What is Holy Communion?

Holy Communion is celebrated each Sunday at the Shepherdstown Lutheran Parish. In the Lutheran church Holy Communion is considered a Sacrament, that is, it is sacred act that is an outward and visible sign of an inward, spiritual grace.  We have two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.  Both of these sacred acts we do because Jesus gave us a direct command to do so.  Within them both we have the promise of forgiveness of sin and the presence of our Lord.   We believe that God acts through the divine word and the earthly elements of water, bread and wine to bring about forgiveness of sin and reconciliation.

We have several names for our sacred meal. Holy Communion, because it is holy, or set apart and communion because it brings us together with God and as brothers and sisters.  Eucharist is another name for the supper. Eucharist means “thanksgiving”  and we call it that because we eat and drink in thanksgiving for the Easter promises,  similar to the way we share our Thanksgiving feast with our families thankful for the many gifts given to us.  The meal is also called the Lord’s Supper because it was instituted by Christ and he is the host.  By any name, Holy Communion is a visible sign of God’s grace through Jesus.

Throughout worship we are preparing for Holy Communion. We begin worship with the brief order for confession and forgiveness.  At this time we examine ourselves and put our sins before God and ask forgiveness.  We ask that our hearts be made clean and open to God’s Word of love.  We gather our hearts and minds together with prayer and hymns of praise and then we listen to the word read and proclaimed.  We confess our faith in the words of the creed and we bring our praise and concerns to God in prayer.  We received God’s peace and share it with one another and then we bring our offerings to God.  And then we are ready for the Holy Meal.  We hear the Words of Institution:  On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body broken for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  In like manner after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks and gave for all to drink saying , “this is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this for the remembrance of me.”  And then we eat and we drink and we remember.

We believe that Christ is truly present in, with, and under the bread and the wine.  Not that the bread and the wine transform in some magical way into literal flesh and blood, but rather that Christ is with us somehow, truly present, loving us and forgiving us and empowering us to be present for one another, loving and forgiving each other.

All are welcome to commune with us at St Peter’s and St James. When you come forward, receive the bread and hear the words, “This is the body of Christ given for you.”  You may respond, “Amen!”  You will then proceed to the cup.  There are two cups from which to choose.  The first is for intention, or dipping.  You may dip you bread into the cup after hearing the words, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”  You respond, “Amen!” and then eat the bread.  The second cup is the common cup.  If you choose the common cup, then you eat your bread when you receive it, and then go to the second cup and hear the words, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”  You reply, “Amen” and then you take the cup and drink directly from the cup.  Either way, you will have received Jesus and you can be certain that you are loved and forgiven.

Come to the table! Taste and see the goodness of God!