Mercy not Sacrifice (4): The Act that Counters Contempt

Cuttack water (1996)

Mercy not Sacrifice (4): The Act that Counters Contempt

We are thinking through Richard Beck’s illuminating book, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. In our first post, we introduced his suggestion that disgust psychology can help explain the ways we view and treat other people. Do we view them through the lens of sacrifice — that is, with a purity filter that sets boundaries, excluding and even expelling those we deem “unclean”? Or, do we use the filter of mercy, which follows the impulse to welcome, leading us to cross boundaries, to set aside our natural “disgust” for that which is outside our bounds of “acceptable” and to invite the other to participate in relationship with us?

In post two, we looked at what it’s like to look through the purity filter, to see the world through the lens of clean vs. unclean. This “contagion logic” is concerned about contacting that which is unclean, even minute amounts of it. There is a sense that the unclean contaminates the clean, and therefore contact must be avoided. All the power is on the side of pollutant.

The third post we discussed how “core” disgust (related to oral incorporation) has other manifestations. In particular, we talked about “sociomoral” disgust: our reaction to people we deem contaminated and defiling. The church has always struggled to follow the example of Jesus, who welcomed the company of the “unclean,” with no hesitation about offending the cleanliness/purity traditions of the “righteous.”

Today, we share what Richard Beck says about an emotion closely related to disgust — contempt.

Contempt is generally distinguished from disgust in that it introduces a hierarchical component. Not only do we wrinkle our noses in contempt, we “look down our nose” at the people offending us. (p. 109)

As Beck notes, we may not think in terms of “clean” and “unclean.” However, we are all intimately acquainted with “the social tensions inherent in issues of hierarchy, status, and socioeconomic class” (p. 112) that are more precisely identified by the word “contempt.” He turns to the letter of 1st Corinthians for a case study of the problems that arise in the church because of sociomoral contempt and disdain. Problems in Corinth came into focus during their times of table fellowship, the communal meal that was associated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

What was going on? The situation is clarified somewhat if we consider aspects of Roman dining practices. As Witherington discusses, it appears that the Corinthian church was treating its communal meal, eaten prior to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as a private dinner party followed by a convivium (i.e., drinking party).

It was normal practice in Roman dinner and drinking parties to rank guests according to social status. Generally, high status guests ate with the host in a separate room where they were served first and were given the best food and drink. Lower status guests were seated elsewhere in the house, were served last, and were served food of lesser quality.

It appears that the wealthy patrons of the Corinthian church had imported these social practices into the life of the church. During the communal meal the church was segregated, with the wealthy Christians gathered in a separate room with the host. There, food was served (along with after-dinner drinking) with little regard as to the situation elsewhere in the house where the poorer Christians were being served, if at all. Further, the order of service had the wealthier patrons of the church eating first and well into their drinking party before lower-status members of the church had been served in the far reaches of the house. (pp. 117-118)

As I read this, my conversion from Bible-centric evangelical worship to traditional liturgical worship was completed. It is the Lord’s Table that is the center and most significant part of Christian worship. This is where all who come may share in the Lord’s presence and blessing. You might not understand the sermon, but you can come to the Table. The very purpose of the Table is to express the inclusion of the gospel. All are welcome. All are blessed.

In many ways [a Roman] meal was an occasion for gaining or showing social status. And it might be in many regards a microcosm of the aspirations and aims of the culture as a whole. Paul’s attempt to deconstruct the social stratification that was happening in the Lord’s Supper goes directly against the tendency of such meals . . . the sacred tradition concerning the Lord’s Supper is recited specifically to encourage social leveling, to overcome factionalism created by stratification and its expression at meals, and to create unity and harmony in the congregation. (Witherington, quoted by Beck, p. 119)

This is the act that conveys the good news: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. This is the welcome. And this is the act by which God condemns all our contempt for one another.

