This subject fascinates me! I've already posted several times about the Eucharist - about meaning and reception. Here's a little more about the sometime controversy and frequent questions regarding who gets to draw near to and feast at the Table of Life. I love the way both sacraments reflect and embody the paradoxical nature of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the paradox of the humanity and divinity of biblical witness and the plain paradox we encounter whenever we talk about God.
Jürgen Moltmann: Jesus' invitation is prevenient.
...because it's the eschatological feast to which people will come from the east and the west, the north and the south, and sit at table in the Sovereignty of God and the Church is *supposed to be* the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all humanity.
Those Reformers, particularly Calvin and Luther: We need to keep Word and Sacrament tightly yoked, which is one rationale and even a type of justification for some denominations and local churches insisting communicants – including young children – need to get a dose of the Word proximate to the time they receive the sacrament. So, although a Service of the Word is not uncommon, churches (at least in mainline traditions) never celebrate Eucharist without a reading and an exposition of the Word.
Methodist Book of Discipline: If you're receiving the sacrament of HC, you're identifying with Jesus' way, so you need to be preparing for baptism.
Some insist: It's the church's feast - yes.
Others: It's Jesus' meal - again, yes!
Still others: well, North American theologian Robert McAfee Brown says people who aren't practicing justice and righteousness in their everyday weekday lives *should* be kept from the Lord's Table! Part of me concurs with him, though another part of me rejoices mightily every time I hear the presider announce a truly open Table. In ages past more than one U.S. protestant denom had a routine of either distributing tokens for admission to Holy Communion or requiring consultation with the pastor for permission to commune. I'd suppose some congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod retain the custom. hile realizing both Calvin and Luther kept the latter practice in the churches they pastored, I do realize (really!) either one is phenomenally open to abuse.
My response: It's both Jesus' and the Church's meal and...
Here's an interesting note:
Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann: Communion is "pre-Eucharist"; in mentioning Luther's Catechism's (usual preparation for 1st Communion) beginning with the commandments, WB says, of course—it's the God of the Commandments with whom we commune!