Today’s Reading: John 16:2-4 (NIV)
2 [Jesus said,] “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.”
During yesterday’s prayer service, I knelt at the altar rail, holding a gluten-free wafer dipped in grape juice; it is the visible presence of Christ’s life, death and resurrection working in my life. Jesus lives and I know He lives, because He lives inside my heart. I kept thinking about that concrete altar right in front of me, mostly because of a sermon I had heard earlier about our long, lost friend, Ed. When Christ became the supreme sacrifice for humanity’s sin, we became His living witness to the world. His altar lives on in you and in me. We offer up our hearts to Jesus, for it is the only altar completely designed, purchased and redeemed by our heavenly Father, through the blood of His Son.
I placed the wafer in my mouth and began to chew. I will admit that the taste of a gluten-free wafer is unique. It kind of reminds me of chewing on a piece of cardboard. I baked communion bread many Saturdays in my kitchen in preparation for Sunday morning worship. If the loaves would rise up, the crust was guaranteed to be flaky and tender and the warm, sweet dough inside would be soft and a comfort food to those who would consume it. The hardened shell of a sugar-free, gluten-free wafer is not what I would describe as warm and comforting. There is no after taste inside its hardened shell. I could hear and feel the wafer crushing into tiny fragments between my teeth. That deafening sound reminds me of how Christ’s body was literally shredded for my sins. He laid down His perfectly sinless body for a perfectly stained life. He took on my sins so that I could live forever with Him. I wondered which hurt my Jesus worse - the flesh being ripped from his body, or bearing my sins up on the cross of guilt and shame? His sinless frame took on my sin and the sins of the world. Until that suspended moment in time, when Jesus willingly gave up His Spirit, sin separated Him from His sinless Father. Jesus understands the pain of separation anxiety more so than anyone else.
I kept chewing and staring at the altar before me, amazed by Christ’s love. I decided then and there, as Ed is my witness, my heart needs a major overhaul before it could possibly become the offering I would want to return to the Lord. Swallowing is the hardest part of communion for me. Sometimes I gag. When we swallow, it means we’re consuming what we’ve put in our mouth. That bitter wafer does not dissolve like a soft, sweet piece of communion bread. If it is not completely chewed, one can feel tiny fragments getting stuck between teeth and caught in the throat. How can I accept such a wonderful gift from my Lord? The personal pain that I’ve caused, and the complete, undeserved forgiveness I receive is certainly not a fair trade. In fact, there is nothing fair about it. Still, I swallow, grateful for the price that was paid on my behalf that day at Calvary.
If you had been the only human being on the face of the earth that ever sinned, Jesus would have laid down His life just for you. And that’s exactly what He did. He did this for you and me, for just a time like this. When you come to the altar to take communion, I’d like to recommend the gluten-free wafer. You will experience a whole new perspective on saving grace.
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
© Copyright 2008, Deb Spaulding
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