81 thoughts on “Mercy not Sacrifice (4): The Act that Counters Contempt

  1. Thanks everyone. I’m so glad he’s fine.

    My somewhat mischievous prediction is that he won’t be able to resist popping up & putting us right more frequently than not.


  2. senecagriggs says
    July 4, 2020 at 5:59 am

    Dear Internetmonkers

    I’m appreciative that some of you noted my absence. Physically and cognitively, I’m fine. I don’t have Covid19 at this time and though I’m certainly older, there’s no reason to think I’m very vulnerable to the virus other than age. I still play a lot of golf “walking nine.”

    Here’s my assessment of the blog as it now stands.

    Internetmonk has evolved into a liberal political blog with a thin patina of liberal religiosity.

    Because of that, I’ve lost interest.
    While I can’t promise I might not pop up in comments once in awhile, I’ve just lost interest in what the blog has become.

    Best to you all [ particularly Susan and Christianne due to the losses of their husbands ]

    – Sen


  3. Yes, Seneca made an appearance several days ago. He relayed that he’s healthy, but prefers not to hang out with the heterodox and bomb throwing anarchist.


  4. My studied understanding is that for approximately the first 200 years the assembly of believers was not public. Most often occurred in private areas/houses. The first archeological evidence we have of a specialized meeting place dates from around 250CE at Dura-Europos where two apartment spaces were conjoined by knocking out a wall.

    Church didn’t become public until Constantine co-opted the faith to his chariot of Empire.


  5. I was raised as a Zwinglian, as are most who have experienced the American Evangelical Circus in all its manifestations (or perhaps “infestations”). However, fortunately, I grew out of that.

    My experience of the Anglican take on the Eucharist has been via the ECUSA which in the Eucharistic rite embraces Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation (which I think is the Lutheran view), and gives a passing nod to Zwingli–at which point I roll my eyes.


  6. “I’m just saying that there are boundaries, and there are people whose responsibilities it is to define them. There are people who are in the Church and there are people who are not.”

    Sure, that makes sense because when it’s boiled down the extract is the essential oil of exclusion and separation, the age-old enterprise that religion has excelled at and marketed all along. “Good” religion always develops an insider/outsider grid and enforces a distinction between upper and lower story life. “This is holy; this is tainted.”

    What qualifies “people whose responsibilities it is to define them”? Later developments of tradition that tamed the radicality of Jesus and Paul?

    Religion is the systematic control, manipulation and administration of fellowship with God. Creating structures and systems that people are persuaded to or forced to follow in order to have access or relationship with God.


  7. Also late to the game here but I wanted to add a couple of thoughts into a topic that is meaningful to me.

    1 Corinthians 11:28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.

    I would note that in the Greek this is in the singular. Literally every man ought to examine himself.

    Not examine others to see if they are worthy. But examine yourself.

    Jesus asks to come with a simple faith, like children.

    The expectation is never that you have all your theological tees crossed and i’s dotted. But that you respond in faith to Christ.

    Years ago a young woman had shown up at our college career group at church. She lived across the road and a co-worker told her that our church was a good one (he lived at the other end of the city.)

    She was about to head overseas for a year, and I had the sense that she might not be coming back. So, one month before she left I asked her where she stood with Jesus.

    She said, “Mike about a month ago, the church was having communion. And as it was being passed I said to myself, I want to belong to Jesus. That was when I took communion for the first time and became a Christian.”

    I pressed further. “What does having faith in Christ mean to you?”

    She said, “I Imagined a tightrope walker about to walk across Niagara Falls. He stopped in front of me and says ‘Do you think’ I could carry someone across on my back?’ I answered ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Climb on then.’ For me trusting in Christ is being willing to climb on his back and have him take me where ever he wants me to go.”

    I was stunned. This out of the mouth of a brand new Christian. I had no reason to question her taking of communion, or of her absolute faith in Christ.

    For the life of my I really can’t understand why others would have denied her in that same situation. I really don’t think that is acting as Christ would have acted.


  8. We live in a society that is hyper-sensitive to “exclusion”, and we have to not be afraid to talk about that, even in the worship service. If my priest knows there are going to be visitors, before distribution of Communion he explains the situation and offers to talk with anyone about it after the Liturgy. We had a guest priest once who said, with a smile, if you want to partake, we’d be happy to receive you into the Church.

    Otherwise, the only thing to do is what they did for the first 400 years: dismiss after the sermon everyone who is not baptized. In my parish, once a person becomes a catechumen, that’s what happens; they go to a different room for catechetical instruction and return to the temple just after Communion.

    Just be up front about what you’re doing and why; people seem to respect that, especially if you’re welcoming in every other way.



  9. Your comment reminds me of Jesus on the Cross and the two thieves beside him. When one of them finally sees the light and asks Jesus to remember him, he was not met with how we would probably respond — “C’mon, man… we’re DYING here” or “You two DESERVE to be hung here, not me” — but instead, Jesus says:

    “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


  10. “I think it’s the basis, or has been for centuries, for exclusion.”

    Because of the way we read the Bible – that we can take what it says in our language’s translation, microscopically, literally, with zero knowledge of the times and contexts of its original writing necessary. At that point, it’s a palimpsest that can be written to conform to whatever buoys your flotation device.


  11. I don’t understand how one can read “without discerning the body” in the context it is written by Paul and come to any other conclusion than what you write here.

    Thank you for the helpful article and comments today.


  12. Dana, I appreciate your response. But it still begs the question: If the Eucharist is only to be served to (take your pick:) baptized and confirmed Christians, members of our congregation, members of our tradition (i.e. Roman Catholics, Orthodox), etc., then why celebrate the Meal in a public service, which will inevitably include outsiders?


  13. We’ll have to agree to disagree. I believe in the normal course of things, the welcome is meant to come in how someone is received in general by people in a church, not that visitors are offered the Sacrament. But the situation hasn’t been “normal” for 1600 years. We don’t have any evidence that ancient non-Christians were put off by not being admitted to the Eucharist; they seem to have understood that “inclusion” meant something. I don’t believe Christ is hurt, no, and at the same time we have to look at the import of what we’re saying by the act. And it certainly the Eucharist isn’t in any way about who is “worthy” – nobody is, and the Eucharist is not Magick.

    What you experienced in your Vermont church is part of the painful fallout of the schisms in the Body of Christ, and the multiple answers that have been given to the question “What is the Church?” at least since the Reformation. This situation probably entails the majority of the heavy burden for us who live in these times and are trying to follow Jesus.



  14. All right then. Perhaps it’s simpler than I thought but I think it’s the basis, or has been for centuries, for exclusion.


  15. Chris, I think Witherington nails the explanation. It has little to do with the theologizing that has been done about the Eucharist throughout church history. It was about sociomoral contempt and exclusion where there should have been welcoming of one another at the Table.


  16. They were dissing others at the celebration, not treating them as part of the body of Christ equal in value to themselves, and they were doing that based on class distinctions. Despite that, Paul never mentions kicking the hoity toity out. Paul is telling everyone to respect their fellow communicants of other classes. That’s how one partakes worthily, discerning all others as part of the body. It has nothing to do with achieving an adequate level of personal holiness.


  17. Late to the game here but how do we address the crux of the matter? Jesus never excluded, per se, though he certainly didn’t invite some. There were only 12 at the last supper. Now what I referred to as the crux of this matter is the distinctly exclusionary statements of Paul. His speaking of some taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner is where any of us get the idea that an unworthy manner exists, is it not? That’s the tough nut to crack.


