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Holy Communion


Holy Communion (con't.)

The Issue of “Unworthiness”

Any person who answers in faith the invitation “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another” (UMH; page 7) is worthy through Christ to partake of Holy Communion.  Christians come to the Lord’s Table in gratitude for Christ’s mercy toward sinners.  We do not share in Communion because of our worthiness; no one is truly worthy.  We come to the Eucharist out of our hunger to receive God’s gracious love, to receive forgiveness and healing.

Some deeply committed United Methodist people who hesitate or even refuse to partake of Holy Communion do so because of their sense that they are unworthy.  This problem is largely based upon misinterpretation and false fears.  Paul’s words of warning in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 have long been a source of confusion and concern.  Some people fearful of communing “in an unworthy manner” and, sometimes out of genuine Christian humility, believe that their participation would be improper.  John Wesley addressed this problem in his sermon “The Duty of Constant Communion”: “God offers you one of the greatest mercies on this side of heaven, and commands you to accept it. . . . You are unworthy to receive any mercy from God.  But is that a reason for refusing all mercy? . . . Why do you not obey God’s command? . . . What! unworthy to obey God?” (II.7-8).

Wesley went on to explain that unworthiness does not apply to the people who are to consume, but to the manner in which the consecrated elements are consumed: “Here is not a word said of being unworthy to eat and drink.  Indeed he [Paul] does speak of eating and drinking unworthily; but that is quite a different thing. . . .  In this very chapter we are told that by eating and drinking unworthily is meant, taking the holy Sacrament in such a rude and disorderly way, that one was ‘hungry, and another drunken’ [1 Cor. 11:21]” (II.9).

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