Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 26 - Who May Receive the Lord's Supper? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE LPTP-26 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> DAVID: Who may receive the Lord's Supper? And how do we prepare them to do so? How old must they be? What must they understand? What about the practice of first communion occurring before confirmation? >> DR. WARNECK: David, it's a pointed question, who may receive the Lord's Supper. And a direct answer to your question must be those who are baptized Christians who properly can examine themselves in accord with the apostle's exhortation. These persons may approach the Lord's table. Baptism assumes their Christian faith in the triune God. And examination suggests three things; First, that the communicant repents of his or her sins and seeks forgiveness assured in the sacrament; Secondly, the communicant, partaking of our Lord Jesus Christ as He gives Himself to us here, believes in the Lord Jesus and trusts in Him as their Savior; Thirdly, it would seem that the communicant would discern in the sacrament what Christ here gives us, namely, His body and His blood for us to eat and to drink under the elements of bread and wine and, in so doing, remember His suffering and death. And I guess there's a fourth point that comes into play here, how the communicant takes these blessings and amends or intends to amend his or her sinful ways. These four points�-- I said three, but it actually amounts to four, as I've set them out here -- comprise the essentials of examining oneself before coming to the Lord's table. Persons then who come to communion, baptized Christians examining themselves, it would seem logical that they should be capable of administering that self-examination. At what age may Christians come to the Lord's table? At the age when they are able to do just what the apostle says and just what we've been talking about. A child does not have to wait until confirmation instruction at ages 13, 14. In some congregations children are granted the privilege of first communion around age 7 or 8. They receive a lot of support and a lot of help from their parents. It's well that families are able to help a young child to do what Paul says, to examine themselves and properly prepare to come to the Lord's Supper. That support base really should be there when we practice early first communion. But that can be a salutary practice, if it's done properly and responsibly. And a pastor wants to be sure that the families where children are coming to the Lord's table are doing so in a proper way. You might be asking the question about infant communion, something which we should address. This practice is somewhat popularized in some churches in the land. I want to refer you to a debate that was held by two ELCA pastors. And it is written up in -- an issue of "Word & World." We can make the reference available to you later in notes. But the title of the article is "Infant Communion: A matter of concern, a matter of Christian unity." And the two ELCA pastors take a pro and a con position on this issue. H. Frederick Reisz argues for the practice of infant communion when he asserts that the baptized into Christ Jesus are Christ's body, meaning whatever age. And nowhere is the corporate unity of the church expressed more definitely than in the common sharing of the Eucharist. So this proponent of infant communion is suggesting that we should not truncate the body of Christ at that very point where Christ is supporting the unity of his body, the members of his body, namely, in the Eucharist. Baptized into Christ, give them the body and blood of the Lord. That's his argument for communing infant children. Arguing against the practice, Walter Pilgrim asserts that the New Testament really doesn't answer the question conclusively, no conclusive evidence for infant communion in the New Testament. We don't read of any. Households were baptized, we read. But there's no indication of an immediate Eucharistic practice of following -- or celebration following. So it seems to Pastor Pilgrim that, when the Lord says, "Do this in remembrance of me," he also asserts that those who commune should be taught and they should comprehend the remembrance of Jesus, which would seem to leave the infants and their limited cognitive abilities because of their age out of the picture. And, furthermore, Paul's injunction toward self-examination would require a kind of reflection, which might, obviously, exclude infants. The notion that some kind of infant response here is sufficient seems, in the view of Pilgrim, to be akin to Irenaeus' "medicine of immortality," an elixir that dispenses divine grace kind of indiscriminately, faith or no. So these are the arguments for and against the practice of infant communion. We want to adjust a footnote to this from our own literature, from our Missouri synod theologians. Walther discouraged the practice. And he makes reference to Luther's opinion which he rendered about the Bohemians in his day who were practicing infant communion. Furthermore, he says, "Those who cannot examine themselves and, therefore, are not to be admitted to the Lord's table include not only infants but also those asleep or unconscious, those in the throes of death who are already deprived of the use of their senses, deranged people, and the like." So the emphasis in Walther and Luther on this point is that communicants should by all means be able to respond as the apostle exhorts, that communicants should examine themselves and then partake of the Lord's body and blood in the sacrament. Our conversation must necessarily turn to the matter of open communion, which is a widespread practice in other churches in contrast to our own practice in the Lutheran church Missouri synod of close or closed communion. When St.�Paul teaches that those who commune at the Lord's table proclaim together Christ, His suffering and death and by implication also His very real and true presence of His body and blood in the sacrament, it would seem that those who share in this blessing should have the same confession. If we open the communion table to persons of disparate confessions, it seems that there's a fragmentation of the body at this point of confession that ought to be avoided. Certainly not accommodated, much less advocated. So it is our practice to ask of all who commune at our tables to share in this very confession. And where we find differences particularly on views of the sacrament itself and what the communicant receives here, differences with the Reformed, many of the Protestants, probably it is well, when these persons present themselves as guests at our tables, to suggest to them that we welcome them to our worship services but we would like to have the opportunity to counsel with them, meet with them, discuss with them, teach and instruct them about things that surely ought to be confessed and believed when we share in this very close life together receiving from Christ His gifts of His body and blood for the remission of sins. This in general parameters is our practice in our churches. It's the practice of close communion. Some people take umbrance to this practice, and they perceive a kind of exclusion going on here. I'd like to suggest that the inverse is actually what happens here. To invite people to the Lord's table in a manner that they are aware of what we confess here and they themselves have been instructed how to examine themselves before receiving of these blessings is actually a kind of inclusion. And all we ask in our Missouri synod churches is for the opportunity to teach persons about these things and engage them in them and then welcome them at the Lord's table with the rest of the congregation who, by the way, have all been prepared by that same kind of orientation and teaching. So that's very inclusive, if you will. Now, how we handle these matters in today's churches where we have multitudes of visitors, we can do this very tactfully. We can suggest that the congregation coming to communion has a common understanding about the Lord's Supper and about how they should come. And we would just like the opportunity to familiarize the visitors with these practices and this preparation. And until that time maybe it would be well if the visitors -- well, if you want to have a practice where they can come to the Lord's altar and receive a blessing, that would be one way. Or not come and wait for an opportunity when the pastor can meet with them and properly instruct them. There will be a lot of discussion about this subject probably in your conversations later. Finally, a word about some specific things we might do to assist a congregation to remain somewhat sharp and clear about how the individual Christian practices his or her Holy Communion. Unfortunately, this is never brought up after a child, for instance, is confirmed and takes their first communion. It seldom is addressed in the congregation. And maybe we need to take the approach that we not only instruct our people once about communion but instruct and reinstruct and reinstruct and remind as time goes on. Our congregations have to have patience to permit a brief time in the worship services for the pastor to bring these reminders and bring this reinstruction in various ways. He can make a few comments before the preface beginning of the communion liturgy. He can refer to Luther's 20 questions and answers drawn up for those who propose to go to communion. He can make references to some of the penitential psalms in the little confessional meditation with the congregation. There are vignettes in the Gospels he can refer to where Jesus ministered specifically to professed sinners. Those passages are there. Could be a subject for updating our people a bit on their communion practice and so that we're just not all following the herd instinct and going up to the table at a certain point in the service because everybody else is doing it. Pastors need to take initiatives to make this meaningful for their people on an ongoing basis. If we do these things, our congregations are going to be stronger and they're going to thank their pastors for continuing to help them do what the apostle urges, examine themselves in order that they might take a profitable Holy Communion. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***