Sunday, April 11, 2010

So Very Sad

I was emailing an acquaintance about something when we each described the Easter services in our respective parishes.  I thought this individual had been quite liturgical so I was shocked when he said they had no Eucharist for the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Why not, I asked.  The reply was that there would be too many new people there or old people who had not been active before and it would create a messy situation for close(d) communion and all so he had discontinued the Easter Eucharist to avoid having to communion people he did not think he should or to refuse people he did not want to refuse.

What a surprise!  To juxtapose the problems of administering the Lord's Supper faithfully against the Eucharist on Easter and to choose to forgo the Eucharist.  I continue to be amazed.  Now I would grant you that this individual probably rides the door to the rail more than I do.  I welcome those absent members who show up on Easter and commune.  Being so close to a large military installation, I routinely have families from out of town here and Easter only magnifies this so I do speak with a great number of folks prior to their communion and I always find strangers whom I do not know at the rail on the festival Sundays.  I speak with them following the service.  Sure I have winced a few times and prayed a mea culpa over situations which are less than I hoped them to be.  What faithful Pastor has not?  But to choose to forgo the Eucharist because of this?  Well, I am not ready to go there.  Not by a long shot.

It would seem that when the anticipated problems of having the Eucharist at a service where there are a high number of visitors cause you to skip the Supper then it is time to rethink things a bit.  Close(d) communion and its rightful concerns about those communing being able to receive to their benefit the Supper and to reflect an honest unity of faith cannot be allowed to shut down the Eucharist for the Queen of Feasts.  It just cannot be so. 

I hope what I heard was an anomaly and not a prevalent practice for it would be a sad state of affairs in the Church when our concern about who communes makes us omit the Communion altogether.  Such a perspective of fear sounds like part of that which caused the Church to wrongfully withhold the chalice and to discourage frequent communion in the first place -- and unless I am wrong (and I am never wrong - to quote Humperdink in one of my favorite movies), part of the very concern which brought about the Reformation...

 What do YOU think?


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

On occasion before I arrived they wouldn't have communion on Easter if it weren't on a Communion Sunday (and they didn't have communion on Christmas Day, either). Of course, we had 110 on Easter Sunday, and it was the most folks we had in a year, so the "fencing" of the altar isn't that hard here.

What I was thinking upon reading your post was this -- it seems strange to deny the many faithful for the sake of the tiny, tiny few, who might abuse. I know there is the approach that we should not offend the weaker brother - but that is about how I live my life, not about the simple conduct of the Church itself -- if one is offended at the proclamation of the Real Presence. . . well. . . tough.

Or so I say preparing for a service without the Supper today for the mere fact that it happens to fall on the 2nd Sunday of the month. I think I feel a log somewhere, mayhaps I ought tend to that.

Rev. Josh Sullivan said...

When I arrived at my current parish the tradition had been no Lord's Supper on Christmas and Easter for this same reason.

We soon remedied that. I found that giving the Elders resources for explaining Closed Communion helped strengthen their resolve to the practice. We also wrote a tri-fold document to give to anyone who was curious or upset at the practice. I was pleasantly surprised that if the pastor stands up for this practice, the faithful usually follow.

We've had our instance of communion crashers, none the less. I can relate to your prayer at the rail for forgiveness. None of us are perfect stewards.

One thing about it, I can see why over 40% of our pastors practice some form of open communion. Closed communion requires pastoral care even for the visitor and you have to really care for the doctrine and well-being of your flock.

Rev. Josh Sullivan said...

I should clarify my last paragraph. I don't support open communion. It could be made to sound like that. I just see the appeal. My old adam, that fleshly, lazy josh, wants one less thing to worry about on sunday mornings. I think that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I did not have the Supper either. Most LCMS churches in the area offered it, the ELCA church in town offered it, but non of the four WELS churches (of which I am a member) offered it on Easter or Christmas. I think the answer given was pretty much the same--too many visitors, but the number of communicants far out-numbered the visitors, by my estimation. On Christmas Day I visited a different WELS church simply because they had their service at a more convenient time. If my church had the Supper, then I would have gone even though it was later in the day, and we had plans for that day.

Anonymous said...

Sad indeed, Pastor Peters! But is it more than sad, is it also wrong? I suspect that one factor that contributes to this monstrous practice (what else can you call it when we do not “do this in remembrance of Me” on the day on which we celebrate His resurrection?) is that we have been taught that (1 Cor. 11:27) to “be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” is a class of sin all by itself and should be avoided at all cost. Far be it for me to belittle or to deny sin, but our Lord’s words clearly teach that there are only two kinds of sin, (Luke 12: 10) “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Another reason is that sometime during the past hundred years or so someone decided, and many believed, that (1 Cor. 11:29) “discerning the body” has something to do with the Real Presence. Again, I do not deny the Real Presence; I firmly believe it, although I have to admit that it is beyond my understanding. There are other passages that testify to it. Our confessional writings do not use this passage in this connection. I know that a few papers have been written about the meaning of “the body” in 1 Cor. 11:29, but they clearly ignore the fact that nowhere else in the entire New Testament is the matter of not believing in the Real Presence ever raised. In fact, the subject does not come up until sometime in the fifth century. But having decided that we must show true discernment for the “Real Presence” we have abandoned our discernment of the spiritual Body of Christ by depriving its members of the true Body and Blood of Christ on the day of His Resurrection.

The admonition about discernment is written to all the saint in Corinth and “every place.” That makes it the responsibility of all partakers in the Lord’s Supper to see to it that they do so in a worthy manner. Nowhere is it written that the pastor has the right to deprive us of this meal, because of some concerns he may have about others not doing so in a proper manner. When St. Paul writes to individual bishops, Timothy and Titus, he his more concerned with “merry widows” than he is about any aspect of the Eucharist – he never mentions it.

No, it is not only sad; it is clearly wrong.

Christ is Risen!
George A. Marquart

Rev. John Frahm said...

The guy is a lazy chicken.

Anonymous said...

We have a modified "close" Communion on Easter, where we give a blessing to those not in our Lutheran sacramental tradition. I think that the most important thing is for people to receive Christ in the sacrament along with his body and blood. I have heard of conversions happening at the Lord's Supper, so it really can be an outreach of sorts, if done in the right way.

I think the parable of the talents tells us that God is concerned about the burial of talents being an unwise thing. Let's let the Word do the work in the Lord's Supper and not get all hung up that God is going to zap us for not distributing the sacrament in just the right manner.