Thursday, September 27, 2012

Admission Requirements as Pastoral Failure

A friend of mine asked if I would write on the topic of admission requirements to the Lord's Supper.  Here it goes.

Here is my assertion.  The idea of having admission "requirements" for the Supper is foolish.

WHAT!  How can that be!

Well, let's think about what sort of approach talking about "requirements" leads to.  It makes receiving the supper a reward where a person can say, "a ha, now that I have met the requirements, I get the Supper -- and woe to any Pastor who says otherwise".  Whatever "requirement" it is -- I was confirmed, I'm a member on paper, I can cite this -- if you have "requirements" and I meet them, then *I* should be in -- and any pastor who says no is suddenly a judge determining legal validity of various requirements.

Let's consider this question instead.  Why, ultimately, would we have anyone refrain from receiving the Supper?  Because we are told that improper reception can be harmful.  The question isn't who has jumped through the hoops to get the Supper - it's who can receive it without harm.

A-HA!  So you're an open communion unthinking jerk-face bad theologian!

No.  Rather this.  Everyone, ideally should be able to receive the Supper, but because improper reception can damage one's faith and soul - we hold people off.  We say no.

And we need to be serious about why we say no.  We need to acknowledge that false doctrine damages faith - so when you play around with that cool, hip church that teaches false doctrine - it's not safe for you now, because I don't want to confirm you in your putting up with stupid doctrine.  It means if you are just doing a touch and go for political reasons -- no.  It means if you are caught up in open shame and vice - no.

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Let me make an analogy.  A Driver's license.  This is a great way to describe communion, the "requirements" before we let someone commune.  Let someone show that they have learned how to handle the awesome gift (be it a car or the Supper) first, and then they may use.

However, if you come upon someone who is drunk and say, "You shouldn't drive now" - the response of "But I have a license" doesn't count much.  Or even if you come across someone who is sleepy and tired and say, "You shouldn't drive now" - again, a "requirement" approach doesn't deal with that.

We are about safety, safely receiving the Supper.  We should want people to have it -- but if they can't receive it safely, well -- the Pastor has the keys for that reason.

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Or in other words - this scene from Say Anything is what a Pastor doing closed communion should look like (metaphorically speaking - although I think there may be a time for a pastor to yell "Chill!  You must chill!")

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