I sat in the back of the church with a war going on inside me. The rest of the congregation was moving forward to take communion, but I felt glued to my pew. What I really wanted to do was bolt. In the other direction! In the next 20 seconds or so, a thousand thoughts raced through my mind.
Communion means something to me. It’s the place where I allow the emotions to arise which are evoked by the greatest sacrifice ever given – and it was given for me. It’s the place where I remember, as He taught us to do, just what Jesus did in order to relieve me of my sin and guilt and make a way for me to be able to approach the Father and to be a full member of His family, a full partaker of His love, a full recipient of his fatherly embrace. It’s where I remember that He made a place for me. A place of belonging so secure, that the very gates of hell and all the fury of all the demons cannot shake it.
Communion is a renewal of His covenant with me. “I died for you. I did everything that could be done. All that is left for you to do is to believe. To believe and accept it for yourself.”
But it’s also a renewal of my covenant with His family. We go forward. We receive the elements. We take from one loaf of bread. The Bread of Life. One sacrifice. One life, laid down for the many and which makes the many one. The renewal of the covenant which gives us true “family” and a place in the family of God. It is a renewal of our commitment to one another – to unity – no matter what.
That morning I just couldn’t do it. There were people in that room that I could just not take communion with. The hurt was too deep. I had every right to be bitter. And that “right” just would not let go. I made every attempt, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t change my heart. I would have to take communion another day. Perhaps when those people weren’t there… Or when the situation had been sorted out and the pain dissipated.
I stood up. I almost turned and walked away in that moment. I came so close! But I knew that if I walked away from those people who I could not renew my covenant with that morning, I was also walking away from Jesus Himself.
“Lord,” I prayed. “I can’t do it. My heart is hard. I want to have communion with you, but I need to have a clean heart. I forgive them, Lord. I forgive them. If I go forward to that altar, will you meet me there?”
As I stepped out into the aisle, my heart was not one bit less bitter. But it was a step in the right direction. It was a step toward Jesus, and it was a step toward faith that He could change my heart, even when I couldn’t. As an act of my will, I chose to forgive. But I couldn’t change my feelings.
It was only twenty steps or so. But by the time I was standing in front of that altar, ready to receive the symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, He met me there. My heart was softened – toward Him and toward each one of His kids that stood there with me. I saw myself as much in need of forgiveness and a renewal of covenant as any other person there. By the time the bread, His body, touched my lips, and the sweet taste of crushed grapes filled my mouth, my heart had been turned. I stood in front of that altar that morning and felt him change my heart. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. But Jesus met me there. He did what I could not do for myself.
Suddenly – instantly - the war in my heart was over. I knew I would be able to walk through this painful situation with God's grace flowing through that once hardened heart. I stood at the front with my brothers and sisters, the good the bad and the ugly in all of us, all together, and I took the body and the blood into me, the same way they did and I knew we were "one". I suddenly felt commissioned now to join Him in the work He wanted to do in this situation. Just moments earlier I had been so worried about "how to be" with those people – “how to be” in that situation. I forgive as I have been forgiven. I love as I have been loved - unworthy, but loved. Suddenly the lights were on. It was all good. It was all grace...
A heart that in an instant went from challenging God’s purposes, to joining Him in His work. A changed heart. That’s no small thing.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.—“Water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” Psalm 69:2,3 ESV