On Communion and Grace

I have been working my way through reading The Gospel According to Job for almost two years now. The chapters are a page or two long, which is a nice length for a quick read before bed or as fodder for a quick devo, though weeks or months sometimes slip by without me reading it. I keep it on my bedside table though, and love having it handy without feeling any pressure to read it really consistently. I want to share an excerpt from a chapter I read last night that really struck me by how beautifully the author sums up salvation and grace:

“What Job realized, in his own way, is that there is no progress in the spiritual life except through the cross. Naturally we are forever trying to avoid the cross, either fleeing from it or else searching for some way around it. But with the cross there is no way around and no going back. We must go through. In fact, every step we take forward as believers must be through the cross. There is simply no other way of advancing… Daily we must pick up our cross and die to ourselves in order that the power of Christ might rest upon us. For the truth is that we do not die all at once but little by little, and every time a little part of us is nailed to the cross and dies, immediately the grace of the Lord Jesus flows into that dead part and renews it. This is how we live by grace. The power of grace is activated through the cross.

Too many Christians are looking for graceless, fix-it solutions to their problems, and to the problems of others as well. We forget that one of the great mysteries of the gospel is that God did not fix us when He saved us. By grace He simply saved us, warts and all.”

The Return of the Prodigal Son

My friend and I were discussing communion after she came to church with me this morning, and she said that the Anglican way of having everyone come up and kneel and open their hands to ask for the bread and receive the wine made her think of unworthy wretches coming up to receive from the “holy” ones who were good enough to serve communion.

I was really glad she said so because I have never thought of it that way – to me, coming to the altar rails to receive communion demonstrates the generosity of the gospel and the Eucharist. I don’t think of the altar servers as any better than the congregation, they are just ministers fulfilling a task. When we go up to the rails and kneel, cross ourselves and hold out our hands, it reminds me that when I come to God I only need to show up and rely on Jesus. I am not entitled to receive communion every week, and I am not approaching the altar to demand my dues. I think the servers and the recipients are both positioned in humility, both responding to the God who has invited us to his table.

So I told my friend my thoughts, that I see generosity and acceptance and hope in the line of people waiting for a place to kneel and receive bread and wine, none of us perfect; but having confessed our sin to God and exchanged Peace with each other, we accept that God receives us before we could ever be ready for it, and through the Eucharist we also receive Him with thanks.

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