The Pastor's Windshield for Sunday, July 17, 2022

When was the last time you called something “salutary”? Probably never! It’s not in our everyday lingo. However, this word is rich with meaning. We sometimes hear this word in the communion liturgy in which the pastor says “It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord …” Those words (published in 1941) sound old-fashioned to our ears, but the meaning is simple: it’s always good and appropriate to thank and praise the Lord – and Holy Communion especially should be received with thanksgiving to Him!

Another time when the word “salutary” comes up is in this little prayer, often spoken after receiving Communion: “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another ...”

The “salutary gift” referenced in the prayer is the body and blood of Christ which we’ve just received at His Altar. But what are we saying about Communion when we call it “salutary”?

Here's an example of something that’s not necessarily salutary: one of my loved ones recently gave me a gift. It was a large bag of Andes Mints. I’m a big fan of both chocolate and mint and Andes Mints are the best of both worlds! It was a delicious gift and one that didn’t last long, but was it salutary? Sugar and chocolate are tasty and tempting, but probably not worthy of being called “salutary.”

Something that is salutary is good for you. It is wholesome and beneficial. Things like candy and junk food are fun treats, but we all know that they’re not as good for us as things like fresh fruits and vegetables. 

The Lord’s Supper is one of God’s salutary gifts for us because He gives it to His church for our good. As we receive Christ’s body and blood, He meets our greatest need: the forgiveness of our sins. Without Christ’s forgiveness, we’d face an eternity of God’s wrath toward our sin. But assured of our forgiveness for Christ’s sake, we can confidently approach God and look forward to spending eternity in His perfect presence!

The Lord’s Supper is also “salutary” in the sense of strengthening our union both with Christ and with one another, for we are His body as members of the church. 

Martin Luther had a creative way of illustrating the reasons for receiving this salutary gift. In his “Christian Questions and their Answers”, Luther addresses what we should do when we don’t feel the need to receive the Sacrament. He writes, “To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood … Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble … Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without …”

All three of those things are true of us. We still live in our sinful flesh. We still deal with the troubles of the world around us. We still face the constant assaults and temptations of the devil. These struggles should drive us to Christ and to his house where we join with our fellow sinner-saints in receiving Christ’s salutary gifts!

The introduction to our Lutheran Service Book hymnal offers this helpful summary: “Our Lord serves us today through His holy Word and Sacraments. Through these means, He comes among us to deliver His forgiveness and salvation, freeing us from our sins and strengthening us for service to one another and to the world … With His Holy Word, written in Scripture and preached into our ears, He daily proclaims His abiding love for us through all the joys and sorrows of life in this world. In His Holy Supper, He gives us His own body and blood to eat and to drink as a priceless gift to nourish and strengthen us in both body and soul.”

In closing, remember this: Jesus invites us to come and be nourished through the “salutary gifts” of His Word and Supper!

Peace in Christ,

                  Pastor Kory Janneke