nice on steroids x 10 plus infinity

Close(d) Communion doesn’t seem nice.

It doesn’t seem nice when a Methodist daughter can’t commune with her LCMS mother.

It doesn’t seem nice when visiting Presbyterians can’t go to the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation.

It doesn’t seem nice when a dying grandfather can’t receive the Blessed Sacrament with his grandchild.

Because when it comes right down to it, that’s our only real argument: Close(d) Communion just doesn’t seem nice.


Except for the fact that it is actually insanely, tangibly, crazily, hugely, daringly LOVING. It is care for our neighbor on steroids x 10 plus infinity.


Receiving the Holy Communion with another person, with other people, is {among a pile of other things} a visible act of unity: The people at the rail confess that this really is Christ’s body and it really is His blood for their forgiveness and comfort {among a pile of, well, other things}.

So to let the Methodist daughter commune with her LCMS mother would seem nice on the outside, yes.

But to do so would actually be very un-nice. It would prove we don’t give a hoot who’s at the rail with us.

That we don’t care if we believe the same thing or not . . . or if he believes anything at all.

That we’re apathetic to the fact our neighbor is confessing something he doesn’t believe.

That we’re indifferent to whether or not we are confessing something we don’t believe.

That we are more interested in awkward tension than spiritual well-beings.

And nothing about that is nice.



Smokers don’t get to smoke in smoke-free restaurants. People with no shirt and no shoes get no service where the sign says so. Swimmers don’t get to dive in shallow swimming pools.

None of those rules seem nice either. But they are there for the benefit, the protection, the good order of those who want to smoke and get service and swim, just as they are there for the people who don’t want to smoke and don’t want to see people without shirts and shoes and who hate swimming.


So if we’re going to continue to dialogue close(d) Communion, we need to move past the “It’s not nice” argument.

Because it actually is.

Insanely, tangibly, crazily, hugely, daringly x 10 plus infinity.

14 thoughts on “nice on steroids x 10 plus infinity

  1. Also, communing with folks with whom you are not in formal, public fellowship is a violation of the 8th Commandment; it is a false witness. “Hey, look! We’re all communing together! Isn’t that great?!?…while those at the altar have various understandings of the Sacrament as well as other dubious teachings. What many do not understand is that one’s church membership is their public confession of the faith; it is something they take with them wherever they go, whether or not they believe it to be so! All Lutherans do well to heed Werner Elert’s words from his book Eucharist and Church fellowship in the First Four Centuries: “By his partaking of the Sacrament in a church a Christian declares that the confession of that church is his confession. Since a man cannot at the same time hold two differing confessions, he cannot communicate in two churches of differing confessions. If anyone does this nevertheless, he denies his own confession or has none at all.:

  2. Thank you for this.
    Several years ago, after my clinical supervisor concluded her observation, she told me how she, as a practicing Baptist, was offended when she could not take communion at an LCMS relative’s church.
    I explained to her that Lutherans and Baptists do not hold the same view of communion, but she quickly interrupted me and told me that yes, she knew that; however, she was still offended.
    There was no point in trying to discuss Real Presence with someone who was operating under emotions.
    We ended that encounter in good terms, thankfully.

    1. Isn’t that interesting? It’s like going into Congress and demanding to be able to vote. I’m not a member of Congress. I don’t get to vote. Those are the rules. And yet I’m still offended? Curious.

  3. Zoe–

    As a pastor, I’m accountable for those I admit to the Table. If someone comes to the altar to commune in an unworthy manner, and I admit them and give them the Eucharist to their harm, I am also answerable before God for that. Forcing me to sin is, as you say, presumptuous on your part.

    1. Except aren’t we all unworthy when we come to the altar? Are you aware of every inter-personal conflict in your congregation? Isn’t it also sinful for a person to come to the altar angry and unforgiving? What if the visitor, etc. believes the same thing you do about Christ, his death and resurrection, the Trinity, and the purpose/mystery of Holy Communion?

      1. Nick–

        The difference between the situations you describe and welcoming those of other confessions to the altar is that I at least practice some sort of pastoral oversight with my own congregation members. If I am in ignorance of conflict between my members, then I will humbly acknowledge that before the Lord when called on it and will rely on His mercy. If I knowingly welcome someone of a different confession of faith, then I have made a choice to disregard the Lord’s Word, command, institution, and promises. How can anyone read I Corinthians 11 and welcome anyone and everyone to the altar without discretion?

      2. If they believe “he same thing you do about Christ, his death and resurrection, the Trinity, and the purpose/mystery of Holy Communion,” then they should be Lutherans. I’ll gladly examine them and welcome them to leave behind the confession they make by their church body membership and join the Lutheran Church.

  4. If a person chooses to take Communion, it is not the place of other humans to attempt to judge their hearts. If they take Communion under false pretenses, that is between them and the Holy Spirit. As long as they profess belief and wish to take Communion, they should. Disallowing them because they haven’t lived there and “proved” themselves to the fallible human beings around them is not loving; it’s a declaration that human judgment and human authority over other sinners are above God’s.

    Even if people are church members in good standing and have indeed proven themselves in whatever shallow outward forms the other church members require in order to accept them at the Communion table, they may still be taking Communion without believing. If that is the main concern, there is really no way for human beings to cope with that, simply because they can’t read minds and hearts. Only God can. It is incredibly presumptuous of God and fellow human beings to think that we not only *can,* but that we *should.* Anyone who comes to the Communion rail expressing a desire to commune should be able to do so, and the results of that lie with God, not with people.

    1. Exactly! It should be our job as the local church to explain the sacrament of Holy Communion and live out communion with each other as a demonstration of what it means to guests among us. If they come to the altar, knowing what we believe about Communion, then they are professing they believe the same through their presence at the altar. If they are lying to the rest at the table (really believe differently about Communion) then that is between them and God. If they are ignorant of our beliefs about Holy Communion, we have not done our job of presenting God’s word to them, and through regular attendance and guidance they will come to share our beliefs.

      1. You say, “If they come to the altar, knowing what we believe about Communion, then they are professing they believe the same through their presence at the altar.”

        So what happens when they willingly go back to their old church that doesn’t confess what we do and go to the altar to receive the Supper?

    2. The fact that we cannot read minds and judge hearts is precisely why we must go by actual confession of faith. Closed communion is all about “asking people to profess faith and wish to take Communion” to come. What is not acceptable is if people come to rail professing FALSE faith and aligning themselves with churches that accept false teaching. That is false unity, which benefits no one and harms many.

      Communion is never, never just between an individual and God. It’s a communion with the members with whom we partake, as well. I once asked a Baptist pastor what he’d do if a Mormon (perhaps ill-catechized) came to his church, decided he fit the description well enough of “believer in Jesus” who was “baptized,” and reached out for the bread and juice. The pastor admitted that he would have no way of keeping him from doing so; ultimately it just had to be between the guy and God. What kind of message does that send out to the rest of the members? The practice confesses that Mormons or any other person who receives the Supper is really one with us in faith. Even many evangelicals are starting to see the spiritual danger here and are trying to figure out how to fence the table better.

      Let’s face it; open communion isn’t simply about wanting to be loving. It’s about avoiding awkwardness, making people feel good as participants, and (as one theologian put it) offering “cut rates” and instant-access deals to try to get more people in the pews.

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