Do you believe that people in America are free simply to be themselves and do whatever they want? If you do, here’s a test you can try. Walk into a restaurant, approach a party of complete strangers, and sit down at their table. Here’s another test. Sit down by yourself at an empty table, and when some complete strangers walk by, ask them to join you.
Either way, you’ll find out very quickly that there are strict social rules in America, just like anywhere else. You usually don’t sit down with just anyone.
It’s interesting how many of our social conventions have to do with food. People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance. Eating with some- one presupposes a certain level of intimacy. We just don’t intrude into someone else’s mealtime. When we invite people to share a meal with us, we are sharing special time with them. We invite them to a closer relationship. And when we accept an invitation to eat with someone else, we participate in creating that relationship.
If that’s true when we share a sandwich, it’s profoundly true when we share the Lord’s Supper. To share the Lord’s Supper with someone presupposes a certain level of spiritual intimacy. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). To partake of the
People seem instinctively to view a meal as a social situation of great significance.
Lord’s Supper in a congregation says, “Together, we, who are gathered here to receive Christ’s body and blood, form one body. We have the same Savior. We believe in him with the same faith. Together, we hold to the same teaching— the teaching of Christ.”
That’s why we Lutherans want to be sure we can honestly say all those things before we commune someone. We can’t simply assume that we know the beliefs and thoughts of all those who might be present in our worship service on Sun- day morning. So if a visitor comes to our service, we’d like to get to know that person a little better. Strangers don’t sit at our table in a restaurant, and we want to be sure those who come to the Lord’s Table are disciples of Jesus.
And again, that works both ways. We think it would also be natural for strangers to want to get to know us better— for example, through a Bible information class—before they decide to come to the Lord’s Table together with us. Practically, that might mean that a stranger would not attend Communion his or her first time in church. But it also means that when that person does join us for the Lord’s Supper, our communion can be a true, spiritual “coming together.” Just as it was meant to be.
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