I’m going to wade into an area that is not going to be about being popular or liked, but is about the integrity of the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper and really the integrity of the church.
We love to talk about everyone being God’s children, sorry, but that’s just not true. We are all God’s creation to be sure, but only those who have been baptized into Christ are God’s children. If I create something yes it’s mine, but it’s not my child, it’s not of my essence, it hasn’t been brought into my family, it is only something I created. The church is not a popularity contest, it’s not a democratic institution. We live under a set of guidelines, what tells us what is and what isn’t in the church, those guidelines are established by God’s Word, the Bible. Paul talks about being adopted into the family: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8: 15-17 ESV)
When we are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we become that new person in Christ, we are a new creation adopted as a child of God. Remember we are adopted, we are entitled to all the rights and privileges of being a child of the Father. Jesus is still the only sole, unique Son of God. Think of it in terms of DNA, we can be adopted into a family, our parents are our parents as much as their biological children. But we do not share the biological essence of our parents, our DNA is still different. We are treated as any of the other children, but we are not the same. Only Jesus is of the same essence as the Father, He is the sole Son of the Father, but we who are adopted into Christ are adopted as children. I don’t like to say that makes us Christ’s brother, He is still our Lord, He still came and redeemed us through His sacrifice on the cross, He will be our Lord in eternity in the resurrection. To say we are His “brother” really presumes to say that we are the same status before the Father that Jesus is and we just aren’t. Jesus is God the Son, we will never be “god” the anything, but through the grace, love and redemption of Jesus and the Father, we are “sons and daughters” of the Father and are saved by virtue of that.
Having said that we get to the discussion of the Lord’s Supper. We can be adopted, but any adopted child can still repudiate his or her adoption and can detach themselves from the Father. In order for us to stay in communion with the Trinity and to be forgiven of our sin and to receive spiritual strengthening we need to receive the true Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order for us to properly receive the Lord’s Supper we are obligated to understand what we are doing in the Lord’s Supper. We’re Americans and we love to live under this delusion that entitles us to whatever we chose, we love to think that we are all equally entitled, heck “entitlement” is the mantra of the last two/three generations of Americans. We feel we’re “entitled” to education (yea, see how far that gets you on your application to Harvard), thorough medical care (yea, all the current discussion aside, the amount you can afford to pay personal wealth/insurance determines and always will, what the health care provider is going to provide you with), the list goes on, and yet, the church is supposed to be an open door with and simply permit anything to anyone. This debate is extending into things like performing marriages, let’s face it, the day is not to far off when clergy who refuse to perform so-called homosexual weddings are going to be sanctioned by law (fines, jail, some kind of ostracism). I’ve written on this before, but the church is the church, the state is the state. You may be protected under different governmental laws, those laws don’t necessarily extend to the church.
I entered into an extended discussion with a woman on FB who chose to debate me on my, what I considered to be benign comment about offering communion at our 11pm Christmas Eve worship, by qualifying my comment to say that communion would be available to those who are in fellowship with the Lutheran Church. I’m not going to name the person or get into any personal antagonism because frankly this person’s comments are very much representative of most people.
Person: Can’t any baptized member of the Christian faith partake of communion?
My response: No, there are different understandings of communion, for example you would not receive communion in a Roman Catholic Church, again, different understanding. In 1 Cor 11: 27-32 talks about taking the Body and Blood of Jesus in an unworthy manner. We understand that to mean that if you do not understand what the Body and Blood are about, or you are taking the Body and Blood but ignoring that it is what it is. Paul talks about people bringing judgment on themselves by their behavior and he says some have become ill and others have died. I’d love to talk to anyone about the Lord’s Supper, if folks would like to be part of a group let me know.”
Person: Just wondered, since I’m Lutheran, and we allow all to partake.
I’m going to interject here by saying that there are different Lutheran Churches. We established that this person is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. This is a very liberal “Lutheran” church, politically and religiously. I know this is going to sound antagonistic, but frankly the liberal Christian churches have very much bought into an egalitarian view of theology. Frankly, this is an easy and popular way to attract and retain people to church. They’ve tossed out the Bible and pretty much told people what they want to hear. Frankly again, I’m much more interested in faithfulness to God and His Word, then to being popular. What God says works for eternity, what is “popular” really only works in the short term and even then will change in pretty much a whim, and no one even seems to know whose whim.
(Hey I didn’t say I wouldn’t be catty or snipey, and let’s face it, leaving a lot of room for comments to this blog)
I made a further response: “And frankly I would like to think that people would respect that and not feel entitled to abuse something that they obviously don’t understand. I stand ready to instruct anyone and accept anyone into membership, I’m not trying to set up barriers, as I said before I would very much like to do a group study on this, but please just because other pastors don’t treat this sacrament with due reverence, that’s not a reason for me to be told to lack respect.”
