Sunday, May 6, 2012

The shock! The horror! Will we ever recover???

Pr Christopher Hall, Pastor of Redeemer in Enid, OK, and one of the VPs of the Oklahoma District writes of his experience assisting in the distribution of the Eucharist at the District Convention... Having been there and seen exactly what he saw, I could not help but pass on his words... when we as Lutherans have stopped looking like and acting like Lutherans, we find the soft underbelly of our church exposed -- to the point where the usual means of distribution (the chalice) becomes a scandal...

At the Oklahoma District LCMS Convention last week I was privileged to be an assisting minister at the opening worship service. I read the Old Testament reading and assisted with communion distribution. We had three “stations” and used the “drive-by” style for the sake of time, numbers and logistics. Not my favorite way to give the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but that’s the way it was done.

I held the cup containing the precious blood of Jesus. There were no individual glasses, no “holy shot glasses.” Just the One Cup. As communicants approached me it was quite apparent that a few of the lay delegates there had never received out of a common cup before. Some were visibily shaking, a few looked horrified and didn’t know how to do it. One person in particular stood out, her face reflecting almost revulsion.
Revulsion to drink the blood of Christ? On the face of a Christian? That’s the horror.

Now, I get it that a few people like the individual cups. It’s easier to control, it’s more comfortable. “I do it myself!” we say when we’re two and we never stop saying it. “It’s easier to just do it myself,” Dad says, and that’s true. It’s awkward for someone to give you a drink without you taking the cup and drinking yourself. And our antiseptic-obsessed world despises spreading germs. I get that too.  I’m not one to just ban the jiggers or remove the individual cup or anything.

But I do teach my confirmands to receive out of the common cup. I remind them that Christ is feeding us and giving us drink. I remind them of the one cup our Lord passed.  I teach them that faith believes we will receive only good from the cup of the Lord, never disease or anything bad. I remind them that alcohol and gold or silver is a lethal combination for germs and scientific study backs it up.

And I remind them that drinking privately out of their own cup is a luxury they may not always have, like at conventions. So I tell them, and now tell you, drink out of the common cup for a few Sundays, so that you know what it is like. So that you will not have a look of horror and revulsion on your face when you approach the common cup for the first time at a convention. Drink out of that common cup at least a few times and trust what God says. It will build your faith. Then I tell the kids if they want to use the individual cups thereafter, they may. We have freedom and no one is saying its a sin or bad or somehow not the blood of Christ.


Anonymous said...

Will we ever recover?

We will recover if we follow Pr. Hall's example and train our young people.

Janis Williams said...

This is so strange to me. Today at communion, I used the ''holy shot glass." I have been sick. I don't think I'm contagious, but for the sake of the weaker brother...,

It is strange to me because I was raised with individual cups filled with Welch's. There was nothing there but grape juice and memory. When by the Grace of Christ I became a Lutheran, the only use I could see for individual cups was the above.

"Do it yourself" rugged indiviualism is the bane of America. Yes, I know we needed men and women who could brave the frontier. But...rugged individualism at the rail?

I feel honored to be served the Chalice by Christ's representative. I feel much more at ease receiving the host on the tongue and drinking from the common cup. I am one with my brothers and sisters at the rail.

C'mon, you rugged individualists; be brave and commune with your brothers and sisters on the Blood of our Lord from the Chalice.

BTW, I did not catch my cold from the Chalice....

Virginia DeMarce said...

There can be various causes for facing the common cup with a dubious expression. My late mother-in-law (born 1916) had the experience that at the first communion after her confirmation, the elderly visiting pastor who was distributing the common cup spilled it all down the front of the white dress her mother had made with such care. As she was the third daughter of a far-from-prosperous farmer in Wisconsin, this was the first new dress she ever had. She still had a lively recollection of the trauma of the experience when she was in her late seventies.

Anonymous said...

The common cup is an excellent practice, however, we need to be careful that we do not defend it with arguments that wind up being hollow or silly and, in the end, create suspicion rather than respect toward the practice of the common cup.

In regards to the silver/gold & alcohol acting as an antibiotic, silver can indeed work as an antibiotic but it does very little in plate form in the cup. It would need to be in solution to be truly effective. Also, it is a slower acting long term antibiotic which works by denying nutrients to the bacteria/virus. It is effective at protecting wounds but essentially useless for the few hours the wine is in the cup. the real benefit of silver and gold is that they are nonporous, making thorough and sanitary clean-up much easier. Porous materials such as ceramic and brass (which pits easily) provide an environment in which germs can remain and multiply over the long term.

The alcohol in the wine, also only kills a small amount of germs and is essentially negligible. A nurse in a former parish of mine took the challenge she had heard from another pastors of swabbing the communion cup and getting culture. It had just as many germs present as any ordinary drinking glass of water would have had under the same circumstances.

While it would be nice to assume that God would miraculously protect those taking communion from the spread of diseases through the common cup, the Bible does not say this and it is dangerous to say that God says something He does not, in fact say.
It makes kids question what else the pastor told them "God says" that He did not actually say.

Actually, the real defense against germs is in the miraculous design of the human body. The mouth and digestive systems are equipped with tremendous defenses against disease. The small amount of germs ingested in a sip of wine, even when many others have used the same cup, is almost nothing compared to the huge number of germs we get on our hands from using a grocery cart or even a hymnal that others have handled. Constantly bringing those germs to our mouths as we lift our hands to our faces poses a much much greater risk to our health than the common cup.

Anonymous said...

Lets not start arguing the cleanliness of the chalice. Pastro Peters has already done that here:

Either you trust in Christ or you don't. If you don't believe that Christ is at work in the chalice protecting us, you have even more trouble believing the Real Presence. What kind of God would leave his people at risk for nearly 2000 years until some enterprising entrepreneur came up with little glasses to keep us from disease and destruction!!!

David Gray said...

>>What kind of God would leave his people at risk for nearly 2000 years until some enterprising entrepreneur came up with little glasses to keep us from disease and destruction!!!

One whose promises are not primarily for this world? You are ascribing to God intentions and actions He has not declared. That is unwise. Rather to say God is faithful whether I am in health or in sickness, even if derived from a common cup. Does not the greatness of forgiven sin dwarf the possibility of physical illness?

Christopher D. Hall said...

Thanks Pr. Peters for the quote, and for those of you who commented here. I've been installed at a new parish and haven't been on the blogosphere for some time.

To Viginia--you are correct. I've been doing this for a long time and know not to judge solely by expression. However, you know fear and shock when you see it, and I saw it in just a few, may God have mercy on all of us. But perhaps I should have added this caveat. Thanks!

cassa said...

The church I was confirmed at didn't use individual glasses and so I never knew anything but the common cup until 1996. When I transferred to a congregation that had both, I still took from the chalice. In my mind, an individual cup and the word 'Communion' just don't go together.

Some were visibily shaking, a few looked horrified and didn’t know how to do it That was my reaction when the previous communicant had consumed the last of the wine from the chalice and I had no choice but to use an individual cup during Communion at a seminary chapel.

I knew what to do; it's certainly not rocket science, but taking that little cup from the tray felt so was like trying to write with my non-dominant hand. I felt so uncomfortable and out of was a very odd feeling.