Last Supper Service

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Communion celebration in the Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune church, Strasbourg

A communion service - also service with communion or sacrament service - is one of the basic forms of Sunday service in Protestant churches, alongside the sermon service . One of its central activities is the communion (the Eucharist) of the congregation. In contrast to the sermon service, it is also referred to as a mass type .

Theological basis

According to tradition, who followed disciples shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ statement of during his testimony according to the biblical Last Supper his disciples said, "This do in remembrance of me." ( 1 Cor 11.24 to 25  LUT ) First, after a satiety meal, following the example of Jesus, the blessing words were spoken over bread and wine. Soon these were separated from the meal - which became independent as agape - and combined with the Sunday prayer service in the morning.

Last Supper in Frankfurt (Main)

For the majority of Protestant churches, the Lord's Supper is, in addition to baptism, a sacrament , a “sign and testimony” of the divine will, which on the one hand awakens and on the other hand strengthens faith. Only faith can grasp salvation in the sacrament.

Last Supper in the Lutheran churches

In the Lutheran understanding, the Lord's Supper means a physical real presence of Christ's body and blood. The validity of the sacrament of the altar depends neither on the faith of the pastor nor on the faith of the communicants. Only the words of Christ ( consecration ) about bread and wine, spoken or sung by the ordained pastor, bring about the sacramental unity of the bread and body of Christ, of the wine and blood of Christ. Anyone who believes they have really received Christ's body and blood receives forgiveness of sins, life and salvation (Martin Luther in the Small Catechism ). The unbeliever, understood here as one who does not believe he has received Christ's body and blood, takes Holy Communion for judgment ( 1 Cor 11 : 27-29  NIV ). Communion of the gifts creates communion through Christ's body and blood on the one hand with Jesus Christ himself and on the other hand among the believers.

Lord's Supper in the Reformed Churches

According to the Reformed understanding, the elements are symbols, images and signs for a spiritual real presence of Christ in word and faith without any change in the elements. According to the Reformed rite, it is part of the Lord's Supper that the Lord's Supper is / can be received “under both forms” (bread and wine) by all believers present. The Reformed, as well as many Protestant free churches, do not refer to the Lord's Supper table as an altar and refuse to celebrate the Lord's Supper at the altar because they distance themselves from the Roman Catholic understanding of the Lord's Supper as a bloodless sacrifice.

Already in the Marburg Religious Discussion of 1529 an attempt was made to reach an agreement between Lutheran and Reformed Christians regarding the understanding of the Lord's Supper. This failed, but under point 15 of the Marburg article at least the consensus was recorded that participation in the Lord's Supper was a fundamental necessity and should always take place in both forms, i.e. with bread and wine. Since the Leuenberg Agreement in 1973 at the latest, there has been church fellowship between most of the Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist churches, and the dissent regarding the understanding of the Lord's Supper has become less important.

Last Supper in the Protestant Free Churches

In the majority of the Evangelical Free Churches (such as Baptists , Mennonites , Free Evangelical Churches and Pentecostal Churches ) the Lord's Supper is celebrated as a memorial in remembrance of the life and death of Jesus. The Lutheran (and Catholic) understanding of a real presence is rejected, as is the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation . Instead, many free churches emphasize the communal character of the Lord's Supper. Often bread and wine are passed on to each other between the participants; there is no central mediating authority in the person of the pastor. To this extent, bread and wine can be distributed by all believers. Instead of an altar there is a sacrament table. Sometimes the Lord's Supper is also referred to as breaking bread in free churches . From a Mennonite point of view, the Lord's Supper is not understood as a sacrament, but as a covenant sign. In some free churches (such as the Seventh-day Adventists or the Mennonites), washing of the feet can or should take place before the Lord's Supper .

Course of the sacrament service

In most Protestant free churches, the course of a sacrament service is not specified. There it is left to the individual parishes to determine the process themselves, unlike, for example, in the regional churches of the EKD . There the sacrament service traditionally consists of four parts:

  • Opening and invocation
  • Annunciation and confession with Bible reading, sermon, confession of faith and intercessions
  • The celebration of the Lord's Supper with words of institution and the distribution of bread and wine
  • Mission and blessing

The process is based on the basic structure of the pre-Reformation Mass, which goes back to the Old Church . The celebration of the Lord's Supper used to be customary differently depending on tradition and denomination. However, it was widely believed that it should be taken at least on Good Friday . In recent years the frequency of its celebration has increased, especially in Lutheran and also Uniate congregations.

If the Lord's Supper is omitted, it is a sermon service . In addition, so-called family services without the Lord's Supper and with a simplified liturgy are also possible.

