Skip to content

Luther vs Cranmer on Lord's Supper

John Richardson (whose excellent blog is here) adds his voice to this discussion on Stand Firm in Faith.  He writes about the place of repentance in the communion service.  It chimes with a lot of what I wrote here

I have long felt Anglicanism (specifically Thomas Cranmer) to be good at driving us to our knees in repentance, but not so good at letting us get up again.

In regard to this, I would point out the contrast between what the Book of Common Prayer says about our preparation to receive Holy Communion and what Luther said. The Exhortation in the BCP says in effect that if we are to receive Communion worthily we must first put ourselves right with God.

Contrast this with Luther. First, he says, “There must be faith to make the reception worthy and acceptable before God, otherwise it is nothing but sham and a mere external show.”

And what is this faith? It is “a firm trust that Christ, the Son of God, stands in our place and has taken all our sins upon his shoulders and that he is the eternal satisfaction for our sin and reconciles us with God the Father.”

But what does this mean for our ‘worthiness’? “This food demands a hungering and longing man, for it delights to enter a hungry soul, which is constantly battling with its sins and eager to be rid of them.”

Therefore those with the right faith are those, “who suffer tribulation, physical or spiritual ... spiritually through despair of conscience, outwardly or inwardly, when the devil causes your heart to be weak, timid, and discouraged, so that you do not know how you stand with God, and when he casts your sins into your face.” (emphasis added)

I don’t think the BCP reflects this. Rather, the BCP urges communicants first: “search and examine your own consciences ... that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table” and so, “examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life” (emphasis added).

The Anglican way is ‘be cleansed, then come’. The Lutheran way is ‘come and be cleansed’.

For my view, go to this sermon called Eating with Jesus (listen here).  Just don't tell the bishop.



2 thoughts on “Luther vs Cranmer on Lord's Supper

  1. Dev

    doesn't this 'prepare yourself before you come to the table' stuff - which is also a very much part of the Presbyterian service - come from a rather misunderstood 1 Cor 11?

    good to see you back online Glen =)

  2. glenscriv

    Thanks Dev,

    Yes 1 Cor 11 is definitely the background.

    There are actually three exhortations (warnings really!) in the book of common prayer. The first is a warning to be given prior to the communion service (lots of self-examination required). The second is a warning to be given if it looks like people *aren't* going to come to communion - which given the solemn warnings of the first exhortation is not surprising. But this second exhortation is also a warning - "When God calleth you, are ye not ashamed to say ye will not come?" etc etc. The third one is to be said right before distribution and 1 Cor 11 is definitely in the foreground:

    "...If we receive... unworthily... then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord's Body; we kindle God's wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries..."

    Read them here (about a third of the way down)

    Very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Twitter widget by Rimon Habib - BuddyPress Expert Developer