At Zion we practice "close Communion," and we invite confirmed members of Zion or confirmed members of other churches within our fellowship to join us for Holy Communion. Read on to learn more:
What is Holy Communion?
Holy Communion is where we receive Jesus’ true body and blood in and with the bread and the wine during the sacrament. Where there is Jesus’ true body and blood there is forgiveness of sins, a new life of faith, and salvation. Jesus instituted this sacrament with his disciples on the night before his death on the cross:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
1 Corinthians 11:23-25
Why did Jesus only give this to his disciples?
It is noted that Jesus instituted this sacrament among believers in the upper room and not the general population. (If Holy Communion was for everyone, he could have done it while he performed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.) The Bible tells us why:
I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup a thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
I Corinthians 10:15-17
In Holy Communion there is a vertical relationship - we receive the true body and blood of the Lord, thus we receive his forgiveness. In Holy Communion there is also a horizontal relationship - we stand together in unity of faith and doctrine. This is why Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church practices close, also called closed, communion. When people join us for Holy Communion at Zion they are saying that they have been instructed in and are in agreement with the teachings of Zion and also the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. This is why only confirmed members (members who have been instructed in God’s Word) of Zion or confirmed members of other Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Churches (or others in our fellowship) may participate. To determine if we are in doctrinal agreement with each other we must look at the Bible together.
Partake of Holy Communion in a worthy manner.
The Bible tells us that there are blessings received in partaking Holy Communion, but if someone partakes of the sacrament in an unworthy manner that person will be sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. If someone partakes of the sacrament without recognizing the body of the Lord that person eats and drinks judgment upon him or herself:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
1 Corinthians 11:27-31
To partake of Holy Communion in a worthy manner we must be able to examine ourselves according to Scripture. We confess our sins before God and know that we need God’s forgiveness before we partake of Holy Communion. We recognize who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he continues to do as our Lord and Savior. We recognize that in the sacrament the four elements – bread, wine, body, and blood - are there.
What does history teach us about the treatment of Holy Communion?
From the beginning of the Christian church until the 1500’s there was agreement that Holy Communion would be only open to people who were in doctrinal agreement and were able to examine themselves according to the Bible. In the 1500’s some people said that Holy Communion doesn’t contain Jesus’ body and blood and thus it doesn’t contain the forgiveness of sins, new life in faith, and the hope of salvation. The people who made such statements demoted Holy Communion to a free-for-all potluck dinner. They ignored the words of Christ who said, “This is my body...this is my blood.” They also failed to heed the warning given to us in I Corinthians.
How do we treat Holy Communion at Zion?
Some people have said that it is an unloving thing for us to forbid someone from partaking Holy Communion. But looking at the Bible, we must see that there is a chance some may unknowingly bring judgment upon themselves. We don’t want that. You don’t want that either. It is an unloving thing to let people eat and drink judgment upon themselves. We should heed the Lord’s message and do everything we can to ensure that those who partake of Holy Communion know what Holy Communion is about and that we are in doctrinal agreement before we invite them to the Lord’s table. This is why we ask our own members to attend three years of confirmation class before they partake of Holy Communion around age 14. This is why we ask guests and visitors to go through a Bible information class to see if we are in doctrinal agreement before becoming a member and joining us for Holy Communion. Contact us if you would like to join the next session of classes.