Tag Archives: communion

Jesus the Bread of life, His flesh saves and sustains us.

John 6:5 we have all these people and Jesus has told us we have to find food to feed them. 5,000 men, plus women, children! Where do we come up with all that?

Everyone gets fed, we pick up what’s left, hey food’s too precious, we can’t leave anything behind. Interestingly there are twelve baskets left, one for each of us disciples. That night we’re rowing across the Sea of Galilee and there’s food under our seats, giving us enough energy to keep going. He provides, even when we have no idea what we’re going to be dealing with. Who can do that? Yes, Jesus and He is God the Son.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He told the Jews who were hounding Him that He was the Living Bread that came down from heaven, the manna that kept their ancestors alive in the desert. But now the Bread of Life is His flesh. The flesh that He sacrificed on the Cross, His true flesh for our spiritual and physical sustenance. His disciples knew exactly what He was saying, and He didn’t try to convince them otherwise. Most of them picked up and left, probably a little freaked out.

“Do you take offense at this?” Why would they be offended by what’s supposed to be a figure of speech? Sure a metaphor might bother you, but what would really bother you is hearing someone say that you have to eat His flesh in order to have eternal life.

It will be a little longer, but Jesus solemnizes, makes a new covenant, based on the eating of His flesh and drinking His Blood. No metaphor intended, hey read the Greek. He is the Bread of Life, He gave His Body, shed His Blood on the Cross for the atonement of our sins. He continues to give His Body and His Blood for our sustenance to eternity, to nourish our eternal life. For those who have been born again and are the eternal sons and daughters of God, we need divine sustenance for our born again body. That can only be through the miraculous sustenance provided by His Body and Blood we receive from His undershepherds, your pastors to sustain us to eternal life.

Suffering as a Christian, supported by the Body of Christ, the Church

Despite what others say and might think it’s supposed to be, quite often becoming a Christian does mean that you are going to experience, at least, challenges, if not more. Now before you go running back to your little hiding place, where you’ve been hoping the rest of the world will just pass you by, I ask you, do you have a better idea? I don’t care if you’re a big tough guy, or a little woman, you all have your hiding places, thinking no one will see you and just pass you by. If you just let things alone, pass from life into death, you might just get through life without much difficulty. It is a lousy way to live the life that God has given you, but I guess you managed to get through without having your prissy little sensibilities hurt.  Good for you, you had a sad little life, you’ve sinned against God by piddling away your life and ignoring Him and since you did it all your way, and ignored God, well God has ignored you and let you condemn yourself to eternal separation from Him and eternal condemnation in Hell. You sent yourself there, God did permit it, goody for you, you had your free will.

For those who are in Christ you will experience challenges, there will be difficult times. It stands to reason, if you put yourself out there and are serving others you are going to take hits, you just are. In fact if you consider yourself a Christian and have just been cruising through, you might want to take a serious look at your relationship with Jesus, been a little too much about you and not really much about Him? I would question if you are still in relationship with Jesus and have slipped into the nice, cozy little world of condemnation.

My theme, lately, has been about the Body of Christ and how we all seem to feel like free agents, it’s all about me and Jesus and forgetting that it’s really about Jesus and His Body, His Bride, the church. All those fellow believers who are all experiencing challenges. Doesn’t it make more sense to turn to and rely on Christian brothers and sisters in times of trouble? Who else would know better the attacks of Satan and the world then someone else who has undergone those attacks? A brother or sister, someone who is in the Body, who also hurts when another part of the Body, you, me, brothers and sisters, has been hurt, we should be there to support others and know they support us.

We certainly have the Holy Spirit who is watching over us, we are protected, although we will stay take shots and hits in the world. But doesn’t it help more to have a flesh and blood brother watching over you and you watching over him? To build each other up and support each other? that other person may not be in the same church. I may not totally agree with him, but if he is genuinely in Jesus, we need to have each other’s “six”.

Whether you are new or been a long time in the Body of Jesus, you will experience adversity in the world. If the world rejected Jesus, it will challenge and reject you. That’s why you have the church and brothers and sisters. For those guys who think they’re so tough and can do it on your own, don’t be surprised when you are chewed up and spit out and leave yourself condemned to hell also, it will happen, I see men and women like that all the time. Tough guy, know it alls who end up flat on their back looking up at the sky and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces because they were smart guys. If not for yourself, be there, at church, daily lives of Christians, for others to help them. I will bet an enormous amount you will be blessed and start wondering how you ever survived without brothers and sisters in Jesus.

