What is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer. It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink, as it was instituted by Christ himself.
Where is it so written? Answer. The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, together with St. Paul, write thus: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which 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.” “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it: this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins: do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
What benefits are derived from such eating and drinking? Answer. They are pointed out in these words: “Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.” Namely, through these words, the remission of sins, life and salvation are granted unto us in the Sacrament. For where there is remission of sins, there are also life and salvation.
How can the bodily eating and drinking produce such great effects? Answer. The eating and the drinking, indeed, do not produce them, but the words which stand here, namely: “Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.” These words are, besides the bodily eating and drinking, the chief things in the Sacrament; and whoever believes these words has that which they declare and set forth, namely, the remission of sins.
Who is it, then, that receives this Sacrament worthily? Answer. Fasting and bodily preparation are indeed a good external discipline; but one is truly worthy and well prepared, who believes these words: “Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.” But one who does not believe these words, or who doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words: “For You,” require truly believing hearts.
See Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25.
When I was growing up, our church didn't have Holy Communion every Sunday - at least not at both services. They alternated between the two services.
Many congregations of other denominations still don't practice Holy Communion every week, but most all of the Lutheran congregations I know do.
Why is this sacrament so central to us?
One of my Seminary professors summarized Luther's ideas about it this way: in Communion, God is done to us. God is a verb. God is the actor in the meal. God is the host. God welcomes us to the table.
God does this for us.
A pastor of one of my previous congregations always stressed that part as he went around the altar: "The body of Christ given FOR YOU; the blood of Christ shed FOR YOU."
And that "for you" is spoken to those we might not ourselves welcome to our table.
Communion is just that - communion. It is the bringing together of all of us "yous" into one "we."
A "we" who belong to God.
A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Word through Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.