Monday, April 8, 2013

Why would we prevent people from coming to communion?

Catholic Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit said on Sunday that Catholics who support gay marriage yet take the sacrament of Communion are contradicting themselves, echoing recent calls from a religious scholar for supporters of gay marriage to withdraw from taking the Eucharist.  According to the Detroit Free Press, Archbishop Vigneron said that Catholics who support gay marriage "deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church."  "This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one's integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury," Vigneron said.

         I’m not Roman Catholic.  But I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  When I read about this latest declaration that Catholics who support gay marriage should refrain from coming to the Lord’s Table and that, if they do come, they “deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church,” the first thing I thought of was the controversy Jesus caused in the religious community when he shared meals with people who were regarded by the religious authorities as “sinners”   Early in the gospel accounts, we hear the religious leaders ask:  “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   The gospel stories make it clear that Jesus knew who these people were and what they did and loved them anyway and wanted to share meals with them.   
            Through reading the gospel accounts from beginning to end and studying and preaching on the texts over the years, it has become increasingly clear to me that the good news that Jesus came to embody and proclaim is far more gracious and inclusive than most of us have previously imagined.  The religious authorities in Jesus’ day seemed to regard him as misguided and a nuisance, and as a threat to their established religious practices, so eventually they plotted to have him executed.

Through his storytelling and his actions, through his relationships with people, Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God—the gospel of love.  When people asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, Jesus said:  “Love God with your whole being.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  On this hang the whole of the Law.”  
 Jesus’ teaching and ministry were about love and compassion and healing.  He reached out to people on the margins of society—people the good religious people of his day thought of as sinners and outcasts. I’m not asking you to just take my word for it.  And please don’t respond by citing isolated scripture verses to defend what you’ve always thought.  Consider this an invitation to take a fresh look at the gospel message.  Take some time to read through the gospels and look for the big picture, the sweep of what God was and is doing in Christ.

In the invitation to communion, I often use the words, “Come to the Table not because you are worthy, but because you need to be fed.”

When we come to the Lord’s Table, God feeds us through bread and wine, so that we can be nourished and go out to bear the fruit of God’s reign, sharing the wideness of God’s love and welcome. 

So why would we prevent people from coming to the Lord’s Table?
Rev. Fran Hayes