“The gifts of God for the people of God,” the pastor announces, inviting parishioners to the Lord’s Supper.The gift of the body and blood Christ keeps on giving; we give because of what we have been given.  Instructing the Corinthians how they are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul prefaced his remarks with this same paradigm for giving. “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you….” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The implication should have been clear to them: “Give what you have so abundantly received.” The Words of Institution followed immediately upon this preface.

Luther made a similar connection. He faced his own dilemma of giving. In the medieval world, priests, nuns, and religious orders played a key role in relief of the poor. Priests dispensed alms to the poor; tables outside the cathedrals collected food and other goods for them; masses brought in money for them. Taking apart this elaborate welfare system raised the urgent question of relief of the poor. Luther brought 1 Corinthians 11 to his defense. He commended to his own congregations the ancient practice of gathering food and material goods in the church and distributing them among the poor. Then, he noted, the sacrament was “properly used” and people “understood this fellowship…well.”

Luther took an additional step in his own version of welfare reform and created a new priesthood which would now be responsible for relief to the poor: “the priesthood of all believers.” Convinced that there ought to be no beggars in Christendom, he counseled every village to become acquainted with the poor in its midst. After all, this is what the priest would have done.

If we would include ourselves in the “priesthood of all believers,” we must accept the duties and responsibilities of that calling. Empowered by the Body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, we move into the world in witness and service, giving what has first been given us. Think of the Offertory Prayer: “We offer with joy and thanksgiving what

From Faith Practice, Faith Lives, by Dr. Martha Stortz

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