ACELC — The Fellowship We Keep: Why We Practice Open Communion

May 3, 2012
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From the ACELC blog by Pastor Rick Sawyer of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Brandon, MS:

 

Yesterday, a brother called me and I repented. He’s called me before and he’s a nice guy, so I didn’t mind talking with him. However, he was asking for my congregation’s statistical report, which I haven’t filled out. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve filled one out in about 18 years, maybe more. But I’ve decided to repent and fill it out this year, not because I think it helps our Synod. Actually, I think it may hurt by catering to our fixation on numbers. But my brother is clearly concerned over such things, and he’s likely getting pressure from higher up, so I made a conscious decision to alleviate his suffering. Call it love, compassion, mercy, a kindness . . . or a calculated effort on my part to end my District’s requests for things I really don’t want to take time to worry about! How’s that for honesty?

Don’t get me wrong. The brother is likeable and has been nothing but polite and kind in his importunity, which makes it easier for me to comply, I guess. And that gets me to the topic of this blog. In all the times I’ve been contacted by my District’s desire for numbers, I can’t remember once being contacted by them asking if I’m using the liturgy and hymnal or if I’m practicing closed communion or preaching the Gospel purely. Surely, those are more the essence of our agreed upon walk together as a Synod than filling out statistical reports!

All this got me on the road to thinking about the fellowship we keep in the Missouri Synod, and why it is that we concern ourselves so much over numbers but shun the practice of closed communion. I do think the two are related, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What I’m asking is: Why do we practice open communion in Missouri? Be honest, now. I’ll go first.

I’ll start by admitting that if people didn’t mind it, that is, if they respected our desire to fully bring them in to all that Christ has given us to give, we’d all shun open communion and start practicing as the Lord has taught. The reason we practice open communion is that it saves us embarrassment, ridicule and pain. If we didn’t pay through the teeth for practicing closed communion, we’d do it.

As proof, I put before you my personal observation that even the most open communion pastor and congregation among us likely practices closer to what is correct when it comes to children. We instruct them for a period of years, usually ten or more, though I tend to lean toward the sufficiency of 8 to 10, as long as the children are of faithful parents who have brought them regularly up in the Liturgy of the Church, not despising preaching and His Word but gladly hearing and learning it, taking our Lord’s “often” as “often” instead of “occasionally.” If parents are catechizing their children and are willing to sit with their kids through my instruction, I tend to think 8 years of waiting is probably uber-sufficient for our children. Actually, I get them to the Table in First Grade when possible, and did just that with one this year!

As they wait, they give us SUCH good examples of humility and faith, don’t they? They actually make being faithful easy on us pastors! They don’t get mad when we bless them instead of communing them! They don’t storm out and refuse to come back when they put out their little hands but aren’t communed just because of that! They express their desire to have what others are having, and what the Lord intends for them as well, but they wait to be admitted. They don’t insist on being the ones who admit themselves. Who can’t be faithful then?!

I truly believe even the most open communion pastor and congregation in our Synod probably has such pious examples of godly living in their congregational children and likely won’t do anything to change that any time soon! The kids just plain make it easy for us to remember that Our Lord warned against taking the seat of honor and urged instead that we wait to be invited up. We are not to presume or posture at the Lord’s Table! Our kids demonstrate that and don’t seem to mind, either! Oh, they stretch out their little hands and ask to be served, but they aren’t put off that Our Lord bids them wait a little while, as He did the Syro-Phoenician woman who begged Him with such importunity and was willing to grab Him by His harder Words, saying, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s Table!”

The Lord called that great faith! Is it any wonder that the Lord put a child before a crowd of adults, saying, “Unless you receive the kingdom as a little child, you shall never enter in”? So, even pastors and congregations that regularly admit non-Lutheran adults to Communion, despite having only a smattering of Lutheran doctrine, out of concern that they might storm off in a huff and raise a ruckus if they weren’t communed – have in their midst the wonderful example of our youngest saints, who are willing to wait in humility and faith!

So, why is it that we practice closed communion with respect to our life-long Lutheran children, but convert to open communion when it comes to serving adults? Why aren’t we comfortable serving adults the kingdom of God in a way that teaches them to receive it like little children; patiently waiting, not making a fuss?

Oh, but children DO make a fuss, don’t they? We see it all the time in Wal-Mart; not usually in the pharmacy department over the medicine the doctor prescribed, nor in the produce department over broccoli and spinach. Usually it’s in the toy department or the candy aisle, or when checking out and those brightly packaged items start working on our kids’ impulses and our own desire to quickly stem the tantrum and the glaring glances of irritated shoppers.

If Jesus had given Beyblades for our salvation, our kids WOULD make a ruckus at the altar! But that He gave His non-battery operated Body and Blood, which He poorly and unspectacularly packages in simple bread and wine, well, the children don’t seem to mind waiting. Adults, on the other hand, seem to be a different animal all together!

