37. Prayer for Reconciliation with our Neighbor.
Gracious Jesus, through Thy grace I have prepared myself and am about to seek the forgiveness of my sins in private confession; but I remember, that Thou hast said and earnestly commanded: if thou bring thy gift before the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee: leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift. Now I have unfortunately fallen into misunderstanding and variance with my neighbor, hence do Thou so bestow upon me Thy grace and so overrule my heart, that I 065may be willing to be reconciled with him. I acknowledge the hardness of my heart and confess that it is hard for me to subdue my flesh and blood and to banish all anger and revenge. But it is my hope, yea, my prayer, that Thou, Lord, wilt take away my stony heart and grant unto me a heart of flesh, that is: a loving, reconciled heart, and cause me to love my enemy, to bless him that curses me, to do good unto those, that hate me, and to pray for those who despitefully abuse and persecute me. O! may I meditate upon that judgment and that terrible account which I must give unto Thee, that I may renounce that enmity which designs death and destruction, and according to Thy commandment become reconciled with my adversary whilst I am in the way with him, and never more permit the sun to go down upon my wrath. And as I, in Thy name, pardon and forgive all those, who have offended me, so let me find all those, whom I have grieved and irritated, ready with a willing heart, to pardon and forgive my offences against them. O, Jesus! forgive all our sins, and govern our 066hearts, that we may live with each other in a christian and peaceful manner and that we may praise Thy name here in time, until in heaven we shall glorify Thee forever. Amen.
Brief Instruction concerning the Holy Supper.
Why do you desire to go to the Holy Supper? This question each one should lay before his conscience before he approaches the Lord’s table. For there are not a few who are either altogether obtuse and thoughtless, or they come to the Holy Supper with an entirely wrong intention. Some will go from mere custom, others because they are admonished to do so by their parents, others because they consider the partaking of the Lord’s Supper a work of merit, and still others because they wish to acquire and preserve the appearance and name of pious Christians before men. It is no wonder that such partakers of the Holy Supper receive no blessings from it, and that they become the more wicked, the longer they so continue.
A communicant who desires to receive the Holy Supper unto his salvation, must, in the first place, clearly understand what the Holy Supper is and for what Christ has instituted it, and, in the second place, he must have a penitent heart.
Such have an altogether false conception of the Holy Supper, who regard it as a mere feast at which a person does but commemorate Christ’s sufferings and death. No, the Holy Supper is the exalted and holy mystery, in which Christ with the consecrated bread gives us his body to eat, and with the consecrated wine gives us his blood to drink, even the same body which he took on himself from the virgin Mary and gave in death for our sins, and the same blood which he shed upon the cross for the remission of our sins. True, we cannot see this with our eyes, we cannot taste it with our mouth, nor can we understand it with our reason, but must believe it, for our Lord and Saviour says: “Take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood.” Our Lord and Saviour is true, and certainly he will fulfill what he says in the words of his testament; he is of infinite wisdom, and knows of ways and means for the fulfillment of his promises, even though it be beyond our comprehension; he is almighty, with whom nothing is impossible, who can do infinitely more than we are able to ask or think. If we believe with all earnestness, that it is not mere bread and wine, but also the true body and blood of our Saviour, who is God and man in one person, which we receive in the Holy Supper, then we will not be thoughtless and indifferent, but we will approach the table of the 068Lord with devotional and humble hearts and with the centurion exclaim: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof!
