While in Guatemala on my recent mission trip, I had an unexpected request. Our team joined in worship with the members of World’s Redeemer Lutheran Church in the small Mayan village of Santiago Zamora. Local church laymen were prepared to conduct the service including the delivery of a message, all in Spanish. However, the pastor who was to be there to officiate over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper could not make it at the last minute. So, knowing I was a pastor of the LCMS, a body that shares fellowship with them, the local leaders invited me to officiate. “Great,” I thought, “I’d love to share this awesome gift of God with these fellow Lutherans.” One problem. They asked me to lead the service in Spanish. Fortunately, the service was written out in the bulletin. So, I practiced reading the Spanish words in the five minutes that remained before the start of the service. By God’s power, I was able to read the liturgy of the Supper, including the Words of Institution, with the proper fluency and inflection. The members of the Spanish-speaking congregation followed and responded without a pause. They acted as though it was perfectly normal. I was the representative of Jesus to them. They eagerly held out their empty hands to receive the Body of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and strengthening of their faith.
This experience awed and humbled me. I was reminded that God is powerful beyond the limits of language and officiant. The power in the Lord’s Supper is not at all about me, the pastor, or the language I usually speak. It’s all about Jesus, our Lord and Savior. He instituted the Supper in one language, but His words have been translated into thousands of other languages ever since. In each of those languages, the Supper has been instituted as Jesus intended to be a source of life and blessing. Whenever Jesus is focused upon as the highest priority in worship, His power will have the opportunity to work.
Keeping Jesus first in worship unites all who receive His gifts, regardless of the language used. I felt a profound unity with my Mayan brothers and sisters that day. Whether the words were in English or in Spanish, the message was the same. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. His Body and Blood are really present in the Supper to wash away our sins. All Christians, regardless of language, are bound in this Supper that turns our eyes, together, to Jesus. Awesome!