Is it that they just can’t wait for that wonderful bite of Christ’s Flesh, given into death for us, and that gracious draught of His Blood poured out for our salvation, and the life, forgiveness and salvation which are freely given in these? In some cases, the answer is, YES! People do come in desperation, like that Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter was demon-possessed. They need the Lord’s forgiveness in the Sacrament, and they may be sorely disappointed not to receive it.

Of course, no pastor worth his weight in salt is going to want to deny that to anyone. I know I don’t, and by that I mean the children as well as adults. In fact, I am far more conflicted over telling a faithful child of my flock, who regularly hears his Shepherd’s preaching through the pastor, to wait a little longer. Yet, in faithfulness and love, I do that all the time, even as our Lord made that woman wait a little while. As she waited, she continued to cling to Christ, no matter how He seemed to treat her. When He spoke, even His harsh words were filled with eternal life!

I don’t think I’ve ever treated anyone at the rail – child or adult – as Jesus treated that woman. I’m not Jesus, after all, and even He didn’t treat everyone that way. That woman had a pair of spiritual brass ones that put the Twelve to shame. She makes make me feel like a regular eunuch! The Lord treated a woman of great faith in such a public fashion so that we all can see what great faith looks like. For the rest of us weaklings, He doesn’t behave quite the same way and certainly doesn’t teach pastors to behave as He did when people approach the altar! For that reason, I have never given anyone the cold shoulder at the Communion rail, as Jesus gave that woman. I acknowledge every one personally and kindly. I bless the children, placing my hand on their heads. If they smile at me, I smile back. I’m not Jesus. I don’t know who could take it if I didn’t smile, so I smile. If they are a visitor and haven’t spoken with me, I take the occasion to speak with them then. Yes, that’s risky. Children can take it, but adults often cannot, even though I’m way nicer than Jesus. I don’t lean over to the people kneeling next to the visitor and say, “I wasn’t sent to any but the members of this household.” Honestly, I don’t WANT to be as rude as Jesus seemed that day when He spoke like that in a poor non-Israelite woman’s hearing. It’s much easier for me – and ON me – if I’m nicer than Jesus, and Jesus hasn’t told any of us to behave exactly as He did that day. So I try NOT to do what Jesus would if someone not of the flock shows up begging for His mercy. I’m gentle and kind and I smile when I speak. I ask where the person attends and who his pastor is and when was the last time he communed. It’s the least I can do, really, and far from what I should!

Keep in mind that pastors serve as physicians of men’s souls. We aren’t the Doctor, but His male nurses. We administer the Medicine of Immortality, but we aren’t the ones issuing the Prescription. He has done that and has put pastors in place to administer it according to His Divine Command and example, and the Lord’s example in the Scriptures is always to gather, not scatter; so when strangers and aliens wanted to partake of the Lord’s Passover in the Old Testament, the Lord prescribed that they first be cut off from the world of darkness and be grafted into the people of light. Children went through that without prior instruction, but I guarantee that no priest administered the Old Testament sign of circumcision to an adult male without first answering the catechetical question: “What does this mean?” Catechesis came later for the infants and preceded circumcision and admission to the Passover Table for the adults. Clearly, the Lord wanted all together in the Faith, and none were then to depart that Faith to join in fellowship with what was contrary to it. The Lord wanted all together.

So, the Lord wants all together at His New Testament Table. He instructed His own for three years before communing them, though we are not bound by that time frame. Even on the night of their first communion, they needed instruction. Catechesis is life-long. We don’t graduate from being His disciples, His students! Peter nearly didn’t get confirmed that night because he didn’t want Jesus to absolve his toes, which continued to step in “it” over and over. When Jesus threatened excommunication, Peter relinquished his dirty feet to the Savior!

When children approach our rails, they don’t mind if the pastor makes them wait, or makes them memorize, or corrects them when they aren’t behaving. Children receive the kingdom of God in humility, and so Jesus gives them to us all as an example. We adults can sometimes get a bit embarrassed, impatient, put off when things don’t go our way. This is sin, for which Jesus died, and which He is constantly trying to drown in us, so that the New Man comes forth! That’s what Jesus was doing with Peter, and Jesus must have smiled a bit when Peter went overboard (yet again!), saying, “Not just my feet but wash me head to toe!”

Wouldn’t that be a great thing for a pastor to hear from someone? Instead of being angry that the pastor wants to wash us, to cleanse us, to instruct us, to actually BE our pastor – the way our doctor actually wants to do more than just write us a prescription and send us on our way – wouldn’t it be great for him to hear, “Then teach me everything you’ve got, Pastor! I know you’re not trying to spoil my day! I may have felt a bit embarrassed at first, but you have what I need! If I have to drive an hour for it, I will! If it takes me a little while to be instructed in it, I’m willing! In fact, can we get started this afternoon!? I want to receive the kingdom like a child – not like the spoiled ones we see throwing tantrums in Wal-Mart, but like the child of God He says I am! Please, Pastor, help me to be that!”

