I read through a series of posts at Patheos on this question, and thought it might make for a good Sunday conversation. The sort of thing we can talk about over Sunday meals.
At most churches we have visited, communion is only for believers – i.e. those that can confidently express the Nicene Creed. I am in a season of severe doubt, and am not sure that I believe all of the elements of the Nicene Creed anymore. I am trying to “practice” christianity even if I can’t wrap my brain around it, but theoretically I am excluded from communion in the church. It is an incredibly humiliating experience to refrain from communion. I also feel that limiting to christians is isolating, not at all welcoming or evangelistic to visitors to the church to whom Christianity is new. If communion were open to all, I would participate, but we haven’t found a church in the area that is still orthodox and offers open communion. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the practice of closed communion and why it evolved to be that way? Is it Biblical? Am I wrong in feeling excluded?
p.s. My family and I opted to take a break from church today for the reason of communion, so it is a very genuine concern of ours.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never totally understood what’s going on during the Eucharist. I participate because Jesus told the Apostles to “remember” him in that way, and the early Church did just that. I am exploring the Catholic Church, and considering what they have to say about this.
I’m very interested in the responses you get to your post.
I also believe in open communion (#1) as I believe that communion is about unity rather than exclusion. It is up to God to sort out if a person is taking communion who “shouldn’t.” I believe that all are welcome at the table. Communion for me is remembering/reflecting/thankfulness for what Jesus has done for me.
Because Jesus said and Paul repeated “do this in remembrance of me.” “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
To participate in communion is to join with the communion of saints, past, present, and future, to remember and to proclaim. We are fully embodied persons – and we participate in a fully embodied fashion.
This we do with all Christians everywhere – whether in physical presence or not; whether they would admit us to participate in their presence or not.
Just as Christ participated in humanity through incarnation, I participate in divinity through the meal
Communion is… 1) an action by which a group of people become something corporately which they had not been as a mere collection of individuals. 2) A journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom 3) an entrance into the risen life of Christ 4) a movement of adoration and praise in which all joy and suffering, all beauty and all frustration, all hunger and all satisfaction are referred to their ultimate End and become finally meaningful 5) the most natural act of man, the very essence of his life 6) That through which the whole creation becomes what is always was to be and yet failed to be.
and so much more
In communion I experience the mysterious presence of Christ and the actions of God – affirming my forgiveness; my identity as God’s own and as one who is connected to others in the Body of Christ.
It is more than obedience to the Lord who said “Do this”, because it is God who is acting in the sacrament, not primarily me. God nourishes my faith, forgives my sin, affirms that I am His own, soothes my broken heart., reminds me of all that I forget about His grace.
Open/Closed? Communion is offered to a centered set, not a bound set.
PS That was 99 words. The 100th word is a one-word answer: Jesus.
@like a child I go to mass every week with my wife who is Catholic…
I NEVER take communion there
Even though I am a part of that worshiping community, because I can’t embrace all of which makes them a church together, I don’t join them
I don’t feel I am excluded, I know that I have excluded myself by obeying my conscience
I also go to a Covenant church every sunday where I do receive communion
What defines them as a church is much less rigorous…
Communion is not simply something we receive, it is an action of interdependence of all the members of the body of Christ. It would be shameful of me to place myself in that interdependence at my wife’s church if I can’t support what makes them a church.
I am curious as to what parts of the Creed you are having difficulty with
I take it as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for me. I find it so meaningful, that I wished our church celebrated it more than once a quarter.
Communion or “Remembrance” is a time to remember what God did by sending his son. What Christ did through his obedience to God. And how I do not deserve it at all…but by God’s grace and Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, I can come to him broken and humbled while I confess and ask for forgiveness of my sins. Is this something I should only do when my church does it? No. But without an organized time for it at service once in awhile, I’d forget far more often. @LikeAChild, I am curious why you would like to take it. What is it that communion does for you? What parts of the Creed are you unsure of…Do you know the song “Come Thou Fount”? The man who wrote that had doubts too! Check out the words… http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/hs876.htm
First, let me point out that I “receive” Communion; it is not something that I “take.”
Communion is my response to what I have heard (and sometimes declared myself often by singing) in worship. It’s my participation in God’s work now that does remember the past and also anticipates the future in which God makes everything right. I celebrate what God is doing in the church and world when I receive Communion.
We serve The Lord’s Supper in our church because Jesus said to do it to remember him. Of course, we remember him in many ways, but The Lord’s Supper makes us sit down and reflect on his sacrifice. It is a church ordinance.
In our little country church the pastor says anyone who claims Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord is welcome to receive the bread and “wine” (we’re Baptists, so no, it really isn’t). That’s as open as we’re likely to get, so @likeachild, a non-believer, would not feel comfortable.
There are likely other churches, though, in which the The Lord’s Supper is open to everyone, even those who don’t believe in Him as Lord and Savior. I don’t understand why someone who doesn’t believe would want to participate in a Christian sacrament/ritual/symbol/ordinance, but obviously there’s at least one, @likeachild, who does. She should continue her search; if she can’t find one in the “Big Tent,” maybe she can find one outside.
I go the Table of the Lord for more revelation of King Jesus the Messiah, who I am in Him and who He is in me.
I partake weekly…most of the time when I partake I feel very near God as I remember the death of Jesus, but sometimes, when I partake I feel closer to those around me…we are the body of Christ.
As for me, I receive it occasionally, but I’m not sure why and I don’t really “get” it.
I don’t buy the Baptist take on it I grew up with as though Jesus meant dredge up bad stuff about yourself and confess it and then drink a thimbleful of grape juice and eat some dry cracker.
Nor do I buy the more high church angle as though something magical of some kind happens (depending on your particular faith tradition).
