CWOB: Jesus and Hospitality

Some make the argument that Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors. This argument would mean that we should also offer this meal to all whether baptized or not by following the example of Jesus. What this assumes is that every meal that Jesus had including the Passover meal he shared with his disciples was the same thing.  James Farwell writes, “It’s simply not a foregone conclusion that Jesus could not have established or intended a special meal through which his disciples would ritually remember his vision of the kingdom that animated his wider ministry and continues to animate ours.”[1] This meal was instituted for those who where followers of Jesus. It is not truly hospitable to invite everyone to do what Christians do without properly allowing instruction on what God’s grace calls them to, namely their re-birth in baptism.

True Hospitality and Pastoral Care

True hospitality is inviting the guest to continually explore the grace offered in Jesus Christ by inviting them into a life long relationship of discipleship with Jesus through baptism. This instruction is what true hospitality is because it offers inclusion into the community rather than just a welcome to eating with the other. Having everyone come forward without distinction is not hospitable because it does not reveal who we truly are and what this meal truly does. True hospitality entails honesty.

The best practice is to put this into bulletins.  Our churches bulletin says, “ This sacrament is intended for all baptized Christians. If you are not receiving communion please come forward with your arms crossed to receive a blessing.”  This allows our intentions to be clear about for whom this sacrament is intended.  Yet, despite of how seriously I take this as an issue, I equally believe that the Alter is not to be a place of contention.  If someone is not baptized and has their arms extended, I believe that it is my pastoral responsibility to give it to them. We should not require seeing a baptismal certificate before distributing Communion.

There are many ways one could argue for giving communion to the non-baptized and I believe there might be a way to frame it that stays true to the Lutheran understanding of God’s initiatory action on humanity’s behalf. But this would change the what each sacrament does and what order it is to be done in. What ties the sacraments together would be broken and would inevitable lessen the significance of baptism.

[1] James Farwell, “Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: One the Practice of ‘Open Communion,’” in Anglican Theological Review 86:2 (Spring 2004), 221.

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Filed under Communion Without Baptism, Ministry Reflections

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