Communion terrified me for much of my growing-up years. Not because I believed I was ingesting real flesh and blood—oh, no. My father, a converted Catholic, was quite clear on his teaching against that. But he was also very clear regarding the I Corinthians verses about the Lord’s Supper. I got the message: Communion was NOT to be taken lightly. I was to do some self-examining prior to partaking and my attitude should be serious.
He needn’t have worried. I was SERIOUS!
As the pastor read from either I Corinthians or the Gospels, I would wrench my spirit, examining my life for sin. “Oh, God, please, please show me. I don’t want to do this in an unworthy manner,” I would pray, rolodex-ing through my past few days, looking for sins I had committed.
I don’t remember ever taking the little pill tablet of bread or the small cup of grape juice with joy. It was always with fear—“Did I do okay? Did I find everything to confess?”
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. I take Communion now as a symbol of Christ’s doing what I cannot do: (though I tried to for years on years) to rid myself of sin.
But there is another ironic change. I view sin differently, perhaps, oddly enough, more seriously than I did then.
Because I have realized it goes far deeper in my soul than I once thought it did.
I am “steeped” in sin. I like that description. The Pharisees used it when speaking to the man born blind—since, of course, his blindness proved that either his mother or he must have been more sinful than most—hence the blindness.
The word “steeped” makes me think of tea—the teabag infusing the entire pot—or of a chicken cooked all day in a sauce—till every bite of meat tastes of it. Separated from the goodness of God that I need at my very core, my being instead has steeped in my own selfishness. Hurtful actions, attitudes, and words are merely outpourings of this “steeping.”
I remember a Seinfeld episode in which George decided to do the opposite of all his natural impulses. It worked well for him—because every one of his natural impulses was actually destructive to either himself, others, or to relationship between himself and others.
If my sin issues are deeper than my actions or words, even thoughts… If my sin is actually the belief that I am most important in the universe—more important than any other person and certainly than God… If my sin is an attitude of self-sufficiency, of conviction that I am good and right—and, therefore, that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong…
Then the problem is not what I do, what I say, what I feel.
The problem is me, myself, I.
And I need transformation.
And I need to stop settling for conformation.
Back to communion.
My fears were based on the wrong belief that God wants conformation.
But Communion itself bears witness against this. If God wanted conformation, our sacrament would result in us putting something on, something that could be seen by others, like a perpetual Ash Wednesday.
But the commanded sacrament—“Do THIS in remembrance of Me”—is an ingestion that does not seem to change our outer selves at all. Eat of me, Christ says. Drink of me. Take Me into yourselves. Let Me be the nutrients that change you on the inside.
And “Do” this, present tense and ongoing. Again and again we must remember that Christ came to change the inner first. His work on the cross was complete—I am not saying that He must die again and again, oh, no—but I forget so easily and settle for conformity because I believe I can do that work myself.
So we take communion over and over and are reminded that He is in us, creating new hearts within, that THIS inner transformation is the substance of our faith, and outer change is merely the reflection, the outworking.
I no longer need to be terrified—either of my sin or that God is check-marking my confessions against a list of outward actions. What a wonderful change!
I take the wine: His blood covered and still covers my sin.
I take the bread: He is IN me!
The two together equal communion: friendship between human and GOD!
The terror is gone.
And I celebrate.