How do Lutherans understand the Lord's Supper?

"Instituted by Jesus Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink....

What is its benefit of such eating and drinking? We are told in the words 'for you' and 'for the forgiveness of sins.' By these words the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation."

—from Martin Luther, Small Catechism, 1529

Some key principles from the ELCA's The Use of the Means of Grace

  • The Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus Christ on the night of his betrayal. 
  • At the table of our Lord Jesus Christ, God nourishes faith, forgives sin, and calls us to be witnesses to the Gospel.
  • In this sacrament the crucified and risen Christ is present, giving his true body and blood as food and drink. This real presence is a mystery.
  • Believing in the real presence of Christ, this church practices eucharistic hospitality. All baptized persons are welcomed to Communion when they are visiting in the congregations of this church.

Some guidelines from the ELCA's The Use of the Means of Grace

  • The Lord's Supper is normally celebrated in a congregation
  • The Lord's Supper is normally celebrated every Sunday
  • Those who commune normally receive both bread and wine
  • An ordained minister normally presides
  • The two principal parts of the liturgy of Holy Communion, the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacramental meal, are so intimately connected as to form one act of worship.

Note: The Lord's Supper goes under a variety of names, including Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Divine Liturgy, and the Divine Service.

These summary principles were excerpted from The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's The Use of the Means of Grace: A Statement on the Practice of Word and Sacrament. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1997