I don’t really think that’s what was going on 2000 years ago at the original event, nor do I think that is what Paul was describing in 1 Corinthians 11. I suspect that whatever was really going on back then, we’re probably missing the point.
Communion is one of the few reasons I go to church services. It is the best connection between Jesus and myself.
In the Eucharist I obey Christ’s command and receive the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus. In this sacrament and act of obedient faith are great blesings.
Reading the responses, I can see more than ever the value of coming to the table every week. To understand it, means experiencing it. If we come to the Table only occasionally, it’s difficult to experience the meaning of the cup and loaf. It carries so many meanings and nuances, from remembrance of the cross to an anticipation of the heavenly banquet. It is a meal of unity and sign of the body of Christ. It is a mystery, yes, but it is also a mystery that can be understood. But that requires being at the Table regularly!
5.Because Jesus said and Paul repeated “do this in remembrance of me.” “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
In Jewish understanding, to do something, as Jesus said, εις την εμην αναμνησιν (“for my remembrance/memorial” – from ανα + μιμνησκω – cf. the thief on the cross, Luke 23:42 μιμνησκω), is probably more a reminder to God the Father to remember Jesus’ death and the covenant made by it than for us to “remember” Him or it.
Similarly, the proclamation of His death may also be more a proclamation to God about it than to us or to others.
I.e., communion asks God to remember what His Son’s death effected between Him and us, and to keep the covenant.
Per Zerwick-Grosvenor: “in Palestinian usage αναμνησις is referred to God, with a view to his intervention (Joachim Jeremias) and the rendering would be: do this that God may remember me.
Also see Louis Bouyer of the Oratory’s book EUCHARIST on “The Meaning of the ‘memorial'” pp. 103ff.
Following up on 20.: So reasons to take communion would be: 1) to “remind” God of the New Covenant effected by Jesus’ death, and 2) to personally pledge oneself anew to one’s part of that covenant – i.e., faith in, and obedience to, Jesus.
As well as: 3) to recognize being members with each other of the same body, since all partake of the one loaf.
I believe Bob Cornwall makes an excellent point here in saying that we need to take Holy Communion on a regular basis, which for me means weekly (and I’m thankful that’s just what our church offers; all once a week, available to everyone after the service, weekly). Only then can the significance and power of it begin to sink in, or at least such has been the case for me. It certainly involves mystery mirroring the words of scripture on it. In participating in it we participate in Christ himself which includes his body the church. Of course a proclamation of the Lord’s death, as well as a participation in his body and blood (1 Cor 10).
all once a month, while offered weekly
Agree with Ted #22 about Bob Cornwall’s comment @19. The one thing I miss about my Plymouth Brethren background is the regular communion. Whatever else one is in daily life, we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. It is a return to square one, a remembrance of the one who loved us most, a reason to die to self and to live to him.
I would simply say to be reminded of his L,D,R. To remember his great love and sacrifice for me. To touch, smell, taste, chew and swallow, as I remember and experience with others the real and living prsence of Christ in Communion with him – without fully knowing what that means!
I’ve reached a place where weekly communion may be a “deal breaker” for joining. Almost. We don’t want to be legalists but I think it is a good rule for worshiping together. I still belong to a church that wants it to be “special” so they only do it quarterly. Thats like saying we should only read our Bibles on Wednesday so it doesn’t lose its “specialness”.
So I “sneak” around to Taize, Lutheran, Presbyeterian, Covenant, Methodist churches to partake of communion more regularly. This has been both rewarding and troubling.
Sorry, this is a bit off topic
Because jesus invites me and promises his presence whether I trust that or not.
because I need all the help I can get to fight the flesh and devil (as luther would say)
Because it’s a visible means of grace.
i take communion because it is offered. i was raised in a liturgical setting where the mystery of doctrine and practice amplified the whole context of communion, now it seems that i encounter a weekly opportunity for a mini-sermon and a snack.
when i sit down to a small table of friends for a slow, deep meal together, i feel that something much closer to communion is happening.
Union with Christ.
Part of the invitation I use: “Take this bread and this cup. In them, God comes to us, so that we may come to God.”
I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t so often “take communion.” Instead, I celebrate meals with other Christians and while eating the bread and drinking the wine, we remember Jesus.
I am part of a house church. After our worship time on Sunday we “fellowship”. That means we do lunch together, talk, laugh, share and get to know each other better. For me that’s what was originally intended by doing “communion”. Somehow in Christian tradition the meal which Christians enjoyed together was replaced by a thimble of wine/juice and a morsel of bread, and instead of a shared meal it became a “sacrament” which was “administered” by an ordained priest or minister.
I like our house church tradition better. I think it’s Biblical, closer to the practice of the first Christians, and instead of being a “symbol” of fellowship it IS fellowship!
I like JH Yoder’s discussion of “breaking bread together” in his short work, Body Politics. The Eucharist, according to Yoder, is not just about giving thanks, remembering Passover/Jesus’ death, or receiving forgiveness (though it may be all of those things); it is an act of economic solidarity with all members of the body of Christ. (Cf. references to “breaking bread together” in Acts 4.)
@ 32 (&33) And I wonder if at some point it didn’t evolve into an unspoken barter, “I’ll ‘administer’ the sacrament for you, assuring you of your salvation for another week, if you play by the rules, come again next week, and pay into the ‘administration’ (the ordained priest or minister and the building where it all happens).”
Celebrating our new life; our corporate identity in Christ, with an great sense of thankfulness (Eucharist). We proclaim what Christ has done through his death, which makes it current and ongoing, “until he comes again”. We also enjoy the Lord’s real presence. My history includes both the Catholic (transubstantiation) view and a Pentecostal (symbols/elements) view. When I prayed and reflected on 1 Cor. 11, I wondered how we could “sin against the body and blood” of Christ, even suffering weakness, sickness and death.