  18. and the Book of Common Prayer introduced this beautiful ancient hymn, the Trisagion, into its liturgy for the Eucharist:

    (this is also used in Orthodox and Eastern liturgies, so ancient it is):


  19. You might be surprised just how heterodox I am. I prefer Richard Rohr’s terminology: Alternative Orthodoxy.


  20. sometime, we can see meaning also in the hymns of communion

    this, from the Lutheran tradition:


  21. an examination of the complete wording of the liturgy for the celebration of the Eucharist might help to explain why it is meaningful ‘beyond that’ (although different Christian traditions may have different wordings, but even there in the differences and in the similarities, we may see what is meaningful to others not previously realized)


  22. I don’t want to you to get jealous, but I think you should know: you’re just heterodox, but I’m heterodox, and a suspect as well. I’m hoping that means I’m suspected of heresy as well as guilty of heterodoxy.


  23. “So, this is all about being “a good human being”; polite, sociable, and latitudinarian.”

    Polite and sociable is a good start. It beats the hell out of mean and uncharitable. Latitudinarianism, that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    What’s wrong with being a good human being? I sure hope my granddaughters marry decent, kind, and loving men – regardless of their race or religion.

    You tell me what it’s all about.

    I will continue to pray for you.


  24. I appreciate your irenic words, Dana, but at this point I really don’t want to be inside, because I qualify, looking at all the others stuck outside, because they don’t. It wouldn’t at all seem right to me. I’ll stick with the heterodox.


  25. Mule, I don’t deny that the Lord’s Table is PRIMARILY a meal for the baptized community of believers. It is a sharing in the life of Christ together, a family meal, a sacrament of belonging, a proclamation of sharing in the Lord’s death, and a celebration of sharing in the Lord’s resurrection. It is most certainly not simply about being a good human being or just being kind to our neighbors.

    I simply say, before I serve communion, “This is our congregation’s family meal, when our Lord himself welcomes us to the Table, and feeds us with God’s love and forgiveness, renewing us in a life of faith, hope, and love. If you are a guest with us today, we would love to have you join our church family, to learn more about what it means to trust and follow Christ. Until then, you are welcome to come to the Table with everyone else today. Christ will meet you here too, and we encourage you to open your heart to him. If you don’t feel comfortable partaking, that’s fine, just let me know and I will give you a spoken blessing. But this is the Lord’s Table, and we welcome you to join us when your group comes forward.”


  26. Jesus invited Judas to partake of the supper. What that has to do with the bad outcomes or being possessed by devils for Judas or anybody else I have no idea. Jesus knew the state of his heart, yet extended the sacrament to him. He didn’t say, “Look, I think you’d better confess to a priest first, and then you can partake. And since I’m your true High Priest, you can just confess to me right here, right now. Otherwise, for your own good my dear Judas, I’m not going to be able to pass the bread and wine to you, because I know what would happen. When something this pure holy enters into one who is not sufficiently pure, one not sufficiently holy, the outcome is not good. It would be immoral for me to extend this Body and Blood to you in your state. You wouldn’t want me to do something immoral, would you, my friend?” No, Jesus didn’t say or do anything remotely like that, nothing like what a priest — or some priests! — in your communion or the Catholic Church or several other Christian branches might very well do if they were following the strictures you’ve listed above for access to Communion. By your standard, he acted nothing like a priest should with regard to access to the Holy Communion. I’ll take my cues from Jesus, not you or your church, Mule.


  27. I say if communion is not a sign of welcome, then we’d better rethink the whole nature of having public worship services. The Baptist church I first pastored had, for most of its history, dismissed those who were not members before serving communion on those Sundays when they held it (monthly). I’m not sure how it was explained, but in that small mountain village in Vermont, this created generations-long schisms between people who had faith enough to come to church once in a while, but not to become official members. Why didn’t the church simply say, our church services are for members of the church and not set themselves up for the inevitable hard feelings that dismissing your guests in the middle of the service creates?

    I’ve never for the life of me figured out how to communicate to a public gathering of people that some are “worthy” to receive communion and others are “unworthy.” Because that’s how it comes across to a lot of people. And I have found it awkward as a pastor to say, “Well, thank you for coming to our service, but this next part’s not for you, because you haven’t learned the secret handshake.”

