Thursday, June 08, 2006

i've got issues

i'm in a bit of a church shopping mode right now, which is no fun. at this moment i'm loosely affiliated with a church in marin, but i'm struggling with them theologically. they are fairly reformed in their theology and i am growing more wesleyan as i get older.

the one particular issue that i'm finding to be sticky is their observance of the lord's supper. it is stressed in the service that those who do not have a relationship with Jesus are not to partake. i have issues with this and i need to have a conversation with the pastor, but before i do, i need to straighten out my own position on the issue.

i have found that most denominations who place restrictions on the taking of communion do so based upon paul's words in 1 corinthians 11. here he is addressing abuses of the ordinance in the corinthinan church. it seems that those who were more well off and didn't work for a living got to the gatherings first and just started eating. those who did work got there later, but by the time they did, there wasn't any food left. he says in verses 21-22 "for when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper and one goes hungry and the other becomes drunk. what! do you not have homes to eat and drink in? or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?"

in the following few verses he he recounts Jesus' words at the last supper, instituting the ordinance. then he goes on to discuss taking the supper in an "unworthy manner."

"whoever, therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an wunworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. for all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. for this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. but if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we my not be condemned along with the world. so then, when you come together, wait for one another. if you are hungry, at at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation."

ok - now i know that God takes issues of social justice seriously. he sent the people of israel into exile because they were cheating the poor. paul says here that some are ill and some have even died because they were taking in an "unworthy manner." but what does that mean.

it seems to me that it means that if you are looking out for yourself, taking the supper to meet your own needs without considering the needs of others, that's unworthy. not if you're part of our club or not.

my other issue is that i don't see exclusion anywhere in Jesus' life. he gave the last supper for Judas. what do we do with that? i hear him saying come to me, all who are weary, and i will give you rest. in the supper we have the recollection of the sacrifice made for us so that all could be reunited with their intended place in the kingdom.

so who should take of the supper? i think anyone who is interested in following Jesus, at any level, should be welcomed.


Tony said...

Personally I feel that communion is meant to be an experience shared by believers. It's true that when Paul mentions taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner he is not addressing the issue of relationship with Christ. He's talking to believers...or at least 'churchgoers'...who are disregarding their brothers and sisters and just looking to satisfy themselves. Clearly not what Christ intended. But earlier in 1 Cor (Chapter 10: 16-17) Paul makes another statement that seems to me to say that the communion experience is indeed intended for believers. "Is not the bread we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." Unbelievers are not yet members of the body of Christ.

There's another well-known passage that I think applies: 2 Cor 6:14-18. It talks about being unequally yoked with unbelievers. While not specifically addressing communion, it does make clear that there are times when the difference between believers and unbelievers must affect what they share together.

All are invited to join Christ's family. In that sense he is completely non-exclusive. But not all get to share the blessings and experiences that his family shares with each other. It's not an issue of's an issue of helping people understand that God's people are 'holy'...set apart for a purpose. And belonging to Christ means something very special and unique. If we are going to invite unbelievers to share the Lord's Supper I would also want to tell them that doing so should indicate a decision on their part to join the family of Christ.

Yes, he served the original communion meal to Judas (and some might say it's a great example of eating and drinking judgment upon oneself), but while the group there were indeed Christ's disciples they were not yet the church as we understand it today. They had not yet received the Holy Spirit, the unifier of all believers. Today, one of the ways we celebrate that 'union' is the sharing of communion.

Just a few thoughts.

Reyes-Chow said...

Hmmmmm . . . the ongoing dilemma of "Spirit of the Law" versus "Letter of the Law" At our church ( we call EVERYONE to the table and explain that it means different things to different people depending on their walk with Christ. For those who have made a commitment to Christ it is this . . . and for those who are still searching and exploring the faith it is a way that they may know that God remembers them. But ALL folks are encourage to partake.