Several people write for our church newsletter. I’ve posted reflections by our pastor John Taylor and “Views from A Loft” by Kurt. Another person who writes occasionally about worship among other things is another Susan. This month she wrote about communion in the United Methodist church. So that there will be no confusion and to give credit where it is due, I will “sign” her posts as Susan H. This is the first of many I hope.
Worship Whys – Communion
Recently someone mentioned that some denominations have certain “criteria” for participating in Holy Communion, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to clarify who is allowed to take communion when it is offered in a United Methodist Church.
That’s right. Everybody. According to the most recent UM Book of Worship:
All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive. Every effort should be made to make each person, and especially children, welcome at the table.
That seems pretty straight forward, and yet many questions still arise. So much so that Rev. Hoyt L. Hickman gave the subject a whole chapter in his book United Methodist Worship. That chapter is quite thorough in explaining the Biblical ties, significance, and symbolism afforded by participation in communion, which is considered a sacrament by our denomination. But Hickman also makes it clear that regardless of our understanding and interpretations of all the elements present, biblically it is a meal, the Lord’s Supper, hosted by Christ himself. And though there is much mystery of faith involved in just how that happens, there can be no denying that Jesus invites all to his table. That invitation is the same as Christ has offered to all the world to receive His love and saving grace.
It seems to me that it is usually our own misunderstandings of the rituals, or feelings of unworthiness that make us hesitate to participate, harboring within our hearts the notion that we have not followed all the “rules” required to join Christ. If understanding or worthiness were actually necessary, none would be able to partake of the bread and cup. The acknowledgement of Jesus’ invitation, heedless of age, mental capacity or understanding, or past behaviors, is all it takes to come to the table of the Lord.
In Luke 15:2 it says of Jesus, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them”. We at Wingate UMC are thankful and encourage all to accept when Christ bids you come.
~ Susan H