I was taking communion last night. As I held the bread in my hand and heard my pastor say what I held symbolized Christ’s body I thought, “I’m not worthy to partake of these elements, how could I ever be worthy? I’m not worthy of any of Christ’s mercies or His forgiveness.”
I wasn’t thinking of it at the time, but Martin Luther had a similar thought, the first time he administered the elements. He was so overwhelmed at his sinfulness and utter unworthiness that he froze and was unable to go on.
What makes me worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper? Honestly, there is nothing in me or about me that makes me worthy, no action, no prayer, no penance that will make me fit to be in the presence of Christ.
But the things which are impossible with men are possible with God(Luke 18:27). It is God who makes me worthy to take communion and enter His presence. I think of the story of the prodigal son:
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. (Luke 15:21-22)
Notice how the son freely admits that he is not worthy to be a son. And what does the father immediately do? He puts a robe, a ring, and shoes on him— all the signs of a son and heir. The father does more than say mere words, he takes action to demonstrate his decision of granting sonship to this wayward child. The son not only feels the embrace of his father and the kind words of his father, he has a robe on his back, a ring of authority on his hand, and shoes on his feet to prove to himself and everyone that he really is a son.
In the same way, communion is God’s visible token, God’s physical proof that I am a partaker in Christ’s body and blood, that God has extended forgiveness and adoption to me. I can take the wine and the bread with comfort and joy that through God’s mercy and grace I am His child.