David Kolander

Heaven in a Place on Earth

by David Kolander on March 28th, 2024
1 Corinthians 10:16-17

In the name of him who broke bread (wafer) – and gave thanks (wine) – on the night he was betrayed.

I wouldn’t normally begin a sermon with a quote from a pop rock music artist from over thirty years ago, especially on such a solemn night like this when we think about how our Lord Jesus began the Lord’s Supper, but her words express a desire that so many people throughout the history of the world – including so many people today — have understandably expressed. She sings, “Baby, do you know what that’s worth? Heaven is a place on earth. They say in heaven, love comes first. We’ll make heaven a place on earth.” That is a wonderful desire, but we know from God’s Word that, unfortunately, there will never be heaven on earth, because there is no possibility of perfection on earth, due to the complete domination of sin on earth, including, of course, in your life and mine. That’s why people can only try to make heaven on earth in all the wrong ways, because they will only end in disappointment — or often much worse, because they can only lead someone away from heaven, if it’s a desire for heaven without Jesus Christ. But that is also why, especially on a solemn night like this when we think about how our Lord Jesus began the Lord’s Supper, we can think about how in the Lord’s Supper we have something that we can enjoy on earth that is divine — something that connects us to our Savior God in heaven. We can never say that heaven is a place on earth, but we can say that in the Lord’s Supper we have “Heaven in a Place on Earth.” 

Once again, St. Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians chapter 10: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

When the apostle Paul uses the word “participation,” saying that the wine is a participation in the blood of Christ and that the bread is a participation in the body of Christ, he is using a word that also means “communion” or “fellowship” or “unity” or “sharing together with.” That’s why we call the Lord’s Supper Holy Communion, and that’s why we call our reception of communion an expression of our fellowship or unity with Jesus himself and also with those with whom we commune. 

In other words, just as at Christmas we sing about how heaven came down to us on earth in the person of Jesus, so in the Lord’s Supper we can say heaven is right here with us, because Jesus is present here – Jesus is really present here – when we receive this bread and wine, because together with the bread and wine in total unity and togetherness and communion is the body and blood of Christ. If you remember from catechism class, this teaching of the Bible does not have a complicated name. We call it the Real Presence. Jesus is no longer physically present on earth, since he has returned to heaven, but he has left us this sacrament – this holy, sacred thing – in which he is really present and comes to us personally in a way we can in no way figure out, but we can only repeat it and believe it, because it is attached to the words and promises of God: Take eat. This is my body. Take drink. This is my blood, poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sins. One of our communion hymns reminds us: Though reason cannot understand, yet faith this truth embraces; your body, Lord, is even now at once in many places. I leave to you how this can be; your Word alone suffices me; I trust its truth unfailing.

The main reason we want to trust God’s truth unfailing is because, since this truly is our Savior’s body and blood in communion with the bread and wine, it can be for the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise, this would just be eating a piece of bread and drinking a sip of wine – more like a religious meal. But this is not a religious meal or a fellowship dinner, but a sacrament — a sacred, holy act — through which God forgives our sins and in that way allows us to receive the pastor’s blessing upon receiving it: May this true body and blood of your Lord Jesus strengthen and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. That’s why from these steps we can “depart in peace.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord’s Supper is the gospel good news. It is the gospel of the good news of Jesus that you can taste and touch and feel. It connects you to your holy God in heaven. It joins you with people already in heaven, who are singing their “Holy, Holy, Holy” praises around God’s holy throne. It is heaven in a place on earth.

That is why we need it – and that is why we want it. I assume there are times for many of us, if not all of us, where we maybe haven’t been thinking about Holy Communion all that much, or maybe we haven’t really felt we need it all that much. In our hymnals there is a document called the Christian Questions, which was written by Martin Luther many years ago to help people at his time prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper. One of the questions asks that very thing: What if I really don’t feel I need the Lord’s Supper? The answer is a good one to try to remember. He suggests three things. He said, “First of all, pinch yourself and see if you are still alive, because, if you are still alive, you are constantly sinning against God and others. You need help. And, then, secondly, after pinching yourself, look around you to see if you’re still in the world, because by looking around at the world, it’s obvious there is sin and trouble all over the place. You need help. And then, thirdly, after pinching yourself and looking around yourself, just think to yourself about the fact the person responsible for all this is the devil himself, who will never stop his lying, eternally murderous ways. You need help.” We need the Lord’s Supper to be assured that we are forgiven of all we have done wrong, and we need the Lord’s Supper to be encouraged and comforted and strengthened as we live in this world where so much has gone wrong – so much wrong that happens in general and so much wrong that also happens to us, as we get sick or hurt or mocked or whatever else it may be that can so often leave us sad or confused or worried or in tears.

To fill our need and to give us that help, Jesus gives us himself: My body, he says. My blood, he says. You are forgiven, he says — because this is the body and blood I gave and poured out for you. Do this, as often as you do it, to remember who I am and what I have done for you to make you mine.

So, this communion or oneness of the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ means you and I are in communion with – one with – at peace with — the holy God through the work of Jesus, our Savior. And what St. Paul also declares to us here is this: Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. The communion and fellowship we have with Christ means we are also in communion and fellowship with each other. Because of being one with the one who is with us in heaven, we are also one with the ones who are next to us on earth.

That is why until more relatively recently in the history of the church, almost all churches recognized that if they were not united in what they believed and confessed about God’s Word, they were not united in the fellowship of communion. That’s one of the main reasons there came to be so many churches and denominations. That’s what is meant by close communion – sometimes called closed communion. We enjoy the one body-ness of the Lord’s Supper with those we are one body with by what we believe and confess. That’s also one of the main reasons we have a confirmation class for children and for adults, so that people have the opportunity to learn how we are united in the teachings of God’s Word and, when united, to enjoy the privilege of expressing that unity also in communing together as one body, rather than having a divided body, even though, we all of course need to keep learning and growing and understanding that Word better, as we continue in his Word. 

What that also means is that, since the gospel message of Jesus of sins forgiven that we hear in God’s Word is what motivates us to live as gospel people in our care and concern for each other, so receiving the gospel message of Jesus in his body and blood when we partake of the Lord’s Supper also does the very same thing. It motivates us and gives us the ability to live as gospel people in our care and concern for each other. For those of you who receive the Lord’s Supper this evening, as you reflect with wonder about what you are receiving, also pray with humility and confidence about expressing what you are receiving to the people next to you around this chancel – and to all those people you see coming forward who want to receive and express that very same thing. Take a quick moment while you are singing or reflecting to think about them. We want to show love to all people – all other Christians and non-Christians alike – but the closeness of our communion is simply another way of saying that we want to express that love and care for everybody who is with us here, because they need what I need, and, by God’s grace, they are receiving what I am receiving – heaven in a place on earth.

After receiving communion, we often say responsively, as will tonight, words which the apostle Paul also wrote: “Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” When Jesus does come again, then we will have in its fulness the heaven we enjoy for that moment when in the Lord’s Supper we enjoy the real presence of our Savior himself and the closeness with all the people throughout the world whom he has come to save – truly a taste of the heaven we will have when we truly are in heaven. Amen.

Sermon Archive
I’m New to Christ the Lord Request More Information

Copyright © 2024
Website by Sinclair Design Group