The benefits derived from the Holy Supper are threefold: first, by a worthy partaking of the Holy Supper we receive the forgiveness of sin and are assured of the same. Our gracious God has given many and manifold means to assure the poor sinner of the forgiveness of his sins; such means are, the preaching of the Gospel, Holy Baptism, Absolution and the Holy Supper. We should not ask the impertinent question, why God has given us four means of grace, instead of one, but rather thank him, that he has so richly blessed us in making us partakers of the forgiveness of our sins, and that he, through these means, gives unto us a joyful heart and a certain assurance that we are acceptable unto him. Whoever knows from own experience, how important it is for one whose heart is terrified on account of his sins, to believe in the forgiveness of such sins, will readily conceive the greatness of divine mercy and care, in not providing only one, but many means, through which we have the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, just as certain as with your mouth you eat the body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ which was given for you in death for the forgiveness of your sins, and drink that blood which was shed for the remission of your sins, just so certain also should you be that such forgiveness is your portion and inheritance. Second, the Holy Supper also confers life. This is not a temporal, natural life, which we have received through birth and which is nourished through the ordinary food and drink, but it is that new, spiritual life, which has been regenerated through the new birth in Holy Baptism, and which subsists by virtue of faith in the Lord Jesus and in love to God and our neighbor. But inasmuch as this life is yet weak and imperfect and constant growth is necessary, the Lord has instituted the Holy Supper as a spiritual means of nourishment, in order to strengthen the new spiritual life. Luther says concerning this: The Holy Supper is rightly regarded as food for the soul which nourishes and strengthens the new man; for through Baptism we are first born again, but there still remains the old Adam in our flesh and blood; there are so many temptations and impediments thrown in the way by the world and the devil, that we often grow weary and languid and sometimes fall. Hence the Holy Supper is given us as a daily nourishment and food that our faith may grow and be strengthened, and that in such contest it may not fall back, but ever grow stronger and stronger; for the new life must be such as always to increase and progress; it has on the other hand, to suffer much; for the devil is such a wrathful enemy, when he sees that one opposes him and assails the old man, and he is unable to prevail with his power, then he will sneak and creep around on all sides, making use of all kinds of artifice and keeps on until he finally has made us weary, that a person either falls from the faith altogether, or gives way to disgust and impatience. Thereto then this comfort is given, that the heart, when it feels the temptations too great to bear, receives new strength and solace from the Holy Supper. But, thirdly, the Holy Supper also confers eternal salvation. Just as sin, as long as it is not forgiven, deprives us of salvation, so sin which is forgiven opens unto us the door of eternal salvation. Where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.
But if we would obtain this threefold blessed benefit from the Holy Supper, we must receive it worthily and well prepared. This is however not a worthiness brought about by the law, but by the Gospel, and does not consist in a perfect life and entire purity of the soul from sin; but much more in this, that we are conscious of our unworthiness and sinfulness; that we have a heart poor in spirit and mournful, and long heartily after the forgiveness of sin, that we also comfort ourselves with it or wish to comfort; that we regard our sins to be very great, but that 071we rejoice in the help which is found in none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, all those communicants are unworthy and unfit, who in their self-righteous conceit think it unnecessary to have the forgiveness of sin, as was the case with the Pharisee, who stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are,—or who entirely doubt the forgiveness of sin, as did Cain, who said unto the Lord: My punishment is greater than I can bear, and who will not permit himself to be delivered from his despondent thoughts, or those who continue in evil purpose and who knowingly go on and serve sin, or who live in malicious hatred against their neighbor. When such unworthy communicants receive the Holy Supper, it is true, they also receive the body and blood of Christ, but they receive it unto judgment and unto the increase of their own damnation. Hence, too, St. Paul gives the earnest admonition: Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup, for whoso eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. Now, whoever recognizes in himself the above named characteristics of an unworthy communicant, should not dare to approach the table of the Lord in this condition; not that he should remain away, but in the meanwhile he should examine himself, and instead of being an impenitent, become a penitent sinner.
But are not also weak believers to be numbered among the unworthy communicants? By no means. But much more those who are both weak in faith and defective in godly life, and who are overtaken in this or that sin, and who painfully feel their weakness and long to become stronger, are Christ’s right welcome guests at his table; such the Lord does not cast away, but much more invites to come; for he instituted the Holy Supper especially for the weak and infirm, that through this spiritual nourishment they might become stronger. He extends unto all such the gracious call: Come unto me all ye that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, and whosoever comes, I will in no wise cast out.