by Emily Donnell
If you’ve been following The Lutheran Center blog for the past few weeks (which I know everyone has been), I’ll bet you’ve noticed a theme. At the beginning of January, four Lutheran Center students, including myself, spent a few days at a retreat center in Schulyer that’s run by Benedictine monks at the nearby Christ the King Priory. Pastor Adam invited (told) us to attend a class called Emmaus. Over the course of three days, we learned about Lutheran tradition, theology, and how to read scripture.
Going into Emmaus, I had a lot of questions about the sacraments. Lutherans recognize baptism and communion as sacraments—places where God has promised to be present. Starting in 7th grade and throughout my senior year, my family went to an Evangelical church, which meant these “sacraments” were things that I did purely for remembrance or symbolism. Yes, God commanded me to do them, but they didn’t actually do anything within me. I stuck to this belief because it was comfortable, and to be honest, less fantastical.
With communion in particular, I was used to believing that the cracker I got back home was nothing more than just a cracker and the grape juice just grape juice. I kind of just ignored Pastor Adam when he did the blessing thing on Sundays because it all just seemed a little too magical. How could I just decide to believe that Jesus was fully present in this bread and wine but that the bread and wine was also fully present? Throughout the course of Emmaus, I struggled with the sacraments. Overtime, the Lutheran perspective started to make sense, but that just made things more complicated for me. When both understandings make sense and have evidence to back them up, which one do I believe?
On the last morning of Emmaus, I tried to believe that God was present in the bread and the wine. This brought up another question: If God is really present, what does that do for me? Should I feel any different?
The fact is, the sacraments are mysteries, and it’s not about us or what we believe. I was making it too much about myself, which I’m sure many people do. Communion is not about us. It’s not about what I believe happens or whether or not I believe it’s special in any way. It’s about God. God promises to show up in communion, no matter how we think God does it. God’s there, and that’s the part that matters. This should bring us comfort. It was hard for me to let go and to just trust in that promise, but I think I’m getting better at it.