Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Date: 31 October 2010

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Fresh Food

 

In the Bible – Jesus granted one man – the apostle Paul – extraordinary access to his truth. Paul explained to his churches – Galatians 1:1: “ … [I am] an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead … ” Galatians 1:11-12: “I want you to know, brothers [and sisters], that the gospel I preached is not something that anyone made up. I did not receive it from any person, not was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” In another letter – Paul continued to explain – 2 Corinthians 12:1-7: “ … I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. [Original: I know a man in Christ who] Fourteen years ago I was caught up to the third heaven. And I [original: And I know that this man] – whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows – was caught up in paradise. I [original: He] heard inexpressible things[I have been given] surpassingly great revelations … ”

Isn’t it wonderful? This man – Paul – had visions, revelations, even personal teaching lessons with Jesus in heaven – extraordinary experiences of understanding the truth – which – this morning – is again stirring my interest and raising my level of expectation. What was so important that Jesus chose supernatural ways of teaching Paul?

Are you ready? One of the topics was Holy Communion. Paul writes – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”

This is a little unexpected. Holy Communion is as old as the church. Holy Communion is the subject of ancient traditions and enshrined in weekly worship. Why would Jesus see the need to instruct Paul – with supernatural visions and revelations – about something that was so well known and central in the church? Moreover – Jesus gave Paul no new information. We know from other Bible sources that – on the night that Jesus was betrayed – he spoke over the bread and over the wine: “This is my body. This is the new covenant in my blood.” What was Jesus doing? The eye-witnesses of the first communion meal were still alive and their eye-witness accounts had not been forgotten.

Could it be that even in the time of Paul the church was in need of fresh revelation about Holy Communion? Could it be that the traditional eye-witness accounts and the traditional teaching formulas had lost their impact? In Paul’s own church (in Corinth) the regular ritual of the holy meal seems to have dulled the spiritual awareness of the first Christians. The whole celebration had become second nature to many – was no longer special – so that the sense of being one church body in reverence before the Lord was lost and some even became tipsy at the table – 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 – I read: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk … ”

Is this our need today? Do we also need fresh revelation about Holy Communion? How many Communion meals have you had in your life-time? Do you still know what you are eating and drinking or has the manifold repetition of the same old ritual dulled our senses? Jesus gave Paul fresh revelation and he will give you (and me) fresh revelation this morning.

When I grew up in Germany, IhatedHoly Communion because it made the service longer and many adults must have felt the same because they left during the hymn before Communion. [People consoled me with the words: “When you grow older, you will learn to appreciate the liturgy.] As I was getting older, my attitude was not changing for the better. The same feeling of dreaded boredom in the face of still another Communion service probably stayed with me for most of my life. In Australia – in our church seminary – I learned that Holy Communion was the pinnacle of all worship but no matter how awesome the teaching points were, my weekly experience did not match the lofty expectations (and I was the pastor).

The sameness of the ritual – the same prayers, the same responses, the same chants, the same pronouncements – (read out by me and the congregation – word-perfect – from a book) – drove me crazy with boredom and a sense of fake religion because – mouthing the same old words – my mind began to wander and – judging by the accounts of many other church members – their minds were also somewhere else. I used to count down the pages that were left to do in our worship order. At no time did I get a strong (satisfying) sense that Jesus was blessing me through Holy Communion. This may be overstating my experience (or lack of experience) – and I also know that we receive by faith (not everything from God is tangible) – but – at the Communion table – there never seemed to be a sensation of receiving from Jesus: (e.g.) faith, love, joy, peace, holiness, spiritual gifts, … These things did come to me in other prayer settings. Why was it not happening at Holy Communion when it was said to be the pinnacle of all worship?

With further learning there came further disappointments. The Bible information on Holy Communion is not complicated. Jesus gave bread to the disciples to eat (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24), and gave fruit of the vine to drink (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). This brief meal came at or near the conclusion of a larger meal (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22) which most sources identify as the Passover meal. The Bible accounts are clear. Yet – my disappointment was – (my dismay was) – and is – that Christians had been – and are – more deeply divided over this meal than I had ever expected.

Jesus gave such a small target for disagreement. He simply said over the bread: “This is my body.” And he simply said over the wine: “This is my blood.” (“This the new covenant in my blood.”) How can you make such simple words – uncomplicated words – few in number: four words to be precise – the bone of contention among Christians – (the mother of all conflicts) – to the point where Christians have waged war against each other and shed blood over the correct understanding of Holy Communion. The very first Lutherans in Australia had come to this land to escape persecution over their stance on Holy Communion. William Booth – the founder of the Salvation Army – felt so pressured over sacramental rites which were prone tocreate division of opinion and heart-burningamong Christians that his organization abandoned the meal altogether – even though Jesus had said – 1 Corinthians 11:24-25: “ … Do this in remembrance of me … ” [There were also other reasons.] In our day – many – if not most – current (cross-denominational) discipleship courses do not teach on Holy Communion for fear of creating further conflict.

