St. John’s Spirit
Monthly newsletter of
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Revealing what we believe about
For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
(1 Cor 11:29)
There’s a hot debate among Lutherans about “online Holy Communion” or “dispersed Communion.” The idea is that a pastor presides from one location (even by recorded service) and individuals in their home use their own wine or grape juice and bread to receive communion. Proponents say this brings the confidence and comfort of Christ’s presence in an anxious time. Opponents say it violates the principles of the Word-made-flesh in the gathered in-person community, the single source of bread and wine (sing “One Bread, One Body” to get the point), and the agreement among global Lutherans to only celebrate the Eucharist when we are gathered in-person. For everyone, the moment is revealing what we believe about Holy Communion. I think it is a good opportunity to pause and think about it carefully.
The verse at the top of this article from 1 Corinthians is crucial in this discussion. It is taken to mean that an individual receiving communion must recognize that they are receiving truly Christ’s Body and Blood. It looks, smells, tastes, and feels like bread and wine—but by trusting Jesus’ words, it is simultaneously his Body and Blood. The idea is that if you don’t believe that you receive the true body of Christ with the bread, it isn’t Holy Communion. For Lutheran Christians, this is a central idea: the bread is the body of Christ, the wine is the blood of Christ because the recipient has trusted Christ’s promise, “this is my body, given for you” and “this is my blood shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” The person who believes the promise has exactly what it says.
One can argue for “dispersed communion” rightly suggesting that the individual’s trust in the promise is crucial. Even when we are gathered in-person, if a person does not trust Jesus’ words, they are not receiving Christ and his benefits when they eat the bread and drink the wine. We don’t need to intellectually understand how it can be both bread and the Body of Christ at the same time. It is the trust in Christ’s promise that is essential.
However, Biblical scholars in Luther’s time and in our own have made a strong case that an individual’s trust isn’t exactly what Paul was talking about. Paul primarily means “body” to mean the “body of believers gathered,” as elsewhere in the letter (see 1 Cor 12:12). Some Christians are gathering to eat the Lord’s Supper before everyone has arrived and by the time the rest get there, it’s all gone (1 Cor 11:21-22). Paul says they are not “discerning the body,” that is recognizing that it is in the gathering of diverse believers in-person that it is appropriate to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The idea is that an individual, a family, or a group of friends does not reflect the “many” (Matt 26:28), that is, the diversity, of the Body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12:12-13). For this reason, we do not celebrate “private” Holy Communion, for example, a bride and groom to be the only ones to receive the sacrament at a wedding. If Holy Communion is to be celebrated, it must be available to all the baptized who are present or who desire to be present.
So, those who argue against “dispersed communion” rightly suggest that the “body” in 1 Cor 11 refers to the gathered body of believers who are united in Christ through baptism. “Body” does not mean an individual, family, or group united by anything else. To “discern the body” means to recognize the diverse body of believers gathered in-person as well as the agreement among believers around the world about how Holy Communion is practiced. An individual community like St. John’s can’t just decide for itself to change to “dispersed communion.” If we did that, we wouldn’t be discerning the larger body of believers around the world.
For this reason, we aren’t practicing “dispersed communion” at St. John’s even though we acknowledge that a few ELCA congregations are choosing to do so. After much discussion, the Lutheran World Federation eventually may conclude that we can “discern the body,” that is, the larger Church, gathered even online, but we aren’t there yet. To adopt it without agreement or to try to force others to follow along risks their trust in Christ’s promise, “This is my body given for you…my blood shed for you.” This faith is the first and most important issue for us as Lutheran Christians. So, we will restrain ourselves until there is true agreement.
Take heart that you do not need Holy Communion to be united with Jesus or to have community with other believers. Baptism is the essential sacrament that unites us with Jesus and creates the Church. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, quoting Mark 16:16, “All who believe and are baptized will be saved.” We all need to be born to be alive; in the same way, we all need to be baptized to be born into God’s family (John 3:5). We renew that Baptism daily by dying to sin and rising to newness with Christ. We can fast from food for a while and still live; in the same way, we go without Holy Communion and still be united with Christ.
Yours in Christ,
Online Bible Studies
Monday Bible Study Monday May 11, 2020 7:00 p.m. via Bluejeans
Please go to our website at to join
Thursdays 10:00 a.m. via Bluejeans
Please go to our website at to join
Online Prayer Meetings
Monday through Friday 6:30 p.m. via Bluejeans
Please go to our website at to join
Tithes and Offerings
Please continue to mail in your tithes and offerings.
You may also give online. Go to our website and on the home page click on the red button that says “Give Online”.
Family Promise – May 3rd through 9th – Delivering Food
Although we won’t be hosting families at the St. John’s campus, we will be providing food for families who are homeless and staying at Family Promises’ apartments in Scottsdale May 3 through 9th.
Email Phil Bacon at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help in any way.
Corona virus impacts the pantry
The food pantry has seen a great increase in families needing food.
New families coming in every day. We are out or nearly out of most of the items that we normally put in the boxes. Our storeroom that is usually full has only a few items left in it. Grocery stores are having a hard time getting food to stock their shelves so we cannot buy in bulk at this time.
Items needed – peanut butter, cereal, mac & cheese, tuna packets,
canned pinto or refried beans, pork and beans, soup, ramen noodles,
canned vegetables and crackers.
Other items needed—baby diapers (sizes3,4 & 5), toilet paper and bar soap,
or any non-perishable items.
We appreciate your help in feeding our community!
Just as we are aching to be in-person to receive the Eucharist, we have young people aching to receive their first communion, as they would have on Maundy Thursday in other years.
Please pray for their preparation to receive the Sacrament when we are in-person again!
Confirmations when we are in-person
When we are reunited in person, we will celebrate with Amanda Brink, Braeden Ching, Scott Hammar, Trella Hammar,
Matthew Huehn, and Zain Hay,
who will share their faith. Please pray for them as they finish their confirmation program and prepare to begin a new chapter of following Jesus.
New Member Orientations
Introduction to Discipleship TBA
A “member of St. John’s” is a baptized Christian who publicly commits themselves to God’s work through this congregation. If you would like to become a member, please let the church office know (email@example.com) and plan on attending
orientations when we can gather in person again.
From Pastor Kristin Engstrom in Senegal
You can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On est ensemble! (We are in this together)
Louis and Annie Liss in Lebanon with their children Kyrie and David
Please read more at: https://lissestolebanon.wordpress.com/
Women of the ELCA (WELCA)
St. John’s women meet monthly from September to May for fellowship and Bible study.
The Covid-19 virus has changed the way we
worship and study and serve at St. John’s.
We will resume our WELCA Bible studies in September 2020.
While we wait, know that the Lord is with each of us
and brings us comfort and peace.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Faith 5: Building Christian Relationships
Bible Readings for May 2020
If you prefer to read the verses online,
go to biblegateway.com/usage/votd/votdlist
5/1 Hebrews 11:6 5/17 Romans 11:33
5/2 1 John 5:14-15 5/18 Hebrews 6:10
5/3 Romans 12:12 5/19 James 3:17-18
5/4 2 Chronicles 7:14 5/20 Romans 15:5-6
5/5 Philippians 4:6-7 5/21 1 Corinthians 1:10
5/6 James 5:16 5/22 Galatians 5:13
5/7 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 5/23 Romans 15:2
5/8 Colossians 4:5-6 5/24 Romans 12:10
5/9 Romans 8:1-2 5/25 James 1:19
5/10 Matthew 18:15 5/26 John 3:17
5/11 Ephesians 4:32 5/27 Acts 20:24
5/12 Proverbs 31:10, 27-28 5/28 Romans 12:15
5/13 Proverbs 31:30 5/29 Psalm 103:17-18
5/14 Psalm 139:13-14 5/30 Psalm 56:4
5/15 Ecclesiastes 11:5 5/31 1 Thessalonians 4:1
5/16 Zephaniah 3:17
VBS is cancelled this summer.
We are planning on Summer Sunday School and will be sending emails to families to be deepening relationships with God and each other!
Look for more information coming soon!
West Valley Lutheran Thrift Shop
10615 West Peoria Ave, Sun City
As you probably know, we are abiding by the Governor’s order to Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected which resulted in closing the Shop for the time being. (This is as of 4/15/2020). Though it is not what we’d like to be doing, it is certainly the prudent thing to do. We will re-open as soon as we can. The Shop is being cleaned regularly and we will be ready to open very quickly when allowed to do so. We expect to be very busy once we get back to it!
Please watch our Facebook postings or
go to the website to check status.
Check us out on Facebook
Keep up with the WVLTS on Facebook:
Congregational Meeting TBA
The Congregation is the primary decision-making body at St. John’s. Look for announcements about when we will meet to elect new council members and consider other business. Annual reports will be available to download in May. Please thank all Council members and Committee chairs for their awesome leadership during these extraordinary days!
Special thanks to those who donated gifts for Easter.
Connie donated for seedlings in honor of loved ones.
Barb and Arnie donated for baby chicks and seedlings
in honor of their grandchildren.
Darla donated for baby chicks in memory of Paul G.
Rose donated for baby chicks and seedlings in honor of all the front line helpers (doctors, nurses, firemen, EMT’s, police,
pharmacists, grocery helpers.
Evangeline donated for baby chicks in memory of Wesley.
Sharon and Dennis donated for baby chicks in honor of their five grandchildren, Victoria, Kolt, Constance, Johanna, and Van.
Glenn donated for baby chicks in memory of Phil.
Ann donated for azaleas and baby chicks in memory
of all of her dearly departed family members.
Judy donated for Easter flowers.
Elinor donated for Easter flowers.