Summary: How does one prepare for Holy Communion? With a humble faith. The parable of the Prodigal Son will illustrate such a faith.
The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) held the grand opening of its hip new $88 million building in January. Were you invited to this black tie event? Neither was I. Then again I didn’t give a million dollars for the construction of the Gallery nor am I a friend of the mayor. Gallery openings are only for the rich and well connected.
You may not have been invited to the AGA’s grand opening but many of you have come here to join in a celebration of another kind, Holy Communion. While this event is not just for the rich and influential it isn’t open to everybody. Only those who are properly prepared should receive Holy Communion. What’s the proper way to prepare for this celebration? The 16th Century reformer, Martin Luther, wrote: “Fasting and other outward preparations may serve a good purpose, but he is properly prepared who believes these words: ‘Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ ...the words ‘for you’ require nothing but hearts that believe.” We’re going to learn tonight that Holy Communion is a “humble pie” not “black tie” event.
Any visitor tonight should have no difficulty seeing that we don’t enforce a dress code for Communion. Of course because of what Jesus offers here, his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, I always encourage my confirmands to dress up for the sacrament. But just as it’s more important to tune your car’s engine before a road trip than ensuring a perfect wax finish on the hood, it’s more critical to prepare our hearts rather than our hair for Communion. How does God want us to do this? Through humble faith, as Luther pointed out. The Parable of the Prodigal Son will illustrate such a faith. (Read Luke 15:11-24.)
This parable opens with a shocking demand. A young man asks his father for his share of the inheritance. This is not Junior angling for a $5 increase to his allowance; this is Junior saying, “Dad, I want right now the inheritance you intend to give me when you die.” He might as well have declared: “Dad, I’m tired of living under your roof by your rules. Why don’t you die already so I can get my hands on the inheritance to do what I want?” The young man didn’t break any rules by asking for his inheritance. He did something much worse. He broke his father’s heart.
Do you see yourself in the young man? Are you a bratty child who has said to the heavenly Father, “It’s my life. Why do you make it so difficult with your rules? Honor my parents? Why should I? They don’t deserve my respect. Spend time in your Word? To tell you the truth, I can’t wait for these midweek services to be done so I can have my Wednesday nights back again. Love those who hate me? Are you kidding? I’m not going to let others walk all over me!” We may have never verbalized the wish for God to drop dead but we have thought him a “meddlesome” presence. We have broken God’s commands and in so doing we have broken the Father’s heart.