Friday, October 7, 2011

A BIBLICAL, HISTORIC, AND CONFESSIONALLY LUTHERAN PRACTICE OF HOLY COMMUNION -- Part 3

Continued from Wednesday . . .

Objections (cont'd)
Some might say that the practice of every-Sunday communion is “too Catholic.” Yet, it can be proven without a doubt that before there was a distinctly “Roman Catholic” church, and for the first two hundred years after the Reformation, every-Sunday Communion was the rule rather than the exception throughout all of Christendom, including the Lutheran Church. Thus, such a practice is no more “Catholic” than singing the “Glory be to the Father,” or rising to hear the Gospel Reading. Indeed, our formerly Roman Catholic members have often asked me why it is that we alone have the true teaching of the Lord’s Supper yet do not observe it during every service.

The fact is, it is actually quite possible that retaining the historic and Biblical practice of Holy Communion could perhaps even attract some from the Roman church who are searching for both true teaching and practice.

Another objection is that some fear that people could begin to take the Lord’s Supper for granted; that it would lose some of its uniqueness and special meaning. This is an interesting concern. Would we say the same thing about the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creeds, which are repeated nearly every week? That’s not very likely. Indeed, a service without those items would seem incomplete. In addition, just because these and other parts of the liturgy can be said without thinking, does not mean we need to remove them from our worship for two or three Sundays out of four. The same is true of much of our ancient liturgy. Repetition is, after all, the mother of learning. And, if “confession is good for the soul,” how much better would be the weekly repetition of hearing, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins!”

But what about the question, “Do we really need Communion every week?” The answer to that too is simple. We sin every day. We need forgiveness every day. So, we really need the Lord’s Supper every day. But because this sacrament is also a “communion” with others, we wait until we can gather together to partake of its blessings. That should happen every time we gather together for worship, that is, at least every Sunday. Thus, there is no reason why we should not quench our spiritual thirst, and demonstrate our unity in Christ every Sunday.

Others will certainly point out that by having Communion every Sunday we greatly increase the chances that we’re going to offend certain visitors by perhaps having to tell them they may not commune with us. This may indeed happen. But it already happens whenever we offer Communion. Besides, are we ashamed or unsure of our very Biblical doctrines on the Lord’s Supper and on the necessary prerequisites for practicing religious unity? Has our clearly Scriptural teaching of “Closed Communion” become an embarrassment to us? Let us remember that we do not take this stand based on our own tradition, nor do we always make our determinations based merely and solely on a person’s denominational affiliation.

In this regard we stand firmly and squarely on the clear passages of Scripture. That being the case, what would people think of a church that was afraid to follow one its own basic teachings? I think we would all agree that such a church would not be worth joining anyway.

Still another objection might be that, especially in small, distant congregations, without teachers, and with limited numbers of Elders, it would not always be possible to find someone to commune the Pastor. This need not constrain us if we understand that there is no Biblical injunction against the Pastor communing himself. Dr. Reed reminds us:
“Self-communion of the minister has always been an open question in Lutheran liturgics. Luther himself approved of it and repeatedly defended it. It is quite certain that for a generation or two this action was usual in Lutheran services. The Schmalkald Articles forbid self-communion only when this involves reception apart from the congregation. (Part II, Art. II). Chemnitz says the minister includes himself in the confession and the absolution and he may include himself in the Communion.”
Also, there are a few no doubt who would object to this practice simply on the grounds that it would make every service much longer. While it should go without saying that such is a purely worldly consideration, still, the fact is that our Communion Services, for the most part, last no longer than an hour.

Finally, perhaps the most difficult objection would come from those who might feel judged as less of a believer by others in the congregation if the Lord's Supper was celebrated, but they did not partake. Thus, they would feel compelled to come to Christ’s Table even when they did not feel they were properly prepared.

I agree that this would truly be an offence against their faith. To this I can only say that no one should ever feel forced to take Holy Communion. Jesus invites us freely, and we should partake freely, under compulsion from no one. In this, everyone’s own decision according to their own Christian conscience is always to be respected.

There may still be other objections I have not touched upon. And, although I am more convinced than ever that this is the right and proper course to take, I also recognize that this is a matter on which good and faithful believers can have a difference of opinion and still be good Christians.


Conclusion
I pray that no confessional Lutheran would ever feel uncomfortable or put upon due to this practice. As a spiritual shepherd, responsible for souls and the strengthening of faith, I am only recommending a way by which our worship and our celebration of the Holy Sacrament may serve our needs even better, build up Christ’s kingdom, and bring glory to God.

To Him alone be praise and honor now and forever! Amen.


Pastor Spencer

1 comment:

LutherRocks said...

This made me think of a story I saw while watching an episode of "America's Game". It was about the '66 or '67 Green Bay Packers. Lombardi, a Roman Catholic, was known to attend Mass daily. When a fellow player called it to Bart Starr's attention, he replied, 'because he needs it'.

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