What kind of a physician would someone be who gave out medicine willy-nilly to anyone who asked for it, without knowing anything about their condition, but simply because they asked. Would you go to such a physician? Wouldn’t that demonstrate a colossal lack of care for the health of those who received the medicine? I would stay away from such a doctor. The same medicine can be good for some, but harmful for others.
Is it much different with the Lord’s Supper? Is this not a divine medicine for souls? What kind of pastor would I be if I gave this medicine out to anyone who asked, indiscriminately, without examining them, without knowing anything about the condition of their souls? In the medical field, one would likely be sued for medical malpractice. And yet, in the Church pastors do this all the time. And many of the people expect their pastors to “make exceptions” to the rule when it involves a guest or family member that they are bringing to Church.
No, it’s not simply about knowledge or personal faith. There is a pastoral relationship with those who commune at the altar. The fact is, I have been called by Christ through His Church to a specific location, and to a specific flock of sheep. I have not been called to be the shepherd of everyone. And yet, none of this matters when it comes to visitors coming to worship. No one even stops to consider the fact that the pastor is accountable for those whom he communes, and that he has a God-given relationship to those who have called him as their shepherd.
How irritating that this comes up over and over and over again. When it does come up, it is just a reminder that one cannot take anything for granted, even in a congregation where all *seems* to be well. There is a reason that Christ does not have every Christian be his or her own pastor, and why there is a pastoral office. There is a reason Christ sends ministers of His Word to His Church–because (as Luther’s sacristy prayer says), the people need the teachings and the instructions. Our job is never over fellow servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Press on. Your people need you, even if they don’t know that they need you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been sent to them.
Come, Lord, quickly!