bread and wine

October 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm 27 comments

communionHe who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
Matthew 12:25

Years ago my wife and I attended a wedding of Catholic friends of ours. We were cautioned ahead of time by our friend that communion would be offered only to Catholics, she wanted to make sure we knew that ahead of time and would not be offended. So we remained seated in our pew with a number of other a-Catholics during communion. I remember feeling a bit put off, not by our friends choice to be Catholic but by a church that would practice exclusivity to the degree that we as True Believing Christians would not be able to join them in communion.

We didn’t practice communion that way at our old evangelical church. Well not until a few years ago anyway. At some point the invitation to communion was changed to include a phrase to the effect of, “As this communion meal is for those who believe in Jesus Christ and have given their lives to him, we ask that those who do not share our faith refrain from partaking…” Or something like that. I didn’t like when that change was made, always felt uncomfortable thinking of how it would make people feel, and didn’t like the division it communicated. Did God need to have his holiness defended that way? Would we be in danger of giving false assurance to those not saved? I’m sure there were reasons, at that point I was not engaged in a way to try to learn what they were or to try to resolve them.

I was reminded of all this when we were at the service last night of the new evangelical church we have been visiting. I had taken communion there previously once, the invitation was about shared community and I felt OK about that. But last night the invitation specifically excluded those who did not “believe in Jesus as Lord.” So I stayed in my seat. I didn’t really mind, to be honest it protected me from struggling with hypocrisy, after all, why would I partake in communion if that is not what I believed?

It was harder for my wife than for me, highlighting again that I don’t believe all the same things I used to. And I was made more aware of the church as a social institution that is not only about joining in a certain set of beliefs but also about enforcing them. And the rules at the heart of evangelical Christianity speak of exclusivity by design, and a message of bringing people into that exclusivity, not opening the doors to join with others inclusively. That’s fine with me, I don’t need to be making the rules. But it leaves me wanting to say, “That’s fine, I know where I’m not wanted.”

Advertisements

Entry filed under: belief, church.

existential crises saving darwin

27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sabio Lantz  |  October 4, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Good for you staying in your seat. There are churches that allow all to come for communion. Maybe it will help your wife see the difference. Best Wishes. (Well written !)

  • 2. the chaplain  |  October 4, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    The denomination I used to belong to didn’t practice Communion. Still, I had opportunities to partake in it at other churches and, as a believer at the time, always found it deeply meaningful. I felt that my denomination was missing something significant by omitting the sacrament from its worship.

    I suspect that most Christians don’t see Communion as an act of exclusion, but, it certainly does divide congregants into two camps, those who are “worthy” (even if that term is not used, it’s what is meant) of participating and those who, for whatever reasons, are not worthy of doing so.

  • 3. Qohelet  |  October 4, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I took communion yesterday, after a long hiatus. The wafer still tasted like cardboard but the grape juice was nice. :)

  • 4. Lorena  |  October 4, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I stopped taking communion a long time ago. It wasn’t even about Jesus in the end. It was about me not feeling part of the body of believers, since my views were so different.

  • 5. Sabio Lantz  |  October 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    I have been to many Jewish services and when the jump around through the congregation with the Torah scroll held up for everyone to touch, I don’t touch it.

    When I walk into a Catholic church, I do not kneel or cross myself with holy water.

    At Hindu services, I have been to many, I will put my hands over the flames and give a greeting and eat the prasad during puja. I have no trouble here because it is offered to all and the pluralism allows it.

  • 6. Temaskian  |  October 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

    It’s all about tribalism, of course. Segregating the in-group from the out. And making those in the group feel special and privileged, while tempting the outsiders to feel jealous.

    The church I was in only offered communion to the baptised believers. I was not baptised for many years, so I was always not allowed to drink the grape juice and eat the biscuit crusts. They always passed me by. That’s why the ushers on communion Sundays are always the Council Chairmen. They get to choose who and who not to be offered the communion. After I got baptised, it felt good, but the good feeling didn’t last.

    After writing this, I now feel that it’s indeed a vestigial ceremony passed down from the Catholic traditions, for them to be guarding the sacraments so zealously.

  • 7. Christiana  |  October 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Interesting thoughts. Seems kind of ironic that Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners yet the church is excluding them in their partaking of the wine and the bread.

    I don’t think that Jesus would say you are not wanted there. He calls all to come. I should think that would be up to you whether or not you want to or not.

