Communion is a practice meant to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. It is a holy time of worship when we corporately come together as one body to remember and celebrate what Christ did for us. We celebrate Holy Communion by Intinction is the Eucharistic practice of partly dipping the consecrated bread, or host, into the consecrated wine before consumption by the communicant.
Examine the meaning of the Lord’s Supper by contemplating these thoughts:
- Communion is extremely important because Jesus asked his followers to follow the practice often – in remembrance of him. (See Luke 22:19) Was that a request we should ignore?
Communion is significant because it reminds us of the price Christ paid for our salvation – his death on the cross. “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19, NRSV).
- It is also a symbol of the new covenant which God has made with us in Christ. Upon taking the cup of wine, our Lord said, “This is my blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:28, NRSV). He is our Lord. Communion helps us remember that we are his people, servants of the covenant-maker.
- The sacrament is a vivid reminder that we are grateful that we are tied to Christ and look forward to his ultimate triumph on Earth. We partake of Communion joyfully, thanking God for the gift of Christ and anticipating his final victory when he shall be known worldwide as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16, NRSV).
Epiphany of the Lord
The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means appearance or manifestation. It is an important word for liturgical churches. Epiphany is observed annually on January 6. It refers to the wise men, who were the first Gentiles to see the manifestation of God’s appearance in the baby Jesus.
In the early church, January 6 was a day for baptism. The central significance of Epiphany is that Christ came as the Light of the World, not just for the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Christ’s light is for all.
In France, to celebrate Epiphany, children from Christian homes often put oats in their shoes on the evening before January 6. The oats are for the camels of the “Wise Men.” When they awake the next morning, the children hope to find the oats gone and gifts left in their shoes.
In 1875, Philip Bliss wrote the hymn “The Light of the World Is Jesus.” The first stanza captures the meaning of Epiphany, a season of light:
The whole world was lost
In the darkness of sin,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday,
His glory shone in.
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Advent prepares us for Christ’s birth; Lent prepares us for the glorious act of Christ’s resurrection. Churches have special services during the weeks of Lent, but it’s what each of us does regarding our spiritual life that makes Lent most meaningful.
Lent is a good time to read, study and inwardly digest the four gospels. (The word gospel means “good news.”). Lent offers time for growth. Many of us know our IQ (intelligence quotient), but what about our SQ (spiritual quotient)?
Lent is a good time to think about the quality of your spiritual life. Do you think about God often … or rarely? Do you pray often … or occasionally? How well do you know the Bible? The Commandments? The Beatitudes? The lives of biblical heroes and heroines?
During Lent, commit to spending more time in prayer. Also consider selecting a book of the Bible or a particular Bible character to study in-depth during this period.
Some people give up particular items or habits during Lent. If used wisely, this discipline can help you abandon things that have been interfering with your relationship with God.
On the first day of Lent, pastors in many churches dip a finger in ashes (often made by burning palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday) and make a cross on parishioners’ foreheads.
God’s people have used ashes as a sign of mourning, humiliation and penitence. In the Old Testament, ashes were used as a purification offering. The New Testament speaks of repenting in “sackcloth and ashes” (Luke 10:13, NRSV).
On Ash Wednesday, Christians are pained because our sins — private and public — led to Jesus’ death. With repentant hearts, we begin the season of Lent, knowing it leads to resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Traditionally, the Christian church has observed the seven weeks before Easter as a time of penitence and spiritual self-examination.
Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, derives its name from the ancient practice of marking the foreheads of worshipers with ashes from the unused palm branches of the previous year. Ashes historically have had a dual significance.
First, they are Old Testament symbols of sadness and humility. Job, in the midst of all his troubles, cried out to God from the ash heap.
The second symbolic meaning of ashes is as a reminder of our mortality. Each of us faces the inevitability of physical death. Our bodies and material possessions eventually will turn to dust and ashes. This is a reminder that we dare not trust in things that crumble. But Lent does not leave us on the ash heap. It begins with Ash Wednesday, but ends with Easter. And Easter proclaims that, through Christ, God resurrects us from our dust and ashes, makes us new creatures and brings life out of death!
During Taize services, we enjoy the peace and quiet of a lightly candle lit sanctuary as we chant and reflect on short readings of scripture and reflections.. This service is especially well known for its ability to empty the mind of the day’s activities and allow individuals to focus more clearly on scripture. We will have flutes, hand pan drums, a cello, bells, and piano to accompany our chanting. A nursery will be provided. Services are Tuesday evenings at 7:00 throughout Lent. The Sanctuary will be available to anyone who wishes to enjoy quiet prayerful solitude for one hour prior to the service.
The day before Good Friday is called Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means “commandment.” In the gospel of John, Jesus makes this statement during the Last Supper: “I am with you only a little longer. … I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:33-35, NRSV).
