Mark 9. 38-50
Communion with god is open forever!
It was Friday night, a week ago. I was looking at my Facebook page and I came across a question – a theological one – a friend had posted. Not just for me, but for everyone … “Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?”
“Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?”
If you’re not familiar with the phrase, ‘closed communion’ is when the bread and wine – the body and blood – of the lord’sSupper are shared only – ONLY – with those who are members in good standing of a particular denomination or congregation. No one else is welcome. Midland Lutheran practices “open” communion.” We call it eucharistic hospitality. But I digress. Back to the question …
““Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t one. A biblical argument for closed communion, that is. Truth is, “closed communion” is more a matter of popular opinion than an argument from scripture. What we call holyCommunion – or the lord’sSupper or the Eucharist – has its roots in the bible, to be sure. Roots that are deep in Jesus. But so much of the way we observe it has to do with tradition. With how the sacrament/ordinance developed over generations. And that’s where the closed-ness comes from. Not from the bible itself, but from the way we’ve done things. It’s tradition that keeps people out. Tradition that pushes them away. Baptized, not baptized? Confirmed, unconfirmed? Old enough, not old enough? Understanding, or not?
Sure, we can find verses that seem to justify it all. We find passages that excuse our actions. But bottom line, it’s us – US – who decide who will commune and who won’t. Us, not god! We think we’re the saints, the righteous ones. We’re not. We’re just doing our best, trying our hardest, not to condone – as the argument goes – not to condone someone else’s evil doing. Keeping communion special, holy. It amazes me how creative we can get, how imaginative we can become, in order to separate, to exclude. We make it so complicated, when it’s all so very simple!
My friend asks, “Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” And I wanted to say, “No! There is none!” We’d like to think there is. But there isn’t. So, instead, I replied with just four words … “What would Jesus do?” My friend replied, “Invite everyone!” Invite everyone! We forget that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, “in the night in which he was betrayed,” when Jesus “took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples,” Judas was among them! And when the cup was passed, Judas drank from it, as well! Not even to him was the Supper closed! And in John’s gospel, when Jesus gets up from the table and takes off his outer robe and ties a towel around him, he washed Judas’ feet along with the rest! “Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” No! That’s not what Jesus would do! That’s not who Jesus is! Not Jesus! Not church! And then …
There’s Mark. Chapter nine. Verses forty-three to forty-eight! About lopping off hands and cutting off feet and tearing out eyes! About being thrown into hell where worm never dies and fire’s never quenched! But that’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works! I don’t believe in god because I’m afraid of burning in hell for all eternity! I believe in god because god loves me! WE believe in god! We depend on god! We rely on god! We stake our lives on god! Not so that we can get through the pearly gates, but because god loves us! We believe not because it’s in our own best interests. We believe because … in the mercy of almighty god, Jesus Christ was given to die for us – die for all of us – and for his sake, god forgives! We believe because we’re called! We believe because we’re chosen! Because the body of christ was given for us! The blood of christ shed for us!
That’s why, from the moment the hammer nailed the theses to the church door, we’ve been called evangelicals. Not because we hand out tracts on street corners. Not because we stand on soap boxes. Pointing fingers. Shaking fists. We’re evangelicals because we believe in love! We believe in god’s love! For us! For creation! We believe in good news, not fear! We believe in certainty, not doubt! And none of it is because we’ve lopped off a hand or cut off a foot or torn out an eye! It’s a gift! A gift from god! And that’s good news!
“Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” I guess, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn’t it! Sounds a lot like Paul’s question to the church at Rome. “What – who – can separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer is nothing! No one! Not god! Not ourselves! “Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” What would Jesus do? What has Jesus done? He’s built bridges! He’d open doors! He’d invite! He’d welcome! He’d turn no one away! Jesus has loved! And loved! And he’ll keep on loving!
And that love changes us! It makes us different! New! Instead of being cut off … Instead of being torn out … we’re forgiven! We’re given a second chance! And a third chance! And as many chances as we need! So, my friends, “Does anyone know what the biblical argument for closed communion is?” We don’t! And neither does our god!