“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
I Corinthians 11:26 (NIV)
I talk a lot on here about how much I love my church. About a month ago, I was sitting in church and reminded yet again of another reason why my church is so amazing.
I’ve attended various churches throughout my life – I was raised conservative Baptist but have been a member of Christian Reformed and a few other similar denominations. I don’t consider myself a member of a specific denomination and when asked, will answer only that I’m a Christ follower.
Most of the churches I was a member of participated in communion maybe three to four times a year, saved for special occasions. In some churches that I considered my home church , I barely remember sharing in communion because it was so infrequent. If you aren’t familiar with communion, it’s a time when the church celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the way in which all people are saved, by sharing together in “eating His body and drinking His blood” (symbolized through crackers or bread and grape juice). Some of the churches I considered home invited anyone who wished to share in the celebration while others (including my current church) extended the invitation Biblically. The Bible is very clear that there are two prerequisites for celebrating communion together: You must have asked Jesus into your heart and you can’t be holding a grudge or anger against anyone. It doesn’t mean you can’t be mad or having trouble forgiving someone – it means you willingly give God your anger and choose forgiveness, knowing the feelings may follow days, weeks, or months later but you are choosing the path of forgiveness.
We have attended our church for over two years now. While we were still visiting, we realized they celebrated communion every month and I enjoyed it. Coming from churches where communion was rare, it felt foreign to celebrate so often but I was drawn to the fact our pastor always reminded people of the prerequisites necessary to participate. I also loved that every single month, our pastor found some new “nugget” to share with us concerning communion which drew me even closer to Jesus while we celebrated the reason He died and rose again.
This past month, though, when celebrating communion together, a whole new angle hit me. I heard the pastor give the invitation to come and celebrate if I met the two prerequisites. I started to examine my heart to make sure I wasn’t harboring unforgiveness toward anyone and I realized something major. I didn’t have to forgive anyone this month! I realized that by celebrating communion monthly, about every four weeks, we are given the opportunity to forgive others regularly which doesn’t allow the seeds of anger to take root. There is no time for bitterness to develop if confessing anger on a regular basis. Throughout the two years we have regularly attended, there have been months where I’ve had to ask God to help me forgive others and then the next month continue to ask forgiveness toward the same individual or situation. But this particular month, God showed me clearly of the wonderful opportunity our church gives every month to forgive those in our lives so we too can be forgiven. I could honestly stand before God that weekend and say, “I’m not holding onto any anger toward any individual,” and that felt good.
Two days later, I jokingly said “where’s communion when I need it?” because I was feeling angry toward a situation and the person involved. I knew though that I didn’t need the act of communion to forgive that person. Communion was just a great practice every month to remind me of how God forgives me and expects me to forgive others as quickly.
I love our church for many reasons and am so glad God took the beautiful celebration of communion to confirm to me that our family is exactly where He wants us.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016