A kind of “chain reaction” set in. In reaction to the threats put forth by the leaders of the Pietistic Movement, people stopped registering for communion. Since, in the Lutheran church, communion is a congregational event, the pastor does not celebrate it alone. Therefore, as no one registered for communion, the ministers did not prepare for the Lord’s Supper, sometimes for many Sundays in succession. It reached the point in many Lutheran congregations where the Eucharist was only celebrated on Christmas and Easter, and then only by participants who were “too old to sin!” One church historian described the situation for us:
“For two hundred years, or nearly half the time from the Reformation to the present, the normal Sunday service in Lutheran lands was the purified Mass, with its twin peaks of Sermon and Sacrament. There were weekly celebrations and the people in general received the Sacrament much more frequently than before. The ravages of war, the example of Calvinism, the later subjective practices of Pietistic groups in a domestic type of worship, and the unbelief of rationalism, however, finally broke the genuine Lutheran tradition.Unfortunately for our Communion practice, it was also during this same time period that the Lutheran churches in America were first begun. So, the prevailing practice in Europe was transferred to American Lutheran congregations. Thus today, regardless of whether a church or Synod is today liberal or conservative, it is still burdened with this particular baggage of history.
Lutheran services in general, after centuries of proper use, came to consist of a truncated liturgy with the first half (the Office of the Word) existing apart from its crown and completion in the Holy Communion. The Communion in most districts was administered quarterly, in conformity with the Calvinistic and Zwinglian program.” (Dr. Luther Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, pages 244, 245)
This explains why the vast majority of Lutheran churches here in America celebrate the Lord’s Supper only once, or at the most twice a month, with very few exceptions. But the facts, from both the Bible and history, show conclusively that this custom is actually a “new” practice in the church, which would be unheard of from the days of the Apostles up to and beyond Martin Luther and the Reformation. Luther himself referred to services without the Lord's Supper as “half a worship service.” Therefore, the Sunday service without Holy Communion is an innovation in the church without Biblical or even practical warrant.
Because of the clear testimony of the Bible, Church History, and confessional Lutheran practice, the conclusion is inescapable that we can, and indeed ought, to return to celebrating our Lord's Supper at every regular Sunday worship service, in addition to various festivals in the Christian calendar.
While it is of course true that no one should ever be forced or feel pressured to partake of Holy Communion, it is also just as wrong for the church not to offer this opportunity to its members during every regular Sunday service, and on as many other occasions as would be appropriate.
Indeed, in an age when so many churches are denying most of the Bible, from Creation, to the divinity of Christ, to the Real Presence, we have both the duty and the responsibility to stand out and stand up for Scriptural truth, both in what we preach and teach, and in the way we worship and use the sacraments.
“The church has been established in the world to administer the Word and the sacraments. These are its true marks. It fails in its privilege and its duty if it neglects either. One great failure of the medieval church was the neglect of the Word. The church today frequently fails in adequate appreciation and administration of the sacraments.” (Dr. Luther Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, page 322)Therefore, it is very correct, proper, Biblical, and Lutheran to retain the Christian, orthodox, historic, and God-pleasing practice of observing the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Supper during every Sunday service, and at other such services as is deemed fitting.
Of course, it is possible that there are those who may have objections to this practice. In no way should anyone call into question the orthodoxy or genuineness of their faith. Neither should anyone impugn the motives of those with concerns regarding a more historical practice of Holy Communion.
In order to provide a further positive basis for this practice, allow me to address some of the objections I have already heard through the years to having Communion every Sunday during the regular worship service.
To be continued on Friday . . .