The Sacrament of the Altar
Lesson 1: Present “For Us”
The Words of Institution is the starting point for understanding Holy Communion. This lesson focuses on the words “Given and shed for you.” God is present “for you.”
God’s presence: the mystery of Holy Communion begins at creation.
Definitions of basic concepts:
First definition: God and creation cannot be separated
God is tied to creation—God the creation reflects the character of God. God acts and dwells in creation.
- God is tied to the creation:
i. Genesis 1 & 2:
ii. Genesis 1:1-3 The Trinity in creation:
iii. First Article of the Apostles’ Creed
iv. Genesis 1:31
v. Matthew 19:6
- Creation suffers on account of sin.
i. Genesis 3:16-19
ii. Romans 8:18-23
iii. Hosea 4:1-3
iv. Revelation 6:1-8
Second definition: The Purpose of Man
Purpose of man’s creation is to be bound to God in intimate communion with him, to participate in the life and love of the Trinity. God’s communication with Adam shows the love of God and God’s giving character: OT and NT presence
The world’s paradigm: Man is part of nature, not over it. We define life in terms of this world, our life here, what we do, what we are, the quality of our life, etc.; money, jobs, age, sex, good looks, relationships. This is the basis for abortion, euthanasia. Theory of Evolution. His life is not defined by how much money he has, or his possessions.
Bible’s paradigm: Human life is defined as the apex of God’s creation: being formed in God’s image, specially for him. Being in communion and relationship with God. Nothing else in creation has this high status. No other religion or philosophy gives man such an exalted status. To be human is to dwell in God and God in us. Heaven is not a place, but to be in full communion with God; to dwell fully in him.
II Peter 1:3-4
God dwelling with his people in the Old Testament
God dwelling with his people in the New Testament
John 17:3, 20-24
John 6:37, 44, 65
I Corinthians 3:16
God dwelling with his people eternally
Man spurns God
Third definition: God is incarnational
That is, he becomes part of his creation in Jesus Christ. As God cannot be separated from his creation and works in and through it to sustain our lives and provide for us, God is incarnational. All with the purpose of restoring our relationship with him.
Luke 1:35, 42-43
Fourth Definition: God’s presence: Omnipresence and Presence “for us.”
Incarnational God who is present in Jesus Christ is localized in specific places at specific times. His salvation and mercy are found in specific places; in Jesus Christ. His presence “for us” is not just everywhere, but where he has told us it is to be found. Word and sacrament.
It is one thing if God is present, and another if he is present “for you.” He is there for you when he adds his Word and binds himself, saying, “Here you are to find me.” Now when you have the Word, you can grasp and have him with certainty and say, “Here I have thee, according to thy word.”
Omnipresence: God’s presence everywhere
Is he also present in hell?
God present “for us” specific, localized
I Corinthians 10:1-5
He is present “for us” in Christ
I Pet 2:24
Fifth Definition: Sacrament
A sacrament is when and where God intervenes using a portion of creation to restore the relationship of God with man
So too, since Christ’s humanity is at the right hand of God, and also is in all and above all things according to the nature of the divine right hand, you will not eat or drink him like the cabbage and soup on your table, unless he wills it. He also now exceeds any grasp, and you will not catch him by groping about, even though he is in your bread, unless he binds himself to you and summons you to a particular table by his Word, and he himself gives meaning to the bread for you, by his Word, bidding you to eat him. This he does in the Supper, saying, “This is my body,” as if to say, “At home you may eat bread also, where I am indeed sufficiently near at hand too; but this is the true touto, the ‘This is my body’: when you eat this, you eat my body, and nowhere else. Why? Because I wish to attach myself here with my Word, in order that you may not have to buzz about, trying to seek me in all the places where I am; this would be too much for you, and you would also be too puny to apprehend me in these places without the help of my Word.”
Chrysostom: Sacraments are concrete expressions of god’s grace.
Augustine: sacraments of Old Testament are the wonderful presence of God. They point to Christ while sacraments of the New Testament reveal him.
Luther: sacraments are the faces of God
Means of grace: the means whereby God comes to us in grace. The specific, localized presence of God where God is present “for us” to bestow his grace and restore our relationship with him.
Sacramental reading of Scripture:
I Corinthians 10:1-5
John 6:31-35, 48-56
Come around full circle to God’s desire to be with us and his presence in the Sacraments, how are these verses seen sacramentally?
Sacramental unity: unity with God and with one another is created in the Holy Communion, the community of faith, the temple of God.
I Corinthians 10:16
Sixth Definition: Divine Service.
God serving us; his creation. Here all the themes combine:
Creation: words, water, bread, wine, human prophet-priest (pastor), music, art, beauty, holy place, holy time. God working through holy things, people, places and times to save his people.
Purpose of man: to be with God and dwell with him; God is present in worship. In worship we are restored to what is truly human.
Incarnation: Jesus is bodily present in the sacrament; the same body that was born in Bethlehem, died on a cross, rose on Easter and ascended to heaven is here. He is not gone.
Presence: He is omnipresent outside, but in the Divine Service God is presence in grace; for us, a specific, localized presence, called the “means of grace.”
Sacrament: God is present when his word is joined to the things of creation.
The divine service is all about God dwelling in our midst to serve us. The Divine Service bring all of these things together.
 Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 37: Luther’s works, vol. 37 : Word and Sacrament III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (69). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.