What went wrong? Christians tried to say more than Jesus in the Bible. As I began to study the conflict, I learned to love the Lutheran position (not surprising as I was studying as a Lutheran in a Lutheran seminary preparing to become a Lutheran minister) because Lutherans tried to explain the least. Luther summed up the entire Lutheran position in less than four hundred words. This is how a father was supposed to teach the faith to his household. I quote:

 

The Sacrament of the Altar (The Simple Way a Father Should Present it to his Household)

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, established by Christ Himself.

Where is that written? The holy apostles Matthew, Mark and Luke and St. Paul write this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said: ‘Take! Eat! This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me!’ In the same way He also took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: ‘Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

What good does this eating and drinking do? We are told in the words “for you” and “for the forgiveness of sins.” By these words the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.

How can physical eating and drinking do such great things? Of course, eating and drinking do not do these things. These words, written here, do them: “given for you” and “shed for you to forgive sins.” These words, along with physical eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the sacrament. Anyone who believes these words has what they say and what they record, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way? Fasting and bodily preparation are a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and well prepared who believes these words: “for you,” and “for the forgiveness of sins.” On the other hand, he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require truly believing hearts..

 

In all conflicts the bone of contention was – and remains – the interpretation of Jesus’ words: “This is my body. This is my blood.” Is the bread really his body? Is the wine really his blood? How? Human logic suggests that this cannot be because a) Jesus’ body and blood are with him in heaven (and not on the Communion tables of millions of Christians), b) the bread and wine still taste like bread and wine and c) the physical presence of Jesus is not needed for a spiritual experience. Yet, Luther resisted these human arguments and – again and again – pointing back to the Bible – quoted the words of Jesus who had said: “This is my body. This is my blood.” In one crucial debate – with the Swiss theologian Huldrich Zwingli – Martin Luther took a piece of chalk and wrote on the table between them – with large letters: “This is my body.” This is what Jesus said and – therefore – this is what we receive. Don’t ask me how. It is happening somehow. The (most common) Lutheran way of sayingsomehowhas been the formulain, with and under”: The body and blood of Jesus are presentin, with and under the forms of bread and wine. We don’t know how but somehow.

I may give you a glimpse of one of the many debates on Holy Communion in church history. We stay with Luther and Zwingli. Abbreviate and retell in your own words:

 

Ernest Bartels: Take Eat, Take Drink, St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004, p155-158: A great controversy over the Lord’s Supper arose between Luther and Zwingli, including other theologians in the respective camps. Luther and his associate John Bugenhagen (1485-1558) wrote pamphlets against Zwingli’s position. Zwingli and his companion Johannus Oeclampadius (1482-1531) authored pamphlets denouncing Luther’s views. The paper debate became quite heated, with Luther declaring that Zwingli and those with him were not Christians, and Zwingli calling the Lutherans flesh eaters and blood drinkers, saying that their Communion was a baked god. Carlstadt suggested that when Christ said the word “this” he pointed to his visible body, so that the Lord’s action implied, “You see my body before you, which I give for you; in commemoration thereof partake of bread and wine.” Oecolampadius did not use “is” as his starting point. He contended that when Christ said “body” he meant “sign, emblem of my blood.” A third theory was that of a lay Protestant mystic by the name of Casper Schwenkfeld von Ossig (ca. 1489-1561). He claimed to know by special revelation that “this” was the predicate of the sentence, “This is my body,” and that the words must be reversed, “My body is this, namely, the true bread for the soul; my blood is this, namely the true position for the soul.”

A German Lutheran political leader, Landgrave Philip of Hesse (1504-1567) believed strongly that the Protestants needed to be united, not the least of which was for political reasons. In an effort to heal the breach occasioned by the Lord’s Supper controversy, he invited Luther, Zwingli, and their fellow theologians to a conference at his castle in Marburg, early in October 1529, which came to be known as the Marburg Colloquy. The German and Swiss theologians met for several days discussing and disagreeing about the Lord’s Supper. In the main, the debate was exegetical in nature. No arguments that had not already appeared in print were brought forward. The colloquy was primarily a recapitulation of the controversy that had preceded it. The discussions between Luther and Zwingli were surprisingly cordial. They treated each other with gentlemanly courtesy.

Luther took his stand on a literal interpretation of Christ’s words “this is my body.” He challenged Zwingli to prove to him that Christ’s body and blood were not in the Lord’s Supper. With a piece of chalk, he wrote the words “This is my body” on the table in large characters. He constantly returned to this quote throughout the debate, pointing his finger to the chalk written words of institution repeatedly during the proceedings. In response to Luther’s position, Zwingli argued that Christ had spoken these words metaphorically in the same manner as when he made such statements as “I am the vine” and “I am the bread of life”. Luther countered Zwingli by stating that any metaphorical interpretation could not be assumed, but had to be proven, and that the burden of proof must fall on those who prefer a nonliteral interpretation.