    I say that communion is PRIMARILY a family meal, a sharing in the life of Christ among the baptized and those who confess their faith. But if we invite guests to a service, it seems a matter of grace and hospitality to extend the Table to them as any generous family would. I don’t think Christ will be hurt by this, and it just might be that someone will “see that the Lord is good.”

    On the other hand, it seems logical to me that if we make it EXCLUSIVELY for believers, and then we make our church services public, inviting all to come, then maybe we shouldn’t have communion in the main public services. Maybe that should be done at another time.


  28. I’m happy to take communion with the heterodox — they seem much like Jesus Christ to me.


  29. But it’s not just a meal – even a Seder – and it’s not simply a matter of denying people a plate, Mike. The Eucharist was never meant to be simply a sign of welcome; it only became that a long time after the Reformation.

    If you’re going to say “Come, taste and see that the Lord is good”, then you have to believe that what is being offered is, in fact, the Lord, not just bread and wine with a side helping of pious thoughts (not saying at all that that’s what you think it is; you’re Lutheran, after all). What Justin Martyr wrote, that you quoted, was a general explanation of what Christians did in their worship, in order to counter rumors that were flying around that Christians were involved in human sacrifice, etc. The reason the rumors were flying around is that Christians only allowed Christians to participate; everyone else was guessing about what went on. Christianity was an initiatory faith from the get-go; no initiation into communion with Christ via baptism, no participation in the ritual of the Communion of Thanksgiving. That’s how it was.

    If someone wants to do something different and justify it by means of different reasoning than that of early Church, that’s fine, but it’s also not historical.

    Yes, people have been denied Communion for bad reasons/power trips/etc. (I see you there, Robert; btw, if you were Orthodox, the divorce would not be an issue re Communion.) But misuse does not negate proper use. I had to look at the closed communion issue yet again on my way into EO. I had to grapple with John 6 after having ignored it during my Protestant years: Did Jesus mean what he said there? If so, what were the ramifications for me?



  30. So, this is all about being “a good human being”; polite, sociable, and latitudinarian.
    I always suspected it was.

    My daughter’s boyfriend has some admirable qualities. He is, after all, not a demon. I have never met Vladimir Putin. Those who have say he’s fairly representative of the Russian oligarch/politician, of which we have many who show up during Holy Week in Atlanta.

    Do Christ and Ganesh have a reality outside of the morality they produce in their adherents?


  31. I’ll bet he’s a better human being than, say, Vladimir Putin. But then I’m sure Putin comes to the Christ-Who-Is. A pity there are no available Russian oligarchs in the Atlanta area.


  32. –> “Judas’ attendance at the supper had such an excellent outcome.”

    Well, it worked out for US!!!


  33. And yet the only thing our Lord said was “Do this in remembrance of me”…
    How did it (the Eucharist) get so complicated beyond that?


  34. If I wish to remain an American, the truth is what the Supreme Court says it is. It doesn’t matter what I feel about it, unless I want to either commit myself to a program of insurrection, or am patient enough to wait until the Supreme Court sees it my way, which may be never.


  35. “I would say it is their responsibility to come to the Christ-Who-Is, not the Christ-As-They-Would-Have-Him-Be”

    And of course, theologians and priests are immune from confusing the Christ-who-is and the Christ-as-they-would-have-him-to-be? I know you are not *that* naive…


  36. I’m just saying that there are boundaries, and there are people whose responsibilities it is to define them. There are people who are in the Church and there are people who are not.

    My daughter is serious about a young man from India. She wants to marry him. Despite marriage being a Creation mandate common to all humanity, my Church will not marry them.

    This is not an abstraction to me. He has a Ganesh in his house, and he offers ghee and rose petals to it (him?) before leaving for work every morning.

    Y’all a bunch of bomb-throwing anarchists, really.


  37. yes,
    it IS about ‘grace’

    the sum of the Eucharist is ‘more than’ its particles 🙂


  38. Well, I would say it is their responsibility to come to the Christ-Who-Is, not the Christ-As-They-Would-Have-Him-Be, but it is the clergy’s responsibility to make that plain.