The Joy of Church

This really is kind of a plea, please, please really hear me out. In this world, that is just so temporary, so phoney, so wrong, so lacking in hope, in promise, please consider a genuine alternative, the church. I think we’ve all see more than enough to show us that there is nothing that the world can offer that gives us any long term promise. Clearly the church of Jesus Christ does, everything around us fails, disappear, just let’s us down. The Christian church, for 2,000 years, has been the only hope and promise for eternity. I know, we all have to function in the world, we do, I worked in corporate America for 20 years and I served in the military reserve for 29 years. I’m not asking you to be a monk, I am telling you what you are painfully aware off, none of these things last, Jesus told us “I’m am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Coming to the Father means eternal life. Jesus was crucified, rose  from the dead, ascended into heaven and promised that for those saved in Him, they would be resurrected to life eternal. This is true life, the life that God had intended for us until we messed it up with our sin.

Being in Jesus means being part of His church, the one He said He’d build on the rock of His disciples, the church that is His Body. To be in communion with Jesus who is our only promise, our only hope, means being in communion with His Body, His church.

So I submit the following, this is from Matthew Harrison, Dr Harrison is the President of the Lutheran Church and I wanted to share his thoughts on the Christian church. Being a part of the church, serving each other, being served, living life in Jesus and eternal life in Him. If you would like to see the blog site which includes this and other similar posts check out  lcms.org/president :

The Bible teems with joyous, paradoxical truths. God is three in one. God is man. God dies on a cross. The God who visits His vengeance upon trespassers has mercy only on sinners. We die to live. We live to die. The sinner is righteous .The weak are strong. Saints are sinners. Sinners are saints. Afflictions are blessings. The word of man is the Word of God. The poor are rich, and the rich are poor. The first are last, the last first. Law and Gospel. It is a hallmark of Lutheranism that it does not, as a matter or principle, try to resolve these paradoxes. Is it bread, or is it body? The texts simply state that it is both. If salvation is God’s act alone, and faith is a result also of an eternal election to salvation (Ephesians 1), and god wants all to be saved, then why are not all saved? Must not God then have determined to condemn some from all eternity? No. The Bible says, “God wants all to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Lutheranism lets the paradox stand. . . .

The maladies in the life of the twenty-first century church, and in the Church in every age for that matter, are the result of missing “the narrow way” (Matthew 7:13–14). It is for me a paradox itself, that the “high” road of orthodoxy—right teaching and right praise—is freeing! For ortho-dox-y is both right doc-trine and right dox-ology (or praise). It also leaves plenty of space for us to rejoice in God-pleasing differences of gifts, emphases, practices, and even personalities.

The Church is a paradox. She is the Bride of Christ, “spotless,” “holy,” “washed” (Ephesians 5:25–27), the “[pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1ff). And yet she only appears in this world hidden under the guise of poor sinners, flawed leaders tensions, divisions, and even false teaching. This is at once both disturbing and comforting. It is disturbing because we find ourselves in such “spotted” congregations, denominations, and Christendom. It is comforting because—despite its outward appearance, despite the fact that there have been times in the history of the church when the pure teaching of the Gospel all but disappeared from the public confession of the Church and its practice—nevertheless, the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church endures because Christ endures, and he will never let his Gospel go un-believed, until the end of time. That’s worth rejoicing over, especially in the times in which we live. And there is also comfort in knowing that because the Church exists well beyond the genuine Lutheran Church, we will also find truth spoken by others. And when we do, we are free to heartily and gladly acknowledge it as such. . . .

The secret of living a good news life in a bad news world is knowing that despite our manifold weaknesses and sins, precisely of Christians and the Church, Christ remains wherever, so far and so long as, Christ and his Word are heard and to the extent that true Baptism and the Lord’s Supper remain. That is the expansive joy of generous, faithful Lutheranism. Thus genuine Lutheranism is simply genuine Christianity. And Christianity, with all its manifold weaknesses and sins, is far broader than genuine Lutheranism. . . .

That’s the joy of a generous, faithful Lutheranism – generous in recognizing the Church wherever the Gospel is, and faithful in recognizing its sacred duty to be faithful to the truth of God’s Word. It may be a paradox, but it’s a joyful paradox, nonetheless.”

