As we wait for the eventual return to our congregational communion table, I want to encourage you to celebrate holy communion in your own home. This is how the early Christians practiced it, before there were church buildings. “Day by day…they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts…” (Acts 2:46) Martin Luther encouraged this practice during times of crisis as well. The Lord’s supper reminds us that we are not cut off from the presence of Christ when we are physically apart. This presence of Christ in the “breaking of bread” is more important now in our time of isolation than ever.
So, I invite you to set a table for the Lord on Sunday morning (or whenever you decide to worship). Place a clean cloth on the dinner table, set out a piece (or several) of bread and a small glass (or several) of wine (or grape juice). Light a candle, if possible. If you are by yourself, you might open the church directory in front of you, or simply think about your siblings in the church, and imagine them sitting across from you. If you are more than one person, gather around the table.
Use the on-line worship service. Let yourself be guided as needed. Feel free to say the words yourself within the context of your time of worship. If there are several of you, you might want to split up the readings.
If you are using this order of service independently of the online worship service, read the gospel text for the Sunday. (e.g. April 19 – John 20:19-31; April 26 – Luke 24:13-35; May 3 – John 10:1-10; May 10 – John 14:1-14). After the reading you could spend a few moments reflecting and/or sharing about the gospel.
Pray this eucharistic prayer:
“Holy, mighty, and merciful Lord, heaven and earth are full of your glory. In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son, who reached out to heal the sick and suffering, who preached good news to the poor, and who, on the cross, opened his arms to all.
“In the night in which he was betrayed our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.
“Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.
“Remembering, therefore, his death, resurrection, and ascension, we await his coming in glory.
“Christ has died, Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
“Pour out upon us the Spirit of your love, O Lord, and unite the wills of all who share this heavenly food, the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.”
Pray the Lord’s Prayer
As you take the bread, say the words “The body of Christ, given for you,” to each other or to yourself. Say “The blood of Christ, shed for you,” as you take the wine.
After the meal, if you are alone, say: “Peace be with me!” If there are more than one, turn to each other and say: “Peace be with you.”
After the meal:
Concluding prayer: “Life-giving God, in the mystery of Christ’s resurrection you send light to conquer darkness, water to give new life, and the bread of life to nourish your people. Send us forth as witnesses to your Son’s resurrection, that we may show your glory to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Amen.
Blessing: “The blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain on us, now and forever. Amen”
If you want, you can phone someone else to include them. You could also connect to people on the internet and invite them to share this time of worship with you. You can add songs and prayers, if you are not celebrating with the online worship.
With your family of Glory Lutheran Church and around the world, I hope that you feel free and empowered in these exceptional times to celebrate holy communion in the way that the apostles encouraged us to do: “at home… with glad and generous hearts.”
Most of us have more time these days to prepare dinner, so make this one special. Jesus gathered on Maundy Thursday for the Passover Meal. Passover is the special Jewish celebration of the liberation from slavery, which you can read about in the book of Exodus, chapter 12, 1-14. You could read this passage before you start cooking or before you start eating.
If you are a family, have everyone participate in the preparations, by cooking, setting the table, perhaps placing candles or other special decorations. If you are by yourself in your home, you could connect with another person over the computer or phone, while you prepare something special for yourself. If you are able to have wine, put that on the table. If you don’t drink alcohol, or don’t have any, place another beverage in a nice container on the table. Everyone should have a glass at their plate.
Pray before you begin eating. “Jesus be present as we/I sit down for this meal. Bless our food and sharing. Be with everyone in our church family at Glory, and with everyone around the world. Bring us at last into your kingdom, where we will celebrate with you the heavenly banquet which never ends.”
Passover is a celebration of freedom! So, enjoy your meal! You could talk with each other or think about what freedoms you enjoy, even as you are restricted in your movements. While the Israelites had to eat their meal in a hurry, ready and dressed to flee from Egypt, Jewish people today commemorate Passover as an elaborate feast with much joy and laughter. Let’s do the same with our family meal.
Towards the end of the meal, make sure there is something to drink in your glass, and read Luke chapter 22:14-20, (during Holy Week, you could also add verses 21 – 30).
Jesus eagerly desired to eat the last supper with his disciples. Notice that in Luke’s version of the story Jesus picks up a cup twice. The first cup represents the old covenant, the promise God made to Abraham and Sarah, to Moses and Miriam, and to us: God will liberate God’s people and bring them into the promised land. Jesus fulfilled that promise by his death and resurrection. Make a toast, and clink your glasses, as you drink from your cup. You could say what Jewish people say: “L’chaim!”, or in English “To life!”
After this first cup, the cup of the old covenant, Jesus instituted what we know as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them and said: “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And again, with the cup, he said: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”.
We cannot celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the way we used to, until we are together again in person. However, Jesus promises us that we will celebrate it again. We will be together again and see and touch and taste that the Lord is good. We hope it will be soon. We also long for the day we will celebrate that final great feast Jesus promised. As we wait, Jesus is setting the table.
You can end your celebration by saying the Lord’s Prayer, and/or the Benediction:
“The Lord bless us and keep us, the Lord make his face shine on us and be gracious to us. The Lord look upon us with favor, and give us peace.”