Holy Communion liturgy

Why at Communion does the pastor only say, "Depart in peace," and no longer adds, "and sin no more"? I know it's been changed for some time, but I keep forgetting to ask.

I cannot say that I have heard those words of dismissal at Holy Communion worship services. What I often hear is something along the lines of “The true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting. Depart in peace. Amen.” Variations of that go back well over one thousand years in liturgies of the Christian Church.

Because there is no divinely-mandated liturgy, Christians have, in freedom, developed liturgical practices that reflect biblical teaching.

“Depart in peace” has us think of Simeon’s words (Luke 2:29). And in the Song of Simeon in the Common Service (Christian Worship, page 24), we utilize more of Simeon’s words. “Sin no more” points to Jesus’ words to the woman who had been caught in adultery. After assuring her that he did not condemn her for her sins, Jesus instructed her to leave “her life of sin” (John 8:11).

The more common dismissal of “Depart in peace” puts emphasis on the peace that comes through the forgiveness of sins. As a response to God’s forgiving love, we certainly want to avoid sin as best we can (and the gospel provides strength for that), but the final instruction of “sin no more” can leave the communicant with more thoughts of sanctification (living for God) than justification (God’s decree of “not guilty” to sinners) right after receiving the sacrament. Also, if the words of dismissal are intended to be words of blessings, an instruction to “sin no more” goes beyond “words of blessings.”

Finally, Scripture does not tell us what words to use when dismissing communicants—or that we even have to use such words in the first place. Whatever words we do use at the end of the distribution, we want them to reflect the truths of the Bible.