A basic verse of Scripture used by the Swiss was “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). Oecolampadius stated that this passage provides the key for interpreting the words of institution, and excludes a literal understanding. Luther contended that when Christ said, “The flesh profiteth nothing,” he was not speaking of his flesh, but ours. Just as Luther was a literalist regarding his favorite text, so was Zwingli about the words “Christ ascended into heaven.” He reasoned that Christ ascended into heaven; therefore, he cannot be on earth with his body, for a body cannot be in more than one place at a time. Luther quoted medieval scholars to claim that there are two different kinds of presence. Again, they reached an impasse in the discussions.

When it became evident that no consensus regarding the Lord’s Supper could be achieved, Landgrave Philip asked Luther to draw up a set of articles on which there was agreement between the parties. Luther complied and prepared 15 Marburg Articles dealing with fundamental teachings of the Christian faith. All agreed to 14 of the articles. The fifteenth dealt with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, recognizing the difference between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. [Luther refused to shake hands with Zwingli when he left.]

After Marburg, Luther and Melanchthon became more hopeful regarding the Swiss theologians than at any previous time. In addition, after Marburg, Martin Bucer of southern Germany, who was a member of Zwingli’s delegation at the colloquy, regarded Luther’s doctrinal views more favorably than before. Seeking a middle ground between Luther and Zwingli he proposed the formula “that the true body and the true blood of Christ are truly present in the Lord’s Supper and are offered with the words of the Lord in the sacrament.” In 1534, three years after Zwingli’s death, Bucer wrote a paper in which he endeavored to show that the Lutherans and the Zwinglians were in fundamental agreement. The publication of this writing resulted in a meeting later that year in which Melanchthon endorsed Bucer’s plan for concord between the two camps. Bucer and Melanchthon worked together to achieve unity regarding the Lord’s Supper. Negotiations toward unity reached a climax at a 1536 meeting held in Luther’s study. The Lutherans and the Zwinglians there present gave each other the hand of Christian fellowship. Melanchthon prepared a report of the discussions, known subsequently as the Wittenberg Concord. It explained the common belief in language both sides could accept, even though they interpreted the words differently. The Concord divided the Zwinglians into two groups, those who followed Bucer and those who retained the symbolic view of the Lord’s Supper.

 

Luther and Lutherans also maintained their strength in believing Jesus’ words [“This is my body. This is my blood.”] in their disagreement with John Calvin and the Reformed churches. Abbreviate and retell in your own words:

 

Ernest Bartels: Take Eat, Take Drink, St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004, p166-167: Calvin tried to find a middle way, an “intermediary view,” between Luther and Zwingli by rejecting the positions of both. Over against Luther’s confession, Calvin held that the presence of Christ is spiritual, not coupled with the elements. Against Zwingli he maintained that the bread is not a mere sign or figure of Christ’s body, but a spiritual feeding of souls … Calvin denied the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, and instead maintained Christ’s spiritual influence, his power and efficacy as the Redeemer. Calvin said that Christ is not to be sought in the earthly and corruptible elements that we see and touch. Accordingly, he maintained that the body and blood of Christ are not received orally by mouth, but spiritually by faith. Calvin says that the participants at the Lord’s Table must lift up their hearts to partake of the body of Christ in heaven. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion he rebuked the Lutherans, saying, “They locate Christ in the bread, whereas we do not think it divinely lawful to drag him down from heaven.” [However, Lutherans believe that the human nature has become one with Christ’s divine nature to such an extent that it shares in the divine nature’s omnipresence.]

 

Lutherans focus on Jesus’ words, believe them and then refuse to go beyond them. They do not try to explain what Jesus and the Bible do not explain. Thus – in response to the Catholic church – Lutherans also resist the philosophical theory of transubstantiation. This theory speculates that in Holy Communion the substance of bread and wine (though not their appearance) [completely] change into Christ’s real presence. According to this theory – the bread and wine of Holy Communion disappear completely (even though the elements still look and taste like bread and wine) and instead become exclusively Christ’s body and blood. However – for Lutherans – this may be saying too much.

How are we feeling about Holy Communion now? I don’t know how you actually experience the meal on any given Sunday – (has the meal already been impacting you?) – but anyone could be forgiven for turning away from the meal over these bitter debates. If Holy Communion is and remains at the heart of aggressive and wounding controversy – (Christians even refuse to shake hands with each other when they debate its meaning) – we are tempted to stay away from the meal. This is sad – especially in the light of other teachings in the Bible – such as 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” However, emotional turmoil does not make for a good Communion experience.

Then, Lutherans (and I am a Lutheran) managed to turn their greatest strength into their greatest weakness around the Communion table. Let me explain. Lutherans had such strength when they insisted that – and I repeat here again a quote from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism – “ … These words … “given for you” and “for the forgiveness of sins” … (along with physical eating and drinking) are the chief thing in the sacrament.” These words of Jesus are the one solid foundation of the Holy Meal and – in any conflict – they can be put up in big letters – (like Luther took a piece of chalk and wrote the words on the table which he shared with Zwingli) – because the words of Jesus will never let us down. There is power in Jesus’ words.