Yea the church is important for the individual person, for those who come together to support each other and to be supported. It’s important to come together to support those around us, many rely on the church in times of trial, inside and out, of the church and when we come together to support each other and others, we truly serve God who serves us and gives us the promise of true hope in our earthly life and our life eternal in the resurrection of our bodies and the real world.

As Adriane Heins points out in the same issue: “You are a part of something greater than yourself – the true Church. You are loved in christ, and you are not alone.” (The Lutheran Witness August 2015 pp 2, 3)

Faithfulness in those who have vowed to be faithful

Yea, I popped off a few days ago. I guess I am getting a little thin skinned on one subject, The Lord’s Supper. I do not come from, really, resany Christian tradition.  I frankly used to think it was a little weird thinking that I was eating someone’s flesh or blood for a few different reasons. Principally I was thinking in terms of the individual as a “person”.  Sure Jesus was a man, but He is also God. To think in any other way is to just live in denial.  And today it’s hard to overcome the sexual connotations in respect to that. It was always meant in terms of how much closer could I be to any individual then when I take the Lord’s Supper. You can’t be any closer then when when we eat His Body, our Savior becomes physically a part of us and the Holy Spirit intertwines the souls of those who are in Jesus.

Obviously that is a difficult position to get into with those in the world who are spiritually dead, but for almost all the rest of Protestant Christians, who think of the sacraments as just symbolic, some sort of initiation instead of, what they are, a genuine spiritual act that Jesus gave us in order for us to be even more intimately in Him and He in us.

It is difficult to maintain, it is unquestionably true, but hey I’m human and I get beat down standing up for what is true.  I have to deal with reluctance with those in my parish. Those who just don’t feel it’s important enough or just really don’t accept it either. Seems among other pastors I’m seen as sort of a “company man” toeing the official position of the LCMS. Guess I’m probably naive, I’ve been used to being a part of groups that may disagree but when It goes down everyone pulls together. Seems I can’t have that assurance with those who are around me. Apparently I have peers who like to do the sort of “titter, titter, isn’t that silly” stuff that I had to endure with liberal “Christians” for many years. Apparently I can’t assume that people who I thought I could count on, have  my six.  Instead seems there are those who are a little too concerned about those in the world, even those in their congregations who would just as soon have things casual, not get caught up in all these issues. So yea, I popped off, I’m not going to enable silly little discussions about what is important. If you’re on my team let’s pull together. If there should be discussion so be it.  But if it starts to sound more like adolescents then people I should be trusting and relying on then we have a problem. If you have an issue, do the genuine hard work and study to really understand. Don’t just dismiss things because you’re uncomfortable with it. If you’ve taken vows, live up to those vows in good faith.  If you have genuine concerns don’t play around. It’s not cute, it’s not clever. It’s important and deserves your respect.

Relationships, strength, encouragement, shared joy, on and on, only come through the smaller, Bible believing Christian church

Another blogger opined that since the millenials (ages from about 18 years old to 30 years old), don’t go to church and use their computers, almost exclusively, for socializing, that we should have “on-line” church.

I’m not opposed to putting worship on-line. We have plans for doing that here at First St Johns. Sure there are people out there who we should be reaching and need to be included in church and, for whatever reason, cannot attend brick and mortar churches. I get it.

The problem is this, how much do you really encourage this growing dependence on using a computer for “fellowship”. A great deal of being in church is to fellowship, is to show support and be a part of something bigger. We already have way too many people who huddle away in some part of their house, all by themselves and genuinely think they have a lot of “friends”, that is the Face Book, Twitter, Snapchat, type friends. Sorry but this is, in no way, shape or form a healthy trend. How do you baptize someone on line? How do they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus? On-line confession and absolution? No, that’s just a phoney way out. How do you really build relationships on line? You don’t!

Being a part of the Body of Christ is being with a group of people who have shared beliefs and shared doctrine in Jesus. Please don’t hand me the lame line that it’s all about “love”, first off, how do you really “love” on-line? Ya, there are those who do. Look me in the face and tell me that’s healthy.

You need that contact with people, we encourage each other, strengthen each other, learn from each other, often help in material ways. Sorry, but I’m not going to jump through hoops for someone who can’t even schlep down to worship on a regular basis, who could otherwise. I’ve had people try it on me. Ya, no! Go to the big-box churches, if you will settle for the illusion of worship and fellowship. Otherwise drag yourself down to First St Johns.

