Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not exactly the image I had in mind

Last week in my Pastoral Rationale for Using the Common Cup, I suggested that the Common Cup is more consistent with the Words of Christ than Individual Cups are, and that the Common Cup is a much more appropriate symbol for Holy Communion than Individual Cups are. (See that article for the reasons I gave.)

I used several graphics and artistic representations from church history to illustrate those points:

But a new image for the Sacrament of Holy Communion just arrived yesterday in my mailbox. Without further comment, I’ll just say, I think it (unintentionally) strengthens my arguments for the Common Cup.

I’m very glad the editors of Forward in Christ decided to run an article on “The Sacramental Life,” from Jon Zabell’s worthy essay presented at last summer’s synod convention. This is good. At least the Sacrament is in focus! But the picture on the cover is better suited to the Reformed church down the road where they obediently drink shots of grape juice in memory of Jesus’ absent blood. The Lutheran Church has a better image for the Communion that takes place with the really present blood of Christ and with one another at the Lord’s Table. It looks like a chalice. Let’s not be afraid to use it!


Rev. David M. Juhl said...

In the calendar for one of the Missouri Synod seminaries is a shot similar to the cover of FIC. Way to promote sectarian practices, folks.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Rydecki,

This is too ironic to be believed. Either you didn't really get this yesterday, but got an advance copy two weeks ago, before you wrote your essay on using the common Cup; or, someone sent this to you as a parody (in really poor taste, I might add -- "And I offer a toast in remembrance of... Jesus!"); or, NPH is working overtime to respond to IL essays, and created this after you published your essay last week; or... there is complete disregard for reinforcing the three unions of Holy Communion in practice, and for representing that threefold unity with appropriate Christian imagery. It's one thing to be tolerant of departures from wholesome historic practice, quite another to hold them up as normative despite their relative shortcomings.

An explanation? Let me guess, "Our people are more familiar with the use of IC's than Common Cup, therefore this image is a more appropriate representation of the Sacrament," or some such nonsense. Do none of "our" people immediately recognize the image of the Common Cup? Are none of them reminded of the Sacrament by it just as vividly and immediately as they are ICs? Those questions are rhetorical, of course; it is unimagineable that the majority of laymen in the "most conservative Lutheran church body in America, if not the World" find the Common Cup so foreign that they don't know what it is or what its image communicates. One thing is for certain -- if anynone knows what the Common Cup is, then he is also aware of its relationship to the Sacrament, and immediately reminded of the unity shared by the communicants who drink from the "one cup" (i.e., the "horizontal" union), whether he "feels icky" about that unity or not. Images of IC's communicate no such unity, only a sterile individuality.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Unknown said...

The irony is pretty rich. Taking this issue into a slightly different direction, FIC has been taken to task for the use of "stock photography" in the past year as opposed to using actually photography in our Lutheran congregations. I wonder if sometimes the photography we use communicates some problems in and of themselves.

Outside that tangential issue, it most certainly will require education throughout our synod to make appropriate changes in the future in our practices. I am not sure the FIC will take up the issues as throughly and thoughtfully as blogs like the Intrepid Lutherans, but one can always pray and hope.

Blessings all and happy New Year.

PS --> In a positive change this coming New Year, our congregation as added two evening services - that of Epiphany and Ascension. Many of us are excited about adding these services to our church calendar.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the photo is drear, dull, and lacks a clear focus. The spiritual reality of God's gift is much more vibrant. Maybe Intrepid Lutherans should sponsor a photo contest to see if anyone could improve on this cover.

Rick Techlin

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Good idea, Rick!

Unknown said...

With all the problems hanging from the walls and rafters of the church, I don't understand why you chose to focus on a cup. You risk giving offense where it is unwarranted. Tread carefully when you get talking about symbolism in the Sacrament.
Besides, doesn't a service where both common and individual cup are offered present another challenge to understanding and risk further confusion? But what do I know? You might also look into the background of the individual cup in Arizona where so many came years ago with Tuberculosis. Talk about a distraction and challenge to partaking! "I just heard that man cough." Jeff Smith

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Jeff, if you read through my rationale, I think I covered all the items you questioned. If you didn't, please do. I was primarily sharing with our readers the reasons behind a local decision that has been made in my congregation, where, by the grace of God, we do not have all the problems that are "hanging from the walls and rafters of the church," except for the fact that the congregation is full of sinners, among whom their pastor is chief.

The cause for the above article with the FIC cover picture is really just the irony of the timing of my article last week compared with this cover that just came out.

