Cultural Bias And Holy Communion

 

Who is ‘authorized’ to administer (or serve) Holy Communion/The Lord’s Supper/The Eucharist/The Mass?  This was the question I asked in the beginning of this series of blogs.  As I prayed and reflected on this topic, as with the other topics I’ve already addressed, I am finding it taking me deeper than my original intent and adding additional, call them questions or angles, that may be getting in the way of understanding this powerful moment of Holy Communion.  Before I get to the others questions the Spirit has confronted me with, allow me to address this original question.

In every Tribe and Tradition of which I am familiar, in order to serve or administer or oversee (ecclesiastical requirements) this “Sacrament”, one must be a licensed, commissioned or ordained pastor.  In my Tribe, to be “qualified” you must be either “ordained” or a “licensed” local pastor.  In the case of a local pastor, you can only serve Communion in the congregation to which you are appointed.  Truthfully, from the time of my entrance into this calling, I have always had an issue with my Tribe’s rule.  But in order to be licensed and then ordained, I kept the party line in tact with my papers and what I said in my interviews.  (In one paper I had to do, I ripped apart the commentator…turned out he was the one who “graded” my paper, so I had to redo it….edited of course to fall in line with the author of the commentary I ripped apart….lesson learned!)

The rationale behind such views is that a properly credentialed person is necessary in order to protect the sacredness of this powerful moment.  It is as if Holy Communion (notice the use of caps) loses both the “Holy” and the “caps” if someone administers or oversees it who is not “properly credentialed”, thus becoming only “communion” (lower case ‘c’) which in turn, the powers that be, believe diminishes its effect.  Really?  It loses its purpose and power when someone administers it who isn’t ecclesiastically qualified?  That the sacredness of God’s grace is not present?  Wow!  I never realized that God could not move in a moment UNLESS He has someone ecclesiastically qualified like me!

My long-standing “disagreement” on this issue is based on this passage from 1 Peter 2:5-9

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.  What’s more, you are his holy priests.  Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say,  “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him.  But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”  And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”   They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.  But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

We call this The Priesthood Of All Believers.  Unless Pete’s first letter was limited to only ecclesiastically qualified people, then I believe that “proper” Holy Communion (again, notice the caps) can be administered by anyone who has turned away from sin, accepted the Gift of God expressed on The Cross, and is growing in that Grace.  Either we who seriously follow Jesus (meaning being a Christian is more than a name, but a life-long commitment of heart, mind and will) are ALL Priests or NONE of us are to be considered Priests.  Ecclesiastical Authority does NOT make one a priest.  Only the authority of the One who Created us, Redeemed us, and Transforms us has such authority!!!! (Notice the use of multiple “exclamation marks”; that means I’m passionately serious about this!!!!)

Jesus revealed and modeled the new work of Priests, this Priesthood of All Believers. (See Hebrews 9:11-12 and Hebrews 4:14-16).  The mission of Priests in the Old Testament were to presents the needs of the people to God and to reveal God’s mind and heart to the people.  Jesus did this perfectly by becoming both the Priest who stands before God to represent the needs of the people, and the perfect sacrifice that meets all the needs of all people.  Picture this:  Jesus REPRESENTING us BEFORE God, and then PRESENTING the heart and mind God TO us.

And there is no clearer picture of the Heart and Mind of God than in the Holy Moment of Holy Communion.  We present and re-present to each other the perfect Sacrifice through Holy Communion.  And who better to “preside” over that moment than anyone who has been touched, redeemed and now being transformed by this marvelous Grace?  Certainly it doesn’t take ecclesiastical credentials to “preside” over this Sacred Meal.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I do not see ecclesiastical credentials as a requirement in the first century Body of Christ.  So why now is it necessary?

Enough for now…there are some more cultural biases I see around the Sacred Meal…and as hard as it may be to believe….I have something to say about them, too….later!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM!!!!

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7 thoughts on “Cultural Bias And Holy Communion

  1. I often guest speak in a number of denominations it is interesting that I can present information that can change people’s approach to the faith but I can’t serve communion in many of them – I am more of a danger in the pulpit than serving communion

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  2. I have not written anything even on my own sites in sometime as I am otherwise occupied. However, your point is one which has been on my mind for a while Allow me to use this forum for a lengthy response.

    Article XIII — Of the Church
    The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

    Article V — The Church
    We believe the Christian Church is the community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ. We believe it is one, holy, apostolic and catholic. It is the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by men divinely called, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the Church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers and the redemption of the world.

    According to our own standards, the UMC as a body does not qualify as a church. While the failure by many to rightfully preach the word of God has been well known for some time, I am disturbed upon recently discovering how pervasive is the corruption of the Sacraments in many of our churches.
    Since voluntarily leaving the clergy almost a year ago I have had occasion to receive Communion in a UMC congregation fifteen times. Only on five of those occasions was it duly administered. The most egregious offenders: ordained elders. They get so cute trying to make the Eucharist interesting or relevant that they either forget or refuse to offer a prayer of confession. The second most common offense is that they omit the epiclesis: They will-not/do-not say “…let this be for us the body and blood of Christ…”. They do not invoke the work of the Holy Spirit.
    If we understand that in the Eucharist we are invited to encounter the living Christ and receive all benefits of his life, death, and resurrection, then how can we offer anything more interesting or relevant than that? Now, the orders in our hymnal and Book of Worship are understood to be minimalist…it is expected that the pastor will expand upon it as appropriate to the occasion. However, it cannot be reduced any further and still remain a sacrament.
    So, to your point, which is a duly administered sacrament? One offered by an ordained elder who leaves out the essential elements of the Eucharist, or a properly celebrated rite by one who’s call has not been affirmed by a UMC bishop?

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    1. You may a good point. And I agree that the sacredness, the power of Holy Communion has been diminished. My desire in these thoughts are that the power of This Meal be unleashed in the hearts of minds of those who participate. Thanks for stopping by! Praying your journey continues to fill you with His joy, hope and peace. Blessings my Brother!

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  3. Interesting, Pastor Randy! I totally feel qualified, authorized,and able to administer communion. I’ve even had to take communion alone. A few times in small groups, I’ve done it too. One thing I enjoy about our pastor is that he often pulls in members of the congregation, so they are actually charged with administering communion to their brothers and sisters, rather than just passing along a tray. I thought that was kind of sweet. For me what is important is the reverence, “do it in remembrance of me,” with sober mindedness. I have been places where I thought communion was too casual, to ritualistic and quick, and that bothered me a little.

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  4. Great post !! I do have one question, though… Our pastor does not believe we should pass the bread and wine plates if we have unconfessed sins, that we know we are not going to repent and turn from… He thinks ALL true believers should partake…

    1 Corinthians 11:27-28… Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (ESV)

    Doesn’t this scripture tell us if we are living in adultery, and know we are not going to repent and turn from it…that we should just pass Communion ??

    Blessings in Christ, bruce

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    1. The 1 Corinthians 11 passage applies not to WHO celebrates but HOW they were celebrating. Holy Communion as a Means of Grace, a way of connecting with God’s Grace, calls for, among many things, self-examination. If one is honest, “I know I’m living in adultery, but I’m not willing to stop”, and then receives Communion, they haven’t violated the 1 Corinthians 11 injunction. In fact, they have put themselves in a position for the Spirit to work in their life. Hope this helps you understand my perspective, Bruce. Thanks for reading and your question!

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