I had an interesting conversation today. It took place in the parking lot on my way to see someone in the hospital. There in the hospital parking lot this gentleman spotted my uniform and inquired if I was a member of The Salvation Army. I indicated I was indeed and he proceeded to tell me that we did great work for people in need…I could almost hear the ‘BUT’ coming a mile away. Finally after a few additional compliments he came to his ‘but’, when he said, “But you guys are not completely a part of God’s family because you don’t have His holy Eucharist inside you.”
Wow, what do you say to a complete stranger in a parking lot after only a few pleasantries have just been exchanged? There really wasn’t time to delve into it right then and there, I was on a mission of sorts to visit a parishioner. I found it interesting that in a parking lot I was engaged in a theological conversation…I didn’t have the time to engage.
So since I didn’t then, let me tell you what I would have said.
His argument: We (The Salvation Army & most Protestants) Are not completely a part of the body of Christ because we don’t have the holy Eucharist in us.
I couldn’t disagree more with his pompous take on theology! What he essentially struck me as proud and even elitism. Does God desire practice over faith? Often times religious conflict comes from theological misunderstandings or staunch stubborn persuasions. His assertion was that because we do not practice Communion or partake in Eucharist we are not a part of Christ. Hmm…was it the work of bread and wine that spurred the disciples into converting many at the day of Pentecost? Was it bread and wine that brought the Apostle Paul to the knowledge of Christ?
No! In fact I would contend that the Holy Spirit is an element that many high churches miss out on in their practice of Eucharist. Sure the practice can become ritualistic and lose its meaning, but His Holy Spirit is not mentioned enough within their church practices. How can one participate in Communion/Eucharist and completely miss the point of such a ceremony?
Is the practice of such a ceremony an act of Salvation? I would contend again that it is not! In fact, there are still many churches who say that if people do not partake in Eucharist they aren’t saved. How can this be? Did Jesus say ” Do this in remembrance of me to be saved?” No! He simply said, “Do this in remembrance of me”. What is ‘this’ that Jesus refers to? Was it solely the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine? I do not believe it to be so. When Jesus later prayed to the Father that his disciples be One just has He and the Father were One, I believe there is significance there. Jesus wanted unity, peace amongst his followers. When they were to fellowship over a meal together, whether it was the Passover or even a simple shared meal the remembrance, I believed was conveyed in their meeting, not just the elements of Eucharist.
Secondly what makes the Eucharist holy? What is holy anyway? I’m sure there will be those who may disagree with me and that’s fine but where does Holiness come from? The only true source of Holiness is God himself. Who is able to bless something in order to make it holy then? Man? Are we ever worthy enough to make something holy in and of our own selves? I’m not denying that His Holy Spirit can’t indwell within us and work through us, but to claim that something is always holy just because of practice is foolish.
When we understand the source of Holiness, then how much weight should we then place of ritual? Is Communion in and of itself a source of Salvation? No. Who does provide Salvation and Redemption from our sins? Jesus himself, through His sacrifice…and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Did Paul indicated anything in there about breaking bread and drinking wine to save your soul? Is that how we gain access to ‘the body’? No. Confession, belief and faith are the ingredients, if you will, for our salvation!
So what is Eucharist then?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning its practice here by any means. What I am condemning is the ingrained denominational notion that if one does not practice Eucharist regularly they aren’t a part of the body of Christ. That is simply foolishness and a slant to the scriptures that was never meant to be. Should we participate in Communion in church? I think that there is a time and place for it. I think that some very sacred moments can come from it, but do I think that it ought to be practiced every Sunday? No, and here’s why. It loses significance and symbolism, and instead of something sacred can become monotonous and mundane.
Lastly, to the churches who teach that Eucharist is mandated and lack of practice is detrimental to our salvation…think again. Stop dividing the body of Christ! We become elitist when practice replaces holiness, and judgement is measured out by the hands of man. Salvation belongs to Christ, and those who call upon His name will be saved.
There is no perfect church here on earth, just imperfect people striving to be like Christ. When we allow His indwelling to be evident in the outpouring of our faith then, perhaps we have the authority to speak on such things.