Beckett: The Lord’s Supper – Who Can Receive It?

Who receives this sacrament worthily? “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe” (Small Catechism).

Often in my pastoral counseling, I come across a person who wonders if they’re worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of their sins. The devil has convinced them that they are so shackled to their sins that Christ’s blood cannot melt the chains. All I tell them is, “Do you believe the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins?” And when they say “yes,” I simply assure them, “Then you are worthy. Come, Supper is ready.” For as Christ said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). At the Table, Christ is not interested in perfectly healthy people; He only desires to feed sick sinners.

As always, it is worth quoting Luther, that the Sacrament “does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy. Nor do we go to Confession because we are pure and without sin. On the contrary, we go because we are poor, miserable people. We go exactly because we are unworthy… This is difficult. We always have this obstacle and hindrance to encounter: we look more upon ourselves than upon Christ’s Word and lips. For human nature desires to act in such a way that it can stand and rest firmly on itself” (LC V, 61, 63).

Just as your status as a child in your family makes you worthy to sit at the dinner table, so your status as a baptised child of God makes you worthy to sit at Christ’s Table, for you are a brother/sister of Christ the King. We approach the Table knowing there is nothing in and of ourselves that we can bring to the Table, other than our wretched sin, yet we are able to approach because we are also His brothers (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11-12) and therefore co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17). Our ability to put away our sin does not make us worthy to receive the Supper, but simply faith that believes His words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Faith is what opens the mouth to receive the elixir of His body and blood; therefore, you receive what He promises in the meal.


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