Catechism review of Holy Communion

During this COVID-19 period of isolation/shelter-in-place, could you please take us back to our Catechism instruction days and refresh us on (1) why for good order we ask our pastors to distribute Holy Communion as well as (2) who may do so in good conscience, especially in special circumstances like quarantine. I think it would be a timely topic for those craving the blessings of Lord's Supper while our churches cannot physically meet. Thank you.

This brief Catechism review will use the edition of Luther’s Catechism produced by Northwestern Publishing House in 2017.

“Why do Christians gather together in congregations? Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:18.”

“How does God guide Christian congregations as they use the keys publicly? Matthew 18:20; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 5:17; Matthew 16:19. God provides Christian congregations with leaders who are to faithfully guide the affairs of the congregation. Preaching and teaching God’s Word is one of the most important ways that they lead their congregations.”

“What are some ways in which a pastor serves the congregation that has called him? 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2-3; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; 2 Timothy 4:5; Isaiah 52:7; James 5:14; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. The pastor serves the congregation by leading the members in public worship, preaching and teaching God’s law and gospel, and counseling and encouraging the members with God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 14:40; Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. The pastor serves the congregation by administering the sacraments in an orderly way. Ephesians 4:11-12. The pastor serves the members of the congregation by training them with the Word of God, equipping them to serve their Savior.”

The Pastor Call Form used in our synod highlights these truths, as it charges pastors: “To preach the gospel of our Lord among us in its truth and purity, to administer the sacraments in accordance with the inspired Word of God and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as incorporated in the Book of Concord of 1580, and to establish and maintain sound Lutheran practice at all times.”

Concerning special situations like quarantine, the latest Together newsletter provided this information: “Since restrictions on gatherings vary from place to place, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper will in some places need to be modified, depending on government restrictions and medical guidelines. Some congregations, if allowed by state and local authorities, are gathering in small groups and taking great care to practice good hygiene and recommended ‘social distancing.’

“In other places, even small gatherings are not allowed. There have been questions about how we should proceed when it comes to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper when members cannot gather at church.

“Regardless of the specific situation in which your congregation finds itself, here are a couple of things to remember. First, while Christians desire to be strengthened and comforted by the Lord’s Supper, we also recognize that there are times when the normal celebration of Communion is not possible. For Christians serving in a war zone, for church members who are in a medically induced coma, for believers who are home-bound because of sickness or infirmity, the normal celebration of the Lord’s Supper with other believers may not be an option. But in those cases we take comfort in knowing that we have the means of grace in two forms—Word and sacrament. The forgiveness conveyed and assured by the written or spoken Word of God is no less powerful and effective than the sacrament. In some cases, private Communion may certainly be available.

“Second, we also recognize that there is no scriptural definition or requirement for how frequently Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus simply encourages us to receive the Lord’s Supper regularly and often. There may be times such as this that, temporarily, the Lord’s Supper may not be available as often as we would like or desire. For that reason, the Conference of Presidents is urging patience with the following advice:

“’We encourage our congregations at this time to reserve the distribution of the Lord’s Supper for its regular and normal use within the gathering of the body of believers (realizing that some changes in procedure may be made) or distributed privately by the pastor to individuals in need, as is the customary practice. We urge congregations to refrain from initiating novel approaches for celebration of the sacrament.’”