However, this emphasis has become one-sided in modern understanding. (At least this is my discernment.) There is this thinking now that as long as the words of Jesus are present in the holy meal – as long as Jesus’ words are spoken over the bread and wine: “This is my body. This is my blood.” – Jesus himself is present. Statements such as this one are taken to the extreme: “ … since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled with believers, it is allowable to use the sacraments [Baptism & Holy Communion] even when they are administered by evil men … Both the sacraments and the Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ even if they are administered by evil men” (The Augsburg Confession, Article VIII).[1]

It is true that the preaching of God’s Word and the sacrament of Holy Communion can have power and communicate the presence of God despite evil pastors and church leaders – especially in a church that is otherwise alive. However, the Bible norm is that for the Word of God to be effective, those that preach and teach have to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit must go together. After Jesus rose from the dead, he taught his disciples and made sure that they knew all truth, but he also told them that they had to wait for the infilling with the Holy Spirit before they could speak the truth in power (Acts 1:4-8). This is not a new teaching but something that Lutherans have always known. [For instance, they are clear that children at the play-ground (or unbelievers) play-acting Holy Communion will not enjoy the presence of Jesus in the meal because they do not do so in faith which is worked by the Holy Spirit.]

Jesus’ words in Holy Communion cannot be treated as a magic formula which works irrespective of the Holy Spirit and the faith of Spirit-filled people. Thus, Luther and Lutherans have always attacked the teaching that the Lord’s Supper conveys grace simply by being performed (ex opere operato). By this doctrine the celebration of the Lord’s Supper would be converted into a good work on the part of the officiating priest. In sermons Luther told his hearers that not the Sacrament, but faith in the Sacrament, justifies. Faith must precede, not only accompany, the reception of the Sacrament. The mere performance of Holy Communion does not guarantee any blessings.

This is old Lutheran teaching but my sneaking suspicion is that we nevertheless succumbed to such an understanding in practice. As long as we speak Jesus’ words over bread and wine in Holy Communion, the outcome seems guaranteed. Is this not what we think? We love our strength of relying on the Word of God (sola scriptura) and we are such champions of the Word that we no longer see the danger in some of our confessional statements – for instance the statement which I quoted before: “ … it is allowable to use the sacraments [Baptism & Holy Communion] even when they are administered by evil men … Both the sacraments and the Word are effectual … even if they are administered by evil men.”

What does this mean in practice? In a congregation where the pastor is an evil man – an unbeliever living in sin – and – (let’s say) – the congregation is also no longer alive – their faith is no longer the faith of a trusting relationship with God – their faith no longer leads them to step out in faith for anything – their faith has become mere assent to some teaching points (and even demons know the truth) – what will they receive when the evil pastor leads them in Holy Communion? Will there be the body and blood of Christin, with and underthe bread and wine? Will there be the power of forgiveness (and judgement)? I would not advise joining them in Holy Communion. Jesus’ words are no magic formula. Unless the Spirit of God is present in Holy Communion, even Jesus’ words – “This is my body. This is my blood.” – do not guarantee his presence.

The strong attention on Jesus’ wordswhile at the same time displaying an apparent lack of attention on the Holy Spirithas weakened our experience of Holy Communion. Thus, my journey with Holy Communion has not been a good one: first boredom, then dismay over church conflicts and – finally – a wrong expectation of automatic blessings.

Yet – going back to the beginning now – I am still intrigued by the fact that Jesus spoke to Paul in visions and revelations about Holy Communion. Jesus gave him fresh revelation about this ancient meal and therefore it must be important. This is on his heart – also for you and me – this morning. Jesus desires to make the bread and wine of Holy Communion fresh for you.

Two months ago (21 Aug 10) in Sydney I witnessed something astonishing. It was during the School of Healing & Impartation with Pastor Randy Clark whom God used to launch what came to be known as the Toronto Blessing. On the last day – before the last message – Pastor Randy Clark invited anyone in the conference to bring forward prayer clothes so that he and others might bless them. I did not anticipate this and therefore did not come prepared but others had. They brought forward neatly folded handkerchiefs, gave them to him, returned to their seats and planned to pick them up later.

The Bible verses that led to this action were Acts 19:11-12: “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Pastor Randy Clark ended up with a stack of about forty items. He proceeded with the evening and announced that the next message had been causing more animated response than any other in his ministry. People either completely loved the message or hate it. Yet, Pastor Randy was interrupted when another person came forward and placed her scarf on the pile of handkerchiefs in his hands. This was a spontaneous action which was taken up by others. Suddenly, there was a stream of more people rushing to him with all sorts of clothing items: jumpers, hats, beanies, shoes – wallets even. The pile of clothing in his arms became so enormous that Pastor Clark had to put everything down on the stage – and still people kept coming – the young and the very old. And this was not even done for fun but everyone wanted the blessing of a piece of clothing because over the last few days hundreds had been healed during the conference. For instance, I remember that God had healed one man’s hand and even the scar from the surgery disappeared. There was an expectation that the blessed clothing items would indeed heal more people.