In some ways it’s like saying that it’s the same as being at Fenway Park, being part of the crowd, having it all in front of you, being able to personally booh the Yankees. You can sit at home and listen on the radio, but who you going to fuss at when Papi grounds out in the shift?

But really, being in, sharing with, showing support of worship has always been what is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It’s not just what you benefit from, but often what you do in order to help others. How about the elderly man or woman in the pew in front of you. Quite often, their only genuine human contact is church. To those of you who are children, young man or woman, the 20 something family with the little boy and girl. I really want you to realize that you give real joy and encouragement to others around you who have very little contact with younger people, who often only see people in their own age group. Are you away from your family, but you’d still like your children to have a whole bunch of spiritual grandparents, aunts, uncles? Take ’em to church, your cup will overfloweth.

The person who is going through some kind of crisis and who comes to church to share, maybe he’s led there by the Holy Spirit in order to be in front of you who can readily help. Seriously where is that in the rest of our society?

It’s tough enough being a Christian in today’s world. For the people who are out in the work force and hardly ever encounter a fellow Christian. For the mom at home who often has little adult contact and also, not often with another Christian. Children who need real contact with other kids their age who are Christians. The world is not a friendly place to Christians. Where are you going to get that contact, that encouragement, that strength to carry on? On-line? No! You’re just not and you know it. It’s truly sad to imagine how many people thought they could see the world through their computer and because they had no one else, no other Christian to be there for them that they lost hope in the Holy Spirit which is only truly efficacious when they share with other Christians.They forgot about the promise of Jesus, because the guy who stands with them at the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper, isn’t beside you, because you’re not there.

The writer of Hebrews directs: “ESV Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Bibleworks) Certainly we see “the Day drawing near.” How can you show brotherly love over the computer, really? How can you show Christian hospitality. All the virtues that are being lived out in Christian worship, will simply not be obvious.

I have this posted on First St Johns FB page: “WORSHIP – Rekindles our hope, reenlists us for service, renews our confidence, restores our perspective, restores our joy, releases our anxieties, reconnects us with God.”  I would add that sitting at home, simply reminds us how sad our life has become and not only does not equip us with those benefits, but reminds us how far away we are. That is not going to give us the hope and promise of Jesus, but sink us into further despair and make us feel even more distant from Jesus.

And since I’m riding this hobby horse, I would also like to point out that the opposite is true. You can sit at home and be isolated, and you can also sit in a big crowd and be isolated. Want to talk to the pastor? Yea, good luck with that. These “big box” pastors have more important things to do than make house calls or hospital calls to give you personal attention. Everybody around you, they’re there for the same reason you are, to hide in the open. They’re not interested in you, they’re only interested in what they want. Jesus did the first two plus years of ministry among groups and very much in the public. He didn’t hide away, he was right there in the middle of people. Not some new-age big screen television, talk about “Big Brother”. In a smaller congregation you build those relationships, I’ve only been a pastor for just less than five years. In my first twenty or so years as a Christian I probably have, at least, a half dozen each spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and pastors that I have had the opportunity to grow in Christian love with. Ya, tell me you’re going to get that at home on the computer or at the “big box”. Find a smaller, vibrant, liturgical, Bible believing, truly Christian church. You want growth, encouragement, strength for the journey, joy, service, confidence, connections, being in God’s presence with serious believers. It’s churches like First St Johns that will provide it. The “millenials” are all hung up on authenticity, being genuine and then hide at home instead of being where it’s at? And that goes for more than just the twenty-somethings. Try really being genuine and authentic. Put the phones and ipads etc away and get with real people. Otherwise, you should just put a cork in it, because you have no clue what genuine authenticity it.

Get real! You want real worship? It’s right there, churches like First St Johns

The evidence keeps rolling in, while people don’t seem to actively express the desire, more and more it seems that people want worship that is serious.

The common rap is that “liturgical” worship is “boring”, it’s not fun, it’s not entertaining. Who said that worship was suitable for any of this. No it isn’t entertainment. But when you actively participate, when you genuinely try to understand versus this odd idea that most come into worship with: “I’m an empty vessel fill me”. These same people have been going to worship for years, decades, yet two, maybe three times a month, they go to worship and say “fill me, I haven’t done anything, you need to do it for me.” OK, sure, I’m there “to do”, to lead in worship. But folks, this is the “Body of Christ”. If you come in with the attitude that it’s all about me and you need to do for me, it’s not going to work and I submit that is becoming more evident in all these “churches” that do everything but worship.

