our Lord to such elder sisters.

Unashamed said...

How beautiful and humbling.

Scott Larkins said...

"How beautiful and humbling."


Boy howdy.

Paul McCain said...

Wow and....wow.

Such joy.

Dennis said...

That is one of the things that I miss since I left the Anglican Catholic Church as a Deacon, is not being able to take the Blessed Sacrament to the sick.

In the years that I served that parish, I saw the faith and the hope that was brought to people as they received their Lord in the Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

I find it immeasurably sad that a child of God, who will probably see our Savior face to face sooner than many of us, does not know that our Lord has made her worthy of His Kingdom and of all His gifts by His own most precious blood. But even more devastating is the fact that she is persuaded to do that about which Her Lord said, “Do this,” by everybody else’s supposed unworthiness. Is this what the Gospel of the Kingdom really teaches us? Did the blessed Dr. Martin Luther believe that when he said, “If our hearts could grasp the fact that we need not fear the Final Judgment, what joy they would find”?

Peace and Joy to all, but especially to Elva.
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

George,

Do you not pray when approaching the table: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under the roof of my soul, but only speak the word and Your servant shall be healed?" Her recognition that she was not worthy was not borne of unbelief, but of the faith which sees one's self for what it is, and yet nonetheless comes to Him who calls the unworthy to Himself. Blessed David Hollaz once prayed like this, and this is how all true Lutherans pray:

Almighty Lord Jesus Christ, as often as I shall come to Your holy table to refresh my spirit, I pray You to make me, unworthy as I am, worthy through Your grace; impure as I am, to make me clean; naked as I am to clothe me, so that Your Body, so full of divine power, and Your most precious Blood may not become for me, Your servant, the occasion for judgment or punishment, but a memorial of the death You underwent for me, a strengthening of my faith, a proof of the taking away of my sins, a bond of closer union with You, an increase of holiness, the basis of a glad resurrection, and a pledge of everlasting life. Amen.

Larry Luder said...

Thank you Rev. Weedon for sharing this with us. I will see Ruth, Elva, and all y'all tomorrow at the Eucharist; Lord's Supper 6 days a week at Saint John!

Anonymous said...

Because what I wrote runs a tad over the number of characters the site will accept, I am posting this in two consecutive postings:

Dear Rev. Weedon. I do not pray either prayer. The first, because a story about one man’s coming to faith has been made into a prayer to come to faith again and again. But, as Luther said time and time again, “I have been baptized.” The second, because I have never heard it, so I guess I have never been a Lutheran after all.

The point really is that whatever I do is not rule and norm of faith. The question before us is what do Scripture and the Confessions have to say about the “worthiness” of those who receive the Lord’s Supper.
Specifically, the question is whether, if our Lord declares us “worthy,” is it true humility or false humility to call one’s self “unworthy”?

As you know, Scripture has relatively little to say about the worthiness of those who receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. We know that all of the Disciples (I will not even get into the question of whether Judas was among them) received it without prior warning or instructions. In fact, they received it before they received the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 11:29 does not mention the word “worthy,” but I think you will not object to the idea that one who “eats and drinks judgment on himself” is partaking unworthily. In this case, it is a matter of “discerning the body.” Now, whether you mean by “the body” the “sacramental” body, or the “spiritual” body; i.e. the Church, I suspect that neither is the case in your original posting.

John 6 lacks an instructions on this topic, but, interestingly enough, our Lord’s discourse is preceded by this exchange, “28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

If there are any other passages that directly touch on this matter, I will be grateful to anyone for pointing them out. But based on these passage alone, I think I may assert that the “worthiness” that is necessary for attendance at the Lord’s Supper is the same as the one we receive through our justification. The Epitome of the Formula of Concord seems to confirm this:

“VII. The Lord's Supper.
8. We believe, teach, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guest, namely, those who do not believe, concerning whom it is written John 3:18: He that believeth not is condemned already. And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated, by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11:29.”

Anonymous said...

But I suspect that behind this aversion to considering one’s self worthy, is really the idea that it is arrogant and therefore not becoming a Christian. Here, only the following passage from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord should dispel that notion, although there are may others that could be cited, both from Scripture and the Confessions:

The Epitome of the Formula of Concord
III. The Righteousness of Faith Before God.
6. We believe, teach, and confess also that notwithstanding the fact that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even to the grave, still they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness which has been imputed to them by faith, or the salvation of their souls, but must regard it as certain that for Christ's sake, according to the promise and [immovable] Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.

Although there are many other writings on this subject, let me close with what Dr. Martin Luther had to say in his Commentary on Galatians: (4:1-9) “St. Augustine observed that "every man is certain of his faith, if he has faith." This the Romanists deny. "God forbid," they exclaim piously, "that I should ever be so arrogant as to think that I stand in grace, that I am holy, or that I have the Holy Ghost." We ought to feel sure that we stand in the grace of God, not in view of our own worthiness, but through the good services of Christ. As certain as we are that Christ pleases God, so sure ought we to be that we also please God, because Christ is in us. And although we daily offend God by our sins, yet as often as we sin, God's mercy bends over us. Therefore sin cannot get us to doubt the grace of God. Our certainty is of Christ, that mighty Hero who overcame the Law, sin, death, and all evils. So long as He sits at the right hand of God to intercede for us, we have nothing to fear from the anger of God.”

Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

George,

You might want to review LC V:61:

"Such people must learn that it is the highest art to know that our Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy. Nor do we go to confession because we are pure and without sin. On the contrary, we go because we are poor, miserable people. ***We go exactly because we are unworthy***."

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Weedon: I think a careful reading of V:61 and of this entire section clearly agree with my earlier posting. Furthermore, right after the paragraph you have quoted, Luther continues with, “62] But whoever would gladly obtain grace and consolation should impel himself, and allow no one to frighten him away, but say: I, indeed, would like to be worthy; but I come, not upon any worthiness, but upon Thy Word, because Thou hast commanded it, as one who would gladly be Thy disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness. 63] But this is difficult; for we always have this obstacle and hindrance to encounter, that we look more upon ourselves than upon the Word and lips of Christ. For nature desires so to act that it can stand and rest firmly on itself, otherwise it refuses to make the approach.” Actually, the German for the end of this phrase is, “so will sie nicht hinan,” or “therefore she does not want to come, or is reluctant to come.” This is where we started off a couple of days ago.

If you visit Elva again, you may want to tell her that there is some nut in Southern California who claims on the basis of Scripture and our Confessions, that she is most worthy to receive the Body and Blood of her Lord. She can look forward with joy to receiving her Lord, instead of excusing her presumption by the fact that nobody is worthy, and then having to go through the same pangs of conscience the next time. Of course, he appears to be the only one in Christendom.

I wish you and yours a wonderful Eucharistic Day.

George A. Marquart