Since we have been talking about the Sacrament of the Altar lately, I’d like to say more here. I would like to address the Gospel benefits of this blessed Sacrament, for it is truly a blessing that the devil wants you NOT to receive and will do anything to stop you.
In talking of closed communion with other denominations, and sometimes with each other, there is some confusion between being cautious about who we commune because of the harm it may cause, and therefore thinking the benefits are not given to those who are admitted to the table. This too, I think the devil has had his way with us and so I would like to clarify.
First let’s consider that all precautions have been made, and you are a disciple of Christ approaching the table. That is, that you have been Baptized, and properly catechized, before communion. This is in accordance with Matthew 28’s command to make disciples by Baptizing and teaching. This is closed communion; simply making sure the communicant is a disciple of Christ. We often use the “shortcut” of determining the catechesis given by asking the quick question; Are you a member of a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in good standing? If yes, we can be quite reasonably assured that you have been properly taught. Sometimes this is not the case, but thankfully I think it is still rare. If the answer is no to that question, then we need to determine what you have been taught and who you are in communion with (denomination) to determine the issues which may need to be discussed.
But then, with the assurance that you are in fact, a disciple of Christ (and in this case, a LCMS member in good standing), then there is the “worthiness” language. This is not closed communion, but the warnings of 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 to disciples of Christ. This is simply what a Baptized and Catechized disciple of Christ does. In the hymnal on LSB page 329 is Christian Questions and Their Answers. These are a series of self-examination questions, for you, as a disciple of Christ to determine if you are coming to receive the blessed Sacrament of the Altar in a worthy manner In a nutshell, it means; Do you believe that you are a sinner, have no hope to redeem yourself, but trust in Christ as your true Savior alone, and He truly gives Himself to you in His body and blood for your benefit? If so, then come and receive that benefit! Do not let the devil convince you otherwise!
Yet still, the devil’s assaults are numerous to convince you to NOT partake. Things like.
Pastor, I know someone that has done me harm, and I just can’t seem to forgive them for what they did. Shouldn’t I abstain? No! Come to the Sacrament and receive His forgiveness (for your lack of forgiveness to your neighbor) and for Him to give you the strength to forgive! You believe that you are a sinner, no?
But pastor, what if I am mad at the you, and I can’t forgive you! Same. Come, receive, be forgiven, and may it give you strength to come and sit down with me to discuss what the problem is.
But pastor, I have hatred in my heart towards someone. Isn’t that dangerous? Yes, having hatred in your heart can be dangerous to your faith, but that is handled with individual confession and absolution. Things like unrepentance, hatred, and a multitude of sins are covered under that seal to give forgiveness for specific issues. Take advantage of it, receive forgiveness from God Himself, then feed your faith with the Sacrament. Besides, how does NOT receiving forgiveness of sins by the body and blood of Christ, help with that hatred? Instead, confess your sin, and receive the full benefit of the blessed Sacrament.
Or the latest one; But pastor, I fear I may catch something and die. Which do you fear most? Eternal death, or temporal death? Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 10:28; And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. We take many precautions in the distribution of the Sacrament, but ultimately it is God’s will and timing when you shall be taken unto Him. And besides, Christ will raise you up again.
These are not the only reasons we have come up with to not take this blessed Gospel given to us, yet any reason we come up with for voluntarily going without the Sacrament for a long period of time, is detrimental to your faith. It is like going into battle naked because you no longer wear the armor of God to protect you against the assaults of the devil and world. Come, eat and drink, replace that battle torn armor with a new set.
I highly recommend further reading, for this blessed Sacrament is THE greatest gift known to His Church. Please check out our Confessions. Specifically, section V of Luther’s Large Catechism. It is well worth the read.
Together in Christ,
Pastor Terry Makelin