Communion Police

I’ve begun asking some questions about communion or The Lord’s Supper.  I know what my professors at seminary would say, and I respect them a lot, but is there something beyond what we can explain in textbooks?  I would venture a guess that many of my professors would probably say, “yes.”

In a church plant you have to walk some fine lines when it comes to church order and practical theology.  There are certain rules and ways of practicing the institution of communion that make good sense and make for a healthy life together as a church.  They can,  however, make things tricky in our setting.

For instance, when you create a welcoming space for worship where those who don’t believe are welcome to participate in the life of the body without believing, it can sound odd to then say, “everything but this.”  Now, you can say, it’s like a carrot, but at the very least it’s tricky.

There’s a part of the liturgy that invites all people who are baptized and members of a Christian church to participate in the meal together.  Confession time: I don’t say that.  I say something like this: “If you believe Jesus is the Son of God and put your faith in Him for salvation, you’re welcome to participate.  If not, that’s OK, because that’s where you are right now – you can feel free to come foreward also and receive a blessing.”

We don’t have communion police, and I don’t withhold the meal from those who I know to be questioning those very things.  I understand there are many who might say we are eating and drinking condemnation upon ourselves, but my hope is this: that there is something mystical in the elements or in the act of coming forward or in making the move with the feet and hands and mouth that creates a connection with Christ.  Is there something in the this non-Christian taking that step?  I think God blesses that and meets them there – somehow.

I’m holding the cup and as each person comes forward I’m praying for their faith and for the efficacy of Christ in their life.  What happens in holy Communion?  I’m not sure, but I’m praying for some miracle in the lives of those who participate.

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  1. April 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Hey Jim,

    I too have these same questions about the Eucharist. I tend to feel that there is something that incorporates both the wondrous beauty of consubstantiation and Calvin’s view of the work of the Holy Spirit. After taking it weekly for 3 years now, something I had not done until now in my life, I HAVE to say that there is something more… But I’m just a mere church musician.

    In our “Reformed” tradition, it we got away from the wondrous, the supernatural and we elevated the enlightenment principals of scientific reason and logic to an improper level. I think that we lost the perspective that holding this universe together is not some small little atom around which all things electromagnetically revolve, but a human being, a God man, Christ. I love this Chesterton quote from Orthodoxy:

    “It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE. Heaven may ENCORE the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose.”

    Is it possible that Science itself is God’s consistently showering grace upon us for our own well being?

    As far as fencing the table, this is something that we struggle with as well. Our church is asking the same questions as we have such a communal emphasis placed on Communion. I LOVE that you fence the table and offer a blessing (a la Our Anglican/Lutheran/Catholic brothers) as this provides hope to the individual worshiper as well as the freedom to confess sin outwardly within worship and within the community and not feel rejected or shamed by the community. This is what I do when I have the opportunity to attend Catholic mass. It is also a beautiful nod to our catholic(universal) history. I guess we should hope that Christ’s saving grace covers the sin and judgment that heap upon ourselves, the ashes that we’ve thrown in our eyes. Shovel any thoughts on this my direction as we regularly bring this up over a few pints and always love to hear more thoughts.

    Blessings in your ministry Brother! Bonnie and I loved visiting your church when we had the chance last year. I enjoy your blog too and look forward to reading more.

    Rich

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