Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Participants in the Altar"

A question was brought up this morning concerning the Lord's Supper and closed communion. The struggle was that if in the Lord's Supper was truly god's forgiveness being given, then why do we refuse to give communion to those who believe "the same" as we Lutherans do?

And the question that must be answered is this: What does it mean to believe the same?
The best understanding, I think, would mean to believe exactly the same as the person who is sitting next to you. The expression of this common belief would be holding to a common confession of faith or creed. And indeed from that common confession, understanding of terms and presuppositions must be conveyed as well, as best as can be taught. (As I hesitate to write even "as best as can be taught", because it borderlines on disunity.)

Here is my case study. My real life example of closed communion. I had a buddy in college who was a biblical baptist (and I say biblical, because if he could be convinced according to scripture of something other than what the Baptist confession teaches, then he would believe otherwise). Needless to say, through our conversations, he believed the real presence of Jesus Christ was in, with and under the bread and wine. He believed "is" means "is". Scripture convinced him. Yet, even with that, he did not believe in the grace bestowing gifts of Baptism. He continued to attend service at his Baptist church, and still believed their unwritten common confession.

And here is the important part, by partaking in their communion (their fellowship, if you prefer), literally by worshiping at their altar, he was then a participant in their altar making the confession that he believed what those others around him believed. By his worship he was adjoining himself to their fraternal communion and even a confession that was contrary to his own. He was a participant in their altar.

So also this is what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22. He speaks of being a participant in the altar of demons or in the altar and communion of the Christ. One cannot be partakers of both. In the same way, one cannot be a participant in two different altars whose beliefs contradict. I'm not trying to say one Christian altar is of demons and the other is of Christ, but I am saying they make different confessions.

A man can only participate in one altar. One altar is correct, one altar is incorrect. One may have the Supper, one may not. And if he serves the altar that does not confess the body and blood of the Lord, and then participates in the altar who confesses and indeed gives the body and blood of the Lord through bread and wine; that man beware, for though he confesses correctly, his heart is far from the Lord, and it is quite possible that judgment is upon him.

Comments are welcome.

+Kyrie Eleison+

1 comment:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It is as simple as this - if you believe as we do, why do you go to another Church that teaches differently? The way I think about it is this - we admit someone to our altar if this is the last altar they plan on being at.