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Communion Meditations (2016)

Denial

Originally scheduled for September 18

Recently, the attention of the press has been focused on an ancient practice of the church: the denial of communion to certain individuals. The general grounds by which this is done is that the person being denied communion is, in the words of the Anglican Prayer Book, “a notorious evil liver.” This usually implies three things:

·         The individual is unrepentant for something which is clearly a sin.

·         The sin tends to be one which is besetting, though there are exceptions.

·         In some sense, the sinner must be able to fix the situation — at least theoretically.

The method of using denial of communion to deal with a problem like this has its advantages:

·         It tells the world, or at least those who know the sinner, that the church considers what he or she is doing to be a sin in need of correction.

·         By denial of communion the individual is given a motivation to repent and to correct the behavior.

·         It is, surprisingly, the most gentle form of church discipline. The standard method may result in the individual being thrown out of the church. This method simply prevents the individual from participating in the most important symbolic ritual in the church, but does not prevent that person from having fellowship with other Christians.

Some disadvantages may also be seen:

·         It may be misused. It may be seen, for example, as a good way to get rid of someone who is bringing up embarrassing truths.

·         It may also favor certain types of sinners. We are most familiar with the Roman Catholic Church method of denying communion to those who are divorced. But greed also is a sin; do we deny communion to a rich, prosperous and overly greedy banker?

Obviously, in a short communion meditation, we are not going to solve this problem in any significant way. So why did I bring this up?

·         Communion implies that you are part of the body of Christ; you are one of the guys wearing the white hats. (See 1st Corinthians 10:21). Staying a member of the body of Christ requires you to be a repentant Christian.

·         Communion implies that you believe in the return of Christ; that also implies that you believe in the judgment to come and heaven and hell. You are saying to the world there is punishment for sin; what should God do if you happen to be the sinner, unrepentant?

·         Communion implies that you acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. You accept his atonement for your sins. Is it a good idea for you to presume that somehow the sins you will not repent of won’t count?

·         Paul tells us (1st  Corinthians 11:28-32) that there are those who are sick and have even died because of the unworthy way they went about taking communion.

In short, taking communion in a serious manner is not a matter of life and death; it goes beyond that to heaven and hell. So what should we do?

·         We should acknowledge the importance of communion by taking it with proper respect.

·         If you are the Christian handling a besetting sin, repent and then seek help from your fellow Christians. The fight against sin in your life is not fought by you alone, but Christ and his church are with you — if you will but ask them to be.

·         If there is a broken relationship in your life which you can restore, do so. Make that promise to God before you take Communion; deliver on that promise as soon as you can.

Partake of communion in a worthy manner. Everyone else in the room is a sinner too; join us in repentance, join us in fellowship.

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