Saturday 10 February 2007

Let's have a meal, let's have a feast!

A hymn by Kim Fabricius

(Tune: Truro)

Let’s have a meal, let’s have a feast!
    Come one and all, from great to least:
the food and drink have been prepared,
    the Lord provides and all is shared.

Let’s have a meal, let’s have a feast!
    This table cannot be policed:
it’s not the church’s, it’s the Lord’s,
    it’s spread for free, not for reward.

Let’s have a meal, let’s have a feast!
    From “us” and “them” we’ve been released:
no strangers here, for all are friends,
    no need to hide, deride, defend.

Let’s have a meal, let’s have a feast!
    Join hearts and hands, and pass the peace:
Christ turned the cheek and walked the mile,
    now all to each are reconciled.

Let’s have a meal, let’s have a feast!
    Let grace abound, let joy increase!
And as we take the bread and wine,
    let who we are be re-defined.


Dustin said...

I have really begun to enjoy Kim's contribution to your blog, Ben. It's just a shame that he does not have one of his own. I am sure it would generate quite a lot of traffic and discussion.

...Not that you do not already have a splendid blog :)

AndrewE said...

Hi Kim,

A lovely hymn. Can I ask what you think about exclusion from communion as a means of church discipline? I ask this with no hidden position and genuine curiosity. I have been thinking about the issue lately and am less and less convinced that it can ever be right, and therefore more and more confused by the when (if) and how of "expelling the immoral brother."


Anonymous said...

Hi Andrewe,

I'm glad you like the hymn.

I totally agree with what you say. The Lord's table is not the place to exercise church discipline. It suggests the complete withdrawal of grace.

I have spent some time (particularly in ecumenical faith and order conversations) trying to draw baptism and eucharist together into a consistent sacramental theology, so that what we say and do about the one we can say and do about the other. So, for example, if we baptise children, we should communicate children. Similarly with Word and sacrament - I look for a coherent theology of the spoken/visible Word. Would we ever exclude folk from hearing the Word? If not, should we ever exclude folk from eating the Word? I think not.

A lot more teasing out needs to be done, of course. And a Barthian might speak of exceptional, borderline cases. But that's where I am, there or there-abouts.

On the other hand, here in the UK at least, church discipline has become a rather otiose concept. Given the thin ecclesiologies most people have, the decline in denominational loyalties, and the general hesitancy to cause "conflict" in the local church or to hurt people's "feelings" (which, by the way, is why really important issues are often sidelined, because they will "upset" people), not to mention the worship of the golden calf of free choice (threaten someone with discipline and they'll just bugger off to the church down the road), churches are loathe to exercise any discipline. And this is not a good situation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,

That's really good. I'll happily use it at some point if that's ok. A loud 'amen' to your comments on church discipline and the Lord's supper too.

Guy Davies said...

So Kim, would you allow an unrepentant adulterer to reamin in church membership and have access to the Lord's Table? Of course, a repentant adulterer should be restored to the privileges of membership and communion because forgiveness and restoration is what the gospel is all about.

Anonymous said...

Hi Exiled Preacher,

Your argument could, of course, be extended: to couples "living in sin" (your predilection for a sexual sin is interesting), but also to obese people who continue in gluttony, rich people who persist in covetousness, people who fiddle their tax forms and who therefore lie without qualms of conscience ... Pretty soon the church will be empty!

But sticking with your unrepentant adulterer, personally I would engage in a ministry of conversation and persuasion, to try to get the sinner to see the error of his/her ways. I would even speak about living - and eating and drinking - unto judgement. But I would do all this in the light of the the unconditional grace of God who is not in the business of excluding even unrepentant sinners from church or table. Hopelessly un-Pauline, aren't I?

Guy Davies said...


I gave the case of an unrepentant adulterer as an example for shock value. The same strictures would apply to other cases of flagrant immorality or serious heresy. That not all sin in the life of believers will result in excommunication, (who would stand?) does not mean that no such action should ever be taken.

Patorally, I too would talk to the person about their conduct and confront them with the need for repentance. However, if repentance was not forthcoming, not only the Pauline principles of 1 Cor 5, but Christ's own teaching in Matt 18 would have to apply. You may not mind being un-Pauline, I don't think that you would want to be un-Christlike.

To allow open and flagrant sin to go unchecked in the life of the church undermines her calling as a gathering of visible saints. But where there is repentance, there must be unconditional forgivness and restoration to the membership and communion of the church.

Anonymous said...

Just to add a couple cents:

I think to talk about exclusion from the table as a means of "discipline" is to go too far afield. The communion of the eucharist is the communion of faith. If this is so, then excommunication or exclusion from the table is a matter of divergence from the faith agreed upon by all, not just a matter of this or that sin being committed. This of course is open for abuse (what isn't?), but it offers a better explanation for why a particular church does not open communion to those who have not become part of it. Commitment to a particular set of doctrinal positions allows the church to determine unity of faith.

Of course, the need for unity of faith is not a given. It depends on the church's sacramental views. I'm writing from a more historically catholic or orthodox point of view.

I realize this doesn't address Kim's likening of the free distribution of the eucharist to the free distribution of God's grace. I think, however, that communion withheld is not equivalent to the complete withholding of all grace, which is only God's to distribute.

AndrewE said...

Thanks Kim and others for some very helpful thoughts. Interestingly, my own church has just made a local level decision to admit children to communion.

I actually don't think you're being un-Pauline, Kim. I am starting to wonder whether Paul's arguments in 1 Corinthians have been misused on this issue. Even what Paul says about eating and drinking unto judgement is ultimately for our "discipline so that we may not be condemned along with the world."

I suspect there is a problem with the straightforward identification of taking communion and church membership (exiled preacher), and that this confusion can result in the corruption of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

byron smith said...

Andrewe - I'd love to hear you more on these things. Perhaps a series on your new blog?

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