Finally, no one else came forward and Pastor Randy Clark stood next to the enormous pile of clothing and asked this question [I do not remember the exact wording]: “Do you believe that something will come out of blessing the handkerchiefs and other clothing?” People answered in the affirmative. He then asked: “How come, then, that we attribute such power to God when we bless some clothing but make so little out of blessing the bread and wine in Holy Communion?” This was astonishing. A Pentecostal (a former Baptist) was preaching on Holy Communion in a charismatic church conference and he urged the congregation to believe more than they had about this holy meal. He was aware of the divisive nature of teaching anything on Holy Communion. He shared how he had planted a church and how – in the beginning – they had tense moments over Holy Communion when – after the service – the former Baptist threw the Holy Communion bread into the bin while the former Easter Orthodox Christian still regarded the bread as the body of Christ. For him this other person had just thrown Jesus into the bin. Pastor Clark negotiated all of these pitfalls but then kept making the comparison between the anointing that people expect from blessing ordinary clothing and the far greater anointing that can be expected to come from the blessing of the bread and wine – according to Jesus’ command and promise – in Holy Communion.

Wow! What a controversial way to end a school on healing! And how awesome! The greatest healing is in the body and blood of Jesus Christ [expand and explain the cross] and it comes to us in no better way than the holy meal – as we eat the bread and wine over which Jesus says: “This is my body. This is my blood.”

The experience of this last day at the conference made Holy Communion fresh again. The old truth was coming to me from an unexpected angle and may it be the same for you. Jesus is still in the business of making the old fresh again – like he did it with Paul through visions and revelations.

Another unexpected encouragement – another fresh joy – in the celebration of Holy Communion came through Bill Johnson’s Bible teaching on the power of testimony. The key Bible verse is in Revelation 19:10: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Pastor Johnson explored what this verse meant and then experienced that as the testimonies of Jesus were shared – everything that Jesus was doing in people’s lives – the words of the testimonies released prophetic power to repeat the miracles. As the testimonies declared the intent and nature of God, they became prophetic words which recreated the same miracles again in other people. This was a simple but powerful principle. Tell what Jesus has done and you will experience Jesus doing the same miracle with the same power again. The God that created the world by speaking the universe into existence, will create again as the words of the testimonies are spoken.

For instance, when Pastor Johnson was sharing the healing of clubfeet, a woman visiting the church had a 2-year-old little girl whose feet turned inward so severely that she would constantly trip over them whenever she tried to run. After hearing the testimony and the teaching, the woman said in her heart, “I’ll take that for my daughter.” When she went to pick up her little girl from our nursery, she found that her feet were already perfectly straight. No one had laid hands on her or prayed. It just happened with God’s supernatural intervention when her faith was ignited through the power of a story.

Later, another person watched a recording of a worship service where Pastor Johnson retold these miracles. After she had heard the teaching on the testimony and the stories that followed, she called to her daughter, who was in another room. The daughter had her feet turned inward so severely that they were actually deformed. She responded: “Yes, Mommyand came and stood in the hallway. Her mother then told her to take off her shoes. After the girl removed her shoes, the mother told her to come to her. As she walked toward her mother, the feet straightened and were completely healed. Once again, faith was released through the power of a story.

You can learn more about this in Bill Johnson’s bookRelease The Power Of Jesus”. There is no time now but this principle became for me another fresh revelation of Holy Communion because in the context of the meal Jesus actively commanded the retelling of the testimony of what happened to his body and blood in his death. He had said – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: “ … ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ … ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ … ” We were to celebrate Holy Communion in his remembrance – in the retelling of Jesus’ testimony – in speaking about the significance of his body and blood – and then we were to do the testimony – by consuming the bread and wine. This would release more than the power for the healing of clubfeet. This would recreate the same power that Jesus exercised when his body was broken on the cross and his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

Still another fresh insight into Holy Communion came through an earlier study of prophetic actions in the Bible. For instance, the prophet Elisha said to the king of Israel – 2 Kings 13:17-19: “Open the window to the east” And the king opened it. Then the prophet said: “Now, shoot!” And the king shot an arrow. Elisha said: “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram.” Elisha declared: “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said: “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”

According to this incident prophetic actions – not just the prophetic words – carry power to fulfill the prophecy. Since the king of Israel had not struck the ground with his arrows in a decisive manner (not often enough), he forfeited decisive victory over his enemies. Likewise Naaman, the commander of king Aram’s army, was told to wash himself seven times in the Jordan river to be cleansed of his leprosy. Only when he consented to do that – dip himself in the Jordan seven times – he was healed (2 Kings 5). Moses had to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the water for the deliverance of his people (Exodus 14:16). Prophetic actions carry power.