I can’t imagine any pastor – in the ACELC or outside of it – not cracking a smile to hear such a thing! It would be like finding a rare first edition of some priceless book! We’ve heard such a thing exists – such great faith that is not put off simply for being told to wait a little while, be instructed, discipled, and then the Lord will give us everlasting Joy, trusting that He is giving it already, even as He bids us wait! We’ve heard of such faith. It’s just so rare to see!

I imagine I’d bet tempted to confirm and commune such a genuine and humble child of God right then and there, the way Luther said a person who could rightly divide Law and Gospel should be immediately made a doctor of Holy Writ. But I don’t think I’d want to taint such a grand confession. I’d treat it like the rarest of finds and say, “I am humbled at the Spirit’s work in you, and I cannot imagine it will be long at all before you are at this rail! Let’s meet this afternoon, as you suggest. And as often after that as you like. I will teach you to hold all that Christ commanded, and that will take a bit, but it has already begun. God’s people need to see and rejoice in this wonderful thing that God is doing, and they will rejoice all the more to hear you make the good confession and join in the Communion Christ intends for all!”

Too often, we are confronted by the tantrums; the person who can’t see that the pastor is trying to be faithful and that there are things the visitor doesn’t yet understand. The pastor would teach them if he can. He’d be willing to bring that teaching to the individual’s home, even if it’s an hour a way! He hasn’t risen on a Sunday thinking, “How can I spoil someone’s day?” Really. He hasn’t! And he knows you didn’t rise with that thought, either.

Actually, he knows that it may be that you are part of the Fellowship called the Missouri-Synod where pastors don’t teach what I’ve outlined above. They struggle with closed communion, because it seems unloving to them. They tell the children of their congregation to wait many years, but somehow they can’t see that it’s no more unloving to say that to adults than it is to say it to our children. Both need instruction, and adults need it a lot more than kids! This isn’t about mastering the Lord’s teaching, but being mastered BY it! It’s not about our understanding, but about the Lord giving us repentance and faith, drowning the Old Man that the New Man may come forth, living before God in faith and before our neighbor in love – especially if that neighbor is a pastor trying to be faithful, or a congregation which wants to hold to the Truth. It’s not even about each one believing in his own heart and then communing where the Faith of Christ is denied. When our LCMS pastors admit people on the basis of their heart-felt faith instead of on the Confession they make, they teach our own that it doesn’t matter where you commune, as long as you know what you believe personally. That causes great harm at the rail!

So many of our sheep have never been taught properly! It’s no wonder they get blind-sided at the rail. I truly feel for them. I work hard to be kinder and gentler than Jesus was to that woman long ago. I smile. I ask if it’s OK to bless people and then talk about their joining our Communion after the Service. I offer to sacrifice time with my family and flock to accommodate them. I apologize, knowing that I am not thereby acquitted just because I think I did everything right; I can mess up without knowing it. I wish I were omniscient and could anticipate every event that might embarrass someone. I also wish people would understand that if the pastor could have done better, so could they. We’ve got these wonderful devices called smart phones, but they only work if we’re smart enough to use them: “Pastor, maybe we need to talk before I come to the rail Sunday. Some things have changed and people know about it, but you don’t. Can we speak?”

If I didn’t answer immediately, it would be because I’d be in awe, having encountered once again that rarest of finds! A faith which trusts God’s Word, wants what Jesus has to give, and demonstrates that in a little thing called love! Wow! You just can’t touch that, folks!

So, why DO we practice open communion in the LCMS, and don’t even say we don’t. We do. We do, in my opinion, because we just want the loud and uncomfortable, unpleasant and painful stuff to go away. “Send her away Lord, for she’s bothering us!” “OK, here are my statistics; now, don’t call me again!” We want to spare ourselves the agony of being genuine fathers in the Faith, and so, like Dad at Wal-Mart, we give in so the tantrum ceases, or is avoided all together.

Of course, we DO care for people and would spare them hurt. It’s not all crass and calculated on our part. A child crying DOES melt a father’s heart; sometimes to the point of giving what should be withheld. What father hasn’t spoiled a child in such manner at some point? But if a doctor gives out meds because he wants a happy patient, he may end up sending off an addict with one more fix satisfied but still far from a cure. It’s hard to say no, but it’s often the only loving thing to say. We can say it better. We can say it better than Jesus, if we want! It won’t keep us from coming off as big meanies at some point, though that’s not our desire. And when the sheep who feel a bit sheered of their pride at the rail have a chance to cool off, by God’s grace, they will rejoice to receive the shepherding they need; if the Spirit has done His work. They will say, “Dear Pastor, I know you aren’t perfect, but neither am I. I’m sorry I put you in the spot I did. I’d like to do better. You offered at the rail to instruct me further and bring me into this Communion. I really want that! So, when can we start?”

