In comments on a previous post, an anonymous contributor has added the following quotes:
“There is much false emotionalism in Lutheran circles over receiving Communion. It is seen as greater and more powerful than the Word preached, taught, read, and trusted – perhaps because it involves our actions and looks more impressive than just listening to and living in God’s Word. But the act of receiving the Supper can easily become a cursed work of the Law, if preaching does not preserve it, so it is administered correctly. The bare act of physically receiving the elements does not make one a Christian or grant faith – quite the opposite – it requires (besides faith) self-examination and some knowledge of Christ to benefit from this specific gift of forgiveness, whereas Baptism does not (See 1 Cor. 10-11).
“So no one needs Communion, nor is it necessary in any scriptural sense. To make it required, is to impose a law upon the Gospel. Even the idea of weekly Communion can be an idol – a legal mandate and cursed law. The forgiveness of sins must be free, it cannot be compelled or shoved down anyone’s throat. Communion by itself, without faith, does not help, instead it harms. But the push in high church circles to commune very young children, without full instruction, and even infants in some cases, is somewhat parallel to virtual attempts at communing in separate meals, while pretending to be together by linked computers. Both sides miss the point of the Supper: to promote faith in those who already believe – it is not for everyone and it is certainly not the center of our religion – Christ has not limited His help to a meal. Forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. It can always be desired, but it does not have to be received at every instant for you to have comfort.”
It is the classic case of the straw man. Who is saying what is being attacked? Where has anyone said that receiving Communion is greater and more powerful than the Word preached, taught, read, and trusted? Who says that? Where have I ever said that? I have never read any Lutheran who said that.
And then there is a solemn warning: the act of receiving the Supper can easily become a cursed work of the Law. . . Well, of course. Is not that one of the core issues of the Reformation? To whom is this warning directed? Toward people like me who suggest that there is something wrong with a holding to a Confession in principle without holding to it in practice? I have never heard or read of any Lutheran who would disagree with the warning but the warning is placed against whom?
The idea of weekly Communion is thrown around as if the witness of the Augustana does not suggest that this is, indeed, the norm of those who hold to this Confession. Does the comment mean to suggest that when we had quarterly observances of the Holy Sacrament we were more Lutheran than when offered the Sacrament more frequently? Remember here that this is about offering Holy Communion and not about receiving it. Reception does, indeed, depend upon the communicant being examined, absolved, and desiring to receive what the Sacrament offers -- faith! I do not know of anyone who inveighs against those who do not receive the Sacrament weekly. I do know of many, including myself, who suggest that offering the Sacrament less than weekly is not in keeping with the Augustana.
So no one needs Communion, nor is it necessary in any scriptural sense. I am not at all sure what to do with such a statement and I am having trouble with the idea that a Lutheran wrote it. Of course the Sacrament is necessary. Not because we make it so but because Christ has bequeathed this wonderful Sacrament to His Church, attached Himself to the bread and wine set apart by His very Word in according with His own testament and command, and delivers through this means the forgiveness of sins (and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation). No, the Lord does not mandate how often we must receive but, as Luther suggested, regular reception is expected if we value and esteem the Lord, the Word, and His promises.
The forgiveness of sins must be free, it cannot be compelled or shoved down anyone’s throat. Again, where is this a problem? Christ has not limited His help to a meal. Forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. It can always be desired, but it does not have to be received at every instant for you to have comfort. Of course, forgiveness is not limited to the Supper. Who says that? But forgiveness IS promised in the Supper. And the Supper is commanded. So what is the problem? God has bound Himself to the sacraments, but He is not bound by the sacraments. Of course, we Lutherans not only admit this, we believe it wholeheartedly. Because it is the truth. Yes, we have the Word and the Word does not lack for anything nor ever fail to do what it says. But we have not only the Word. We have absolution. It is not an extra but part of the very essential gift Christ has given to His Church. We also have baptism which neither competes with the Word nor fills in what it lacks. Baptism is not some little added extra but Christ's essential gift to His Church. Holy Communion is not some little added extra we attach to the Word now and then but lives in complement to the Word as Christ intended. We are fools for trying to pick and choose or to dissect why Christ has given so much. Do we begrudge Him His generosity? We must stop talking like this.
Yes, we have to address issues like infant communion and the temptation to set a pecking order for the means of grace. But not by setting up straw men. And not by demeaning anything Christ has given or commanded.