From the Word
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Luke 22:17–20, RSV
The words “my” and “you” are words of unmistakable significance. Who is it that says “my body,” “my blood”? The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who shed his blood and died for you. When he says, “my body,” “my blood,” he merely asks “you” to acknowledge and believe it, to rest in such faith and render him thanks for what cost him so bitterly. He would not have you shamefully despise his Sacrament or lightly neglect it because it is to be had without price or effort.
But you may argue that the statement of Paul is too awful, when he says, whosoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, eats and drinks judgment unto himself, and is guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. Dear friend, you must not consider yourself so much from the standpoint of worthiness or unworthiness of your person as from that of your need, which makes the grace of Christ necessary. If you recognize and feel your need, you have the requisite worthiness and preparation. The Holy Supper has been instituted by Christ, not as a poison for us and as a sign of Christ’s wrath, but as a means of comfort and salvation. Above all, you must realize that however great your unworthiness, the merit of your Lord Jesus Christ cannot be doubted. It is your duty to praise, honor and thank him, and to be one of the observers of his ordinance and institution, as he has a right to expect and as you have vowed in your baptism.
There is a twofold reason for you to receive the Lord’s Supper. It means gratitude and praise for Christ, and grace and solace for yourself. To occupy the standpoint of this twofold reason does not argue wickedness and a misuse of the Sacrament; it is the right standpoint and pleasing to God. Our relation to God is right only when we occupy the standpoint of gratitude and supplication. In rendering thanks we honor him for the blessings and grace already received, in supplication for those we crave for the future. When one goes to the Holy Supper with this disposition, what is his act but the declaration: Lord, I thank thee for all the grace I have received at thy hands, and I pray thee to supply still further my need? You cannot more highly honor God.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 400–01.