    In these days of everything-is-just-like-everything-else-what matters-are-your-intentions, that’s a tall order.

    Look at the difference between us and the Copts. The big boys on both sides are almost certain that were saying the same things about Jesus Christ, but unfortunately we did some regretable things to them when we were in power and a lot of repentance (mostly on our part) and forgiveness (on their part) are necessary before what is informal co-communion at the parish level translates into full concelebration between Patriarchs.

    I knew there was a reason we recited the Nicean Creed during the Eucharistic part of the service.

    “The doors! The doors! In wisdom let us attend!”


  39. We worship the same Christ. I too, see him as a human person, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. The lamb slain before the foundation of the world. That being said, I’m not going to peer into the window my communion rail neighbor’s soul. Thankfully, I am a member of a Church that affords me that same grace.

    I am by nature a skeptic and one who also daily battles the cynic demon. Could the reductionism you think you see be of your own conjuring?


  40. Mule, I would say that the objections you have with regard to open communion are all on the side of the worshiper. And you’re right — it is their responsibility to come in faith. But looking at it from my point of view, as one who is offering Christ, I don’t believe it is my right to restrict that.


  41. PS I will assume that CM is following the Eucharistic discipline of his own Christian body. The Lutherans do not take the Supper lightly, I know that.


  42. Y’all miss the point entirely. I’m not in favor of closed communion because I am by temperament a spiritual Tory. I am, but that fact is incidental to my argument,

    The cup of Communion is a cup of cum-unum-atio, a cup of ‘oneness-making’. When I take communion in the Orthodox Church, we are sharing the Orthodox Christ, who is a concrete human person. He has a Mother, whom we honor. He had typeable blood, which we are drinking. There is a lot of content there. He is not a created being. If you think Him a mere man, you are not Communing with the Orthodox Christ. He does not have one nature. If you believe He has One Nature, you are not communing with the Orthodox Christ, but with a creature of your own imaginations.

    Open communion always seemed to me to be an exercise in reductionism, that all you had to do was feel sort of a sentimental attachment to Jesus, or commit yourself to try to be nice to everyone if it didn’t put you out too much, or be pissed at billionaires, or whatever else is in fashion this week.


  43. I would say if I invited friends to my home when we were having a meal, and then denied them a plate, that that would be inhospitable and rude. We can have a private meal with just the family, of course, and enjoy it as that. But if we consider our worship services to be public events, open to anyone who will come, then I think we should offer all the opportunity to participate – “Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.”

    I may be wrong, but I think most Jewish families would be delighted to have guests share in the Seder, so that they might learn what it means to practice their faith. I would not invite myself, but I would certainly consider it gracious and welcoming if they invited me.


  44. I am influenced by Lutheran theology with regard to the Eucharist in terms of its emphasis on Christ’s real presence, its sacramental value, and its centrality in every worship service (though there can be a “service of the Word” as well). I rely more on my understanding of the biblical text and the practices of the early church for my conviction that it should be returned to the people as the fellowship meal we all participate in as the heart of our worship and by which we proclaim the gracious welcome of Christ in the gospel.


  45. Well, I do. And I remember that Jesus served Judas at the Last Supper, and that the table fellowship he participated in throughout his life and ministry was pretty indiscriminate as far as who was allowed to be there. Now, since I don’t posit a theology which teaches that the Eucharist is somehow a different kind of “holy” meal to be protected from the unworthy, then I will practice a fully open communion. I would rather be mistaken for extending grace and hospitality than for restricting access to what Jesus is offering people.

    I do understand the logic behind some of the traditions that restrict communion, and I can appreciate them and not be offended by them. When I go to a Catholic church, I cross my arms over my chest and receive a blessing. I still feel like I am participating in the meal, but I kind of view it as sitting at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving. Not ideal, but I’m not going to make a big deal about it in the moment.


