Do We Practice This?

Our Confessions state:

Now, it is true, as we have said, that no one should by any means be forced or compelled to go to the Sacrament, lest we institute a new murdering of souls.  Nevertheless, it must be known that people who deprive themselves of and withdraw from the Sacrament for such a long time are not to be considered Christians.  For Christ has not instituted it to be treated as a show.  Instead, He has commanded His Christians to eat it, drink it, and remember Him by it.[1]

Do we practice this? Do we actually tell people who remain away from Church and the Sacrament for a long time that we no longer consider them Christians? Or do we just conveniently take their name off the membership list and send a letter of “release”? I have done the latter…too many times. It’s much easier, after all. Not nearly as bloody. What I am not certain of in this section of the Confessions is if it is referring to people who came to church, but simply did not go up for the Sacrament, or if it referred to people who just never came to church. Any historians out there? My biggest struggle is actually getting to speak with these folks face to face. Usually I leave message after message without anyone ever returning my phone calls. I suppose I need to just show up on their doorstep and say: “Look, Joe, your refusal to come to Church and participate in the life of the Church is telling me that you no longer want to be a Christian and care nothing for the eternal welfare of your soul. Is that what you want me (and God for that matter) to think?”

Anyway, I think it is pretty clear from our Confessions what our duty as pastors is to be regarding those who continue in impenitence regarding the Lord’s Supper. I don’t know about you, but I must constantly remind myself that I am a shepherd, who is responsible for going after the wayward sheep. Otherwise, I ignore this duty.


 

            [1] Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions; Paul Timothy McCain; CPH 2006; p. 436 par. 42.  Luther writes: Indeed, those who are true Christians and value the Sacrament precious and holy will drive and move themselves to go to it.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to Do We Practice This?

  1. It will soon be time for our congregation, at least, to do this.

  2. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    I can relate to not having phone calls returned. It is a much larger problem in one of the parishes I serve. Perhaps just showing up is what it will have to come to. Interestingly, I had another pastor comment at a conference not too long ago that Luther should have repented for commenting that someone should not be considered a Christian for withdrawing from the Sacrament for such a long time. He thought it too harsh that Luther could make such a claim. My question is, which I should have asked at the time, but of course didn’t think of, is this: Can we, as pastors, who are to have a “quia” subscription to the Confessions, claim that anything in them should need repentance, since they are, after all, in agreement with Scripture?

  3. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    To answer your question, “Do we practice this?” I have to say, sadly, that it has not been a practice of mine, at least not in daily pastoral care. I do exhort and encourage in sermons, but, of course, that is only beneficial for those who are there to hear. You are exactly right, however – the care of souls is the very reason for the office we’ve been called to by Christ.

  4. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    I like the emphasis that the Confessions put here on the fact that we do not force anyone to go. At the same time, if there is no desire to go, then they are giving me no reason to think that they are a Christian.

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