And now I ask you before God who searcheth the heart:But we tend to view sin therapeutically today and so such language is no longer in fashion. Nor is it popular to emphasize the need for such confession before receiving the Sacrament. In fact, our rightful encouragement of more frequent communion has been accompanied by an equal decline in confession. On the one hand, we do not take all that seriously our sins and on the other we simply presume that just as it is God's job to forgive, so it is ours to give Him something to forgive. So in this atmosphere, closed communion, with its primary emphasis not on those who hold denominational member but who have been examined and absolved, seems ever strange and antiquated among us.
Do you sincerely confess that you have sinned against God and deserved His wrath and punishment?
Verily you should confess: for Holy Scripture declares: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Do you heartily repent. . .
Do you sincerely believe that God, by grace, for Jesus' sake will forgive you. . .
Do you promise with the aid of the Holy Ghost you will henceforth amend your sinful life. . .
Do you believe that through me, a called servant of God, you will receive the forgiveness of all your sins?
Each question answered with an I do and a Verily that placed you within the context of the sinners who have repented and believed the Word and promise of God to forgive them. . .
Here are a couple of tidbits from the sometime Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo:
“The people should not only be urged to receive Holy Communion frequently,” he wrote, “but also how dangerous and fatal it would be to approach the Sacred Table of Divine Food unworthily.” In a separate sermon on the subject, he stressed: “The Most Holy Eucharist is properly a sacrament of the living, it requires that those who receive it be spiritually living, for it was instituted for the sake of sustaining and increasing life. Therefore, he who remains in death, who is in mortal sin, should stay far from the Table. . . . Let him first hasten to life, to penance. . . . For the Sacrament of Confession is the first and necessary disposition for the Eucharist.”The early Lutherans oft included an exhortation to communicants which emphasized not only the Sacrament of the Altar but also the proper prelude to its worthy reception, examination and absolution. Sadly, the main argument against open communion has been the unfaithful doctrinal heterodoxy but that is not where it begins or it ends. It begins and ends with the examination and absolution of those who commune. And this happens easiest, but not only, when the pastor knows his people and when he encourages those people to regular and frequent private confession. The general confession before the Divine Service was never meant to replace this and it is not up the heavy lifting that private confession is able to do.
We sometimes forget that the function of the Christ's Church is not to accommodate or enable sin or even to make us feel better about our sin or being sinners, but to teach what is right and wrong, that our hearts may be brought to repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit and believe the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified. There is no reform of the Church that does not begin with this call to personal repentance and faith and there is no successful reform without the faithful rejoicing in what God's mercy has bestowed upon them, unworthy sinners though they are, and without the desire, under the guidance of the Spirit, to live holy, honorable, and upright lives. There is no gain in getting folks to feel better about themselves if it comes at the cost of their eternal salvation. So, while we encourage frequent communion, we do so best by encouraging this sober evaluation of heart and life, by encouraging repentance, and by offering to the repentant the comfort of a clear conscience through absolution. Then in "repentant joy" they may approach the Lord's Table worthily and go forth from the Lord's House in possession of all the gifts and graces of that blessed communion, not in the least of which is living out their vocation as the baptized children of God in the world.