    Temaskian’s take is something to chew on. Why do we (they) feel such the need to control other people’s spirituality? Who are they to decide whether or not someone is really a Christian or not or worthy of taking communion? It reminds me of our former church where children needed to show enough “evidences of grace” before they were allowed to take communion. The message to the children would be “make sure you act good enough to convince us that you are saved and then you can be in the club”. It only teaches the children to put on a show, when being a christian is about the heart and the spirit and faith and that can not be measured. It’s certainly not what the bible teaches. Again Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them……..”

    I see you have Phillip Yancey’s book on your list. We read that one a long time ago. It was good and deserves a re-reading. Sure does take Jesus out of the religious box he has been put in. I’d be interested in hearing your take on it.

  • 8. atimetorend  |  October 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    It reminds me of our former church where children needed to show enough “evidences of grace” before they were allowed to take communion.

    I had the opportunity to talk about that same thing regarding baptism at our older church.

    It only teaches the children to put on a show, when being a christian is about the heart and the spirit and faith and that can not be measured.

    I agree, and grownups too. :^)

  • 9. atimetorend  |  October 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Temaskian , you went to a pretty harsh sounding place from all I’ve heard about it. It is good you have your freedom from that.

  • 10. atimetorend  |  October 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I suspect that most Christians don’t see Communion as an act of exclusion, but, it certainly does divide congregants into two camps, those who are “worthy” (even if that term is not used, it’s what is meant) of participating and those who, for whatever reasons, are not worthy of doing so.

    I suppose the closer to fundamentalist you are the more those distinctions that set people apart from one another become important.

  • 11. Sabio Lantz  |  October 5, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    @ Christiana — I would have to agree with you. Christianity does not have to be exclusive. I have strong suspicion that Jesus was not the least bit exclusive. Shame that groups that claim to follow him are. Communion can easily be inclusive and some Christians do follow that spirit !

  • 12. Temaskian  |  October 5, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    “Temaskian , you went to a pretty harsh sounding place from all I’ve heard about it. It is good you have your freedom from that.”

    Yeah, some of you guys’ descriptions about your churches are so liberal that if it were me, perhaps I would not have left at all! Just kidding, but yes, I seem to have had the honour of having gone to the more so-called oppressive churches.

  • 13. Temaskian  |  October 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    “It reminds me of our former church where children needed to show enough “evidences of grace” before they were allowed to take communion.”

    Wow, that’s even stricter than my ex-church. I imagine the children must be very well-behaved as a result of this imperial edict.

  • 14. Temaskian  |  October 5, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Atimetorend,

    “I suppose the closer to fundamentalist you are the more those distinctions that set people apart from one another become important.”

    True, fundamentalists love differences. Whereas the more liberal types love ecumenism.

  • 15. Grace  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I’m totally opposed to closed communion. Who can judge another person’s heart coming to the Lord’s table. I say welcome everyone, and let God sort it out. Would Jesus turn people away?

    In my own denomination, a former atheist actually came to faith, in part by receiving the sacrament.. and then began a food ministry feeding hungry people.

    She’s actually written a book called “Take this Bread., A Radical Conversion,” by Sara Miles.

  • 16. atimetorend  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Grace, thanks for stopping by. I had not heard the term “closed communion” before, didn’t know it had a label. Open communion does make more sense to me. Part of the problem I’ve had with religion, and I think a critical component of fundamentalism, is people telling other people what they need to think. Fundamentalists want to spin it another way, saying people who disagree with them only want to make God in our own image and don’t want to hear things that are inconvenient or difficult to hear. I don’t think that is the case at all. Personally, I just take issue with their requirement that the bible be considered inerrant, especially in the way that they define “inerrancy.”

    I looked up Sara Miles’ web site, very impressive person, I like a lot of what she says (and of course does). Here are a couple of examples I liked from her interview with the SF Chronicle:

    “Belief turned out to be the least important part of faith. For me, the most interesting part of faith has been doubt, not knowing, being willing to look at the universe with a different perspective.”

    Why is doubt interesting?
    “It’s interesting to not be in complete control of the narrative, to not know how the story turns out. I believe that the Holy Spirit is still at work in the world, that God’s truth was not revealed once and for all at a single historical moment and now it’s just a matter of cracking the code.”

  • 17. Sabio Lantz  |  October 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    To me, it is fascinating how words can capture deep principle of perspective. These deep principles can be captured by many religions and non-religions. The art is weaving the principles meaningfully into our lives. When we see others do this, we are inspired.

  • 18. Grace  |  October 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    You’re welcome, Atimetorend,

    Definitely agree that honest doubt is an aspect of faith, and that God honors all of our sincere questioning, and seeking after Him.

    “For now we see through a glass darkly…”

  • 19. Sabio Lantz  |  October 21, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Grace,
    How does your God “honor” someone?

