Requirements for Communion?

I read an article on Beliefnet.com about Communion in the Protestant Church entitled Have Protestants Turned Communion into ‘Cheap Grace?’

The author, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, writes to make the case that by offering to Communion to just about anyone, Protestant Churches, especially mainline ones but Evangelical ones also, are depriving people of the rigors of proving they are repentant so their character can grow.

Three of the four comments following the article disagree with the author. I would concur with their position.

We are invited to Communion by Jesus in the Gospels. Mr. MacDonald points to Paul talking about Communion in 1 Corinthians, but he was admonishing that church to change its ways because they were not really communing. People brought food for the meal, but it was not shared. Some ate plentifully while others looked on in hunger. They didn’t need to repent to eat together, he was calling them to actually EAT TOGETHER! to share and commune with the whole body of Christ, not just the ones who could afford to provide a whole meal for themselves.

Communion is a sharing, building a relationship, and marveling in the wonder of the grace given us by Christ. Sharing a meal has a long history in all cultures and especially in the Middle East. It was a way to welcome friends and relatives and to make new friends. Meals were provided for celebrations and in times of grief. The most important part was not the food, but the companionship. The most meager household would share all they had for guests and the richest were called on to do the same. But human nature is what it is and those with more sought to keep it. They likely resented the poorer congregants who could not offer food in the same quantity even though it was of greater value to their household because they had so much less from the beginning.

Don’t we all feel that way. We go out to eat with friends and when it’s time to pay the bill, one or two never quite have enough money. At first we pay gladly, but over time it just annoys us. Why do we always have to cover for them? Don’t they have any self-respect? Isn’t it my turn soon? When the real benefit of the meal together is the together. We do not always know our friends problems. And we forget that our generosity and our friendship may be the only blessing our friends feel in a life full of hardships that they cannot bear to share.

That’s what Communion should be. All of God’s people sitting together at God’s table and sharing the blessing of God’s love and our love with no questions asked.

I was taught in theology classes that the bedrock of Protestant theology is that we depend on God for all that we receive. We cannot earn God’s grace by ANY action of our own. Repentance, commitment to good works, belief in Jesus as Savior are all great things for us to undertake. But none of them have any bearing on how God feels about us.

So I admonish everyone to share in Christ’s Communion with the members of your congregation just for the company and the love of God. And if you don’t have a congregation of your own yet–seek one that shares Communion in this way so you can be surrounded by God’s unconditional love and share the table of love with others.

Grace wasn’t cheap–Jesus gave everything he had for us. It’s priceless. But since it’s priceless, we mere humans should not try to put a price on it either.

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  1. PS. I’ve added you to the blogroll at PP

    • Thanks Tom!! Your inclusion here is on my “todo” list, along with what seems like thousands of other things–LOL

      Of course they aren’t all as important as this one!

  2. Hi Diane. First, thanks for your visits and comments at Politics Plus. I would have returned your visit sooner, but I had to get a WordPress.com ID. My blog is from WordPress.org.

    On topic, I much prefer the idea of a communal meal rather than a wafer and sip of wine, let alone a taste of moldy bread and grape juice.

    I think the area where many churches have a problem with this is that they would not want to associate with the kinds of people with whom Jesus would hang out were he here today in the flesh. We’d find him meeting the needs of the same people that the religious right condemns.

    • That’s exactly the problem!! Not only wouldn’t they want to associate with his associates, they probably wouldn’t like to him sitting down to eat with them either–long hair, unshaven, and dirty feet besides!!

      Of course, most of the people at my church don’t really want me around either! Well, not any more so much, but my background has more than a few parallels to yours only on a less grandiose scale. 9 months, not 9 years, one marriage (and it’s a great one), only mental abuse at home. . . .

      I tried to overcome my lack of self-esteem with most of the things you mentioned, but it keeps creeping back in on me. I’m in the trap between certainty that I’m smarter and care more than everyone else, but if any challenge me I disintegrate into a sniveling heap of self-pity. Plus I have the distinction of being the most depressed when I’m manic!! How’s that for fun! I don’t even get to enjoy the natural mania high of most B-Ps.

      I’m just thankful that my pastors never gave up on me and we had enough open-minded, open-hearted people at church to stand by me through the worst of it all. Unfortunately the criminal justice system seems to attract more right-wing-nut missionaries than rational mainline ones. For awhile I almost thought they were a-ok. Then I got back out in the real world and rediscovered my own progressive roots.

      The UCC (http://www.stillspeaking.com) is by no means perfect, but we are working very hard to overcome our past failings. And allowing all to sit at the table is one of the great things about it.

      Of course with soccer, softball, gymnastics, basketball, work, and modern lifestyle exhaustion, it’s hard to get people to sit long enough in the church for wafers and wine once a month let alone a full meal!!!!

      We still have full meals sometimes, but not as often.

      Keep up the good work and thanks for dropping by. Maybe we can help each other move up an itsy, bitsy, teensy, weensy, bit in Google!!

      • Hi Diane. I’m not a churchgoer myself. I express my faith in private with God and in trying to reflect him in the way I treat others. I doubt that most churches would have a problem with my background, but my political views and refusal to swallow spoon-fed dogma.

        Time is time. Nine months is long enogh to understand.

        If I might make an observation, I’ve seen enough of your wrighting to know that you’re a little smarter than the average bear. That’s no cause for boasting, of course. It’s a gift. It pleases me to see the way you are using it. On your esteem issue, you are the only one you have to satisfy. Base it in what you know about yourself, not in what others think.

    • BTW–I’m long-winded!!

      Part of my lack of self-esteem. I need to prove what I say is worth listening to (reading) so I over compensate with justifications and over explanations–just like this!!!!!

      Yada, yada, yada, yada, dipsy, dipsy, do. . . . . .

      • See my previous comment. How did such a fine feline become Dirk the Dog? 🙂

        • The username and email are in memory of my first dog (I had a dog as a child, but unfortunately I was not allowed to really bond with him because mom wouldn’t let him anywhere near the indoors and she was always crying about fur on my clothes if I spent too much time with him so I had no idea what a companion a dog could be!)–Dirk. Dirk is no longer with us, but he was my constant companion, especially while I sat at my computer. And he was BIG! He was a German Shepherd, but he could have been 2 German Shepherds–over 120lbs and 4′ tall! You can imagine how hard it was for me to find space for my feet under the computer table with him!!!

          He has been succeeded by DJ, another incredibly large dog, but no clue as to his breeding! He is my other profile picture on some sites. He’s even bigger than Dirk was. He weighs over 150 lb and about the same height of 4′. I got him when he was just a little pup from the shelter. I figured he would be your average large dog–but he turned out to be another JUMBO! (Dirk was 1 yr old when we adopted him from another couple who couldn’t keep him in new apartment.)

          Now the fine feline!!

          I always had a cat growing up–of course NOT in the house and mom was always vacuuming me for fear of stray fur finding it’s way onto the carpet! Plus grandma’s barn cats–up to 50 in any given year.

          I LOVE cats. Stockton–the little yellow furry boy in my pic–is probably my 9th or 10th cat–not counting the barn cats or the litters my females have had prior to spaying. One was preggers on arrival at my house!! One of her kittens we kept, so he counted. Called her Puddy Tat because she was a tuxedo cat. Called son “Son” because he was a rascally tuxedo cat–just like their namesakes–Sylvester and his Son.

          Dirk was very proud of “his” kittens! Since I’ve been married and had dogs I’ve had 6 cats.

          I used to let my cats go outdoors here in the city. The momma cat was house trained–asked to go out instead of using a litter box! That was GREAT!!!!

          Her son was a fearless little fool. He went out one winter night and tried to chase something up the neighbors drain pips and got stuck. He probably froze to death. He was about 2. Momma was around for almost 5 years, then one day left and never came back.

          I adopted 2 litter mates from shelter as soon as hubby thought he could deal with adopting another animal after loosing Puddy Tat.

          They stayed indoors until I lost Dirk and then I started taking them outside because I was lonely in the back yard. Dirk was 6 when he lost function in his back legs and we helped him go to doggie heaven so he wouldn’t have to suffer any more.

          The 2 brothers–Problem & Trouble–took to the outdoors famously. Then one day we noticed Trouble was hanging out across the alley and in the neighbors yard, but stopped coming home. Then Problem stayed out longer and longer. I kept seeing black cats about their size off and on in the neighborhood and they didn’t run away from me, but they wouldn’t come back home–I like to think they have good homes and are happier there.

          After those 2 left, hubby said–no animals for a while. I can’t stand to lose them!

          After a year or so, he said–OK, you can get a dog.

          I brought home DJ and a cat. He was MacTavish. Never had such a hard time naming animals in my life. Dirk came with a name and Mark didn’t want to just reuse his name. I suggested Dale (Earnhardt) and he wasn’t sure. Then I thought DJ and we could decide later if it was Dirk, Jr or Dale Jr.

          The cat was even harder. All my cats before sort of brought a name to mind. I decided to try Tom in another language. Tavish is Scots Gaelic. Mac is Scots Gaelic for Son of–Son of Tom=MacTavish.

          So I had a puppy and a kitten of equal size who both slept all day.

          Then all of a sudden DJ was 4x as big as the cat and NOT sleeping all day. He just annoyed MacTavish to no end. So MacTavish moved out! He would go for longer and longer and longer and longer. Finally he was gone for over 2 weeks, came home one last time, and we haven’t seen him since.

          When I adopted Stockton, DJ went along for the interview! Stockton was born at the shelter. He had a cold, but he still stole the biggest toy from his mates and ran off with it. Then when DJ met him, he just batted that great big nose that was almost as big as the himself and DJ sat there wagging his tale–true “brotherly love.”

          Until Stockton got to be about 4 years old, they would actually spar! I got a little on video tape, but I wish I had more footage. They were hilarious.

          Once in a while, they both act like “kids” again, but they have a mush calmer relationship now. But Stockton never took any guff from the big guy.

          So–that’s the short version!!!!!

          LOL

          While I love my cats and consider myself rather feline in many ways–their independence just doesn’t allow for the same bond that I have felt with my dogs. So I use the dog for my name. I have tried a few other user names, but none seem right for very long.

          And that’s weird because I am always doing different things–clothes, crafts, books, purses, shoes, cars, entertainment. But I have used dirkthedog or dirkthebigdog for almost as long as I’ve been married and switching just doesn’t seem right. I even tried using Trouble and Problem as user ids for a while because they used to drape themselves over the computer and table while Dirk was underfoot, but Dirk’s the one that stuck.

    • snuggarunt
    • May 26th, 2010

    Well, since we are deciding to share Christ’s Communion only among the members of our own congregation, to the exclusion of those outside of our own congregation, aren’t we being a little hypocritical? Why discriminate? Until the church starts passing out the Sacrament like food samples at the local supermarket, 24/7, to everyone who walks by, no questions asked, the church is simply a bigoted country club that selects who and who isn’t welcomed to the Lord’s table!

    • Sherry
    • May 26th, 2010

    This is a pet peeve with me. I think no church should be making a choice of who is welcomed to the table. This is the Lord’s table, and he invites whom he wishes. All who desire are welcome. Thanks for a great post, which I linked my readers to. Hope you don’t mind!

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