As Christians gather to eat and share Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, we should make a special effort to exhibit our love and respect for one another. Let us seek out people whom we don’t naturally have affection for and express our wish that the living Christ may dwell in them and bless them.
Maundy Thursday should always be a time of sharing with others, showing loving concern for one another and partaking of Holy Communion. That is what the Lord asked of his disciples and asks of us.
At first glance, Good Friday appears to be a misnomer. It seems inconsistent that the day of Christ’s crucifixion should in any way be described as “good.” But that seeming inconsistency vanishes when we understand that the ancient meaning of good was “holy.” The word holy is entirely consistent with the suffering and cross that Christ endured for us. Hence, Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday.
Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday. The Passion of Christ refers to his severe suffering and the intensity of his emotions as he was tried, and then crucified on the cross. The cross was used as an implement of death, but has become the most important symbol of Christianity. Christians wear crosses, keep one or more in our homes and display them on and in our churches.
God used the horrible event of the Crucifixion for the saving benefit of anyone who would acknowledge Christ as living Lord and Savior. Christ died that we might all know true life as children of the loving God.
St. Paul put it this way: “Through him God [Christ]was pleased to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20, NRSV).
They pluck their palm branches and hail Him as King
– Early on Sunday;
They spread out their garments; Hosannas they sing
– Early on Sunday.
But where is the noise of their hurrying feet,
The crown they would offer, the scepter, the seat?
Their King wanders hungry, forgot in the street
– Early on Monday.
Edwin McNeill Poteat
“The joyful news that [Christ] is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.”
—Henry Knox Sherrill
In a Barna Group survey, two-thirds of Americans knew that Easter is a religious holiday. But only 42 percent connected its meaning to Jesus’ resurrection. And only two percent of adults said they would describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.
Not everyone who connects Easter to religion has the facts straight. Two percent of Americans said Easter is about Jesus’ birth. Another two percent said it’s about Jesus’ “rebirth.” And one percent said it’s a celebration of his second coming. Another three percent described Easter as a celebration of spring or a pagan holiday.
This Easter, share the truth and joy of the holiday with someone who doesn’t know Jesus. News of the resurrection is too good to keep to ourselves!
Christians around the world celebrate the Day of Pentecost. It’s often remembered as the church’s birthday. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon those who believed in his resurrection.
Three thousand people were gathered in Jerusalem when the Spirit came upon them. They were so touched by the Holy Spirit that they began to worship regularly, especially on Sundays, the day of Christ’s resurrection.
To symbolize the “tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3, NRSV) that came upon the people present at Pentecost, liturgical churches display the color red in their worship services on Pentecost Sunday. Many people attending worship wear red on that day.
We are a church whose unity is in Jesus Christ, who gathers us around word and water, wine and bread. Baptism is a significant part of our faith journey as we come from the baptismal waters to live a new life as children of God.
Our baptism sets us out on a lifelong journey that is characterized by our relationship to God, our relationship to our faith community, our relationships in our community and the wider world. Living our baptismal covenant means living a life of growth in the faith practices of discipleship.
The liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptism describes the faith practices that grow out of our baptism (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 236). We are to “…live among God’s faithful people; hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper; proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; serve all people following the example of Jesus; and strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
Many churches celebrate confirmation, a practice with biblical roots. For example, Peter and John are sent to “[lay] their hands on” new believers and “[pray] for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15, 17, NRSV).
In the early church, new Christians, most of whom were adult converts, received baptism and confirmation as one ceremony. As more children were brought for baptism, the practice became for pastors and priests to baptize but for only bishops to “confirm” a baptism, or make it official, granting the baptized full membership in the church.
Later, confirmation became a rite by which adolescents, often following intensive Christian education, profess for themselves the faith into which they were baptized. Some denominations prefer the term “affirmation of baptism.”
Confirmation serves as a milestone of faith, when young adults begin embracing a life of discipleship with a sense of purpose. See Confirmation Ministry.
The church season of Advent began as a time of repentance for Epiphany, which was the second-biggest baptism day in the early church. Fasting was once a part of Advent, as it often still is for Lent.
Advent comes from the Greek word parousia, which was often used to talk about Jesus’ second coming. So Advent is a season of preparation not only for the celebration of Jesus’ earthly birth but for his promised return.
Some Christians celebrate Advent by not putting the baby Jesus into their manger scenes until Christmas morning. This adds to the anticipation that’s a special part of the season.
The Advent wreath was developed a few centuries ago in Germany as a sign of the waiting and hopeful expectation of the return in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The wreath, a circle, came to represent the eternal victory over death through Jesus Christ. The evergreens were a sign of the faithfulness of God to God’s people, even in death, and the lighted candles were a reminder of the light of Christ brought into the world.
For more information about Lutheranism, please see the ELCA website