And that, dear people, is how the Lord grows His Church! You just can’t script these things! Or manipulate them or predict them or plan for or project them! I honestly don’t even want to reduce them to statistics, if you want to know the truth! You just have step back in awe of them, because they are the bona fide miracles of Christ giving us His Kingdom!

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

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138 Responses to ACELC — The Fellowship We Keep: Why We Practice Open Communion

  1. fws on May 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

    @Mark Huntemann #99

    huh? You lost me brother.

    we started out with my asserting that the Image of God = Original righteousness = faith alone in the Works of Another is what the Apology and also art I of the FC teaches.

    This understanding seems to trouble you. You seem to want to think that it is love or some conformity to the Law that is , instead, the Image of God restored and the Original Righeousness. And I could be misundertanding you, in which case I appologize for being dense. i am not trying to provoke a fruitless argument.

    Are we still there, or have we moved on?

    I am here to try to serve and be useful. I do not seek to offend you or upset you or argue with you to win some point. there is no point in that.

  2. Mark Huntemann on May 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

    “Unlike Carl, I do not always and only produce quotes that are only and all about the Law and what we are commanded to do or not do.”

    You do not know Mr. Vehse. Read all his posts on BJS to get a true picture.

  3. fws on May 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

    @Mark Huntemann #100

    ok Mark. how do you understand that text? what does it say to our present discussion? it does not help me or assist me to just throw a text at me without explaining to me what you think it means, and how that meaning sheds light on what we are discussing.

    Please be more helpful .

  4. Mark Huntemann on May 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

    fws :
    @Mark Huntemann #80
    mark @ 80
    so this is to say the following:
    “what if I do not see a single good work in myself and ALL I can see is sin in all my works. Further what if I cannot honestly say I have faith and trust in Christ?”
    Lutheran response: “great. this is the truth! confess that truth and then simply hold God to his promise to you in your Baptism. confess that you are totally a liar but God is true. He cannot lie. Hold him to his Promise that was applied personally in your Baptism!”
    that is what we would say to a homosexual, to a prostitute, to a drug addict and also to someone who is outwardly the perfect picture of a church going Lutheran or other christian. Same response! and we would encourage them then to never stop going to church and receiving the blessed sacrament. it is there alone where there is Life and Salvation.

    We have covered this. Do not get circular. That is beneath you!

  5. fws on May 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

    @Mark Huntemann #102

    Ok mark. I hope that is true! In that case I will gladly be corrected.

    Show me ONE post of carl that puts the Holy Gospel at the center of things. Just one. I have read carl here and in many other places.

    Carl does the Law very well. I find no fault with that. It is to be praised. The Law is good. But he fail to properly distinguish Law and Gospel by not focussing, ever, on the Gospel. And the Gospel is about the Works of Another, apart from anything we can do.

  6. Mark Huntemann on May 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

    “mark, I hope you will see that I am not using the Apology and confessions to push any particular point of view.”

    Yes you are.

    The LCMS OFFICIAL Comminion regulations.

    They are correct as written.

    They should be followed by all rostered LCMS pastors!

    http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=411

  7. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

    @Mark Huntemann #104

    have some mercy on me Mark.

    I am far from perfect, and I am deeply flawed in my ability to express the wonderful truths of God’s Word as they are made clear in our beloved Confessions.

    Assume that my posture towards you is one of trying, with all my flaws, to be helpful. If this discussion does not feel like that for you, then we should simply stop the discussion.

    There is nothing I wish to gain from this discussion other than to confirm in you the comfort of the Holy Gospel.

    What “we already covered” I feel is something that is at the very heart , and is the entire point of any discussion on Lutheranism. All I say is intended to , alone, be a repeat, over and over and over, of this single point Mark. There is nothing more beyond this one single point that interests me at all Mark.

    If that is circular or a straw man or tireing to you to hear repeated over and over in various ways, then we should stop now.

    How is this beneath me? “I have resolved to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified”.

    “as often as we eat the Lords Supper we preach his Death until his return:.

    We are talking about faith in the Death of Christ as being OUR restored Image of God and our Original Righeousness restored! Righteousness and Gods Image is not the restoration of our Lawkeeping.

  8. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:08 am

    @Mark Huntemann #106

    where have I disagreed with those communion regulations. They ARE to be obeyed as the rules of God himself.

    Where in those rules are we told to excommunicate the congregations of an entire synodical district? I dont find that rule there.

    Carl does.

    And then this: Where is the Gospel in those rules. How is the Gospel served by the synodical rules. It IS served there! But we need to see how. If we dont, we are not properly dividing Law and Gospel. I do believe that the synodical rules do in fact treat of this part. it should not be brushed aside as a side point. It is the MAIN point I would suggest.