For Holy Communion this means that we can expect – in fresh ways – that the physical action of eating and drinking at Holy Communion releases power. This is how prophecy works. Physical actions release power. Therefore, when you hear Jesus say to you: “Do this is remembrance of me. Take and eat. This is my body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins,” take him up on the offer. The physical action releases power. As you eat and drink his body and blood in the bread and wine, forgiveness is released.

Is Holy Communion coming to you in fresh ways? Pastor Randy Clark drew a parallel with the blessing of handkerchiefs for healing. Then, there is the power of testimony in the holy meal and the power of prophetic action in the eating and drinking. This morning – Jesus is wanting to make his holy meal fresh for you again. Forgiveness – freedom from sin, death and the devil – all of Jesus – including joy and peace – are available to you in this meal. Eat and drink with fresh expectations.

Now – if this meal is so great, are there stories which confirm the teaching points. Yes, there are – even in Lutheran history. Abbreviate and retell in your own words:

 

http://www.evanwiggs.com/revival/history/moravian.html: The Rev. John Greenfield, an American Moravian evangelist, published his book “Power On High” in 1927 on the 200th anniversary of the Moravian revival. The information in this article is from that book, now out of print. The Moravians, a refugee colony from Bohemia, settled on the estates of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany, where a powerful revival began in 1727. It launched 100 years of continuous prayer and within 25 years 100 Moravians were missionaries, more than the rest of the Protestant church had sent out in two centuries.

The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst. From that time scarcely a day passed but what we beheld His almighty workings amongst us. 

A modern Pentecost. A Moravian historian wrote that Church history abounds in records of special outpourings of the Holy Ghost, and verily the thirteenth of August 1727, was a day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We saw the hand of God and His wonders, and we were all under the cloud of our fathers baptized with their Spirit. The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst. From that time scarcely a day passed but what we beheld His almighty workings amongst us. A great hunger after the Word of God took possession of us so that we had to have three services every day, viz. 5.0 and 7.30 a.m. and 9.0 p.m. Every one desired above everything else that the Holy Spirit might have full control. Self-love and self-will, as well as all disobedience disappeared and an overwhelming flood of grace swept us all out into the great ocean of Divine Love.

No one present could tell exactly what happened on that Wednesday morning, 13 August 1727 at the specially called Communion service. They hardly knew if they had been on earth or in heaven. Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, the young leader of that community, gave this account many years later:

We needed to come to the Communion with a sense of the loving nearness of the Saviour. This was the great comfort which has made this day a generation ago to be a festival, because on this day twenty-seven years ago the Congregation of Herrnhut, assembled for communion (at the Berthelsdorf church) were all dissatisfied with themselves. They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this Communion to be view of the noble countenance of the Saviour. O head so full of bruises, So full of pain and scorn. In this view of the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, their hearts told them that He would be their patron and their priest who was at once changing their tears into oil of gladness and their misery into happiness. This firm confidence changed them in a single moment into happy people which they are to this day, and into their happiness they have since led may thousands of others through the memory and help which the heavenly grace once given to themselves, so many thousand times confirmed to them since then.

Zinzendorf described it as ‘a sense of the nearness of Christ’ given to everyone present, and also to others of their community who were working elsewhere at the time. The congregation was young. Zinzendorf, the human leader, was 27, which was about the average age of the group.

The Moravian brethren had sprung from the labors and martyrdom of the Bohemian Reformer, John Huss. They had experienced centuries of persecution. Many had been killed, imprisoned, tortured or banished from their homeland. This group had fled for refuge to Germany where the young Christian nobleman, Count Zinzendorf, offered them asylum on his estates in Saxony. They named their new home Herrnhut, ‘the Lord's Watch’. From there, after their baptism in the Holy Spirit, they became evangelists and missionaries.

Fifty years before the beginning of modern Foreign Missions by William Carey, the Moravian Church had sent out over 100 missionaries. Their English missionary magazine, Periodical Accounts, inspired William Carey. He threw a copy of the paper on a table at a Baptist meeting, saying, ‘See what the Moravians have done! Cannot we follow their example and in obedience to our Heavenly Master go out into the world, and preach the Gospel to the heathen?’

That missionary zeal began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Count Zinzendorf observed ‘The Saviour permitted to come upon us a Spirit of whom we had hitherto not had any experience or knowledge. ... Hitherto we had been the leaders and helpers. Now the Holy Spirit Himself took full control of everything and everybody’.

When the Spirit came. Prayer precedes Pentecost. The disgruntled community at Herrnhut early in 1727 was deeply divided and critical of one another. Heated controversies threatened to disrupt the community. The majority was from the ancient Moravian Church of the Brethren. Other believers attracted to Herrnhut included Lutherans, Reformed, and Baptists. They argued about predestination, holiness, and baptism.

