Over the last few months we have journeyed through the Service of the Sacrament and have come to the point of the distribution, but before we discuss the actual reception of the Sacrament, we must take a step back to discuss an oft overlooked part of the Sacrament of the Altar: our necessary preparation to receive Christ’s body and blood. In his Small Catechism Luther discusses the necessary condition to receive the Sacrament:
Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
In short, the Sacrament of the Altar is for those who believe the Word concerning the gift given there. For those, then, who believe the Word, Luther provides several helpful questions that Christians may use in their personal preparation for Holy Communion. These questions may be found on page 329 in the Lutheran Service Book or in the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” section in the Small Catechism.
That section is reproduced here for your consideration.
1. Do you believe that you are a sinner?
Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.
2. How do you know this?
From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.
3. Are you sorry for your sins?
Yes. I am sorry that I have sinned against God.
4. What have you deserved from God because of your sins?
His wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. (See Romans 6:21,23.)
5. Do you hope to be saved?
Yes, that is my hope.
6. In whom then do you trust?
In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Who is Christ?
The Son of God, true God and man.
8. How many Gods are there?
Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?
He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
10. Did the Father also die for you?
He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.
11. How do you know this?
From the Holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament.
12. What are the Words of Institution?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
13. Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament?
Yes, I believe it.
14. What convinces you to believe this?
The word of Christ: Take, eat, this is My body; drink of it, all of you, this is My blood.
Pastor Jonathan Conner of Zion Lutheran Church in Manning, Iowa, is a former board member for the Hausvater Project.