    I thought our discussion was about the Image of God as being faith alone in Christ and not about reconformity to the Law. So I misunderstood what you felt was the topic of discussion Mark. I appologize for that.

  9. Mark Huntemann on May 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I truly believe this Mark! And so I love our Confessions. That should be very clear from any post I place here. I consttantly refer to them. Law AND Gospel.

    We do share the same Foundation.

    So strange!

    Why the different Spirits?

    A microcosm of the world.

    In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain,

    for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;

    if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

    The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

    The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

    Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.

    For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. . .

    IXOYC

  10. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:15 am

    @Mark Huntemann #106

    sadly, those rules are not followed by all pastor. This , of course, is wrong. So what is it that we are to do about it Mark? That is the question.

    The synod bylaws would place the responsibility to do something about it with the district presidents and then with the synodical bureacracy. I am saying , simply, that it is unlawful for a pastor or especially a congregant, to interfere with this process outlined in the synodical bylaws.

    if the district presidents and the synodical bureacracy dont do their job we can vote them out of office , but while God has placed them as rulers over us and our pastors, we are to pray for them and obey them, and encourage them to do their duty,

    We are to obey all eartly governments, including the churchly one, including parents and the civil government in this way. Cf the large catechism in the 4th commandment.

    You can relax now hopefully and see that I am not trying to make a point that I am not making. There is some nuance in what I write. It is necessary. I am sorry I failed you by not making those nuances more clear in a way you would catch them.

    forgive me for that.

  11. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:19 am

    @Mark Huntemann #109

    why the different spirits indeed?

    dare to be Lutheran.

    Read the Lutheran Confessions. Let them dictate how it is that you approach your reading of holy Scriptures. That is what it means to be a Confessional Lutheran.

    we are to be law abiding. period. We are to follow the synodical bylaws as though God himself has given them to us. Carl suggests otherwise. There is no where there where Pastors are commanded to excommunicate an entire district of synod. that would really eliminate the entire idea of what a synod is and does.

  12. Mark Huntemann on May 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I say this in Christian Love.

    I can travel no further.

    My incomplete knowledge will not constructively let me proceed.

    One of my Brothers in Christ if the Holy Spirit moves him will have to take the baton.

    IXOYC
    Mark

  13. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    @Mark Huntemann #112

    I also would need to defer to brother Carl on the intricacies of the synodical bylaws. I really dont know alot about them.

    I am really making a conjecture when I say that it is unlawful for a pastor to unilaterally excommunicate an entire synodical district on his own.

    I make that conjecture based upon what seems to be common sense. But I could be wrong.

    I would also suggest that the pastor DOES have the right to excommunicate from other congregations, but in that case, I would think that pastor and congregation would need to enter a “status confessiones” and separate from the entire synod. Why? He would also need to implicate the rest of the synod for not doing their job and disciplining that one district or other congretations that are violating the synodical bylaws that all congregations covenanted to abide by.

    my point here Mark is that we all need to seek out the rules and follow them. And this cannot be selectively done.

    And again, I would LOVE to see where Carl makes the Holy Gospel the very heart and center of any of his posts. He does the law excellently. But his posts seem utterly devoid of the Law in service to the Gospel. That’s fine but incomplete. I would be love to be proven wrong on this point and asked to recant.

  14. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

    @Mark Huntemann #112

    the point of synod is not to make the unity of faith happen by police action or enforcement. That would be impossible.

    But it is the synods job to make sure that everyone, outwardly, follow the rules. Why? It is their vocation and job in exactly the same way it is for judges and policemen. Nothing spiritual about that vocation at all.

  15. Carl Vehse on May 8, 2012 at 11:30 am

    @fws #108: “Where in those rules are we told to excommunicate the congregations of an entire synodical district? I dont find that rule there.

    Carl does.”

    fws, you are the one who first mentioned “excommunicate” in posts here and has repeatedly brought it up again. So you must know where that term is used in the rules… unless you just tossed it in as a red herring.

  16. fws on May 8, 2012 at 11:40 am

    @Carl Vehse #115

    No redherring or agenda. I am assuming that to deny others communion because they are disobedient to sound doctrine and practice is to excommunicate them.

    Is that a wrong understanding.

    How is that a red herring. Even when we are talking about adherence to the letter of the Law (which IS demanded by God after all), we are talking about the substance of what we are doing and not just arguing over jot and titel.

    the act of refusing communion to someone for their failure to obey the laws of the church is really excommunication is it not?

    So where is the red herring here?

  17. fws on May 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    @Carl Vehse #115

    i would suggest carl, as a practical matter, that there are different understandings of what “closed communion ” is . for some it is simply a rule that is “only members of LCMS congretations may commune”. I suggest that this is a legalism that many in the Lcms OF times past followed. And I suggest that closed communion is not that precisely.

    fortunately, the synod bylaws, as quoted by mark, seem to allow for the necessary nuance that avoids this legalism. I was glad to see that.

