From death to life: the blessing of communion

Jumping in leaves at Nana and Papa's house (my in-laws).

Jumping in leaves at Nana and Papa’s house (my in-laws).

For two mornings I have been disgruntled with my younger children.

Picked at faults, pointed out shortcomings. Ranted about the fact that—though I have made a bulletin board with pictures that “tell” them all they need to accomplish in the mornings before we get in the car (so even my beginning reader can understand)—we have experienced the “we’re going to be late” scrambling rush two days in a row.

After driving to school the second morning, I came home and sat in my sin for a bit. I tried to shut down the excuses and even the premature/slightly false confession and asked the Holy Spirit to help me simply listen.

DSC_0485The Spirit peeled back a few layers and I saw some of the roots of my sin.

Then, more painful, I saw what these sins are doing to my kids: in bearing down on my children with a harsh spirit, I am crushing them; I am cutting off communication with them; I am modeling for them the very things I tell them they shouldn’t do to each other (pointing out faults, not allowing for differences, assuming that everyone should regard their time/likes/dislikes as most important, being inflexible, losing their sense of humor and grace.)

DSC_0486In doing all these, I practice hypocrisy right in front of them.

I was all set to wallow in this (oh, how often I forget the second part of repentance: to turn TO God) when I remembered a conversation I had earlier this fall with my mother-in-law. She shared that one Sunday morning a few weeks before, she’d been disgruntled. She’d snapped at her husband and said harsh words to her granddaughter (who was staying with them at the time). Though she then apologized, she’d gone to church still bruised with guilt. Once there she remembered she was supposed to serve communion. She leaned over to her husband and whispered, “I don’t think I should serve communion this morning.”

DSC_0490When she told me this story, she paused at this point. Then she said, “A few minutes later, Dad passed me a note. He’d written Romans 8:1 out for me to read. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“I served communion,” she told me.

She served it—and took it—in the exact mindset in which we should always participate in communion: authentic gratitude.

The Holy Spirit brought this conversation to mind because I, too, was being invited into communion. In my state of guilt and hopelessness, my eyes were drawn to Christ, to His broken body and spilt blood that accomplished for me what I have no possibility of accomplishing for myself. I was invited, once again, to move from death to life, to receive grace.

Suddenly, I longed to have my children home from school. I looked forward to the moment when I could pull them close and say, “I’m sorry, truly sorry.”

From death to life, once again.

The blessing of communion.

 

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Crimson berries, white snow

I took this today in our front yard. What an amazing blue sky!

I took this last fall. (It’s the same picture, just uncropped, that I used as my new header)

On the tree in the front yard hang the leftover berries from last fall. They were bright before frost, but now they look almost black against the snow. It brings to mind Isaiah 1:18. God says to the Israelites, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

I think of scarlet and crimson as beautiful colors—like the berries before the frost—but God spends 16 verses describing the crimson and scarlet of the His peoples’ sins, and it’s ugly! “You’re rebellious,” He tells them. “I’ve loved you and cared for you, but you have rejected and ignored Me. All your ‘churchiness’ is nothing but show. You’re hypocrites, following an outward religion that has no goodness to it. In fact, you offer sacrifices to Me and then go out and live without love for others, abusing and neglecting the helpless” (my paraphrased summary)

“Do you think that’s what I, the GOOD GOD, want?”

The scarlet and crimson of verse 18, then, are NOT beautiful. These people are as far from the purity of white as they could be. The crimson and scarlet have set into the fabric of their souls, and they are irreparably stained.

We must remind ourselves that we are no different. OUR sins–collectively and individually–are scarlet and crimson. We, too, are irreparably stained.

This takes on deeper meaning when we see the terms “white as snow” and “white as wool” applied to Christ: Daniel 7:9 says, “…the Ancient One sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool.” Revelation 1:14 describes Christ’s head and hair as “white like wool, as white as snow.”

Our crimson stains and Christ’s white purity are as unalike as possible. We drip with sin, as if we have been dipped in a vat of it, formed in it (Ps. 51:5). Now let’s look at what is in the vat. It is not simply liquid color—a straightforward red dye. No! To understand how God sees this crimson sin, we must go to another verse in Isaiah: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). The polluted garment is–to be as graphic as Scripture is–like the underclothes a woman would wear during her menstrual cycle. They would be permeated with a bodily fluid that stunk and stained.

THAT is the crimson, the scarlet.

God the Pure One cannot condone and “coexist” with our stench. He would cease to be perfect, sinless God if He said that our disregard for Him and our injustice toward our fellow man was “okay.” Though He longs to hold us in His arms, that is not possible as long as we are stained and dripping with this crimson.

We have tried, over and over through the centuries, to fix this problem ourselves. All religions are simply our efforts to make ourselves fit for communion with God, worthy of his approval. But we cannot do this, though we claim to. But any “god” we can reach through our own efforts must be a god of our own making–and therefore not truly Divine.

So we must be changed, somehow made pure. Some outside agent must be applied to go over our stain. That’s exactly what God did in Christ. Christ, unstained and pure, took on our human flesh, a body that was stained with the effects of sin, that would suffer and age, that had the same bodily functions ours do, with emotions and frailties. He was “in all points like we are…”

“Yet without sin.” That needs an exclamation mark! He had no inner stain and He kept Himself unstained!!! THAT enabled Him to do an amazing thing for us. His death allowed us to be covered with new garments–HIS complete, utter goodness, white as snow.

“Though your sins are like scarlet”–permeating to our very core, as much a part of us as dye becomes part of a garment when the garment is dipped in it–“I will make them as white as snow.”

With the covering of Christ’s purity, our stains—past, present and future (God is not bound by time)—are overwhelmed, and God the Good can draw us near to Himself. His Spirit enters our hearts like a bleaching agent, and begins transforming us from the inside out, a process that will end (oh, Heaven!) with us being LIKE Christ. Selfishness and pride will never again seep from our hearts. We will be pure not only in standing (with Christ’s covering) but in practical actuality.

I am thankful I opened my curtains yesterday and noticed the shriveled, darkened berries and the gleam of snow behind them. I am thankful for this reminder because my gratitude is in direct proportion to my realization of my need for Christ.

Same berries after the frost

Same bush after the frost

“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).