You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
One of the reasons I picked our hymn, All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night, for this week (see Monday’s devotion) is because of the third stanza.
Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the awe-ful day.
I love that stanza. It reminds me of the quote, “You go to the Lord’s Supper as if going to your death, so that you can go to your death as if you are going to the Lord’s Supper.”
Four years ago, I wrote the following piece in remembrance of Pastor Steve Sanderson. I thought it was fitting with the themes of our hymn and would be beneficial given all that is going on in the world right now. I have edited it some from the original.
Martin Chemnitz wrote: Very beautiful is the statement of Augustine in which he says of his mother Monica that she bound her soul with the chain of faith to that sacrifice which is dispensed in the Lord's Supper so that neither lion nor dragon could tear it away. (Examination 2.321)
I loved this “very beautiful statement” the moment I first read it. The imagery it evokes of a vicious lion or a ferocious dragon trying to tear away a faithful saint from the body and blood of Christ as given in the Lord’s Supper, is stunning. I loved it, but I do not think I truly understood it until a few years later.
I can remember exactly where I was when I got the call. I had been mowing the lawn and pulled out my phone to check the time. The news still rings in my ears, “Steve has cancer.” At the time, none of us had any way of knowing how savage and brutal this particular cancer would be.
The cancer attacked the fit physical specimen who had run marathons and eventually made even walking short distances an exercise in pain and endurance. Even as the pain increased, on Sunday mornings you could still find Steve in church. The cancer forced him to move from his regular spot near the front to the back so that he could sit in my desk chair – a somewhat successful attempt to make sitting through church bearable.
When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, he refused to let me bring Christ’s gifts to him where he was seated. His reason, “I want to be at the rail with everyone else.” I am sure there was an element of pride in this, but I also know that he desired to be with his brothers and sisters and receive Christ’s gifts with them.
For weeks, Steve would drag himself up to the rail. Usually, he was too weak to make it back to his chair without assistance. It was painful to watch him do this to himself.
And yet, he encouraged us all. Steve embodied Augustine’s quote about Monica. Neither lion nor dragon, neither cancer nor excruciating pain, could keep him away from Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. When I consider all the excuses (not legitimate reasons – and to be clear I do believe being at high-risk for the coronavirus/serious concerns over getting it is a legitimate reason) I hear for people missing the Divine Service - everything from pathetic to “I can’t believe you just said that out loud” – it is an astonishing thing to watch a man racked with pain do all that is within his power to be present to receive Christ’s gifts.
It is a beautiful example of what happens when God gives someone the faith to simply trust the Word: “This is my body. This is my blood…for the forgiveness of sins.” When someone believes that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ truly preserve them in body and soul unto life everlasting there is no telling what they will endure to get it. He knew his desperate need and he knew where to find the only remedy.
Steve did get to the point where he was physically unable to attend the Divine Service. The last time I gave him the Holy Supper was a few days before he went into a coma. He knew death was near and he was not afraid. As I quoted earlier, “You go to the Lord’s Supper as if going to your death, so that you can go to your death as if you are going to the Lord’s Supper.” I have seen this to be most certainly true.
On May 22nd, 2016, Trinity Sunday, Pastor Steve Sanderson’s battle with cancer ended as our gracious Lord ushered him into glory and four years later he still has much to teach us all. I am still encouraged as I think of Steve dragging himself to the communion rail. May we too see our desperate need and drag ourselves to where the remedy is found in Word and Sacrament.
O Lord God, heavenly Father, we praise and thank you for your grace that through your Son Jesus Christ you established this supper in which we eat his body and drink his blood. By your Holy Spirit, help us to use this gift worthily, to confess and forsake our sins, to confidently believe that we are forgiven through Christ, and to grow in faith and love day by day until we come at last to the joy of eternal salvation, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
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