I'm afraid I cannot accept the assertion that the Common Cup is a cause of offense. It not only has 2000 years of Church usage, but also the very pattern set by Jesus himself. Compare that to the individual cups, a practice borrowed from the Reformed and adopted for no theological reason whatsoever, although it conveys some unintended theological baggage with it. Which runs the greater risk of causing offense?

You're right, offering both together is not ideal. Offering the chalice only would seem to me to be the ideal situation. But in my opinion, offering both together is better than not offering the Common Cup at all.

I can sympathize with fears of TB. But honestly, the first 1900 years of church history saw a whole lot more deadly disease than we know today with modern medical care, vaccinations, etc. Luther ministered to people with Bubonic plague! And yet, the practice of the Church remained steadfast in the use of a common cup. I think that speaks volumes.

Unknown said...

Two things. (actually more) The common cup is by no means an offense. The way it is discussed or asserted may be. I am not saying it was or is in your case. I apologize if I gave you that impression.
As far as Luther and the early church, they also did not understand how disease was transmitted. That understanding today on both pastor and layman might very well convince a pastor and lay people that Christian concern and promoting the Sacrament call for considering using the individual cup.
Maybe we can start a new discussion. Years ago we put the wafer in the mouth. I still do for some. Until one day I got the saliva of a man with HIV on my hand. Disease control people told me that as far as they knew it wasn't transmitted through saliva. Great. As far as they knew. When I tried to find out the reason for that practice no one seemed able to tell me. So I asked the congregation to allow me to put it in the hand not for my sake but for the sake of all. It seems to me whatever I can do to remove distracting thoughts or concerns lends itself to what we are there to do.
One last thought. Then what about the wafers? Shouldn't we then be starting with one loaf of bread? How far do you want to go with this? 1Cor 10:17. Jeff Smith

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of this issue would be under the topic application of Paul's point of circumcision... if the act of how it is done has any relevance ... then why stop where you do?

IMO, when the focus becomes on the material object and how it must be done verses the spiritual meaning of what is being done, then one is focusing incorrectly. For if it does, I wonder then:

Why do we not take the cup in a standing\kneeling position instead of reclining?

How do we know Jesus went from right to left when viewed from the front?

How do we know that when Jesus said "drink from it" that "it" was a cup and not the container in which the wine was poured.

Does it make a difference if the wine was poured from a wine skin flask or a shiny pitcher?

Jon Rehborg

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Jon, the focus here is not on any material object. The focus is on the words of Christ. That's all. Everything depends on his words.

Why do we not take the cup in a standing\kneeling position instead of reclining?

Because Jesus didn't say, "Recline/stand/kneel, take and drink." The Church has had good reasons for either standing or kneeling over the centuries, but neither reason is based on the words of Christ. He didn't mention a posture.

How do we know Jesus went from right to left when viewed from the front?

We have no idea. His words do not indicate any order of distribution. We don't even know if Jesus personally brought the cup to each disciple or if they passed it around to each other. It's quite irrelevant, because Jesus didn't mention anything about it.

How do we know that when Jesus said "drink from it" that "it" was a cup and not the container in which the wine was poured.

Because the words say so.  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:25-26)

Does it make a difference if the wine was poured from a wine skin flask or a shiny pitcher?

I put the question back to you. Does it make a difference? Did Jesus say anything at all about a wine skin flask or shiny pitcher? If so, then let us use it! If not, then it's irrelevant to our discussion.

The cup, however, is mentioned in every single Scriptural account of the Lord's Supper, both by the Evangelists and by the Apostle Paul.

Anonymous said...

You know, Jon has led us to an interesting observation regarding the use of the individual Host and its relation to "ICs." According to the Evangelists and Apostle, the Lord took and broke the bread before distributing the element and saying "This is My Body." However, the Cup was distributed in whole, not poured into individual cups before distribution (contrary to the pattern that had been established by the "individualized" bread). This observation may neither be here nor there - and I am most probably reading too much into it - but it does lend credence to the historical usage of individual "breads" while still retaining the poignant meaning (and historical/Christological use) of the Chalice.

-Daniel Baker

Anonymous said...

Rev Rydecki,
When at my former congregation, individual cup was only used except if there was a 5th Sunday, then common was also used. There was enough people who (like me) prefered that common was offered at every communion service. I too thought that common was more in keeping with scriptures. I was surprised to learn that there are more than just "trouble makers" that would prefer the common over the individual if given the opportunity. That congregation changed it's practice to have common available every service when communion was offered.

So, I thought there was a minor
"victory" ... that their are traditionalists like me out their who know better. For even the Pastor of the congregation himself prefered common over individual so it can't be all wrong.

