Sunday, March 13, 2011

Communion Practice

From Luther's Large Catechism:
Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar?
Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and to drink.

Question: How do most Lutheran churches distribute the elements of the Sacrament of the Altar?  Especially, at the moment, I'm wondering about the wine, Our Lord's Precious Blood. 

Because here's my thing.  I'm good with a Common Cup, and with intinction.  But here's a few questions for the "individual shot glasses" situation.  Let's start with the "glass glasses." 

The altar guild picks them up on Monday morning to wash them, yes?

What's in them?

They're empty, you say?  They've been drunk from?

Are you sure about that?  Completely empty?  Not a single drop left?

Well...there's probably a drop...maybe each glass.

A drop of what?  Wine, right?

And...what happens to it?  Tossed in the sink with dishsoap? 

Great, no problem.  If it's wine.

But is it "just" wine?  Or is it the Blood of Christ? 

And if it's the Blood of Christ, are we really comfortable just scrubbing it out and rinsing it down the drain?


On to the "plastic shot glasses."  A lot of churches, I think especially those that commune large numbers of people, use these for convenience's sake.  300 shot glasses is a lot to wash, no?  So we use plastic.  Sure.  Makes sense.  Go through the line, drink the wine...I mean, Blood...and at the final station you...toss it in a basket lined with a plastic bag.  After which it will be thrown away.  In that same dumpster as the leftover coffee cups and sticky donut napkins.

That empty shot glass.

Well, almost empty.

Is it weird that I think about these things?


Kevin Haug said...

Not necessarily wierd. They've been thought of before. However, begin the good, earthy Lutheran I am...please allow me to ask a few questions.

When we drink the wine--the presence of Christ in with and under the wine, doesn't it enter our bodies?

And if it enters our bodies, does our digestive tract use up the entirety of the wine? I mean, does our body process every single molecule of wine?

And if it doesn't? What happens then? Where does the remainder of Jesus' blood end up?

Just following the thoughts to the logical conclusion. :-)

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

Fair point, Kevin, but here's how I'm thinking. Per your comment, what happens next is a natural, predictable, and unavoidable consequence of our obedience to Christ's command to "Take and eat; ... Take and drink."

Does this, however, eliminate our responsibility to properly and reverently care for the Blood of Christ as best we are able, in the distributive and cleaning processes? I would argue that it doesn't.

I remember my high school days as a student athletic trainer on the football field. It ... bothers me ... but I don't have a more specific word than that right now that we give more care and protection to a bloody band-aid than we do to the Blood of our Lord.

What would Joseph of Arimethea say?

Kevin Haug said...

Actually, I'm not too worried about what Joseph of Arimethea's commentary. I'd personally be more worried about Jesus himself. :-)

And I wonder what His take might be? Would He think it was making a mountain out of a mole-hill? Seems to me when the "purity police" started rearing their heads, Jesus had more than a few words to say. Would our care and cleaning of the elements in communion fall under such a scope?

I'm a very low church kind of guy, so I suspect so. Yet, I'm quite aware that I might be making Jesus look a lot like myself.


Elizabeth of Hungary said...


Hmmm...well, I'm a very high church kind of gal, despite my uh...institutional pedigree, which would definitely suggest otherwise (and thereby causes my candidacy committee no small amount of cognitive dissonance, but that's a separate issue)...

I'm not trying to be the "purity police" here, and I'm not trying to bind anyone's conscience, or exercise infallible authority...but I feel like the standard we've created in much of Lutheranism (on any number of issues) is now "the bare minimum that's not obviously sinful".

I think maybe I'm looking at it less from the perspective of "We Must Have Rules"... and more from the perspective of the woman in John 12/Matthew 26/Mark 14 who poured the expensive perfume/oil on Jesus' feet/head. Did she "have" to do that? No. Would it have been wrong of her to not do it? No. Did Jesus know she loved him, regardless of whether she did it? Presumably... omniscience and all... But she did it anyway, out of love and care for her Lord, and indeed, Jesus commended her for it.

Just where my mind is going with this right now...

Kevin Haug said...

I appreciate your sentiments, thoughts, and wrestlings. I whole-heartedly agree with your treating the communion elements in such a manner as a purely grace response. It's not a have to, but if a person so desires and sees the task as worthy, far be it from me to stop them. Just don't ask me to become high church. ;-)

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