People are looking to be connected to God, we are connected to the Father, because of the Son, by the Holy Spirit. As I said, this is “the Body of Christ.” What does that mean? The head does all the work and everything else just hibernates. That’s not going to work in human biology, why would it work as a Christian. If the heart stops beating, the head isn’t going to be of much use. You can sit there with head and heart, but if nothing else works, you’re simply not going to get it. Christian worship is participatory, not passive taking in. The issue becomes who is worship for? Well yes, it is for you, it is for those around you, it is for those out in a dark, cold world. It’s not for God. He wants us to worship and through our worship He feeds us, He builds us up, but you need to genuinely be heart and soul in worship, passively sitting back doesn’t work for you, brothers and sisters in Jesus or God. The church is there to serve, to equip you in order to grow in Jesus, but my philosophy is that if there is 5, 50 or 500 it’s still the same. If 5 have shown up, I’m not going to get all bitter with the others who didn’t. Five people, plus me, showed up to worship. I have 5 faithful brothers and/or sisters (it’s only 5 it could be all guys…) Anyway, they are there for me, I am there for them, we’re all there before God, that’s all that matters.

In a Leadership Journal article Marian Liautaud likes to pat herself on the back as to how millenials have become so critical in their thinking. (Make Room for Me Fall 2014 pp 55-57)They haven’t found genuine worship in churches, so they don’t go to worship. I’d like to assure them genuine worship is very much alive, if you haven’t found it, you haven’t looked to hard. Now, I have to wonder, is this just an excuse to avoid worship or a lack of effort to truly look. My answer is “yes”. Everyone likes to pat themselves on the back as to their critical thinking and discernment, but they frankly still want to sit back and just be an empty vessel. Frankly, I don’t even get the title. I assure you Marian, 100%, you show up with a genuine willingness to be a part, I will do back flips for you to be a part. But frankly in that generation I get this sort of “arms-length” attitude, they really don’t want to make an effort, they want someone to read their mind and they then still continue to dissemble.

Heather Stevens, a junior in college, writes “If you are a church leader, this data should stop you in your tracks. It should make you think, ‘What the heck am I doing wrong?'”

Wow, isn’t that just precious, her go to position is someone else is doing something wrong. I would agree to an extent, there is a lot of “wrong” “worship” out there. Seems to me Heather is more concerned about changing the places she thinks are wrong to fit her profile, versus finding the places that will meet her questions. This is another indication that people today, and frankly it’s any age group, are not very critical in their thinking. ‘Something’s wrong, so it must be someone else’s fault.” Instead of, I need to keep an open mind to the other possibilities out there, that do offer genuine worship and are eager to share that, to disciple others. I would jump through flaming hoops to have such a group together, but they won’t, they’re not really looking for answers, they’re just about airing out their lungs, letting everyone else know what their uninformed opinion is.

However, and I’ve said this before, the church has messed itself up too, The church has tried, for at least, the last three generations, to cater to this attitude that Heather expresses. So it’s not just millenials, it goes back to at least to people in the Depression Era. The church hasn’t stood up and said “this is what’s important”, it’s kind of groveled and said “tell us what you want, just try to make it in a Christian context.”

Just expressing what any contemporary American could/would say Taylor Snodgrass says: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life and even now on social media,’… Consequently, if a church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated or they’re onstage putting on an act 20s see through this. It causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying.” Well bless your heart Taylor, you have part of it, but it’s still a copout, an excuse. Great, if you think that, but be as honest as you claim to be. You don’t really want the truth, I feel like Jack Nicholson here, “You can’t handle the truth.” You want to avoid and you’re using someone else’s failure to drop out. Believe me, if people were genuine in these assertions, the church I pastor would be heaving at the seams, instead it’s excuse after excuse.

Ya, maybe my candor, might be a little intimidating, but that’s what all these “get real” types want, isn’t it? No, they want nice, they want sugar coated, just their way, not their parents. I’m not saying beat people, pummel them with truth, that’s not my style either. But my style is to be upfront, to challenge, to deal with the real issues. Come on, let’s deal with them together, I’d love it!

To wit, let’s look at the rest of what millennials want and a church like First St Johns has. “Visual clarity: ‘Millennials want to be able to answer the questions ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What’s expected of me?” This is according to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group….”

