Thursday 14 June 2007

Whosoever will

“As it is the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Christ is the host who presides and invites participants to the table…. Insofar as it is Christ’s table, the church is invited, and therefore the church and its officers are not the presiding hosts. The church people who do preside at the table are only the servants who have themselves been invited…. [T]he table is a place of welcoming by God to sinners. When we get too strict about the right intentions, we might tend to lose sight of the fact that we are sinners welcomed to a table we do not deserve and over which we do not preside.”

—Joe R. Jones, A Grammar of Christian Faith (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 2:673-75.


scott said...

A great quote. I came across this book a couple of years ago - and I think Hauerwas's quote on the back is correct: Joe Jones is one of the best unkown theologians in America.

Thanks for posting this.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Scott. Well, stay tuned -- I'm planning (eventually) to post a review of the two volumes.

Anonymous said...

The most important this is that we receive Christ Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Although I left the United Methodist circles of my upbringing, one lasting influence is that I commend the Wesleys for insisting that the communion table be open to all. (Of course, so did some Baptists like John Bunyan, so I can still find confirmation within my new tradition. But there is no denying that it is stronger in Methodism.)

Anonymous said...

Sadly the Catholics do not, and in the last thread on heresy, there were also some who supported a practice where communion should be open only to those who belong to the body of Christ (of course how we tell who those are is an open question).
If we dig into the justification for a closed communion, does it remain consistent with other tenets also held, such as being members of the same body of Christ by virtue of the same Baptism?
I don't see how, but I hope some who support a closed communion will reply. The most common justification that I have heard is that it is important that those receive communion all believe that the Eucharist 'really is the body and body of Christ - in Real Presence'.
I don't know why that should be important. Seems to me more important to express the generosity of God and the faith that God is not damaged by what touches Him, but heals what He touches.
Thanks for posting that great quote, Ben.

I don’t think the person even need be Christian. What a great sign of univeral affection to admit to communion a Buddhist monk – and if such a one were to come forward, I don’t think it matters he knows even what is going on. I don’t believe Christ would deny him, would He, or start asking him questions if he believes in the real presence, etc.?

Probably fits back with the heresy posts….

Aric Clark said...

"over which we do no preside"

Key words. Even should we want to restrict the table in some way we are usurping authority we do not rightly have. It is an act of pride and sin to try to take the place of the host and decide who to invite.

Halden said...

I agree with everythin that Jones says here, but I would also add that there is a dialectic of hospitality and truth that must be at work in how we approach the Eucharist.

Sometimes there's good reason to deny people the Eucharist, and if we just let go of that, I think we slip into some sort of liberal sentimentalism, or worse capitulation to the powers.

Robert Cornwall said...


Thanks for the Joe Jones quote. He is I'm proud to say, a Disciple that is he is from my tradition -- the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

We've not always practiced it well, but the welcome table is at the heart of who we are and why we practice weekly communion.

By the way, one daughter -- Verity -- is editor of Disciples Today and another -- Serena -- teaches theology at Yale. Thus a talented family.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know what sort of good reasons you have encountered (and I seek to understand). Liberal sentimentalism is always a danger, I agree, and it is tough to draw a clear line between that and heroic generosity. Is the difference in the being sentimental/generous, or in the observer, or in the recipient of the eucharist.
I'm sure the recipient may be, let us say, a 'hardened criminal': coming to the table out of bravado and in spite of a seared consciences. Should that take precedence over the need of the servant (in the quote Ben posted) to represent the God who comes after sinners while yet sinners?

Halden said...


William Cavanaugh's book Torture and Eucharist answers this book better than I can. In it he recounts how in the church in Chili under Pinochet there were perpetrators of torture coming to take the Eucharist alongside the families of their on-going victims. Excommunication became a major way in which the church was able to become a social space vis a vis the state that was then able to call its radical injustice into question.

That, and of course Paul's first letter to the Corinithians. I think that's pretty strong stuff, too. I would say that I think excommunication is very dangerous and should only be used when it is rigourously and carefully discerned by the body. And moreover, it occurs, not to exclude but to call the one exommunicated back to communion through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree the case of torture is a good problem case. There is indeed something horrific about a conscience so seared that one still comes forward to receive.
The good father also reproves or is not the good father. And sometimes it has to be in the form of 'kicking the child out of the house'.
I wonder if the priest even mentioned receiving the Eucharist "to one's own damnation."
I agree the church has the responsibility to confront the person in such a case, and I'll have to mull over what I can envision the priest doing to do that while not withholding the Eucharist.
What about the other cases I'm more familiar with - such as a Catholic marrying an Episcopalian, and the non-Catholic never being welcomed, in spite of attending mass all the time and rearing the children catholic? Or the people who have gotten divorced and couldn't get an annulment … those don’t belong in the same category as the torturers.
Thanks for the reference; I hope to have time to look into it soon.
And then, there’s the whole question of what’s the difference between evil and madness? Maybe the priest should give these people the Eucharist and be praying their reception bring them to repentance.

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