It's funny, when I take Communion, I often think about Catholics and the differences between denominations in the rituals of the faith. I'm not going to talk about it today, but I often think about it, and feel the need to apologize to my Catholic sisters and brothers for not making Communion a more "sacred" ritual.
I do feel strongly about Communion. Most rituals carry significant symbolism in the Christian church. While some churches seem to focus on our part of it, my pastor seems to eternally focus on God's part in it. For example, in Baptism, many churches focus on the act being about US showing the world that we believe in God. In our church, it's about God choosing us. Communion, for many churches, is about US remembering God. For our church it's a symbol of what Christ did for us. You get it? It still has the same meaning, but looked at from a different perspective.
A few weeks ago I started to share what God did in my life on the weekend of April 23rd-25th. I went to a Women's Retreat and on the last morning we shared communion. It was so meaningful and God really spoke to me and explained a few things to me. In a previous post I shared my "testimony" of rebellion and sin. Either nobody read it, or had nothing to add, it had no comments. It was transparently honest, I'm sure it made someone uncomfortable.
Today while we were preparing to take Communion, I began to reflect on why it has suddenly taken on a new meaning for me.
I've been a Christian for 24 years, and have been taking Communion during the duration. Over the years, as I took Communion, often I would find myself focusing on what I am supposed to remember, the Last Supper and the actual crucifixion and resurrection. I'm not saying that I was wrong to focus on those things, but I recently discovered that I was missing out on the "true" blessing of Communion.
While at the retreat, I was kneeling at the altar and praying and asking God to tell me what He wanted me to learn. I had heard an amazing message of redemption through the story of Ruth. I had been moved by beautiful music and the sights and smells of His creation, but I hadn't felt a shift inside me. I noticed the woman beside me wanted one of the prayer team to come over and pray with her, so I made eye contact with the first member I could and motioned her over. She came over, but knelt next to me.
When she asked me how she could pray for me, I opened my mouth to tell her to go pray with the lady. Instead what poured out was painfully honest. "I don't feel worthy to be in ministry. I am ashamed of my past sin, and though I know God has forgiven me, I can't forgive myself. I want to be useful to Him." As the words left my mouth I was both surprised by them, and surprised by the naked truth in them. I have been in ministry with teens for 14 years, 6 of those years to pregnant and parenting teens, but I was being crippled by a stronghold that was forgiven and was no longer an "active sin". She prayed with me and anointed my hands with oil, so I can be prepared to serve Him.
As I walked back to my seat, shaken and emotional, I knew He wasn't finished. I knew He wanted to show me a scripture passage. I sat down and knew it would be one of those, open the book up and the passage would be there. So I opened my Bible.
36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
40Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
41"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
48Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Believe me when I say that the floodgates opened anew. Suddenly I understood. I had been trying to justify myself for all of those years, but He had already justified me. My relationship with Him was healed in that moment. I am not claiming to be perfect, yet I have a new wonder and appreciation for my salvation.
I am experiencing a "peace that transcends all understanding". What's more, I suddenly have a greater confidence in myself. It's like I had a moment where I could see myself through God's eyes, and I realized that He loves me, and because of that, I am free. Like my pastor likes to quote another pastor named Steve Brown "God's not mad at you." I suddenly hear that and I wish you could hear it too. If you go before Him and lay your burdens down, you will realize that God's NOT MAD AT YOU. Praise God!