Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Holy Communion or a Nice Light Snack?

For some reason, there is suddenly a flurry of discussion ( Here... and here... seeming to be leading to a move for open communion in the Anglican church. Traditionally, one must have been baptised in order to receive Holy Communion. But those in favour of this new policy, are pushing for it on the basis of hospitality and inclusivity. (See especially the comments on the second link). They whine that we may hurt people's feelings or turn them away by excluding them from receiving communion.

But this issue again shows that they just don't get it. Holy communion is not the same as coffee time after church. It is not the same as sitting down together for lunch. Allowing someone who doesn't appreciate the sacrifice it recalls to take communion belittles the sacrament. Paul warns very explicitly,
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Mind you, the onus seems to be on the individual to judge for themselves whether or not they should partake. But is there some responsibility on the presider to prevent someone from doing so? I think so. That is why refusing to offer someone communion is not a punishment, or an exclusion. It is a pastoral responsibility. Excluding the unsaved from communion is actually an act of caring, an act of protection, preventing them from eating and drinking judgment on themselves.

Someone asked, well, which of us is worthy? But that misses the point. As I commented on one of the threads,
None of us is worthy on our own. Paul’s prohibition does not speak of the worthiness of the person, he warns of the manner in which we eat and drink. Our righteounsess is not of ourselves, but comes from being, “…found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Plilippians 3:9) It is Christ’s righteousness that is imputed to us; counted as if our own. The unsaved person does not have this righteousness, so by definition, eats and drinks in an unworthy manner. (I realize that I am differentiating here between the baptized and the saved, because the two are not always synonymous, so it is possible for some of the baptized to eat and drink unworthily as well.)


Again, I realize that a great many baptized persons are nominal Christians at best, not having received a true faith. So as I commented later, in my opinion, communion should truly be reserved to those who have genuinely bent the knee and truly acknowledged Christ as Saviour and Lord of their lives.
In the end, that is more important than baptism.

Take Care

1 comment:

David said...

This approach gives the impression that people are staying away from church because they are "excluded" from Communion.

Nothing could be further from the truth: most non-Christians wouldn't attend a Sunday service if you paid them. Christians wouldn't have a problem with being baptised before taking Communion - but they would probably want to attend a church that took the receiving of the body and blood of Christ in a less cavalier fashion than is being proposed here.

The whole idea smacks of desperation.