    And I think we can come up with lots of uncomfortable verses to counter your sweet ones. For instance:

    But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?
    Romans 9:20

  • 20. Grace  |  October 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Hi, Sabio,

    I was thinking mostly of the story where Thomas is not able to trust Jesus, or believe the “good news,” unless actually able to see physical evidence. Jesus honors His request, and was not harsh with Him.

    I’m not basing my opinion so much in selected Bible verses, but in what Christians believe concerning the whole reality of the incarnation. Jesus show us the very nature of God.

    I understand, Sabio, where you’re coming from. I think anyway. Really folks can make the Bible say almost anything, and I for one am not into getting into the “dual of the Bible verses,” with folks. :)

    I do think this verse you cited is not so much relating to people who have honest questions, and doubts, about issues of faith, but are truly open, and seeking truth, as it relates more to someone who is directly, and deliberately rejecting, and challenging God’s purpose, and plan.

    There’s a huge difference in my mind.

    But, we can certainly agree to disagree. I’m not the one who is able to convince anyone here.

    Peace to you, Sabio.

  • 21. Sabio Lantz  |  October 23, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    @ Grace, peace unto you too

    Sure, that one story has Jesus being nice and giving Thomas the evidence he needs — or, as most scholars would point out, the writer is giving the readers the evidence they may want.

    But you said, “God honors all our sincere questioning”. You quoted Jesus here but we see that the various writers of the Old Testament do not represent their God as being patient with questioning. It depends where you read. The God of the OT can be incredibly violent and horrible — not “honoring of questioning” at all. People tend to ignore the uncomfortable parts of the bible and only chose their favorite parts to make their God. This is fine, I guess, because the bible is really a gathering together of the ideas of lots of folks about various gods. I know you want it to be one story about one God, but the evidence is clear that such is not the case.

    Even in the NT, in Acts, two CHRISTIAN members of the community do not feel they should give up the total amount of the tithing but instead of discussing their hesitation, Peter uses the Holy Spirit to slay them both — no warning ! Ouch !

    Be well Grace

  • 22. Temaskian  |  October 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Sabio,

    “Even in the NT, in Acts, two CHRISTIAN members of the community do not feel they should give up the total amount of the tithing but instead of discussing their hesitation, Peter uses the Holy Spirit to slay them both — no warning ! Ouch !”

    Yeah, that story in Acts used to terrify me when I was a Christian. In fact, come to think of it, some parts of the NT are really horrifying, with the probable intended consequence of scaring Christians into submitting to their church leaders.

    By the way, the impression I had about Ananias and Sapphira was that they weren’t tithing, but giving up all their wealth to the apostles, so that the whole community would have everything in common.

  • 23. Sabio Lantz  |  October 23, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    @Tem
    Yep, you are right — heck, I even did a cartoon post on it once and forgot ! Thanx.

  • 24. Temaskian  |  October 23, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    @Sabio,

    Haha, most entertaining. It’s chilling that the cartoons depict the couple as so ordinary and mundane (kitchen scene), and still get to be zapped by God. Imagine what could happen to you.

    “God sees and hears everything we do”! That was the moral of the story? It should have been ‘don’t lie to your pastor or you will die on the spot’.

    You have a good point there that they were only lying to Peter, not to God, yet they were zapped. So another moral is that Peter (i.e. your local and friendly pastor) is actually as good as God, i.e. you must treat him or her like God on this earth.

  • 25. Sabio Lantz  |  October 24, 2009 at 9:53 am

    @ Grace
    Hey Grace, I found a post which illustrates some of the violence of the OT God and Paul’s God in the NT toward those who doubt : The BeAttitudes
    I was tempted to cut an paste, but I shant.
    By the way, there are many more.
    How do these fit your image of Jesus? Can you fit them all comfortably together? (You are suppose to be able to)
    Peace Out,
    Sabio

  • 26. markfjohnston  |  November 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    “I remember feeling a bit put off, not by our friends choice to be Catholic but by a church that would practice exclusivity to the degree that we as True Believing Christians would not be able to join them in communion.”

    Ah, so it sounds like you are under the impression that the Catholic sacrament of communion is merely a ritual intended to celebrate one’s true belief in God. If that is the case, I can understand why you were put off by the request (not a commandment, but a request) that non Catholics refrain.

  • 27. atimetorend  |  November 10, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I was not aware I was under that impression. Care to elaborate?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 20 other followers

Recent Posts

current and recent reads

read:
not much

reading:
Russell Shorto: Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason

to read:
???

I support Kiva.org

Kiva - loans that change lives

Categories

wordpress visitor

%d bloggers like this: