Dear First Lutheran Church,
Peace of the Lord be with you! As we have now worshiped virtually from our homes for more than a month, we are mindful of some of the blessings encountered and also some of the challenges posed by worshiping in this new way. Some blessings have been worshiping more regularly, and renewed spiritual practices, prayer, and Bible study. Some of the challenges have been feeling less connected with our larger First Lutheran Church community and the deep desire to receive holy communion. When we gather together for worship, we experience the good news of God in Jesus Christ proclaimed in the words of scripture, shared in the sacraments, and present in our relationships as a faith community. Jesus even tells us, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18:20).
Worshiping together under normal circumstances, our participation in the Lord’s Supper is an open, welcome, and loving invitation from God. We are never compelled, obliged, or required to participate. Each person receives communion, or chooses not to, according to her or his own conscience. Although we now worship at home in these exceptional circumstances, we are aware that your spirit may still long for participation in Christ’s holy meal as it strengthens
and sustains your spiritual health and well-being.
With that in mind and heart, Pastor Dan and I, in consultation with our worship leadership and with the support of our Congregational Council, have decided to make available for households in our congregation, whose conscience and spiritual well-being cause them to hunger and thirst for God´s love made visible in holy communion at home during these exceptional times, a new and optional rite that has been adapted from the rite of “Distribution
of Communion to Those in Special Circumstances” in the Occasional Services book and the rite of “Household Communion in Exceptional Times” adapted from a rite prepared by Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod and shared by the Nebraska Synod.
In these exceptional times of a global pandemic, our congregation is not able to gather for in-person worship––all of us are homebound, but the Spirit still gathers us together (Matthew 18:20). We remain a community even when we are not together. Therefore a new “Rite for Celebrating Holy Communion at Home in Exceptional Circumstances” was prayerfully and faithfully adapted to make it possible for households to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at home until we are able to gather for in-person worship together as a congregation again safely. As Bishop Maas wrote in his March 27th letter, “All I ask is that all of us remember that exceptional practices in exceptional times are just that—exceptional, not normative.” This optional rite is not created as a permanent substitution for communal, in-person celebration of
holy communion in worship during normal circumstances, rather it is an exceptional practice for an exceptional period in your home.
If you live by yourself and you also desire to participate in holy communion with others who live by themselves, please contact Pastor Justin and he will organize a gathering with you and others, using technology, and together you will participate in holy communion.Desiring holy communion for your own spiritual health and well-being and that of your household who are not able to receive it in exceptional circumstances because of public health and safety concerns is a matter of pastoral care. While yes, there are countless thoughts around this exceptional practice in exceptional times, we must determine what is best for our faith community and use our “reverent, best guess” to decide on how to provide care. Please contact Pastor Justin or Pastor Dan if you would like to further discuss the
scriptural, theological, or Lutheran traditional understandings of the sacraments and the
priesthood of all believers.
There are some logistical pieces to consider before celebrating holy communion at home in times of exceptional circumstances. Bread and wine/juice: Feel free to use whatever bread you have on hand in your home, but this could also be a time when you bake some bread by yourself or with your household. You may use an old household recipe, sandwich bread, pita bread, flour or corn tortillas, or even crackers. Feel free to use whatever wine (kind does not matter) or grape juice you already have at home or you may want to purchase a special wine or juice that you reserve for this special occasion.
All that is to say that the bread, wine, and juice themselves do not matter. It is, alone, the power of God and the word and institution of our Lord Jesus Christ that produces the true presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper. What matters is God’s promise that Jesus is present.
As you are baking or getting the bread and wine/juice ready, you may light a candle to remind you of Christ´s presence with you as you reflect on what this holy communion means to you and your household. Think about Jesus sharing that last meal with his disciples, his dearest friends. Think about how you might go, serve, and love one another as Jesus has loved you.
Whatever you use and however this goes, know that it is sacred and holy because God makes it holy and Jesus is the host of this meal. God be with you during this holy time,
Yours in Christ,