  46. I really don’t understand your complaint? You criticize RobertF and Eeyore for having a more open approach to communion in one paragraph, then admit that there are plenty of “heterodox” cups available outside of the EO Church in another paragraph.

    I think you are conflicted. I will pray for you.


  47. HUG,

    Your points are basically the “gospel” I was given – ever so kindly – by my Protestant friends in college, and by Billy Graham, too, for that matter. God is so Holy that, though he loves us, he can’t approach us because even the tiniest of sins makes us Unclean. So, in effect, our sin is capable of thwarting God’s love. The Almighty One is stopped in his tracks by a contagion that exists outside of himself. How is that Good News? It took me 25 years to figure that out, and, little by little with Scripture and better theology, dismantle the false “gospel”. There was some confusion about this for me growing up Catholic, too, but with the Protestant “gospel” at least the Father was required to accept me if I acceptedJesusChristasmypersonalLordandSavior. (More strong-arming…)



  48. That assumes that the Supper is all about “outcomes”. It’s about Grace, which we can accept or reject as we will. But we do not have permission to be less gracious than Jesus about it.


  49. OK, at least NOW I know I am the one being addressed. 😉 WIth that clarification out of the way…

    “Do we allow anybody to approach the Eucharist? Am I in communion with the Dalai Lama? with Narendra Modi? with Noam Chomsky? Do they get to decide if they are in communion with me?”

    As far as whether we allow anybody to approach, let’s look at ChapMike’s wording…

    “(The Lord’s Table) is where all who come may share in the Lord’s presence and blessing. You might not understand the sermon, but you can come to the Table. The very purpose of the Table is to express the inclusion of the gospel. All are welcome. All are blessed.”

    So, who do we allow to approach the Eucharist? Well, who did Christ allow to approach Him? I think the answer is, “Pretty much everybody, even Pharisees.” I think we are on very shaky ground if we start drawing lines where Christ Himself drew none.

    “Both RobertF and Eeyore (“the usual suspects”) have decided that each man should be his own keywielder and judge his own fitness to approach the cup.”

    Again, I hearken back to Christ’s words – “Come to Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Suffer the children to come to Me, and do NOT inhibit them.” “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself.” I say, if anyone wants to come to the table, their “worthiness” to come is none of my freaking business. If Christ saw fit to share the table with Judas, whom He KNEW would betray Him, we have no business excluding anyone.

    “The Orthodox Church has three requirements for approaching the Cup. 1) Confess the Orthodox Faith as defined in the Councils. 2) Be subject to the local bishop 3) Be free of unconfessed sin, usually enforced as having confessed in the past year.”

    That’s fine for you. We’re not Orthodox. As the pastor of my old church put it, “This is not the table of (our church name), nor the table of (our denomination), but the table of our Lord Jesus Christ. All who name and seek Him are welcome.”


  50. The Supper Jesus shared with His disciples was a Passover Seder. Unless you are an utter oaf, you would not presumptuously invite yourself to a family’s Seder.

    At the same time, no Jew would turn away a hungry beggar on that night of nights. After all, it maight be the prophet Elijah!


  51. Judas’ attendance at the supper had such an excellent outcome.

    Of course, if Christ had openly confronted him with what He know was lurking in his heart, who knows what the outcome would have been?

    It was after the most gentle of rebukes that ‘satan entered into Judas’.

    Scary stuff.


  52. The Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist is much more akin to the Catholic, Orthodox, or Coptic understanding than it is even to the Anglican, much less anyone on the Zwinglian side of the spectrum.


  53. Do we allow anybody to approach the Eucharist? Am I in communion with the Dalai Lama? with Narendra Modi? with Noam Chomsky? Do they get to decide if they are in communion with me?

    Both RobertF and Eeyore (“the usual suspects”) have decided that each man should be his own keywielder and judge his own fitness to approach the cup. When you ask them on what they base this opinion, only RobertF offers a counter claim that Jesus invited the Iscariot to His Supper (with highly salutatory results /s)

    The Orthodox Church has three requirements for approaching the Cup. 1) Confess the Orthodox Faith as defined in the Councils. 2) Be subject to the local bishop 3) Be free of unconfessed sin, usually enforced as having confessed in the past year.

