I am addicted to taking Communion. I need it for the health of my soul. For years I have had the great blessing of attending churches where weekly communion was the norm. As a Calvinist, the Lord's Supper was important to me as a visible reminder of what Christ has done for me by taking my sins upon Himself. My faith in His redemption of me was strengthened each week. As a Lutheran, those benefits are still mine, but now I also understand that Christ's body and blood are physically present in the bread and wine. Communion is a vehicle by which God imparts His forgiving grace to me. Cavinist or Lutheran, why would I not want the blessing of participating in this feast each Lord's Day? Alack and alas, the two churches where Man of the House is serving as interim pastor offer the Lord's Supper only twice a month. I sorely miss it the weeks when it's not offered, but the bright side is that on Communion Sundays, I get to take it twice!
The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has written a valuable book explaining . . . well . . . the blessings of weekly Communion, how pastors can educate their congregations to desire it, and the history of it in the Church. In fact, the first two-thirds of the book is chiefly about the practices of the Church regarding this sacrament from the earliest days in the book of Acts to now. I was fascinated to learn how some of the abuses in the Church before the Reformation regarding the Lord's Supper came to be, how Luther saw the right understanding of it to be second in importance only to the recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith, and how the early Lutherans and Reformed Christians tried to hash out their differences but were unable to.
The last third of the book lays out the benefits of taking the sacrament, how the liturgy surrounding the sacrament lays the foundation for it, and why a recovery of weekly Communion should be desired and sought. Written by an LCMS pastor, the book is, not unexpectedly, heavily Lutheran in flavor and emphasis. Not everyone will be interested in the specific history of the Lutheran church in America, and not everyone will agree with the Lutheran doctrine expounded therein. I will say this: Pr. Wieting does a better job than most Lutherans I have heard in representing fairly and accurately the Reformed position. I spent nearly fifteen years in the Reformed camp, so I think I have enough background to say that what usually passes for Lutheran analysis of Reformed doctrine is too often inadequate. I challenge my Lutheran friends to do a better job in understanding their Reformed brothers. Pr. Wieting was more insightful than most.
The writing itself is competent though not stellar. Wieting is, after all, a pastor, not a writer. It was occasionally a wee bit redundant, and there was a tad too much detail from time to time for my taste~too many charts laying out minute statistics, for example. Still, this book would be excellent for use in educating a congregation. There are also study questions at the end of each chapter.
The best quote from the book (found on p. 184):
"The forgiveness of sins must never become the grand 'of course' in the Christian life. Of course we have forgiveness of sins, so now let's get on with more important matters. The very name of God in the flesh, 'Jesus,' was given because He would save His people from their sins. God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:21)." Good stuff!
What are you reading this week? I'd love to read all about it! :-)