Sometimes I go to monasteries for spiritual retreats and attend some of the prayer services with the Catholic monks where they chant the Psalms. One time at Mass when I went up to the front for the Eucharist the priest shook his head and frowned, indicating that it was not okay for me as a Protestant Christian to receive the body and blood of Christ. So I bowed and he gave me a verbal blessing instead.
But I didn’t feel blessed. I felt rejected at the communion table.
The man representing God didn’t accept me. I didn’t belong. Of course, in my mind, I understood their theology and I knew that I wasn’t actually being rejected, at least not by God. But I felt left out of the highlight of the church service.
That was the last time I went to a Catholic Mass. Over the years I’ve observed similar theological restrictions from some Evangelical Christian pastors.
But Jesus died for anyone who comes to him for mercy. Anyone (2 Corinthians 5:15, 1 John 2:2).
It doesn’t matter your religion, denomination, church membership, or the sins you’ve committed — God loves you unconditionally. God forgives you. God is a friend to you.
I hope you experience the warm embrace of the Lord at your local church. I also hope you share with others the smile and friendliness of God, even if you’re not a church leader. We all need to experience people being glad to see us.
What matters at the communion table is that we come with a sincere heart that’s trusting in Jesus Christ alone to be saved from our sins (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
If you’re a pastor or church leader it’s really important to think and pray through how you present communion. I believe it’s an opportunity for joyful hospitality. You can invite everyone, including visitors, to receive God’s unconditional love and forgiveness through Jesus and his death on the cross. It’s a communion table of grace.
Shortly after my monastery retreat, I re-experienced those feelings of being separated from the bread and cup of Christ. Kristi and I were at our local church and went to the private communion table together, but there was no “Gluten-Free” sign as there had been previously. Since I have Celiac’s Disease (an allergy to gluten) and can’t eat normal bread without getting sick, I walked away feeling sad.
I knew it was just an oversight. In fact, a couple of years earlier our church had started offering gluten-free communion to accommodate me! But on this morning since the usher didn’t know about gluten-free elements I stood in the back and worshiped God.
Then Kristi surprised me with gluten-free communion. She had found the gluten-free bread in the kitchen. She smiled, “Bill, this is the body of Christ, broken for your healing… This is the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins…” (A blessing based on Matthew 26:26-28.)
I felt so loved and wanted by Kristi and by God!
Preparing gluten-free communion (that’s kept totally separate from regular bread) for those who have an allergy is another way that pastors and church leaders can communicate the hospitality and grace of God for all people.
The greatest blessing of life is when we get to be Christ’s ambassador to other people, inviting them to experience the friendship of God (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is especially important for pastors and ministry leaders, but it’s a ministry opportunity for all of us.
Someone in your life today needs to experience the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit through your kindness and encouraging words (2 Corinthians 13:14). To offer this divine hospitality is your greatest honor and joy!