Sunday, March 8, 2015

Applesauce communion. . .

The February 2012 The Lutheran, publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, included a strange piece by Janelle Hooper.  She is identified as the pastor of St. Martin Lutheran Church in Sugarland, Texas.  It is a story of a visit to a parishioner's ailing mom in a nursing home.  She was warned by the daughter that the mom was "ornery" and might refuse the visit.  She thought it would not be the first time she brought the body and blood of Jesus to share with someone who did not want it.

She was also warned that the woman had difficulty swallowing and would she crush up the host into applesauce to make it easier for the woman to swallow.  In a strange paragraph that began with Luther's instruction on our inability to understand how Christ becomes present in the bread and wine, she moved on to Lutheran communion instruction and ended it all with "And if called upon to do so, we add a little applesauce to the bread."  It made it sound as if this was Luther's advice and regular Lutheran practice.

When the woman was not able to continue, the author left the consecrated host crushed into the applesauce for her to finish at snack time.  She had never before left the host for someone to snack on later but her gut said it was OK.  Her end conclusion was how important it was to make communion as welcoming and accessible as possible without losing the core of what we believe... extending God's hospitality as far as humanly possible even if it means sometimes mixing Jesus' body with applesauce.

Now I know why I did not toss out this article and why I buried it in the clutter of my desk.  I have no doubt that LCMS Lutherans are guilty of the same sentimental bologna, but I can tell you one big difference.  In the LCMS we would not herald this practice in our official denominational journal as good pastoral care.  And this is exactly the problem with the ELCA -- not just that it is all over the page but that it trumpets such diversity and practice as a good thing.

Let me just say that nothing trivializes the sacred gift of the Lord's body and blood than foolish, sentimentalism like this.  No good pastoral practice leaves the host as snack for later.  If a person has trouble swallowing, break off part of the host, place it in the cup, and then commune the person with the spoon.  That is what I was taught by Pastor Charles Evanson.  That is good pastoral practice and extends the hospitality of the Lord faithfully and not frivolously.  But if somebody does something like this, at least do not publish it as a feature piece in your denominational journal to offer others the idea that a body of Christ and applesauce snack time are just what Jesus had in mind when he took bread, gave thanks, and distributed it to His disciples, saying, "This is My body..."

God save us from sentimentality and poor judgment parading as good pastoral practice!


Anonymous said...

Commenting on all of the idiotic things the ELCA does would, indeed, be a full-time job!

Janis Williams said...

This is just one illustration of creativity gone awry. God gives the gift of creativity as one of humankind's many vocations. When we lose our way and attempt to be creative with things God never intended us to place our sinful hands on, it only creats epidemic sin.

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