The young German nobleman, Count Zinzendorf, pleaded for unity, love and repentance. Converted in early childhood, at four years of age he composed and signed a covenant: ‘Dear Saviour, do Thou be mine, and I will be Thine.’ His life motto was, ‘I have one passion: it is Jesus, Jesus only.’

Count Zinzendorf learned the secret of prevailing prayer. He actively established prayer groups as a teenager, and on leaving college at Halle at sixteen he gave the famous Professor Francke a list of seven praying societies he had established. After he finished university his education was furthered by travel to foreign countries.

Everywhere he went, his passion for Jesus controlled him. In the Dusseldorf Gallery of paintings he was deeply moved by a painting of the crucifixion over which were the words: Hoc feci pro te; Quid facis pro me? This have I done for thee; What hast thou done for me?

At Herrnhut, Zinzendorf visited all the adult members of the deeply divided community. He drew up a covenant calling upon them ‘to seek out and emphasize the points in which they agreed’ rather than stressing their differences. On 12 May 1727, they all signed an agreement to dedicate their lives, as he dedicated his, to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Moravian revival of 1727 was thus preceded and then sustained by extraordinary praying. A spirit of grace, unity and supplications grew among them.

On 16 July, many of the community covenanted together on their own accord to meet often to pour out their hearts in prayer and hymns. On 5 August, the Count spent the whole night in prayer with about twelve or fourteen others following a large meeting for prayer at midnight where great emotion prevailed. On Sunday, 10 August, Pastor Rothe, while leading the service at Herrnhut, was overwhelmed by the power of the Lord about noon. He sank down into the dust before God. So did the whole congregation. They continued till midnight in prayer and singing, weeping and praying.

On Wednesday, 13 August, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all. Their prayers were answered in ways far beyond anyone’s expectations. Many of them decided to set aside certain times for continued earnest prayer.

On 26 August, twentyfour men and twentyfour women covenanted together to continue praying in intervals of one hour each, day and night, each hour allocated by lots to different people. On 27 August, this new regulation began. Others joined the intercessors and the number involved increased to seventy-seven. They all carefully observed the hour which had been appointed for them. The intercessors had a weekly meeting where prayer needs were given to them.

The children, also touched powerfully by God, began a similar plan among themselves. Those who heard their infant supplications were deeply moved. The children's prayers and supplications had a powerful effect on the whole community

That astonishing prayer meeting beginning in 1727 went on for one hundred years. It was unique. Known as the Hourly Intercession, it involved relays of men and women in prayer without ceasing made to God. That prayer also led to action, especially evangelism. More than one hundred missionaries left that village community in the next twenty-five years, all constantly supported in prayer.

 

[http://www.christianhistorytimeline.com/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps037.shtml: A turning point. On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God's nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.

The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited the Herrnhut community to a joint communion with his nearby congregation at Bethelsdorf on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut in preparation for this Lord's Supper. The exiles, gathered at Herrnhut, had come to a conviction of their own sinfulness, need, and helplessness. During the service, they made many painful prayers for themselves, for fellow Christians still under persecution, and for their continued unity. Count Zinzendorf made a penitential confession in the name of the congregation. The community united in fellowship. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as “a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost.”]

 

Then, Pastor Randy Clark reported this in his School Of Healing & Impartation workbook: “The Presbyterians had a prolonged communion service which would culminate once a year and last for 3-5 days. There had been 5-6 such meetings in Scotland where the ‘fire fell’ or where God would ‘light the fire again’. The ‘wild meetings,’ as they were called, began in Ulster peaking around 1624. ‘It was in these Ulster communions that we first have reports of people fainting dead away and being carried outside in a trance.’ The largest and most famous of these meetings was held at later in 1742 in Cambuslang. Estimates of the meetings ran as high as 30,000 people that attended” (p8).

There are even stories where God performed a miracle to provide the wine for Holy Communion:

 

Indonesia: The Spirit of God brought revival to Indonesia during the troubled and politically uncertain times there in the sixties. Much of it happened outside the established church, with a later acceptance of it in some churches. Thousands of Moslems were converted, the biggest Christian impact on Islam in history.

A Bible School in East Java experienced revival with deep repentance, confession, renunciation of occult practices, burnings of fetishes and amulets and a new humility and unity among staff and students. The Lord led individual students and teams in powerful evangelism in many islands.

A team visited Timor and saw evidences of revival beginning which burst into unprecedented power in September 1965. This revival spread in the uncertain days following the attempted army coup on 30 September, 1965 in Indonesia. Four days previously a visitation from God had begun in Timor.

