Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spontaneous Gesture to make a Stranger feel Welcome or Outrageous Sacrilige?

 "...it was a spontaneous gesture, one intended to make both the dog and its owner – a first timer at the church — feel welcomed"  is how the vicar, the Rev. Margurette Rea explained handing a communion wafer to Trapper, the dog of a newcomer.  ONE person complained and now Christians all over have the their panties in a twist because a dog ate the Body of Christ.
I'm not advocating a regular inclusion of animals in the celebration of Holy Communion.  HOWEVER.  Anytime Christians are upset at the idea that the wrong people and/or CREATURES are receiving the Body of Christ, I see a problem.  This man was a stranger, someone who had been hassled by police in the past for sitting on the steps of the church.  He was invited and included.  The pastor's instinct was to include Trapper, who was very important to  this man.  I say the pastor's instincts were right on.  Welcoming the stranger always trumps protecting the rituals of the church.
Besides, the way I read the Martin Luther's Small Catechism, Trapper did not even receive the Body of Christ.  He received a wafer.   "It is not the eating and drinking that does these things [bestow forgiveness of sins, life and salvation] but the words "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins" along with the eating and drinking... that make up the sacrament"  For Lutherans, handing a dog a communion wafer is not giving him communion.  I have often handed a small child who reached out his hand to me at the communion rail a wafer or piece of bread without the words.  It's a gesture of welcome.  It's supposed to be what we are about.


  1. Our church's faith statement "We believe that there is no person or created thing that is outside the active love and grace of God shown so clearly in Jesus Christ." So I wonder what would happen at our church.

    A dear older one in my life refuses to take communion at the church she is currently attending (to which she gets a ride, or she can't get to Lutheran church at all). She says that she doesn't like it that they serve communion to the children who are quite young. I'm am bothered by her reaction on many levels, although I completely understand that a person gets set in the ways one has experienced most of her life.

  2. well, I'm kind of in the middle on this one. As a kind of insane dog person, I get the idea. But, I think I would have offered the dog a blessing instead. a really really good blessing.

  3. I'm not familiar with Anglicanism theology on consecration... but it could well be this is a whole lot of fuss over nothing. Ie, if the words were not spoken, it is simply a wafer. On the other hand, if they believe the dog actually received the body of Christ... thats a majorly iffy deal, and it is understandable why folks would be upset. Most certainly a blessing for the dog would have served as a more appropriate welcome.

  4. So we also rightly say, 'Whoever attacks this bread attacks Christ's body, and whoever eats this bread eats Christ's body, and whoever presses this bread with his teeth or tongue presses the body of Christ with his teeth or tongue. And yet, it remains true in every respect that no one sees, grasps, eats, or crushes Christ's body like other, visible flesh is seen and crushed. [Luther. "The Lord's Supper." 1528]

  5. Shrug. I think we as the Body of Christ need far less judging and seconding guessing and saying "humph well I would have done it differently" particularly when this was all about welcoming someone who had been chased away from the church. So what if the dog ate the Body of Christ? What is the bigger offense to God? A dog being offered His Body in the an effort to welcome a child of God - or all the judging and finger pointing that resulted?