Sunday Morning Greek Blog

February 21, 2011

A Truly Open Communion?

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Greek,Mark Gospel of,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 1:40 pm

Today is President’s Day, so I have the day off and the opportunity to record some of my thoughts in writing again. Today, I read Mark 2, and God reminded me of an issue that is very close to my heart. I realize I may stir up a hornet’s nest with this as well, but here it goes.

In Mark 2:13–17, Jesus calls Levi (aka Matthew) from his tax collector booth to follow him. Levi takes Jesus home and organizes a meal for him and many other “tax collectors and sinners.” Mark tells us in this pericope (puh RIK uh pee; fancy theological word for “story”) that Jesus already had a large following, including the Scribes and Pharisees, who were criticizing his every move.

True to form, the Scribes and Pharisees question Jesus’ disciples (note they don’t ask Jesus directly): “Why does he [Jesus] eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus, always in the know, calls them on the carpet: “The strong have no need of a doctor, but those having sickness [do]. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Here is the question I have that gets at the heart of something I’ve been studying for the past few years: If Jesus calls sinners to himself and eats with them, if Jesus broke bread at the Last Supper with a table full of betrayers and deserters, if Jesus can feed 5000 men in addition to the women and children with just a few loaves of bread and some fish, why do many churches officially prohibit the Lord’s Table (communion, Eucharist) from those who are not professed Christ-followers, or worse, from those professed Christ-followers who are struggling with sin or divorce or other problems? (The latter tends to happen in congregations that have a very legalistic or ritualistic view of communion/Eucharist; some Catholic traditions deny the Eucharist to the divorced.)

Our Sunday school class just finished a series of lessons on the Good Samaritan and how that story should call us to social justice in many areas that the contemporary church ignores. Our final lesson yesterday was on loving the forsaken. I asked myself this same question during the video portion of the lesson, but didn’t get to raise the issue in class. Are we neglecting an opportunity for the Lord to minister to the lost by restricting communion?

Think about it: Jesus knows his disciples will betray him and desert him, yet he still offers up his blood “for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus, the one who healed us by his stripes, says the sick need healing. In Evangelicalism and the Stone Campbell Movement, vol. 2, John Mark Hicks tells the true story of an 18th-century Scottish preacher who, when approached by a “seeker” who asked if she could take communion, told her, “Tak’ it; it’s for sinners.”

The bread and the cup are a signification (there I go using that word again) of the salvation we have in Jesus. How healing would it be for sinners, the disenfranchised, the prisoners, the divorced, etc., to “taste and see that the Lord is good” by partaking in that salvation event for themselves? This is not to say that taking communion saves you in the same way that I have spoken of immersion in my previous notes, but it does prefigure that salvation event for the one seeking forgiveness and restoration.

And it is, after all, the Lord’s Table, not ours, so who are we to uninvite those whom the Lord has invited?

I can’t speak for other congregations, but I would like to encourage my friends, especially my pastor friends, to rethink how they understand and present the Lord’s Table to their respective congregations and to those to whom they are ministering. The Lord’s Table is a powerful evangelistic element of our services, and as such, it should be completely open to all, regardless of their faith profession or background.

1 Comment »

  1. […] A Truly Open Communion? […]

    Pingback by The Passion Week of Christ « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — March 11, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

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