A rebellious young man had received a vision of the Lord who commanded him to repent, burn his fetishes, and confess his sins in church. He did. He attended the Reformed Church in Soe, a mountain town of about 5,000 people, where the revival broke out at that service on Sunday 26 September 1965. People heard the sound of a tornado wind. Flames on the church building prompted police to set off the fire alarm to summon the volunteer fire fighters. Many people were converted that night. Many were filled with the Spirit including speaking in tongues, some in English. By midnight teams of lay people had been organised to begin spreading the gospel the next day. They gave themselves full time to visiting churches and villages and saw thousands converted with multitudes healed and delivered. In one town alone they saw 9,000 people converted in two weeks.

Another young man, Mel Tari witnessed this visitation of God and later became part of Team 42. Eventually, about 90 evangelistic teams were formed which functioned powerfully with spiritual gifts. Healings and evangelism increased dramatically. Specific directions from the Lord led the teams into powerful ministry with thousands becoming Christians. They saw many healings, miracles such as water being turned to nonalcoholic wine for communion, some instantaneous healings, deliverance from witchcraft and demonic powers, and some people raised from death through prayer.

The teams were often guided supernaturally including provision of light at night on jungle trails, angelic guides and protection, meagre supplies of food multiplied in pastors' homes when a team ate together there during famines, and witch doctors being converted after they saw power encounters when the teams' prayers banished demons rendering the witch doctors powerless.

The teams learned to listen to the Lord and obey him. His leadings came in many biblical ways:

1. God spoke audibly as with Samuel or Saul of Tarsus, 2. many had visions as did Mary or Cornelius, 3. there were inspired dreams such as Jacob, Joseph or Paul saw, 4. prophecies as in Israel and the early church occurred, 5. the Spirit led many as with Elijah or Paul's missionary team, 6. the Lord often spoke through specific Bible verses, 7. circumstances proved to be Godincidences not just coincidences, 8. often when leadings were checked with the group or the church the Lord gave confirmations and unity.

Mel Tari, Kurt Koch and others have told of the amazing revival in Indonesia. The Reformed Church Presbytery on Timor, for example, recorded 80,000 conversions from the first year of the revival there, half of those being former communists. They noted that some 15,000 people had been permanently healed in that year. After three years the number of converts had grown to over 200,000. On another island where there had been very few Christians 20,000 became believers in the first three years of the revival.

So often in times of great tribulation, political upheaval and bloodshed, the Spirit of the Lord moves most powerfully and the church grows most rapidly, as happens in many countries today.

 

Even the Bible records one incident where the celebration of Holy Communion resulted in a faith breakthrough – Luke 24:13-35. Abbreviate and retell in your own words:

 

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

 

I come to a close. This morning – as we celebrate Holy Communion now – hear the invitation in fresh ways. Jesus is bidding you to come, saying: “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood which has been shed for the forgiveness of your sins; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Eat and drink. Receive him now. Amen.

 



[1] Cf. For we must believe and be sure of this, that baptism does not belong to us but to Christ, that the gospel does not belong to us but to Christ, that the office of preaching does not belong to us but to Christ, that the sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper] does not belong to us but to Christ, that the keys, or forgiveness and retention of sins, do not belong to us but to Christ. In summary, the offices and sacraments do not belong to us but to Christ, for he has ordained all this and left it behind as a legacy in the church to be exercised and used to the end of the world; and he does not lie or deceive us. Therefore, we cannot make anything else out of it but must act according to his command and hold to it. However, if we alter it or improve on it, then it is invalid and Christ is no longer present, nor is his ordinance. I do not want to say, as the papists do, that neither an angel nor Mary could effect conversion, etc.; but I do say that even if the devil himself came (if he would be so pious that he wanted to or could do so), and let us suppose that I found out afterward that the devil had inveigled his way into the office by stealth or, having assumed the form of a man, let himself be called to the office of the ministry, and publicly preached the gospel in the church, baptized, celebrated mass, absolved, and exercised and administered such offices and sacraments, as a pastor would, according to the command of Christ – then we would for all that have to admit that the sacraments were valid, that we had received a valid baptism, had heard the true gospel, obtained true absolution, and had participated in the true sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. For our faith and the sacrament must not be based on the person, whether he is godly or evil, consecrated or unconsecrated, called or an impostor, whether he is the devil or his mother, but upon Christ, upon his word, upon his office, upon his command and ordinance; where these are in force, there everything will be carried out properly, no matter who or what the person might happen to be. If we would consider the person, then the preaching, baptism, and Lord’s Supper which Judas and all his descendants have performed and administered and would still be performing and administering according to Christ’s command, would be nothing but the devil’s preaching, baptism, and Lord’s Supper, for it would then be administered and given to us by the devil’s members. But because the office, word, and sacrament are the ordinance of Christ and not of Judas or the devil, we permit Judas and the devil to remain Judas and the devil, and yet accept through them the blessings of Christ. For when Judas went to the devil he did not take his apostolic office along with him but left it behind, and Matthias received it in his stead. Offices and sacraments always remain in the church; persons are daily subject to change. As long as we call and induct into the offices persons who can administer them, then the offices will surely continue to be exercised. (Martin Luther, “The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 38 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971], pp. 200-01)