The response was: “That needs to be between the person and God. Doing this makes us like the Catholics. God accepts, and loves everyone. We cannot know what is on another man’s heart.”
[The whole sentence is just theologically inaccurate and shows a lack of knowledge. This is certainly not limited to this person, I’ve seen it over and over with people in all areas of “Christianity”.]
Me: No that doesn’t [make us Roman Catholic], and that’s not what a pastor’s job is, I’m not here to just allow someone to abuse something they don’t understand. That’s not taking my responsibility seriously. Again, if you read the Bible, it tells us that teachers will be held to a higher standard, (Hebrews 13:17), I will be held responsible for a person abusing the Body and Blood, maybe even more then the person who takes it without understanding. I know that the ELCA takes this very lightly, and it should be obvious that this should be treated seriously, you really want to study the subject instead of just kind of reacting to my comments.
Person: “We do not take it lightly. The Bible says that all are welcome to the Table.”
Me: I’m going by the Bible, the Bible is my authority, not what people think is right or wrong. If you don’t have a correct understanding of what the whole purpose is, what good can it do you? The Body and Blood is for the strengthening of the soul and the forgiveness of sins. Most people today reject that they even sin, therefore they contradict the whole purpose and reject what the Bible teaches. If I don’t do it according to God’s will and Word, then it doesn’t do anyone any good and I am not serving my purpose. I’m not telling you something that I haven’t given a lot of thought and study to. This is what the Bible guides us to do, not what other people’s opinions are.” [I’ve invited the person to refer to the Bible twice, the person simply has not made any move to do so, only glibly referring to the Bible as if I was somehow in ignorance (I have a Masters of Divinity Degree from a highly regarded Lutheran Seminary). This person doesn’t see the Bible as authoritative, although they make passing references to it, the person’s references are not biblical and is further evidence of the fact that too many people have their own Bible, often taught to them by liberal theologians who often frankly don’t have a real knowledge of the Bible. For example, the Bible no where says that “all are invited to the table”, have no idea where she got that. Too many “seminaries” are far too concerned about teaching political correctness and not concerned at all with a real understanding of the Bible.]
Hey look I”m not trying to be pompous about this, but do you go in and correct the oncologist, the lawyer defending you in a murder case? Hey I have no problem with people questioning me, I love it. But when they just sit there with the attitude of “don’t try to confuse me with the facts”, well frankly it’s on them and one more reason why we expect people to have a correct understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
Person: “You have to do what you think is right. One person’s interpretation of the Bible is not necessarily the interpretation of another.”
Me: [Ah yes the typical liberal copout. “I really don’t know what I’m talking about, so I’m going to twist it into a matter of interpretation, even though nothing I’ve said has nothing to do with interpreting the Bible, but only uninformed personal opinion.] “… it’s not a matter of interpretation, in terms of the Lord’s Supper and how it’s handled, the Bible is very straight forward. The issue comes down to what people have twisted it into. People who are Reformed Christians, that is pretty much everybody other then Roman Catholics and Lutherans, try to make communion out to be symbolic. If it is a symbolic act to you, then OK, you really don’t believe it’s the Body and Blood, kind of go through the motions, it’s a “remembrance”/memorial, then you’re not going to take the Lord’s Supper seriously. Luther took it very seriously and believed in the very real presence of the Lord’s Body and Blood and His position is completely Scriptural, not opinion/ interpretation, but straight forward understanding of Scripture. If you chose to believe that it’s symbol and not substance then your call. Lutherans believe that it is very much substance, and to be treated with great reverence and Paul describes it as such in the 1 Corinthians pericope.”
So there we are, and of course the discussion goes much further but it’s late and I certainly hope that we can discuss this further. As I wrote in my responses, I am very willing to host a group to discuss. But please let’s do this on an informed basis. I have no problem with opinions assuming they are substantiated. I would hope that a lot would like to be part of the group in order to get a better understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Now hey, I’m not expecting everyone to walk away with the correct understanding (although that would be great), but I’d certainly respect the fact that you gave it a fair hearing instead of living under the illusion that the whole discussion is a matter of personal opinion and no further inquiry is necessary. Folks, this is all a matter of your relationship in Jesus.
Communion is another concept of the Lord’s Supper and of course when we are in a “close relationship with another” (Merriam-Webster, on-line) and that is certainly what we understand by taking the actual Body and Blood of Jesus we are certainly in as close a relationship we can be. If we do it with a wrong understanding, that “close relationship” could be compromised. It’s certainly not the “Unforgivable Sin”, on the other hand if you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus a true understanding of the Lord’s Supper will certainly help to augment that.