Beloved in Jesus Christ, since we hope next Lord's Day (or: since it is our privilege this day) to celebrate the blessed sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we are called to prepare our hearts by rightly examining ourselves. For the apostle Paul has written: "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" (1 Cor. 11:27-28). Let all of us, then, examine our lives and, considering our own sin and the wrath of God on it, be sure that we humble ourselves in repentance before God.
Let us examine our hearts to be sure that we trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, and that we believe our sins are forgiven wholly by grace, for the sake of our Lord's sacrifice on the cross.
Finally, let us examine our consciences to be sure that we resolve to live in faith and obedience before our Lord, and in love and peace with our neighbors.
God will surely receive at the table of his Son all who truly repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and desire to do his will. All those, however, who do not repent, who do not put their trust in the Lord Jesus, and who have no desire to lead a godly life, are warned, according to the command of God, to keep themselves from the holy sacrament. If we are living in disobedience to Christ and in enmity with our neighbors, we must repent of our sin and reconcile ourselves to our neighbors before we come to the Lord's table. For if we partake of the sacrament in unbelief and willful disobedience, we eat and drink judgment to ourselves.
This solemn warning is not designed, however, to discourage penitent sinners from coming to the holy sacrament. We do not come to the supper as though we were righteous in ourselves but rather to testify that we are sinners and that we look to Jesus Christ for our salvation. Although we do not have perfect faith and do not serve and love God with all our hearts, and though we do not love our neighbors as we ought, we are confident that the Savior accepts us at his table when we come in humble faith, with sorrow for our sins, and with a will to follow him as he commands.*
[And since it is necessary for us to come to the sacrament in good conscience, we urge any who lack this confidence to seek from the minister or any elder of this church such counsel as may quiet their consciences or lead to the conversion of their lives.]
All, then, who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and who earnestly desire to lead a godly life, ought to accept the invitation now given and come with gladness to the table of their Lord. That we may rightly examine ourselves before God, let us seek his gracious help through prayer.
Almighty God, who has given us the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who has provided a most wonderful communion with him through the mystery of the sacrament, we ask you for grace to enable us to prepare our hearts to receive holy communion. To all who sincerely believe in your Son and truly repent of their sins, grant assurance of your gracious readiness to receive and bless them in the supper of their Lord. To all who have not repented and have not put their trust in the Lord Jesus, grant a restraining fear of this supper, lest their condemnation be greater. But have mercy upon these and grant them grace to repent of their sins and seek their salvation in your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We confess, O Father, that we have all offended your majesty and deserved your judgment. We have transgressed in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. We are truly weak. Be merciful, O God, and grant us your pardon. And let us come to the sacrament in the joy of your forgiving love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, one only God, lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Beloved in the Lord, hear the words of the apostle Paul concerning the institution of the holy supper of our Lord Jesus Christ:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor. 11:23-29).
Let us hear also a brief instruction concerning the purpose for which the sacrament was ordained.
When our Lord said, "Do this in remembrance of me," he ordained this holy supper as a constant memorial and visible proclamation of his death. The apostle Paul also teaches us that as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord's death. As we partake of this communion supper, therefore, we bear witness that our Lord Jesus was sent by the Father into the world, that he took upon himself our flesh and blood, and that he bore the wrath of God on the cross for us. We also confess that he came to earth to bring us to heaven, that he was condemned to die that we might be pardoned, that he endured the suffering and death of the cross that we might live through him, and that he was once forsaken by God that we might forever be accepted by him.
The sacrament thus confirms us in God's abiding love and covenant faithfulness. By his holy supper, our Lord seals to our hearts the promises of God's gracious covenant and so assures us that we belong to his covenant family. Let us then be persuaded as we eat and drink that God will always love us and accept us as his children for the sake of his Son.
Our Lord promises, moreover, that as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are fed with his crucified body and shed blood. To this end he gives us his life-giving Spirit, through whom the body and blood of our Lord become the life-giving nourishment of our souls. Thus he unites us with himself and so imparts the precious benefits of his sacrifice to all who partake in faith. The holy sacrament is also a means of grace that unites us with one another in the bond of the Spirit. For the apostle says that "we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). Thus, even as he unites us with himself, he strengthens the bond of communion between us, his children.
Finally, the remembrance of our Lord's death revives in us the hope of his return. Since he commanded us to do this until he comes, the Lord assures us that he will come again to take us to himself. So, as we commune with him now under the veil of these earthly elements, we are assured that we shall sometime behold him face to face and rejoice in the glory of his appearing. Our Lord Jesus will surely do what he has promised. Let us draw near to his table, then, believing that he will strengthen us in faith, unite us in love, and establish us more firmly in the hope of his coming.
Now "to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen" (Rev. 1:5b-6).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, with one accord we give you thanks for all the blessings of your grace; but most of all we thank you for the unspeakable gift of your Son Jesus Christ. We most humbly thank you that your Son came to us in human form, that he lived a perfect life on earth, that he died for us on the cross, and that he arose victoriously from the dead. We bless you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, for the gospel of reconciliation, for the church universal, for the ministry and the sacraments of the church, and for the blessed hope of everlasting life. We pray, gracious Father, that you will grant us your Holy Spirit, that through this sacrament our souls may truly be fed with the crucified body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant us the full assurance of your grace as we draw near to your holy table, filling our hearts with humble gratitude for your mercies. Unite us more fully with our blessed Lord, and so also with one another. Enable us, in newness of life, to pledge ourselves in service to Christ and all your children. And lift our hearts to you, that in all the troubles and sorrows of this life we may persevere in the living hope of the coming of our Savior in glory.
Answer us, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray, saying:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
As we draw near to the table of our Lord, let us confess our Christian faith:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again
from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand
of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge
the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
[Having approached the table, the minister shall say]: Beloved, hear these gracious words of promise spoken by our Lord: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29).
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:35, 37b). "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matt. 5:6).
Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, let us lift up our hearts to the Lord; let us lift them up to the God of our salvation.
[As he breaks the bread, the minister shall say]:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." (1 Cor. 11:23b- 24).
[At the eating of the bread, the minister shall say]:
Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.
[As he takes the cup, the minister shall say]:
"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matt. 26:27-28).
[At the drinking of the wine, the minister shall say]:
Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.
[When the communion is completed, the minister shall say]:
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases; he redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion" (Ps. 103:1-4). "You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11). "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise" (Rev. 5:12).
"My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever (Ps. 145:21)."
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we give to you our humble and hearty thanks, that you in your great mercy have given us your Son to be our Savior from sin and to be our constant source of faith, hope, and love. We bless you for permitting us to show forth his death and to receive the communion of his body and blood through the holy sacrament. We praise you for uniting us more fully with the body of Christ, and for assuring us that we are heirs of your heavenly kingdom. Grant, we ask you, that our commemoration of his death may help to daily increase our faith, to establish our hope, and to strengthen our love. Enable us henceforth to live always for him who gave himself for us, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
*If this preparatory exhortation and the communion formulary are combined for use in the communion service, omit the bracketed paragraph.
Prepared in response to a mandate from the Synod of 1957, this form was finally adopted in 1964. While retaining the basic sections found in the Dutch form of 1566, this form is considerably shortened and simplified.