Matins Devotion: November 13, 2023
Throughout my years as a pastor, a few people who are outside of our communion have gotten angry when I’ve told them that they can’t commune. I tell them that they can’t commune with us until we share the same confession of faith. Then they tell me that they should be able to commune because they are good, faithful Christians who have loved Jesus all their lives and who are very involved in their congregations. It’s an odd thing. I say “the Sacrament is medicine and I can’t give it to you until I know you’re prepared to receive it.” And they essentially say, “no, it’s a reward that I’ve earned. Gimme.”
But, of course, this is not at all what we see in the first celebration of the Sacrament. Here, on the night when our Lord is betrayed, as He institutes this blessed meal, what do we see? A bunch of foolish men who have misunderstood him and used His Gospel to chase self–glorification. A bunch of worthless men who are all going to fall away from him that night, one betraying Him, one denying Him, and the rest scattering from Him in cowardice and fear. These men don’t deserve the sacrament at all. And yet our Lord gives it to them, and perpetually invites them back to it through the institution because this is the feast where fools are made wise, where sinners are made saints, where the unworthy are clothed in the worthiness of Christ.
The Sacrament of the Altar is, indeed, divine medicine, medicine that can harm us if we don’t receive it properly. As St. Paul tells us, those who eat and drink in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood, just as he warns us not to come together with divisions. This is why we must instruct people before admitting them to the sacrament and why we must hold back those who don’t share our confession of faith.
But never think that the Sacrament is a reward you’ve earned through your faithfulness. Never think it’s a right you have acquired through your obedience. The Sacrament is the feast of the starving, the dying, the miserable, the lowly, those covered in betrayal and denial and weakness. If you think you’re worthy, you are unworthy. And if you know that you are unworthy, come receive your worthiness in this glorious gift, in the bread that is Christ’s body, in the wine that is His blood. Come receive the forgiveness and sins from the same body broken for you and the same blood shed for you at Calvary.