Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Who Should Commune?

Pastor’s Window for August 2009
Closed Communion: Who Should Commune?

Beloved in the Lord,

This article is the third in a series on closed communion. The first article was “Closed Communion: What is It?” where we defined closed communion. Closed communion is the practice of admitting to the Lord’s Supper only those who have been instructed in Lutheran doctrine and are baptized and confirmed members of an LCMS congregation, who also confess that in the Lord’s Supper they receive the true body and blood of Christ in their mouths for the forgiveness of their sins. The second article was “Closed Communion: Why We Practice It,” where we reviewed the rationale for this ancient practice, namely, love for the neighbor. In these articles, we learned that not everyone should receive the Lord’s Supper with us. Non-Christians and the unbaptized should not commune. Members of churches that are not in fellowship with us should not commune. Those who cannot examine themselves or who have not been instructed should not commune. The unrepentant should not commune.

So who should commune, or as Luther asks in the Small Catechism, “Who receives this sacrament worthily?” Luther answers: “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1986]).

The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who repent of their sins and believe Christ’s promise of the forgiveness of sins in His true body and blood that He gives to us under the bread and wine (cf. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). If you’ve ever felt unworthy to come to the Lord’s Supper, you’re right! You have no merit or worthiness in yourself. Your worthiness is Christ Himself. He alone is worthy. He gives you His worthiness. You receive it by faith. Ironically, it is only those who know their great unworthiness, and who trust in the worthiness and righteousness of Christ alone, who are, in fact, worthy to come to the Supper. Lutherans do not believe they are more worthy to receive the Supper than other Christians. Those who believe they are worthy in themselves should not come! The Supper is for sinners. The Supper is for the repentant. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17; ESV).

But concretely speaking, who should commune at Epiphany? Those who commune at our altar should:
1. Be baptized. Under no circumstances should an unbaptized person commune.
2. Be repentant, sorry for their sins, trust in Christ for forgiveness, and desire to amend their sinful life. This also requires the ability to examine oneself (1 Cor. 11:28). Private confession and absolution is one method of such examination.
3. Believe the promises of Christ, that when He says “This is my body,” it is His body, and when He says “This is my blood,” it is His blood, and that He gives these to us “for the forgiveness of sins,” as He says.
4. Be instructed in the basics of Christian doctrine (through Catechism class or adult instruction) and confess agreement with the biblical doctrine confessed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
5. Belong to a congregation of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, not because one needs to be a card-carrying member of the club, but because church fellowship matters. Christians who cannot belong to the same denomination due to doctrinal differences should not commune together as if those differences did not exist. We are not talking about minor differences, but the very Word of God.

Closed communion is not easy, pretty, or fun. But it is the ancient practice of the Christian Church, and you may be surprised to know it is the official practice of the majority of Christians in the world (including confessional Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others). Hopefully this series has been a good review for you and helpful in understanding why we practice closed communion. In heaven, and in the resurrection, thanks be to God our sad and sinful divisions will cease. Christ will finally deliver us. Until then, as long as sin leads to false doctrine and divisions within Christendom, we must tirelessly confess the biblical truth and work toward Christian unity. And we need strength along the way. Therefore we rejoice in the gifts of Christ, particularly the forgiveness, new life, and strength that He gives us in His true body and blood in the Supper.

Pastor Krenz

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