Sunday, July 30, 2017
Juice du jour for Holy Communion???
The issues our Synod faces with respect to the Lord's Supper are manifold. On the one hand, some practice an open invitation to whomever feels good communing. Thankfully, the number of these congregations tends to be small. On the other hand, we have congregations where you practically have to give a pint of blood to receive the Lord's blood. Thankfully, the number of these congregations is also relatively small. In the middle we have congregations who try to be welcoming while still leaving it to the judgment of the individual about whether or not to commune and those who try to be welcoming but ask the difficult questions to prevent someone from taking the Lord's body and blood to their harm. I probably should have changed congregations to pastors since the pastor makes the judgment although it is probably true that on either end the congregation has thoroughly bought into the pastor's practice. In the middle, well, it all depends. Some are embarrassed that their pastors ask at all and others are embarrassed that people they know do not believe what Lutherans believe seem to have a clear conscience about receiving at our altar. We have spoken about that before. But there is more.
Apparently it has become so common to use grape juice (or in the case above, apple juice?!?!) that no one really pays much attention to that. I have to admit that I try to be welcoming to the Lord's Table and yet are more than clear about what we believe, teach, and confess and when that requires me to say no. But I am growing ever more concerned about the growing tendency to fiddle with the elements of the Lord's institution. It does not seem to concern pastor or parish that we substitute rice or another non-gluten host to anyone who happens to follow the current health craze against gluten and that we give people who don't like wine an opt out to fit their preference. Note, that there are other ways of dealing with people with legitimate health issues that make gluten hosts and wine problematic. I am speaking of those who simply have decided they don't like it or it is bad for people. Do we allow any preference to govern what is used? Is there a line to draw here? Or am I being picky for even bringing it up?
Our concern for the Lord's own chosen elements is not our personal preference but goes to the heart of the Sacrament and our confidence that we are receiving what the Lord promised. You can play with the words all you want but from the beginning of Christianity, bread (wheat) and wine (grape wine) have been the elements which accompany the Lord's Word and promise. Now all of a sudden we feel free to tinker with it. Can we also tinker with the Lord's Word? We determined that Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier were not fit substitutes for the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in baptism. Is it too much to say that certain things are not fit substitutes for wheat bread and grape wine? If we can pick and choose substitutes, where does it stop? Is grape juice acceptable but not apple juice or all juices from fruits of the vine? If we agree with rice cakes, could we not also use potato chips? I personally am more tempted by chips and beer than rice cakes and apple juice but isn't that the problem? The Supper is not defined by our preference and taste but by the Lord's Word and example.