I love that my denomination (ELCA-Lutheran) has open communion (bread and wine). We open God’s table to all who are baptized no matter how they identify or stack up on the religious pecking order.
This is why I’ve always been a little put off when reading how Luther withheld the eucharist from certain people. I always saw it like he was falling back into the elitism that he was protesting.
I mean, what a jerk, right?
Well, I just read a thing for my liturgy class that opened my eyes to the reason why…
Back in his day (maybe you can even relate to this today), a lot of people saw the eucharist as a chore that clergy demanded they partake in so that they may get right with God. It was another ‘work’.
Luther saw this and was like,
Naaaah… If someone doesn’t WANT it - if they don’t see these elements as free gifts from God FOR them, then it behooves them to have their attitude changed* before they do so. They need to realize their need, not their obligation.
That’s when it clicked for me. Yeah… The body and blood of Christ resemble God’s sacrifice FOR US. It is not something we hold our noses to get through like drinking grandma’s cough syrup. They’re spiritually nourishing gifts that bring new life to us from Christ.
The more broken you feel, THE MORE THESE GIFTS ARE FOR YOU (sorry I yelled there, I just get excited about this).
But here’s where my mind goes…
With people under 50 years old today - I don’t think a lot of them see the eucharist as a chore. I just don’t think a lot of them know how to relate to it at all. A lot of them didn’t grow up with religion forced down their throats, or any religion at all for that matter.
This is why I want the church to offer the eucharist to anyone whether they’re baptized or not. If someone wants it, I’m like, YEEES!! Give it to them!
Someone asked me if I thought murderers should be able to receive the eucharist. Without thinking, I said, absolutely! Hell, I think the priest should sprint towards them in the pew and give it to them first. They need it the most.
However, now I see where Luther was on this issue. There has to be a level of ‘repentance’ for the eucharist to be ‘effective’ (not to get too medical on ya here) - not in God’s mind, but in the human one. There has to be a consciously realized need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Not an obligation.
But a need.
Because this gift is a free one that needs nothing from you besides the openness to receive it.
Grace & Godspeed,
*What I’m talking about here is ‘repentance’ (aka ‘metanoia’, or ‘have your mind changed’). This repentance isn’t something you have to forcefully do like apologizing to your little sister for eating her Halloween candy. Repentance doesn’t come from you or from me - it comes from God. It’s not something we do, it’s something that’s done to us. Really important distinction there.