Consider both the witness of scripture and the Lutheran confessions. The New Testament shows Jesus revealed in the breaking of the bread on the first day of the week and tells of the apostles who gathered regularly for the breaking of bread and prayers. The pattern of weekly gatherings around word and sacrament was affirmed by early Lutherans and reaffirmed by the ELCA in The Use of the Means of Grace: A Statement on the Practice of Word and Sacrament
. "According to the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Lutheran congregations celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday and festival. This confession remains the norm for our practice." As plans are made to move to celebration of Holy Communion each Sunday, hold this central piece of our identity as members of the body of Christ sustained by the gift of Christ’s body as the focus of catechesis, teaching, and pastoral planning.
In spite of the confessional affirmation that Lutherans celebrate Holy Communion each week, a number of historical and cultural influences have shaped congregational life and, in some places, made Holy Communion a bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly experience. These old patterns and practices can be tenacious, and pastors and members of congregations often find the move to more frequent celebration of Holy Communion met with resistance. A pastoral awareness of a congregation’s context and culture will provide an understanding of questions that might be raised and catechesis that might be needed.
Concern might be raised about worshippers coming to the sacrament with less thought or preparation. Luther himself addressed this concern and spoke both of frequent reception and regular preparation. "Now that we have the right interpretation and doctrine of the sacrament, there is great need also of an admonition and entreaty that so great a treasure, which is daily administered and distributed among Christians, may not be heedlessly passed by. What I mean is that those who claim to be Christians should prepare themselves to receive this blessed sacrament frequently." Preparation for communion can become a part of the weekly habit of a life of faith.
Another concern is raised when some wonder if weekly celebrations of Holy Communion will make the sacrament less ‘special.’ In fact, it seems from the experience of many that just the opposite is the case. The sacrament has become more meaningful. With infrequent celebrations of Holy Communion, preparation tends to focus mostly on repentance and the forgiveness of sin. With frequent celebrations, people find that the Body of Christ sustains them through a variety of experiences. Joy, grief, hope, repentance, thanksgiving, anxiety, and other aspects of life are all met with the grace of God in Jesus Christ made present in bread and wine.
When to begin the move toward weekly celebrations of Holy Communion is a lively question. The answer could come from scriptural insight and the pattern of the liturgical year. The fifty days of Easter might be the place to begin celebrating weekly Eucharist. During these days each year, the Sunday scriptures recount the risen Christ revealing himself to the disciples at meals and through the breaking of the bread. In our assemblies, that same risen Christ is present. Beginning the move to weekly celebrations of Holy Communion during Easter is also a way for congregations to sustain the joy of a season that too often loses focus by the Day of Pentecost. And this long season affords the opportunity for people to bring a variety of life experiences and needs over the course of the seven weeks.
While the celebration of Holy Communion each Sunday is the norm for Lutheran pastoral practice, The Use of the Means of Grace guides congregations with the reminder that "not every service need be a Eucharist." Congregations with multiple services on Sunday morning may still choose to include Morning Prayer, Service of the Word, or a Service of Word and Prayer as a part of their Sunday routine. Nor does the celebration of Holy Communion each week mean that all worshippers must receive Holy Communion each week. "Participation in the sacramental meal is by invitation, not demand." The biblical and confessional witness continues to remind us of Christ’s command to do this is memory of him, of his promise of grace, and our deep need to be sustained by his presence.