“As part of Barna’s study on Millenials and church architecture, they brought two groups of 20-somethings to modern churches, and then to cathedral style churches. In the cathedrals, ‘they felt it was a space for serious activities such as prayer, coping with tragedy and communing with God. They sensed the spirituality of the place,’ says Kinnaman. ‘At the same time, they were concerned about how they would fit in – If I visit, do I need to wear dressy clothes? – and a few participants, especially unchurched people, felt intimidated by the spiritual intensity of the space.'”

Well! Welcome to First St Johns. First off, no, believe me “dressy clothes” are not a big priority. We have plenty of people who do the best they can, that’s all I can ask.

One of the biggest kicks I get being the pastor of such a church is showing people the church sanctuary. I don’t think it’s failed to happen yet, you hear them silently, reverently suck in a little air and say a quiet wow! You want a place that evinces true Christian spirituality? Look at the featured picture, and that really doesn’t do it justice. If you don’t know where you are, well you have problems that I can’t help you with.

I did find the point of bringing nature into a church an interesting one. . I’d like to see if we could do more of that. I will say Christmas the altar is covered with poinsettias and Easter with lillies. But it is an inner-city church and a place in the church that would be a place where we could have some plants and some kind of natural effects would have a huge benefit, so thanks for the suggestion. Let’s see some of these people who talk a good game show up and put it in motion, I’ll be right there with you.

Respite” “Millenials, perhaps more than any other generation, have a deep need for peace and quiet; they long for a sanctuary. ‘Our culture is fragmented and frenetic and there are few places to take a breather to gain much-needed perspective,’ says Kinnaman. ‘Ironically, most churches offer what they think people want: more to do, more to see. Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what many young adults crave: sacred space.,’ ”

“Our churches are places of action, not places of rest; spaces to do rather than spaces to be. The activities, of course, are designed to connect people with God and each other – and some Millennials hope for that, too – but many just want an opportunity to explore spiritual life on their own terms, free to decide when to sit quietly on the edges of a sacred space and when to enter in.”

My answer, you need sacred space at two in the morning, you call me up and I will come down and open up the church. But you better be serious, don’t be there whining, be there genuinely searching. I would love it! We have action, we are an inner-city church and we often have to deal with real issues, but our priority is always spiritual health. Dr Luther describes pastors as Seel Sorgers, ‘soul healers’ that’s what I am first and foremost, but I try to do the other things.

When we first got to First St Johns, we set up a “Prayer Room”, I also had a few, very few, people want to go into the sanctuary to pray. We have prayer groups right after worship, we have a prayer breakfast once per month, we have a “Healing Service” one per month, Matins worship Thursday mornings and Sunday morning. I’d happily do some of these much more often, but frankly, not exactly overwhelmed with response as it is now.

“Give them Jesus – building relationships and learning about Jesus are two central reasons why Millennials stay connected to church. Barna’s research shows that young adults who remain involved in a local church beyond their teen years are twice as likely as those who don’t to have a close personal friendship with an older adult in their faith community (59% vs 31%).”

For a small church, we do this pretty well, we could do better, but there has to be buy-in from everyone and again I would jump through hoops to facilitate it.

So to Marian and David, Taylor and Heather, here you go. This is it right here. Genuine worship, genuine doctrine, genuine space, genuine relationships and authenticity. Let’s sit and talk, let’s really deal with our relationship with Jesus and genuinely worship and honor Him. Does He need our worship? No, but we need to worship and we need to do it with authenticity, not sit back and fill me/entertain me. Don’t expect me to just pat you on the head, sure when it’s needed, but today, we need to get real and get back to the real church and not the happy/clappy God just wants me to be happy. No, it’s joy in Christ, won’t always be pleasant, but it is true relationship. Do you want that or not?

Holy Communion continued I

My Christian background is a little odd, although more and more it’s becoming common among younger generations and is not out of the question with in my “baby boomer” generation. I was dedicated as an American Baptist (“Baptists” don’t baptize infants. Parents “dedicate” their children, promising that they will raise their child as a Christian in the Baptist Church.) I was married by a “Congregational” minister (it’s now called United Church of Christ). I was baptized by a United Methodist Minister and ordained by a Lutheran minister. I cannot say I was “raised’ as a Christian, no less in any particular tradition. I’m not saying that based on my checkered past that I’m an expert on various traditions of the Lord’s Supper, but my experience might give me a little bit of a unique perspective.

