“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” Psalm 95:6-8a
When I first came to salvation as a young teenager, I attended a small baptist church in a small town in Georgia. In traditional fashion for this church, communion was taken once a quarter. So every three months, two trays were passed down the row. We would take the drink and the bread which was really a tiny dry cracker. And the only reason I had for why we did this was Jesus told us to, but beyond that, it didn’t impact me or mean very much to me as I sat in those pews. Fast forward to more recent years. As I have grown in my walk with the Lord, the table has become a sweet time to remember what Christ’s sacrifice and salvation means to me. Here at North Wake there have been many times I have prayed, confessed, and sought forgiveness before coming to the table. I have always enjoyed joining with my church family to partake in communion as we remember Him, and I always will. This past Lent season, however, my gracious Heavenly Father shook me to my core and revealed even sweeter and deeper truths about what it means to come to the table.
These past few months have been very trying for me. There have been emotional battles, relational battles, and even physical pain that I have had to endure. And all of this led to some deep hurt and doubt. Doubts if God cared. Does He really love me? Is He truly sovereign? Doubts that lead straight to: Is Jesus real? Is God real? Is any of this that I have placed my life and trust in over the past 24 years real? Please understand I wasn’t ready to give up. I diligently read Scripture, prayed, sought out others to pray for me, and studied about God’s attributes and His Fatherly heart. I also began getting up an hour or more earlier than normal just to pray and seek God to help me through this fight for faith.
During those early morning hours God began to soften my heart. On March 18th I arrived at church ready to worship. For the first time in awhile I was excited to be at church. The sermon that Sunday was Peter’s denial. Within just a few minutes I was coming apart. I could see myself as Peter more clearly than I ever had before. Not that I haven’t acknowledged how I am like Peter in being forgetful of my Savior, or how I can easily not speak up about my Christ when given the chance. But I had never before been so clearly presented with how much I was denying my Lord like I had been doing recently.
As I sat and listened to Larry teach, the Lord mercifully convicted me about what was going on in my heart. He began to use the Scriptures to reveal truth about my own heart, but what hit me hardest was where we are told Jesus took time to look at Peter. Luke 24:61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Here was Jesus on trial for His life, and He takes the time to look at Peter. To seek Peter out. And it was this look that lead Peter to remember Jesus’ words to him, and he went out and wept. That was me. As I remembered and heard Jesus’ words, I sat there weeping. Blessedly, Peter’s story doesn’t end there! After his resurrection, Jesus comes and seeks Peter out. They eat together again, and Jesus restores the relationship that Peter had hurt. Sitting there, I knew this is also my story—Jesus comes to seek us and restore us.
By the time the sermon had come to a close, I was a complete mess. I was Peter. Peter in his denial yes, but also Peter whom Jesus looked at during his denial, and Peter whom Jesus sought out to restore the relationship.
When the call to approach the communion table came, I sat. My sweet husband wasn’t well so he wasn’t there to lead me down to the table. As I sat there I prayed and wept and prayed and wept some more. You see, I had a choice to make. I could go the table or stay in my seat. I was having a full on raging debate inside as to what I should do.
As Larry finished the sermon, prayed, and the band played, I had time to ask the Lord’s forgiveness. I had truly come before Him repentant of my sin. I acknowledged my lack of faith, my lack of trust, my forgetfulness of all that He has done for me. I wept while I repented, and I knew I was not worthy of coming to the communion table. But what should I do? I felt like I needed another hour’s worth of repenting. Maybe, just maybe, if I had that then I would feel better about going to the table because I would have repented well enough. I would be “cleaned up” enough that I could come to the table. But, isn’t that just me thinking I have something to do with my salvation and forgiveness? I knew the Lord was telling me to go, but I didn’t feel worthy of going. Yet if I stayed, then I would be in disobedience to Him, and rejecting His gift of free grace.
I wanted time to apologize enough and to repent enough. Maybe I could read some scriptures to show how sorry I really was. But there was no time, and I knew the time at the table would be over soon. I knew that if I stayed in that seat I would be denying what the Lord has asked me to do, and I would be laying claim to the thought that I have to “clean up” first so I can come to the table. So on shaky legs with tears streaming down my face, I made my way to the table. I was the absolute last one, and I took communion with my gracious Savior Jesus. I was trying to pray out loud with my children, but there is no way they understood me. I could barely even make words.
As I sat there, I realized that the communion table will never be the same to me again. I couldn’t “clean up” well enough, or repent well enough. I had to come dirt, filth and all to accept the free gift of grace that is offered. I am not in charge of my salvation. That morning the Lord laid on my heart that He will do the work I was never meant to do. He will give salvation because He is good to us. He will give forgiveness because that is what He came here to do. He will restore us to a right relationship with the holy trinity because that is what He hung on that cross for. I needed to lay aside my pride, guilt and shame and come to Him. He would accept me at His table, and He would not turn away. His love was deep for Peter, and His love is deep for me.
Communion came to mean something so much deeper than I had ever experienced. It came to mean humility and brokenness, but it also meant freedom, love, and grace. That morning, the sacrifice that had been made on my behalf was tangible as I held that bread and that cup. It was a sacrifice I knew I did not deserve and could never earn. A sacrifice that Jesus made for the joy set before Him, and somehow that joy included me—my mess and all. His body was broken for me, His blood was shed. He came to bring us hope beyond what we see today, a hope beyond who we understand ourselves to be. Hope because He is the risen Savior who bore our sin and shame. He hung on that cross to take the cup of wrath that was prepared for me, for us. So when I drink that cup and eat that bread, I know that His sacrifice paid it all, and the veil between man and God has been torn. And I am always welcome at His table.
So let us come to the table. Let us gather and thank Him for what He has done and will continue to do. Let us acknowledge that we will never be able to “clean up” enough to come on our own, but we aren’t supposed to. Jesus doesn’t expect us to carry our sin or carry the guilt of our sin; that’s why He came. He came to give freedom and life to sinners lost in the darkness and enslaved to sin. Let us remember Him by gathering at His table, and thanking Him for the work He has done on our behalf. It is a beautiful table full of grace and forgiveness and love.
Mary Kathryn Lassetter