In the Evangelical Church of the Union and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany , the Lord's Supper service, according to the Evangelical Worship Book of 1999 (basic form I), today usually has the following sequence:

Part A: Opening and Invocation

Part B: Annunciation and Confession

Part C: Last Supper

Part D: Mission and Blessing

  • song
  • Discontinuations (appointments, future events)
  • Broadcast word
  • possibly song verse (blessing song)
  • blessing
  • Music to the exit

The words of institution are usually:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night that he was betrayed, he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said: Take and eat: This is + my body that is given for you. Do such in my memory. Likewise, he also took the cup after the Lord's Supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Take it and drink from it, all of you: This is + my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it in memory of me. "

Since the Nuremberg Kirchentag in 1979, an evening meal has also been celebrated on special occasions , in which the community is particularly emphasized in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The evening meal includes a phase of communal preparation and a communicative after-party. The development of a special concern or topic through information, experience reports and discussions, which can lead to forgiveness and intercessions, is usually of particular importance.

Administering and receiving the sacrament

The Lord's Supper is received under the guise of bread and wine , which during the Reformation was an essential distinguishing feature from the Roman Catholic practice, in which communion is usually only given under the guise of bread.

Communion chalice with grapevine ornamentation (1831)
Single goblets

The Lutheran churches traditionally use unleavened hosts , i. H. unfermented batter without baking yeast or baking powder. You are following the Jewish Seder meal . Uniate, Reformed and Free Churches use white bread made from ordinary bread dough, which is sometimes provided with special symbols. Instead of wine, in free churches such as the Evangelical Methodist Church and in the member churches of the EKD, out of consideration for children, pregnant women and people with health restrictions, e.g. B. alcoholics , in addition to wine, grape juice can be served with the Lord's Supper. Usually you can choose between juice or wine. Wine or juice is dispensed from a shared goblet or, in some places, from small individual goblets for each recipient; It is also possible to receive the Lord's Supper by dipping the bread in the wine.

In the Lutheran and uniate regional churches of the EKD, the joint donation of bread and wine by pastors and elected church leaders (or, depending on the regional church, presbyters or parish councils) is common. Other church leaders and the sexton , for example, can give them new paten and fresh chalices if necessary . In the Reformed churches, pastors and elders can pass bread and chalices into the rows of seats, where the recipients pass them on to their neighbors: This emphasizes the common priesthood of all believers. The participants can also come to a sacrament table, where pastors and elders hand them the elements: This emphasizes the invitation to the sacrament through Jesus Christ. In Lutheran and Uniate regional churches, the passing on of bread and wine among the worshipers is practiced as a so-called agap meal , which is sometimes not regarded as a fully valid communion. In most free churches, however, the Lord's Supper can be administered by all believers, in the sense of the priesthood of all baptized .

With regard to the form of the Lord's Supper, most of the Protestant free churches are free to use. Several forms are possible in the Lutheran and United Churches:

  • The recipients come into the chancel and form a circle there, also called a table or Lord's Supper . If there is a larger number of worshipers, several tables in a row are possible. It is common practice to dispense grape juice instead of wine at individual announced tables. For example, in order not to discriminate against alcoholics, in other communities at all tables on request or in the case of children, there is an automatic change between wine and grape juice glasses. After receiving bread and wine, a table closes with a word of blessing from the liturgist and often a handshake from everyone, ie the participants take each other's hand during the blessing and usually end it with a stronger handshake. The taking of the Lord's Supper at table is the rule in Lutheran and Uniate congregations, the other forms of the Lord's Supper are the exception.
  • During the walking supper , the recipients come one after the other to the chancel , where two or more donors stand with bread and goblets. It is customary to dispense wine or grape juice cups at different positions.
  • In a small group or at a house service, a Dinner at the table can be celebrated in a more flexible way , for example sitting at a table. It is possible to combine the words of institution and the distribution in such a way that the receipt of bread and wine follows the corresponding part of the words of institution.

Jesus Christ is understood as the actual giver of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, bread and wine are presented in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church individually to each recipient and not by passing on the host bowl or chalice from one recipient to the next. In principle, the ordained clergyman hands the host in this church because it is seen there as admission to Holy Communion. The chalice can also be distributed by a helper.

As a rule, the Lord's Supper is received standing, but extremely rarely in Lutheran congregations, it is also received on the knees. The host is placed in the open hand held towards the believers (or both hands shaped into a bowl) - in some Lutheran parishes of the regional churches and in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK), communion on the mouth is possible or common. The donor speaks the words "Christ's body - given for you!" Most of the time, the recipient answers with "Amen". He then takes the host or keeps it (e.g. in the case of an infectious disease) for intinctio in the chalice that is later served. The chalice is given to the believers and taken back after they have consumed the wine or juice. The donor speaks the words "Christ's blood - shed for you", "Take away from the cup of salvation!" Or both words or these alternating from receiving to receiving. As a rule, the cup is changed after a certain number of recipients or when it has become dirty.

After finishing the sacrament table or taking the communal evening supper, it is often the custom to stand briefly in the bench before taking a seat again and to say a prayer softly - similar to the one before the service.

For admission to the Lord's Supper, see Eucharist # Admission to Communion .

See also

Literature and media

Individual evidence

  1. Evangelical church service book. Agenda for the EKU and the VELKD. Pocket edition, p. 14.
  2. Evangelical church service book. Agenda for the EKU and the VELKD. Pocket edition, pp. 214-218.
  3. Evangelical church service book. Agenda for the EKU and the VELKD. Pocket edition, pp. 156–159