  18. Carl Vehse on May 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    There are various people to whom a called pastor of a church, in his oversight responsibilities, would not give communion. These include, for example, infants and those who have not yet been instructed. Yet the pastor does not excommunicate them from the church.

    And while the pastor of a church has the authority through his divine call to exercise oversight in the administration of the Lord’s Supper at the church services he officiates by refusing to commune those who are publicly unrepentant of their sins, the pastor does not have the authority to excommunicate from the Church those who are members of another LCMS church under their pastor’s care.

    This is not an issue of bylaws, but Scriptural and confessional doctrine. If there is any legalism, it is of those who claim that any member of a LCMS church has a right to take communion at any other LCMS church regardless of the called pastor’s oversight authority at that other church.

  19. Joanne on May 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    @Carl Vehse #69
    Thanks for the link. I took the time to read “Admission to the Lord’ Supper:…” last night.

  20. fws on May 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    @Carl Vehse #118

    Ok Carl. You will note that I carefully worded my post to make provision for infants and the uninstructed. So your first paragraph is extraneous right? No argument there. You know that of course. The name for that is obsfuscation.

    Yes a pastor is obligated to exclude manifestly impenitent sinners not just from communion but if he does that, then also from the christian congretation. small catechism. am I missing something there? That is not an adhoc decision at the communion rail. It is something formal. A formal legal action.

    I am saying that to refuse communion to a communicant member of another LCMS church, because the congretation or district they belong to practices open communion, is excommunication. But it is not lawful excommunication. And I say that it would be unlawful to do such a thing.

    Again, what is your basis, in the Law in scripture or the confessions to do otherwise. Or are we really actually in agreement here?

    Where is it that we seem to differ to you carl?

  21. Carl Vehse on May 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    fws, your initial statement was, “It is lawless and wrong for one LCMS congregation to refuse to commune another.”

    I previously responded to that, provided references from the Lutheran Confessions and a LCMS doctrinal report, showing that a pastor of a LCMS church does have the responsibility and authority to exclude from communion publicly unrepentant people from another LCMS church. If those publicly unrepentant people, along with their infants and un-catechized children, consisted of the entire congregation of another church who showed up for communion, then the pastor would be excluding that entire congregation from communion.

    Now you claim, “I am saying that to refuse communion to a communicant member of another LCMS church, because the congretation or district they belong to practices open communion, is excommunication.”

    This is a different scenario. You may read the references I gave in Post #69.

  22. helen on May 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    @fws #111
    we are to be law abiding. period. We are to follow the synodical bylaws as though God himself has given them to us. Carl suggests otherwise. There is no where there where Pastors are commanded to excommunicate an entire district of synod. that would really eliminate the entire idea of what a synod is and does.

    God did not write the synodical bylaws, neither can anyone responsible claim “divine inspiration”. [In the last decade or two one might conclude far different authorship, but we'll leave it at "sinful human beings".]

    Scripture says, where they diverge, we are to obey God rather than men. Very applicable to synodical by-laws!
    God in the person of Jesus Christ, instituted communion.
    He distributed it to His followers, not to anyone who happened to drop in off the street.

    If a pastor/congregation does otherwise, they are in violation of Scripture [and, I think, the intentions of synod, as well.] Paul says we are to mark and avoid such creators of internal division.

    BTW: “Excommunication” should mean that the person so treated cannot commune anywhere.

    The Pastor who regretfully refuses to commune someone whose confession, as evidenced by his membership, is in an erring congregation, is protecting his own flock. He can’t prevent the person refused from communing elsewhere.

    I see you have come down to “LCMS”. I understood you to be arguing for communing of elca (i.e., everybody and nobody) in the beginning of this. That’s some progress, after a flood of words!

    Mark Hunteman: Take heart. Quantity is not necessarily quality of discourse, and we may well lose sight of what’s important in the deluge!

  23. Pastor Ted Crandall on May 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    We believe, teach, and confess also that no Church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles, as also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei, Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith. (Formula of Concord, Epitome, 10,7)

    Thus [According to this doctrine] the churches will not condemn one another because of dissimilarity of ceremonies when, in Christian liberty, one has less or more of them, provided they are otherwise agreed with one another in the doctrine and all its articles, also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei; “Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in the faith.” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, 10, 31)

  24. helen on May 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #123

    Would you stretch that quote to cover “open” communion, Pr. Crandall?

  25. fws on May 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    @helen #124

    what I am saying and not saying.

    I am saying:

    1) Open communion is contrary to Scripture and the Confessions.
    If it is practiced by congregations in the LCMS , this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.

    2) Pastors are not to decide, at the communion rail, to decide that someone who is a member of their church or a church in fellowship with them is not to be communed but rather is to be ex-communicated.