Then ( as per usual) the Lord has a way of teaching other things. I learned that it's not about me...... I learned (privately) that other people have needs that are no less important to them than this issue was to me. And that out of love for them the individual cup was necessary:

1. there happened to be a believer who was a alcoholic. There were several non-alcholic indiviual cups that he knew where to take from. So I ask you:

...Does insistence on common only make it such that this person could not have public fellowship with other believers without drawing more attention to himself

2. There happened to be a believer who had 2 dwi's.... all the vehical's that was driven started by a breath-alizer.

... does insistance of common preclude this person to never publically fellowship without drawing attention to the situation.

3. My father's struggle with Alzheimers disease. His fingers were not brown because he polished his shoes, and he was constantly wiping his mouth with his hands.

..... does insistance of common cup make it desirable for anybody to put their lips on the same cup after my father did ? --- fyi, I nor anybody else didn't.

The lesson that the Lord taught me was .....

"the focus here is not on any material object. The focus is on the words of Christ. That's all. Everything depends on his words."


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Very good comments. I'll address your questions, but first, I'd like us not to frame the argument around "traditionalist" vs. "non-traditionalist." It is not mere tradition that is behind any of this. Again, it's the words of Christ and the reasons behind the traditions that I'm focusing on.

Regarding alcoholics, I don't think it's a valid or proper solution to offer alcohol free wine - and even less of a solution to offer grape juice. Grape juice is not the element given us by the Lord, and not even our concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ permits us to substitute other elements.

What would be a salutary solution? A small sip from a Common Cup seems to be the most obvious solution. I do not buy the argument that a tiny touch of the lips to the blood of the Lord will send a sinner reeling back into a life of drinking. Quite the opposite is true, if the person recognizes the blood of the Lord which is a great medicine against sin and provides great strength against sinning.

You asked three times about "insisting" on Common Cup only. You're setting up your own straw man argument here. As you know, I have not insisted on that.

I don't think I even want to respond to the question about your father. I'm sorry to hear of his affliction. I don't think individual cups are the magic bullet solution for such a situation.

Anonymous said...

Rev Rydecki,

Not to go too far off the topic here ....
Graciously my father went home 5 years ago.

About the recovering alcoholics ...
Wow ........ just plain beyond belief wow..
for you to suggest that a person who is a recovering(ed) alcoholic addict can have a " small sip" ............ unbelievable. Nothing like putting temptation right under the nose of a person.

Is that your philosophy in general when it comes to other people's addictions?


Not to be disrespectful, I no longer understand what point you're trying to make. Maybe it's my black and white world that I see things ... but to me you're sending mixed messages.

You admit that IC's is not sinful ... yet you say that it's not consistent with Jesus' words.
OK, fine.... which is it?

I can't believe you would have your conscience being bothered when IC's are used. Do you think people can't sense your personal reluctance or internal turmoil about this?


PCXIAN said...


Jon from Arizona makes some germane points. You have certainly confused the issue by your own responses.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all say that Jesus took ‘the cup.” If you want to get technical, as you seem to be doing with this post, then perhaps the only real traditional cup that we should be using for Communion is the actual “Holy Grail,” “the cup” that Jesus used that Maundy Thursday night. Since this cup no longer exists or certainly hasn’t been positively identified then is it really, as you say, “the words of Christ and the reasons behind the traditions that I'm focusing on?” A silly and rhetorical question, no doubt.

We all agree that whether one uses a common cup or an individual cup that person receives with the wine the blood of Christ, and therefore, the Means of Grace, the forgiveness of sins. The vessel by which this blessing is received really makes no difference to me, to you, and certainly not to our Lord.

P. C. Christian

Daniel Baker said...

I find it ironic that those who state it "makes no difference" tend to be the same individuals defending the use of ICs. If it truly "makes no difference," as has been stated here, then why don't we simply stick with the tradition of the ancient Church and the Lutheran fathers by using the Chalice? For the sake of good order and practical unity, this would seem to be a straight-forward solution if it "makes no difference."

The fact of the matter is that it does make a difference, or there would be no "ICs" in the first place. Both sides of the aisle have arguments that are important to their varied world views.

For example, from my perspective, the use or disuse of "ICs" is a matter of confession. How we do things confesses something, whether we mean it to or not. Little plastic cups are an innovative practice handed to us by the Reformed. They are inconsistent with our Confession, which maintains no variance with the historic practice of the Church Catholic. Mimicking the various sects is not consistent with the historic practice of the Church Catholic.

Conversely, individuals who prefer "ICs" have their own reasons for desiring the same. Germs and alcoholic addiction have been cited here. I'm sure there are others. I may not agree with these rationale or find them valid, but there are reasons.

To simply wave one's hand and pretend that the discussion has no merit is absurd. It is clear that it *does* make a difference to both parties whether or not ICs are used.

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