Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Communion Age, the Catechism, and Walking Together

(or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb)

So, the latest dust-up in the LCMS on-line world is over infant communion, or young child communion, or communion age.  Along those lines.  (Hey, I didn't start this one, or even get in on the ground floor - woot!)  But I figured I would write a few thoughts about this, just to flesh out my own thoughts.

1.  The Catechism - You know, if only we Lutherans had something, some writing that dealt with the idea of preparation for Communion and what one ought to be able to Confess (note CONFESS, not KNOW or UNDERSTAND - but CONFESS - more on that later).

Oh, wait... lookie there.  Section 4 of the Small Catechism - Christian Questions and Their Answers: Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for... those who intend to go to the Sacrament.


You see that?  Right there... in the Small Catechism.  Questions for those who intend to go to the Sacrament.  We aren't talking about some obscure line that obliquely refers to Communion Preparation tangentally in the Apology or the Solid Declaration.  Small Catechism.  It's in the Hymnal.

There's our standard of what we expect folks to be able to Confess before they go to communion.  And yet, no one mentions these.  So here's what I will say - until a person can confess the truths given in these answers... they are not to be safely admitted to the altar.

2. First Communion and Confirmation - Then we get to the discussion of what age this happens at.  Beats the tar out of me - people could answer these questions at a variety of ages.  However, here is something we have forgotten in the LCMS.  Common practice is a good thing.

60 years ago, the vastly predominate practice was you communed after you were confirmed in the 8th grade.  Now, I will say this - I do not think this is the "best" practice.  I'd much rather see first communion at a younger age... I think this is better for a variety of reasons.

But I don't yet.

Because that isn't *our* practice.  Not yet.  I consider my circuit - where everyone does confirmation in Junior High (I have confirmed 7th graders before)... and that's normal and understandable.  If I suddenly decide to do what I think is "better" and start communing the 2nd grader who knows the answers... I'm no longer walking together.  Even if it is "better".

If you think this approach isn't disruptive, O Confessional... you know what?  The fellow down the road who does his Contemporary Rock Band service... yeah, he would say that he's just doing something better too, and he doesn't care about what his sister congregations are doing either, because he knows best.  So yeah - that's your argumentation style.

This rancor is what happens when we all do what is best in our own eyes and start changing practice on our own.

(But it's in the Agenda!  Yeah... and CPH also publishes "Creative Worship" -- sometimes you respond to the cat that has been let out of the bag)

3.  The East and Romanticism - And are you ready for something else.  I won't condemn the East necessarily for communing infants.  As we confess in the Catechism, one is truly and well prepared who has faith in these words, "given and shed for you."  And I fully confess that infants have faith.  There is nothing magical about comprehension that makes the Lord's Supper understandable... in fact, I would say that as you get older and more logical and rational, the more apt you are to try to dissect the Sacrament out of being a mystery and into some cockamamie philosophic theory that you think you understand.

But this is my hesitation.  We have a warning against improper communion.  That if you mess with the Supper, it is BAD.

So, we wait for confession.  Not "understanding" - because we never understand the Supper - it's never a mere object of our study.  Not "knowing", as though it's a reward for passing a test.  But rather - do you confess.

Come to think of that - isn't that the thrust of Closed Communion.  We commune those who share our Confession publicly?  Isn't that why the gal who believes it's the true Body and Blood but goes to Jim's Community Church of Fun when she's not at home visiting mom and dad is denied -- because she no longer Confesses with us?  When there is public Confession, then the communion is safe.

To Conclude - It's okay to wait for kids to be able to Confess with us.  And you know what - it's even okay to wait a little bit longer for the sake of the neighbor.  Christians do refrain and curtail things that they are free to do for the sake of the neighbor... and that is actually a good, mature lesson many folks who have been not only confirmed but ordained ought to remember.

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