Monday, April 01, 2013

What's the most offensive thing you have heard in church lately?

Every other friday in my Lutheran Confessional Writings class we have a free-for-all sort of lecture where you are invited to ask the professor a question related to any of the recent course material.  One of my classmates asked a question about the importance of "guarding the table" with regards to communion.

This phrase, which is not a Lutheran of receiving the sacraments, comes up from time to time.  It usually refers to pastors preventing people from taking communion if they have not been baptized, or to a lesser extent, not a part of a specific denomination or congregation.  I have been refused communion in Catholic churches and was interrogated by a Missouri Synod pastor once in Sioux Falls to make sure that I had a correct understanding of what communion was before I received it.

I cannot think of a worse thing for a pastor to be doing, to be "guarding" the sacraments from people who might not have a correct understanding of them or are worthy.  The table belongs to the Lord, not to a specific congregation or pastor or denomination, and the body and blood of Christ are a gift freely given to all.  We as public ministers should not be determining anyone's fitness for receiving such a gift.  Because if we are basing it on worthiness or understanding, none of us should ever receive it.

My pastor in Denver includes some fantastic things in the words of institution that she says every week.  She says in the beginning, "In the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus gathered with his faltering friends for a meal that tasted of freedom"  and with the invitation to the table, "Behold who you are, become what you receive."  These have shaped my theological understanding and my own ministry in the roster of Word and Sacrament.

If we are taking the Words of Institution seriously, we should NEVER be turning anyone away from the Lord's Table.  Jesus gathered with his imperfect friends, one of whom would turn him over to the Pharisees, Judas, and one who would deny him three times, Peter.  Yet he still broke bread with them and asked them to remember him and draw closer to God every time they partake of his body and blood.  And that we do not come to the table as whole people, rather we come broken and imperfect and adrift in the world.  We get our identity from the Sacraments.  It is from this knowledge that the draw towards baptism comes, but it should never be a prerequisite for receiving the Eucharist.

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