    These are not onerous requirements, If you cannot fulfill them, you cannot take the Cup in the Orthodox Church. There are plenty of heterodox cups you can partake of.


  54. Re:Judas – excellent point.
    Re:Do you think Jesus would have turned anyone away? – No. Good point.

    Thanks! Gives me some additional angles to factor into my wobbly, uncertain stance on this!


  55. Don’t forget – Judas also sat at the Last Supper, and Jesus fully shared the meal with him. And if some poor person had, by circumstance, showed up at the door of the upper room that night, do you really think Jesus would have turned them away? “Sorry, this is a private meal, go elsewhere?”


  56. I’ve been one who, for the most part, believes everyone should be welcome at the Table. After all, Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, none were ever deemed “unworthy” of sharing a meal with him (except for those who, ironically maybe, thought Jesus should NOT have been sharing a meal with sinners and tax collectors).

    But this post made me wonder if there’s a difference between the sharing of “just any meal” and the sharing of The Meal that was reserved specifically for his Apostles — aka The Last Supper. Could it be that the Table and Eucharist ARE specifically for those who know him? Should “do this in remembrance of me” be reserved for those who know just who it is they are remembering?

    So now I’m waffling on EVERYONE can come to the Table. And yes, I know the GOSPEL MESSAGE is for EVERYONE, and that ultimately NONE OF US are worthy, but maybe this one thing is reserved for those who know him.


  57. I believe that Chaplain Mike is Lutheran, Headless.

    If I’m right, then Lutherans (my husband was raised Lutheran) already have a profound understanding of the Lord’s Supper, not precisely ‘like’ Catholicism, no,
    but most certainly far more traditional to mainstream Christian thought and practice than ‘the fundamentalist ‘cracker and juice’ every six months obligatory service’ that is not ‘aware’ of the meaning of ‘Eucharist’ that is ‘the center’ of traditional Christian worship . . . .

    I’m not trying to speak for Chaplain Mike, but my own understanding of the Lutheran faith is what I had from what my husband told me. If I misunderstood him, then I’ve got it wrong.


  58. The Eucharist in Western theology is yet another example of over-thought theology overtaking the plain meaning of the New Testament and the testimony of the early church. Christian worship has always been a MEAL gathering, with the following simple elements that are common to any family/community meal:

    We gather.
    We share words.
    We share a meal.
    We depart, renewed.

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:42, 46)

    And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. (Justin Martyr, First Apology c. 150 AD)


  59. This “contagion logic” is concerned about contacting that which is unclean, even minute amounts of it. There is a sense that the unclean contaminates the clean, and therefore contact must be avoided. All the power is on the side of pollutant.

    Remember all those sermons on SIN illustrated by “the one-drop rule” of contaminant? Whether that one drop is shit, spit, snot, or poison?

    Contempt is generally distinguished from disgust in that it introduces a hierarchical component. Not only do we wrinkle our noses in contempt, we “look down our nose” at the people offending us. (p. 109)

    Both Contagion Logic and Contempt run rampant in a lot of churches and sermons and Culture War, to the point of becoming a New Gospel.

    As I read this, my conversion from Bible-centric evangelical worship to traditional liturgical worship was completed. It is the Lord’s Table that is the center and most significant part of Christian worship.

    You’re starting to sound Romish, CM…


  60. Usually by claiming that the meal is so holy, that anyone who has not properly prepared for it, has unconfessed sins, or believes the wrong things about how God is mechanically present in the elements, that their participation would render the meal useless to them (or even provoke God’s anger).


  61. And yet, down through the centuries and in the present day, all have not been welcome at the Table. The Church has always found ways to exclude from the common Table, and continues to do so just as the Corinthian Christians did.


  62. I had absolutely no idea about the “convivium” this has really illuminated that text. Thanks.


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