Friday, June 7, 2013

Ten Whines Against Weekly Communion

I am currently blessed to attend a church that celebrates the Lord's Supper every Sunday, plus some religious holidays. Several other congregations I have belonged to and/or served also celebrated the Eucharist weekly, at least at one of multiple Sunday services. My last LCMS church, while it did not have weekly Communion on the Lord's Day, had a Wednesday evening parlor service with the Sacrament every week except during Advent and Lent. Nevertheless it seems I have very often been in a position to hear these Top Ten Whines against the proposal that the congregation move from having Communion two or three times a month to every-Sunday Communion. And I kid you not. I have heard all of these whines pulled out, in person.

WHINE #1. "It will make Communion less special." Answer: Say that to someone who has experienced weekly Communion and then has to visit another church on "Non-Communion Sunday." Their hunger and thirst for the Lord's Supper puts the lie to this objection.

WHINE #2. "It will be too expensive." Answer: Maybe we should revisit our spending priorities. Most families in the congregation could well afford to commit to a higher standard of stewardship. But you should bite your tongue off before you compare the value of Christ's body and blood to any other treasure.

WHINE #3. "It will be too much work for the elders & altar guild." Answer: This could be an excellent opportunity to invite new people to join the Board and the Guild. Don't just give up before you've even tried to find the resources (human and otherwise) to make it doable.

WHINE #4. "It will make the service longer." Answer: We're quibbling over the sacrifice of a handful of minutes on top of the hour, +/- a quarter of an hour, most regular worshipers spend in God's presence each week. And this isn't time idly wasted. This is time devoted to one of God's most powerful means of reaching His children.

WHINE #5. "What if I don't want to take Communion every Sunday?" Answer: If you don't feel remorse for any sins or need for the grace of God, then by all means, abstain from the Sacrament. But that's a pretty mean reason for refusing to make the Sacrament available to someone who does need it, any given Sunday.

WHINE #6. "We'll never be able to invite our non-Lutheran friends to visit this church without getting into a fight about closed communion." Answer: If your friends and loved ones cannot be reasoned with on this delicate subject, then declare it a closed subject and refuse to argue about it. Meantime, the value of their feeling comfortably at home in our worship hour is probably overrated. Why not let the discomfort and strangeness of what they experience here work on them for a change?

WHINE #7. "We're going to miss saying the Apostles' Creed during the worship hour." Answer: On the other hand, once you stop going back and forth between Communion (Nicene) and Non-Communion (Apostles') Sundays, there won't be so much stumbling over the differences between the two Creeds. And if you really miss the Apostles' Creed, you can relieve your sorrow by attending the opening of Sunday School or learning to follow Luther's instructions for daily prayer (cf. the Small Catechism).

WHINE #8. "Are you trying to convert us into Catholics?" Answer: Pull the other one. It would be thrilling just to see you act like a Christian.

WHINE #9. "When I was growing up, four times a year was good enough." Answer: That was either because of a necessity that no longer exists, or because of imperfect knowledge that has been corrected since then. Some of us grew up before polio vaccines came along, and most folks got by well enough; and yet, everyone has been better off since we started taking polio vaccines.

WHINE #10. "You can't resist changing things, Pastor, so you obviously have no respect for our traditions." Answer: I have no respect for this objection, but that's not the same thing. If there are good reasons to make the change, and no good reasons not to, the last resort is to plead, "You just don't respect our customs." But really, how sacrosanct are these customs? I've heard this whine from a congregation that had existed less than 10 years. I've heard this whine from people who had let a whole series of previous pastors lead them farther and farther from historic Lutheran teaching and practice. I've heard this whine from people who, out of the other side of their mouth, were pressuring their congregation to switch to "contemporary" or "blended" worship. Whine #10 is basically unanswerable because it's irrational, dishonest, and/or a baited trap, loaded to spring against any possible answer. And so the best answer is to shrug this one off and move forward.

The fact that I have heard each and every one of these whines entertained, many times over, is a consequence of a fundamental mistake. The question of whether or not the congregation should move toward weekly Communion should never have been raised for discussion. The result is only and always an endless, unresolved, and increasingly contentious debate. And because the objections are irrational, they cannot be reasoned away. Rather than arguing pointlessly about the feasibility of instituting weekly Communion, why not just do it and take your lumps?

No comments: