Today we should allow ourselves to be admonished to receive the Sacrament frequently.
The word “frequently” may bother us. It may make us think that it is a law word, and we may have absorbed the notion that law words are bad. But for a Christian to whom the law is a delight, as the Psalmist says, we eagerly listen and take to heart these encouragements to come to the Supper often.
Perhaps the real reason why we sometimes don’t like to think about receiving frequently is that we don’t like to receive criticism on our spiritual habits. I do what I think is right and no one can tell me different. Although that sentiment is right with regard to following your conscience, the conscience must be informed by the Word of God. If it is not, then the conscience needs to receive correction and instruction. But our conscience is often informed by emotions that may not want any correction. So we must be careful to listen attentively when our Lord encourages us to receive His gifts frequently.
At this time, the Supper is offered here nearly every Sunday. The tradition was first and third Sundays, and we mostly stick to that rule for the main Service. But even on other Sundays, the Sacrament is offered to those who desire it. So you could be receiving the Sacrament virtually every Sunday. Could you receive it more than you do? I think there is no one who could not receive it more, but often we think something like, “I receive it as much as I need to.” Instead it is better to ask, “Is there even such a thing as too often?” There are no warnings in Scripture against receiving the Sacrament too much. After all, the Lord does not bestow His grace so that we can ration it out in small portions. Instead, He wants to be a Fountain overflowing with grace for us.
This is why the Lord commands us to receive the Sacrament often. He is not laying down a strict law, but letting us know what is best for us, in line with His desire that we be richly fed.
The promise of Christ should also entice us: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” and where there is forgiveness there is also life and salvation. There are also other blessings, as I have preached about previously. Since the Body and Blood of Christ are a holy and healthy medicine for poor sinners like us, to help conscience, heart, mind, body, and soul, then we do right to strongly desire its blessings.
Since we value the blessings of Christ and believe that He gives such rich blessings here, then we should not fear that His blessings might become bad for us. Unworthy reception is a whole other matter that has nothing to do with how often you receive. After all, how can unworthy reception be found in a person who hungers and thirsts for the wonderful gifts Christ gives in the Supper?
Our pressing need should also drive us to the Sacrament. This is really what Doctor Luther discusses in the twentieth question. Our pressing need is threefold: our sinful flesh, our location in the world with its sin and troubles, and the devil.
Scripture says that we, that is, our sinful flesh, desires things that are contrary to what the Spirit desires. That is why we do things that we do not wish to do. Either we follow the Spirit, so our sinful flesh is unhappy, or vice versa.
There are many works the flesh loves: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. Since you still have the flesh, then that old nature in you wants these things and will produce them if it gains the upper hand.
On top of that, the Scripture warns that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is not to say that you earn salvation by your good works. But if you let your flesh run amok without restraint, then faith cannot endure long under those conditions. The lack of repentance at gross sins is destructive for the soul.
On the other hand, the Spirit wants to produce in us fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We want the Spirit to produce these in us, so we need spiritual support and assistance to bear fruits that our flesh does not want to bear.
We need the Spirit’s help, who is active in the Supper to aid us in living a Christian life. Can we get too much aid from Him? When we no longer have the flesh and no longer need assistance to create fruits, only then will we need no more help from Him.
Regarding the sinful world, Scripture says that the world will hate you because it has hated Christ. Sometimes the world conceals its hatred for Christians, or sometimes we conceal the fact that we are Christians to avoid the hate of the world. But we must be strengthened to stand against the assaults and temptations that come.
There are persecutions, small or great. At its worst, the world will kill you and think that it has done a good and helpful act by doing so. That is how great the world’s hatred for you is.
Sometimes we weep and lament because of things we must suffer at the world’s hands. But at other times, the world lures us with pleasures and desires and pride. On top of all that, the Antichrist is in the world who tries to deceive us into denying Christ.
How do we overcome such dangers? The victory that overcomes the world is our faith. But faith is not our doing, but is the gift of God. So we must be strengthened in faith by those things through which the Spirit does this work, including the Supper.
If you’re still not convinced that you need the Supper often, consider what the Word says about satan. Since he is a murderer from the beginning, he especially wants to murder God’s children, not only physically but eternally. The devil accomplishes eternal death through lies, of which he is an expert and the father of lies.
Saint Peter warns us that our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. So we should resist him and be steadfast in the faith. Human resistance and steadfastness is not sufficient, just as you would not face a lion empty handed. Rather, you must be equipped with armor and weapons to fight. The armor of God that allows us to resist satan is made up of gifts the Spirit creates in us: truth, righteousness, the preparation of the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.
So we seek out the places where the Spirit works upon us to strengthen and preserve us in these gifts, including the Lord’s Supper. Of course, He also works through the Word of God and the sweet Absolution of the Gospel. But if we like one gift of our Lord but neglect others, then are we treating Him as if He is a waiter offering us menu options? Should we not be eagerly devoted to receiving as much as we can from our loving Father? The Spirit grant us weak sinners such sincere devotion.
This is not child’s play, says Luther. If I ignore or take for granted the means of grace, then woe is me! I am no titan of majestic strength who can stand on his own without God’s help. I am a wretched sinner, and only Christ can rescue me from this body of death. But thanks be to God that He provides exactly what I need in His sweet Gospel that He serves us upon this Altar to eat and drink.
God help us to take seriously our need and to value the treasures He bestows, so that we hunger and thirst more and more for His precious gifts. In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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