HE HAD ME AT HELLO

It is one of those movie lines that seems to express so much.  The ingenue Renee Zellweger is so impressed by the dashing hero Tom Cruise that she completely ignores all of his wordy speech and informs him he doesn’t really need to say anything else.  She is already smitten.

HE HAD ME AT 1963
HE HAD ME AT 1963

“You had me at hello” is one of the two great quotes from that movie, Jerry Maguire.  The other one is “Show me the money.”  The latter was more popular early on, but it has not endured.  However, “You had me at hello,” has, in a way of speaking, stood the test of time.  Here’s looking at you kid.  But as time goes by, we’ve all realized, I hope, just how bad a movie Jerry Maguire really was.

By the way, it is hard to believe that Jerry Maguire came out in 1996.  Man I’m getting old, but I still haven’t forgiven Zellweger for Bridget Jones, and I never will.

Now to the point.  Yesterday, the preacher had me at the preaching equivalent of “hello.”

Let me set the context.  It was our second visit to this church in our ongoing journey to find a church home after our relocation.  The pastor preached essentially a doctrinal sermon about the Scriptures and their importance.  His homiletical hello was to open with a quote from the Baptist Faith and Message–1963!  That’s right, 1963 baby!

The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message is the older statement of faith used by Southern Baptists to outline our essentials.  It matters to people like me that he quoted from the 1963 because in the year of our Lord 2000 a newer, and in my view, less meaningful, less accurate, and less tolerant version was adopted.  It was nowhere near as dignified as the 1963 version which was put together by the last great Southern Baptist statesman, Herschel Hobbs.

The best line in it is the description of the Bible as a perfect treasure.  I love that.  The citation below is the 1963 article on the Scriptures and it comes from sbcnet.  It is part of a comparison of the original 1925 version, the blessed 1963, and the troublesome 2000 versions.

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.

Ex. 24:4; Deut. 4:1-2; 17:19; Josh. 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isa. 34:16; 40:8; Jer. 15:16; 36; Matt. 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Rom. 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.

It brings a tear to my eye.

**special note**

Allow me to take a moment to pat myself on the back.  This is my 300th WordPress blog.  Back in the dark ages I blogged on Myspace, but those are lost to archaeology now.  I’ve been at this on WordPress since the fall of 2010, so I am averaging about 2 posts a week.  I intend to keep it up, even as most of my thoughts move toward my short stories and (he crosses his fingers) my upcoming novel release.  Thanks to all of you for reading and participating in the comments.  It really does add a great deal to my life.  Peace be upon us all.

THOUGHTS ON COMMUNION–WARNING–THEOLOGY AHEAD

I thought I had been sucked into a deep black hole that transported me magically away into a previous time.  What year had I been whisked away to?  Was it 1920?  Maybe 1950?  Perhaps it was 1979, for that might be the year that sealed this moment.

Our Church’s Communion Table
We Observe Monthly

My temporary time travel was brought about by a denominational printing called SBC Life.  It is produced by the Executive Committee of my denomination–The Southern Baptist Convention, or as we now are now known, Great Commission Baptists.  This particular edition spent most of its glossy and stylized pages on the upcoming convention meeting in New Orleans.  That is not what time warped me.  What got me was the “Doctrinal” article on the Lord’s Supper.

The argument of the article was for “closed” or as one of the viewpoints urged, “close” communion.  Closed communion is a particularly rigid church practice that had its height during the Landmark movement in the early part of the last century.  A church that practices closed communion prohibits anyone who is not a member of that particular church from observing the Lord’s Supper.  In extreme cases, people are asked to leave if they are not members.  The enforcement of this doctrinal stance can lead to uncomfortable confrontations with people who don’t understand why they are being confronted.  Close communion is an addendum to closed communion that allows people from “like faith and orders” to partake.  “Like faith and order” is code word for “other Southern Baptists.”

The opposite stance of closed communion is “open” communion which is what our church practices and what I personally believe is right.  In open communion anyone who is a Christ-follower, regardless of church membership or baptism status is invited to partake.  More to the point, no one is challenged if they decide to observe the meal.  Open communion does not mean that we believe anyone–believer or non-believer–can or should take it.  Almost all (almost?) Christ-followers believe that only Christ-followers should take it.  Churches that practice open communion leave that up to the individual and do not fret about such things as when, where, and how a person’s baptism took place.

Before I go any deeper into the issue, let me affirm I believe any church has the right to set its own faith and practices.  I affirm autonomy and believe that a local congregation has the right to be wrong if they desire.  What I am bothered by is that no voice was given in the doctrinal article for open communion.  None.  I actually enjoyed the article and the different perspectives, and especially the shout out to m friend Cecil Sims (may he rest in peace) but there was no balance.

I perceive the reason for no balance is that the leadership of my denomination is still pushing a fundamentalists style agenda that consistently leaves me wanting.  So, I will provide my own balance.  There are many reasons to practice open communion, but some of the ones that are important to me are:

1.  Hospitality is a very important concept in the New Testament.  The most inhospitable thing in the world is to exclude someone from what is gong on.

2.  The Lord’s Supper is an act of proclamation of the gospel, and partaking of it is a way people can affirm their belief in it.

3.  Unity matters to the Lord and refusing to eat with other Christ-followers is divisive and arrogant.

4.  I never want to reject someone whom Christ accepts.

One of the reasons often given for practicing closed communion is the admonition in the Scriptures for a person to examine himself or herself before eating.  This admonition is coupled by Paul with a warning that if the meal is taken lightly, the person drinks and eats condemnation.  People argue that by allowing a non-Christ follower to partake then they are unworthy and therefore heaping condemnation upon themselves.  There are two problems with this argument.  The first is hermeneutics.  That often cited admonition is from 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 and it is indeed a sober admonition.  The problem is it is written to believers who know exactly what the Lord’s Supper means and therefore should reverence it.  The context is about believers who had taken a low view of the meal, not outsiders who had partaken of it and not known what was going on.  The second problem is logical.  If I believe that a non-Christ follower is already in a situation that apart from Christ they are in eternal jeopardy, then what more jeopardy could come to them?

The Lord’s Supper is not the Ark of the Covenant wherein if the wrong people touch it they die.  The arguments for closed communion are based more upon belief in magic–the right thing said by the right people at the right time in the right conditions–than belief in Christ.