    3) helen you are wrong. No the synodical bylaws are not inpired. No one is arguing for that. But We are to honor our father and mother, per the 4th commandment, whether that is our parent, governmental fathers, or church fathers. Please read the 4th commandment in the Large Catechism to see EXACTLY what I mean by saying this. Tell me how what the LC says in the 4th commandment that is different than anything I have said. So we are to receive their orders and commands as though God himself is directing us. Of course no one is saying we should obey man rather than God here. Who in the heck is saying that Helen? Don’t be silly.

    4) Before pastors deny members communion, there is a process they are to follow. Matt 18. Helen, ALL congregations have covenanted to walk together with other LCMS congregations. That is what the word synod means .

    I am suggesting that proper channels and procedures be followed. That would look like a pastor urging the district or synod to do their job. And to pray for them. And support them. And if that does not work, then the solution isnt for the pastor to just unilaterally decide not to commune another lcms congregant. The solution is to formally separate from the LCMS in that case.

    5) You are reading what I am writing in a less than charitable way. there is no justification for doing that Helen. I could be wrong. Correct me. From scripture and the confessions. Dont make snyde comments. How are such comments right and proper?

  26. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    helen,

    what is it you are saying?!

    I dont here anyone saying here that open communion is a) ok or b) not to be dealt with.

    Are you saying that when an lcms lutheran from another congregation comes to the rail that the pastor should stop and ask them what congregation they belong to and check a lit he keeps in his vestment to make sure he is not a member of a congregation that is known to practice holy communion? That sounds really silly and unworkable to me.

    So since you and carl and mark CAN’T mean that, what in the heck is it that you are proposing here?

    I am saying that there are procedures outlined in the synod bylaws for dealing with stuff like this. If those bylaws are contrary to the Word of God, I am not aware of anyone here saying they should be obeyed and the Bible set aside. Of course you know that. But if the synod bylaws do not violate scripture they MUST be followed. That is what pastors and their congregations promise to do when they join a synod.

    They DO have the option to leave the synod if the doctrine and practice of synod is contrary to God’s Word.

    So I really dont get who you and what it is you are arguing against here Helen .

    St Paul says we are to obey the governments God has placed over us. The Large Catechism in the 4th commandment says there are 3 such governments: family, society, and church.

    No st Paul and Luther by saying this are not saying we are to obey them if what they command is contrary to God’s Word. But they DO tell us to obey them!

    Duh. That is so obvious isnt it Helen?

  27. fws on May 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    helen @ 122

    BTW: “Excommunication” should mean that the person so treated cannot commune anywhere.

    Ok. this is sorta like being pregnant. either you are excommunicated or you are not.

    So to forbid and adult communicant member who is in good standing in his home congregation, which is in fellowship with your congregation by virtue of being in the same synod and is not excommunicated is ok to do… um… why?

    remind me Helen where you find that this is a good practice somewhere in scripture or the confessions…..or using logic and reason is ok too….and dont twist that last phrase to mean more than it says. Please.

  28. Pastor Ted Crandall on May 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    @helen #124

    LOL

    Good one, Helen!

    One would have to turn “agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles” completely on its head to admit to the altar anyone with whom one is not in full fellowship.

    (Have you noticed that no one admits to supporting open Communion, but simply redefines it, so it doesn’t apply to them? Reminds me of how few liberals there are today — they’re all progressive or moderate or missional… Yeah, right.)

  29. helen on May 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    fws,
    I am saying that the synod supports closed communion. You seem to be saying the same thing.

    If a congregation in synod is known for blatantly practicing “open” communion, they are not following the rules of synod (even though they should be pastored by a District VP). They have abandoned the fellowship even as they keep a paper membership for other reasons.

    If a confessional “closed” communion congregation wants to practice what it and synod preaches, they would have to deny communion to those who are known to be heterodox in their practice.

    How else to bring home to them that what their congregation is doing is wrong?

  30. fws on May 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    helen @129

    who gave the task to either you or your pastor to ‘bring home to them [their error] by , in fact, excommunicating them?

    how would that be done? would your pastor keep a list of those congretations , which are many, tucked away in his vestments to reference at the communion rail helen? what about congretations in georgia who take upon themselves the task of ‘bringing home to them” for a cong in california’s visitor to that congretation?

    what carl and you suggest is a form of lawlessness to correct lawlessness.

    I dont go down to the courthouse to straighten out a judge I disagree with. There are men who are charged with that duty. I pray for them. And i should be involved enough to vote them outta office if there is stuff going awry as well.

    you see my point now helen?

    read the story of saul making a sacrifice before battle because the priests were late for their appointment to do it. and how God reacts to those who take upon themselves duties that are not theirs to do. It is sinful to do such things.