To be clear, yea, I have a firm conviction about the Lord’s Supper, I’m very serious about the Lord’s Supper. Lutherans would agree with Roman Catholics that the Bread and Wine in the Lord’s Supper is the true Body and Blood of Jesus. There’s disagreement as how that’s arrived at and dealt with, but just to give you a place to start to understand what the church’s position is. Having been a Methodist, I’ve seen the Lord’s Supper treated more like a cookie and coco break during worship, I’ve seen it treated pretty cavalierly in other traditions too, it’s offensive, it’s really offensive, it’s the Holy Body of our Lord and Savior.

I know I’m kind of stacking the discussion, but Jesus told us: “Take, eat; this is my body.”, Not this is a symbol, this is something I’m doing to be chummy, this is some weird mystical thing. No this is My Body, this is My Blood. This is what has been sacrificed for you, this is what has been given to be a part of you, this is what was given in order to assure you I paid the price for you sin and you are now forgiven, there should be no doubt in your mind about this.

OK? Don’t think there’s a lot of room to maneuver. When we treat the Body and Blood less than that, then it’s hard to take seriously those who treat His Body so lightly. For those of you who are so easily offended, this is real offense, mistreating the true Body and Blood of your Savior, the One who died to pay for your sins.

Rev Dr Peter Kurowski has written a really great book “Close Communion Conversations”, discussing issues associated with the Lord’s Supper. Since different denominations have different perspectives on the Lord’s Supper, most denominations try to specifiy with whom it is appropriate to allow to share communion with outside the denomination. For most of Protestant Christianity all you have to do is profess some acceptance of Christ and be able to fog up a mirror. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod takes our most solemn sacrament very seriously and, I feel at least, that it should be treated seriously by everyone, regardless of church or lack of church.

Therefore I refer to Dr Kurowski’s book to discuss the concepts of “Open Communion”, “Closed Communion” which are the two contrasts, and “Close Communion” which Dr Kurowski labels the middle ground.

Open Communion in the extreme is the notion that the Lord’s Supper is administered to all people who come to the altar without any due diligence on the part of the administering pastor. This is not how Jesus wants His supper distributed. (1 Corinthians 4:1; Matthew 28: 18-20) Such a position is reckless and loveless. It creates Corinthian confusion. Church bodies that run this direction invariably will lose a true gospel centeredness lapsing into lawlessness. The person of Christ is diminished and “It is finished!” is rarely heard by the famished (John 19:30).”

Closed Communion” in the extreme is the notion that the Lord’s Supper is administered only to people who are communicant members of a denomination that has publicly declared altar fellowship. Though well meaning, this brittle approach is a reproach to many a saint who comes to the Lord’s Table hungering for righteousness but is met with a stone wall rather than a cup of compassion. The damage done when one’s position is too narrow is chilling, devastating and at times causes irreparable harm turning the Church – a hospital for sinners – into a kind of “Club Christ”, or a “Christ who clubs!”

Close Communion Conversations” seeks to pursue the good golden gospel middle of genuine evangelical theology on altar fellowship issues…The guideline in service of the gospel runs this way: Although we have as a general rule closed communion we have exceptions to the rule. Both the general rule and the exceptions to the rule are for the sake of the gospel. At the same time the exceptions ought not t become the rule.”

“Because of this evangelical guideline, I prefer the term close communion. It captures the theological tensions in which evangelical Christianity must live. It brings with it a paradoxical Lutheran edge.” (pp 9-10)

This sets the discussion and I want to emphasize that when in doubt, my preference is to have “closed’ communion. I’ve written about this before, but it is not to set some sort of “more worthy Christian”, but to assure that the recipient truly understands and accepts a correct understanding of what the Lord’s Supper truly is. I often tell those who are new to the Lutheran Church that we don’t want them to feel excluded, we want them to understand how seriously we take the Lord’s Supper, that it is for their spiritual health. As a member eligible to receive the Lord’s Supper a person stands before the church that, as a part of membership, they vow to accept the true understanding of what the Lord’s Supper truly is. I want to give people the Lord’s Supper, believe me it is one of the great parts of being a pastor. But I want to do it to the recipients spiritual health and nourishment and knowing that we both understand what we are doing.

Please feel free to discuss and I plan to have more discussion.