Originally scheduled for September 18
Recently, the attention of the press has been focused on an
ancient practice of the church: the denial of communion to certain
individuals. The general grounds by which this is done is that the
person being denied communion is, in the words of the Anglican
Prayer Book, “a notorious evil liver.” This usually implies three
The individual is unrepentant for something which is clearly a sin.
The sin tends to be one which is besetting, though there are
In some sense, the sinner must be able to fix the situation — at
The method of using denial of communion to deal with a
problem like this has its advantages:
It tells the world, or at least those who know the sinner, that the
church considers what he or she is doing to be a sin in need of
By denial of communion the individual is given a motivation to
repent and to correct the behavior.
It is, surprisingly, the most gentle form of church discipline. The
standard method may result in the individual being thrown out of the
church. This method simply prevents the individual from
participating in the most important symbolic ritual in the church,
but does not prevent that person from having fellowship with other
Some disadvantages may also be seen:
It may be misused. It may be seen, for example, as a good way to
get rid of someone who is bringing up embarrassing truths.
It may also favor certain types of sinners. We are most familiar
with the Roman Catholic Church method of denying communion to those
who are divorced. But greed also is a sin; do we deny communion to a
rich, prosperous and overly greedy banker?
Obviously, in a short communion meditation, we are not
going to solve this problem in any significant way. So why did I
bring this up?
Communion implies that you are part of the body of Christ; you are
one of the guys wearing the white hats. (See 1st
Corinthians 10:21). Staying a member of the body of Christ requires
you to be a repentant Christian.
Communion implies that you believe in the return of Christ; that
also implies that you believe in the judgment to come and heaven and
hell. You are saying to the world there is punishment for sin; what
should God do if you happen to be the sinner, unrepentant?
Communion implies that you acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ on
the Cross. You accept his atonement for your sins. Is it a good idea
for you to presume that somehow the sins you will not repent of
Paul tells us (1st Corinthians
11:28-32) that there are those who are sick and have even died
because of the unworthy way they went about taking communion.
In short, taking communion in a serious manner is not a
matter of life and death; it goes beyond that to heaven and hell. So
what should we do?
We should acknowledge the importance of communion by taking it with
If you are the Christian handling a besetting sin, repent and then
seek help from your fellow Christians. The fight against sin in your
life is not fought by you alone, but Christ and his church are with
you — if you will but ask them to be.
If there is a broken relationship in your life which you can
restore, do so. Make that promise to God before you take Communion;
deliver on that promise as soon as you can.
Partake of communion in a worthy manner. Everyone else in
the room is a sinner too; join us in repentance, join us in