Saturday, November 17, 2007

Something old (and true), something (relatively) new...

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6

"To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic." Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning, 1959)

I was thinking about these words as they applied to some seemingly fruitless endeavors of my own, then to life in TEC, but then, after reading Anglicat's comments here, I saw the quotes in light of the "open communion" debate.

The Bible is very clear that when we share Holy Communion, we "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (I Corinthians 11:26).

So, what is the "death" that we proclaim? Was Jesus just another guy who threw his life away in a quixotic endeavor? Did he "give what is holy to the dogs", or, by giving himself away, did he actually transform some of us mutts? Unless his death was a sacrifice with power to transform our relationship with God, why bother to commemorate it? The Jesus of "open communion" seems to be Frankl's masochist.

If Jesus' death is, as the "open communion" advocates seem to think, a symbol of "radical hospitality" or a friendly face for people interested in religion, then why stay with Jesus? Why not open the newspaper, find an article about someone who died gracefully despite a terrible disease, and build a sacramental meal around him or her? If Jesus is just one among many martyrs, or just a loser, or unlucky, or a victim of injustice, then why build a sacramental system of faith and worship around him? After all, he did nothing exceptional. We can find better archtypes of hospitality (there are other Hiltons besides Paris) and of generally nice religion.

And then there is the "proclaim" part. If his death is not unique or even exceptional, and not the focus of what we are doing as a church, why invite people to a remembrance of his "body and blood, given for us"?

No, if we are going to "proclaim" something, we need at least some understanding of it. And in baptism, the Bible says, we share mystically in Christ's death and new life(Romans 6). That alone might not make us worthy to "proclaim" anything (and there's plenty of corrective stuff in the New Testament, written to people already baptized), but it at least establishes the right reference points for what we do at the Lord's Table. To be baptized at least confesses that Jesus' death is formative of Christian life, and we renew and proclaim that as we share Communion with other baptized disciples. "Open communion" has no reference points. By definition, it is about seeking . And without the reference points (Christ's death and resurrection) set up in baptism, seekers can come to powerfully and tragically wrong conclusions about Jesus (and are probably being guided to such by the kind of preaching most likely to accompany "open communion.")

Open communion is a hoax and harmful. Should have warning labels all over it.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Paul warned that receiving without honoring the Blood of Our Lord Jesus is to drink condemnation on oneself. But to receive with a grateful heart the Blood of Jesus shed on the Cross is to live in the reality of which St. Paul wrote, "But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility... Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13-14).

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Phil Turner has rightly said that this new fast-growing practice of boundaryless communion should concern the orthodox even more than the current conflicts over sexual morality. After all, people who struggle with same-sex attraction constitute a very small minority of the population (maybe 3%, although it's growing as social acceptance of homosexuality grows). But the number of potential unbelievers receiving communion is much, much higher, and this departure from the universal tradition of the Church for 2000 years strikes directly at the core of our sacramental and doctrinal integrity.

Furthermore, of course, it makes the whole idea of excommunication completely impossible, removing what has been the ultimate threat or sanction for flagrant heresy or immorality, disobedience etc. The inevitable result will be sheer chaos and anarchy, with no means of resolution or healing and restoration.

What's next, baptizing everyone in the country? Perhaps by spraying them with a firehose. We wouldn't want anyone to feel left out and excluded now, would we?

cp said...

I have very strong feelings about this too.

I have been taught that the table is open to all who ask--no litmus test, with no questioning of motives or creed, maturity or associations.

No one has the right to deny communion to anyone who asks, be they babies or sociopathic criminals. As Christians we are never to be gatekeepers, we are to be generous openers of doors, for God is always doing a new thing and we have no way of knowing what God's plans are for anyone, including ourselves.

"Come and receive who you already are."

Alice C. Linsley said...

CP, the Church has never put people in the spiritually dangerous position of unprepared communion with God in Christ. Even the holy saints and prophets could not look upon God's glory without being prepared and protected.

Anonymous said...

Where does this proclamation "Come and receive who you already are." come from?