  31. Rev. McCall on May 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    @fws #130
    All pastors are charged with the duty of practicing and preaching faithfully. To suggest they should set that aside simply because the unfaithful congregation or communicant is a member of the same synod makes a mockery of God’s Word and what we believe. So your answer is, “Yes, I know you hold beliefs and practices contrary to God’s Word and are unrepentant about it, but I’ll commune you anyways just because you have an LCMS card?” No! A pastor who refuses communion to someone, even of his own synod, for Scriptural reasons is not practicing lawlessness, it’s just the Law, plain and simple. Sometimes that hurts. Sometimes that stings. Sometimes you have to proclaim the law even to your own family. You are in error, repent! In my church you have to see me if you are a visitor before communing, LCMS or not. Would it not be evident from that conversation where you are from and what your practices and beliefs are? It would be to me based on the questions I ask! I don’t need to carry a list around with me, I just need to be a good pastor in how I practice administering the Lord’s Supper.

  32. Andrew on May 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    @fws #130

    @Rev. McCall #131
    When two pastors have a disagreement over the law what do you think will happen?
    I concur with fws. If we had pastors running around excommunicating each other the synod would dissolve or splinter apart.

  33. fws on May 11, 2012 at 7:03 am

    @Rev. McCall #131

    Pastor McCall,

    you really have a quite extensive interview and visit with every visitor who wants to commune at your church dont you? How does that work? I am currious. what kind of questions do you need to ask of someone in order to feel free to commune them?

  34. helen on May 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    The first time I visited my present congregation, an usher asked where I belonged. Since I was in transition, I must have given an unsatisfactory answer. So another gentleman came to talk to me. Finding that I was LCMS andhad already discussed my situation with the Pastor, I was welcomed to communion.

    I did not resent the inquiries as some have done; I rejoiced that the congregation was so careful for the welfare of its members and its visitors.

    That is all it is, fws: care for the souls to whom communion is administered.
    It is not the fault of the confessional, synod-observing congregation that other Pastors and congregations err. And it is Scriptural, (not “by-lawed”) to mark and avoid those who teach error.

    If you want to preach, preach to the Pastors and congregations who teach falsely! That would do synod far more good than telling the confessionals to submit to them.

    We are advised to obey the government, as something outside the church that we have no control over. Inside, Scripture had better come first.

  35. fws on May 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    helen @ 134

    “We are advised to obey the government, as something outside the church that we have no control over. Inside, Scripture had better come first.”

    Got it now. What you are missing Helen is the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions that say that the church is an earthly government in exactly the same way that matrimony and the civil government are governments.

    You will find that teaching in the 4th commandment of the Large Catechism dear Helen!

  36. Mrs. Hume on May 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    “who gave the task to either you or your pastor to ‘bring home to them [their error] by , in fact, excommunicating them?”

    I thought that was the point of excommunicating people, to get them to see their error.

  37. helen on May 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    @fws #135
    What you are missing Helen is the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions that say that the church is an earthly government…

    And what you are missing, Frank, is that law-breakers do not determine what the law is.

    I am not going to encourage running red lights, and I am not going to (even seemingly) approve of “open” communion. “The nearest cop is the cop in charge.”

    [Cops will even take orders about traffic from the fireman, if the fireman gets to the fire first. Call me a member of the VFD.] :)

  38. Mark Huntemann on May 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Frank still studying! How do you chew on this? Blessings to you down yunder……

    Original sin remains after Baptism. God told Adam you will die (death is separation from God). God did not say you will be kinda sorta dead. God said you will die the death! So Frank now we have our handle on ” image of God” nothing left. Baptism. Still nothing left. “…till HE come…..

    35] Here our adversaries inveigh against Luther also because he wrote that “Original sin remains after Baptism.” They add that this article was justly condemned by Leo X. But His Imperial Majesty will find on this point a manifest slander. For our adversaries know in what sense Luther intended this remark that original sin remains after Baptism. He always wrote thus, namely, that Baptism removes the guilt of original sin, although the material, as they call it, of the sin, i.e., concupiscence, remains. He also added in reference to the material that the Holy Ghost, given through Baptism, begins to mortify the concupiscence, and creates new movements [a new light, a new sense and spirit] in man. 36] In the same-manner, Augustine also speaks, who says: Sin is remitted in Baptism, not in such a manner that it no longer exists, but so that it is not imputed. Here he confesses openly that sin exists, i.e., that it remains, although it is not imputed. And this judgment was so agreeable to those who succeeded him that it was recited also in the decrees. Also against Julian, Augustine says: The Law, which is in the members, has been annulled by spiritual regeneration, and remains in the mortal flesh. It has been annulled because the guilt has been remitted in the Sacrament, by which believers are born again; but it remains, because it produces desires, against which believers contend. 37] Our adversaries know that Luther believes and teaches thus, and while they cannot reject the matter they nevertheless pervert his words, in order by this artifice to crush an innocent man.

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