This article from Pastor Riley's Blog (03/05/2015) Orginally appeared on Theologia Crucis.  A audio version can be found on that site.

What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?
These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

God takes us back to our Baptism in His Supper. But Christ also takes us ahead to the future. He gives us “a foretaste of the feast to come,” as we sing in the Liturgy. It’s like a spoonful of cookie dough. The cookie dough is a foretaste of the cookies to come.

In the same way, the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the Supper to come. When the final victory has been won, when sin and death are no more, Christ will feast with us forever, and we will feast with Him. In the Supper now, we get a taste, a spoonful of what the new day will be when we are set down at His table.

But how can what we do here, kneeling at this rail to receive ordinary bread and wine, give these gifts? This is the question of the old Adam. There’s hardly anything the old you likes better than dressing up in a nice shirt and pants and pretending to be more special than other people. “Bread,” you say… “You call these silly little white wafers Christ’s body? I know that if you want to be a special kind of Christian you’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to make yourself special, spiritual, holy, and forget about playing silly games, like pretending this little white wafer is Christ’s body. And wine… people get drunk on that stuff. Don’t give me this hocus-pocus about Jesus being present in a tiny little sip of wine that pastor or one of the elders bought at the liquor store.”

images (3)But just like it isn’t water that makes Baptism, it’s not the eating and drinking or the bread and wine that makes it the Lord’s Supper. Instead, it’s Christ’s own words and His promise that He will be with us, in the eating and drinking that make it the Lord’s Supper.

Christ’s promise, along with the eating and drinking, is the main thing in the sacrament. Just like Baptism, Christ wants to make sure that His promise comes to us in the most personal and intimate way. So He speaks the words – “This is my body, given into death for your sins.” “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” He speaks and He puts His words in something we can see, touch, taste, roll around on our tongue, and swallow. When we hear His words and eat and drink we can be sure He is actually with us. True body. True blood. The whole of God with nothing of Himself held back from us.

Martin Luther used the word “testament” – the best translation of the Greek word that is sometimes translated “covenant.” The reason is, a testament is a will. The last will and testament… that a person writes down to arrange for who will receive his stuff after his death. Jesus’ last will and testament for us is the “New Testament in His blood.” We are to receive after His death His forgiveness, life, and salvation. And best of all, He willed that we receive them freely and personally.

images (1)So what is the benefit of receiving this eating and drinking? The Lord’s Supper is a promise and a gift. We can be certain because it’s God who does the promising and gifting. God is in the bread and wine. Over and over again in the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus speaks His words of forgiveness to you He brings you back to your Baptism, makes the new you new again, starts you fresh again every day… and He opens the way to the new day. In His Supper, Christ breaks down the walls between us and Him, and between us and our neighbors. That is the benefit of eating and drinking… no more guilt, no more worries, just forgiveness and salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. AMEN.