Pastor's Message - 2018 November Newsletter


by Pastor Randy Gibbs
 

I recently read the book, “Who Gets To Eat? Issues of Admission to the Lord’s Supper, A Lutheran view.” It was written by Eric Gritsch. Because communion is one of my favorite parts of worship in the body of Christ, let me reflect on some thoughts that this little book had me pondering about. Also, let me share some questions that I hope you will think about with me. Actually, I hope we can have some dialog about them.

First and foremost, for me is to understand that Communion is a means of Grace.  By this I mean that it is one of the ways God brings grace into my life and yours (and into our life together.) I believe that Communion is a powerful action of God “for us”.  When it comes to the celebration of the Lords Supper, I believe that Christ Jesus is really present in the bread and the cup as he says. (“This is my body. This is my blood.”)  In that holy moment of eating and drinking one can feel the presence of Christ in the bread and cup. AND one can feel his presence at the table where we are surrounded by the body of Christ. This being the case, that we celebrate the supper every time we gather is as fundamental to our spiritual life as eating and drinking is for our physical life. So, If this table is a place where Gods grace and forgiveness is given, and where Christ Jesus comes personally to meet people, why would we do anything to get in the way of that?

I need always to remember that this is not my table.  This is not a Lutheran table.  This table doesn’t even belong to the congregation. This is Christ’s table. Therefore, it is Christ who decides who is welcome.  Search the Scriptures and see if you can figure out who it is that Jesus welcomes to his table. And so, if it is Christ’s table, who can mess with his guest list?  One-time Jesus told a story about inviting guests to a banquet. One of the most important lessons of that story is that we don’t make the guest list.

I’ve grown up always believing in Communion as a family meal. I never thought about it much until recently, but I do not believe there is a kiddies table where we put people who don’t fit at the “big” table.  If this meal is a place of feasting in Gods kingdom, then who would we put off at a lesser table, or put with a different group of people (lesser people)? And then to carry it further, if we consider kids to be a part of the family of God, why would we exclude them from the family meal?  (Children might not understand all of what’s going on, but they have a sharp understanding of what it means to be left out.)

“Lutheran communion practices have been shaped, more often than not, by a stronger concern for the religious disposition of the communicant than for the integrity of the Lord’s Supper as a means of God’s unconditional grace.” Says Gritsch in his book. The more I read the catechism and other Luther documents I am forced to agree with him. If we focus on ourselves (the communicants) who could come to the table? Who among us fully understands all of what is happening in this heavenly meal? Don’t you just feel blessed that you don’t have to pass some comprehension test to be invited to Christ’s table? Can we talk about the incarnation with much real clarity?  Or say how Atonement works? Can we tell what a Sacrament is or how many there are? What is the difference between Sin with a capital S and other sin with a small s? Can we understand forgiveness, or the body of Christ? But yes, we do believe Jesus is really present in the bread and the cup. This involves an element of mystery in that which is unknowable. Such gracious things are grasped by our faith in the words of Jesus, and our trust in the promises he makes. At what age is such faith and trust possible? Who would be the ones to decide this when it comes to participation in Jesus Supper?

It was the part of the book where the connection between baptism as a means of Grace and the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace were tied together that got me thinking again about children. I’ve heard it said many times that “Children are the future of the church.”  I understand and agree with the reasoning of that. I would also like to think that Children are a vital part of the Body of Christ right now. They are not just valuable to us for what they might become, but to be valued as they are. They are the church just as much as any of the rest of us.  If we only value children for what they might become, or who they might bring with them (as in; get the kids, and the parents follow), then we are not really valuing children.  I love a church that loves kids. I know they can be loud at the wrong time, and don’t sit still. They make messes when they eat, and they ask way too many questions. (Which sounds a lot like mid-week to me!) This doesn’t mean we don’t provide them some guidance, or set a few boundaries, or expect good behavior from them.  It means that we love them as they are. It means for us to be a model for them of life giving and life sustaining behavior as part of the body.  How about we embrace kids for all of their kid-ness?  Children are a vital part of the body of Christ right now, and like all the other parts of the body, we don’t shame them, but welcome them to participate with us in activities of the body. Would that mean at the Lords table?

I read and it got me thinking. I wrote so you could think with me. What thoughts and questions do you have? How about a discussion concerning the Lords table? Or about the role of children? Or role of children at the Lord’s Table? Let it be an open discussion and based upon what the Lords supper is, and not so much on the way we always did things, or what makes us comfortable. Let it be about strengthening the faith of the whole body of Christ and all of its members (including our part of the body here at PFSM). Maybe we can get out our catechisms and brush up a bit on it. It might be fun (at least, I hope, not contentious) to talk about this with your family and friends. Maybe even a topic for adult class! What do you think, and why? By e-mail, phone, or in person: Let me hear from you. Pastor Randy (rgibbs@ruraltel.net; 785-769-4919)

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