1) Lon Bonsberry is a native Texan, Vietnam Veteran, and legal editor. He has a website called “Writers on the Loose” and on his homepage he recounts a story of “The Time I Received Holy Communion”
2) He writes of how when he was just 12 years old, he and his ten-year-old brother boarded a passenger train in Houston, Texas, bound for New York City. They were going to spend the summer with relatives they had never seen.
3) They had many adventures and exciting times but one incident has stuck in his mind to this day.
4) Their relatives were Catholics. He and his brother attended a Baptist church in Houston, but they were unsure if they were Baptists or not because whenever they asked their mom what religion they were, she would simply reply “We’re Protestants.” Ron wasn’t sure what a Protestant was, but he knew that we weren’t Catholics.
So the first Sunday we were in New York, we found out that we would be going to church with little Bernie. Aunt Francis told us to “just do what Bernie does, it’ll be fine.” On this particular Sunday, all the kids sat separately up towards the front of the church ,,, adults sat in the rear and in the balcony.
The service was in a language that I would later learn is called Latin, so we couldn’t understand anything that was said. But it was a big beautiful church and the music was really nice too. There was much kneeling down and then getting up and we didn’t understand, but we just did what Bernie did, as Aunt Francis told us.
Then the kids started standing up and moving out into the aisle and up to the altar. And when Bernie, stood up and moved to the aisle, my brother and I stood up and moved to the aisle. When Bernie walked up to the altar, we walked up to the altar. When Bernie knelt down in front of the railing, we knelt down too. We were just doing what we had been told.
The priest and an altar boy moved down the row of kneeling kids, placing the host on their tongue, and then moving to the next one. I could see him approaching out of the corner of my eye. He came to Bernie and placed the host on his tongue. He and the altar boy then stood in front of me. The priest placed the host on my tongue while the altar boy held a tray underneath, to catch the host in case it fell I figured. Then they moved to my little brother.
Aunt Francis had given each of us a quarter for the offering. So when the priest placed the host on my brother’s tongue, my brother placed his quarter on the tray.
Now the priest was a large man by any standard. And for a couple of small kids kneeling at his feet, he appeared to be truly gigantic! And when he roared to my little brother, “Take that off of there!!!!”, it seemed like the voice of God himself had chastised us. We were very afraid and couldn’t wait to get back to our pew.
Well, Aunt Francis was just mortified by what happened, and spent most of the afternoon in her room saying the rosary. It seems like she had forgotten that little Bernie was getting Communion that Sunday. Uncle Bernie was pretty laid back, and when we got home, he just opened a beer and watched the Yankees on TV. And little Bernie just couldn’t stop laughing and couldn’t wait to tell all his friends what had happened.
Like I said, we had many great times that summer in New York. And when we boarded the train for home, we knew we would miss Aunt Francis, Uncle Bernie, and little Bernie. And we knew we would always remember the time we received Holy Communion.
Now I don’t know if that was a sin or not, but we were just a couple of kids from Texas and there was no evil in our hearts ,,, so I don’t worry about that.
5) Well, what are some of your own first or early memories of Holy Communion and how did they impact your thinking and affect your participation today?
6) I can recall at least a couple of dear Church people who have refused to partake of Holy Communion because they felt they were too unworthy and it seemed that no amount of explanation and Biblical evidence on my part was able to dislodge that faulty understanding in their minds.
7) Somehow, at a most impressionable time in their life, they had come to feel so petrified of “eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner” and being thereby “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” and becoming weak, sick, or even dying that this unholy fear had poisoned their thinking and made prisoners of their spirits.
8) Now we dare not trifle with the Word of God and give the impression that we don’t have to take this Scripture that seriously – the warning about participating in Holy Communion in an “unworthy manner” certainly is there – but we also need to be careful to not twist the Word of God and make it say something it is not.
9) This passage in 1 Corinthians is the only place in the New Testament outside of the Gospel accounts where there is specific, though brief, instruction about the sacrament of Holy Communion and it is given in the context of correcting poor and totally inappropriate behavior on the part of many in the church at Corinth.
10) If you think that many churches today seem to be headed for hell in a hand basket by the lifestyles they are condoning and approving – then I want you to know, this is nothing too new. Paul had to contend with such issues in his day too and that was his reason for this letter to the church in Corinth – to shake them out of their arrogance, their pride, their insensitivity, their lack of concern for the poor in their midst, their divisiveness, their failure to recognize the Body of Christ, their sexual immorality – in fact he writes at the beginning that he could not address them as mature believers but as "babes in Christ" who still needed to be fed milk and could not handle solid food.
11) It is to this immature and disobedient church that he writes warning them to not eat and drink in an unworthy manner. Celebrations of the Lord’s Supper were part of a larger Agape meal or Love Feast and instead of sharing the food they had brought so that all might eat and be blessed, they were sharing only with their own clicks and ignoring the poorer members among them who were left hungry. Others were getting intoxicated.
12) This type of behavior was a blatant denial of the love, compassion, acceptance of one another, and serving of one another that Jesus modeled throughout His life, but particularly at the Last Supper when He girded Himself with a towel in the role of a slave, took a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, and then ultimately through His body being broken and His blood shed for all on the cross.
13) So to participate in this sacrament with a proud and unrepentant heart, is in fact to turn the blessing into a curse and eat and drink God’s judgment upon ourselves. But a broken and repentant heart over our own sins, mindful of our own failure, humbly seeking the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness for our own wrongdoing and offering the same to all others who have sinned against us – being mindful and considerate of the Body of Christ and asking the Lord to perfect His character in us opens the floodgates of His mercy and grace.
14) Our salvation came at incredible cost to the Son of God and the Father will not simply stand idly by and sadly permit the people who bear His name to disrespect this holy means of grace without consequences.
15) The law of sowing and reaping is written into the foundations of the universe – what you sow is what you reap. The wages of sin remains death – but the free gift of God is still eternal life to those who turn to Him from their sin.
16) When Holy Communion is participated in as Christ intended – not just as a memorial of an event from long ago, but as a means now of receiving all that it signifies – forgiveness, healing, wholeness, peace with God, new life, and new relationships with God’s people and the world He loves – then those very benefits and blessings become our own. The sacrament conveys what it signifies to the repentant believing heart.
17) None of us deserves this great kindness from God and none of us could ever do enough good to earn it as our due. We can only accept it as God’s unmerited favor and mercy.
18) That’s Grace – that’s Amazing Grace, that saved a wretch like me.
19) Maisie is a 39 year old Private Investigator. She has a 4-1/2 year old son named Michael. She is not married and has never been married.
20) She smokes cigarettes and swears she is going to quit. Sometimes she uses bad language and then swears she won’t swear anymore. When stress gets the best of her she sometimes has a quick temper and snaps at those closest to her - even her little boy.
21) Sometimes she forgets to say the blessing before she eats and knows that she is not setting a good example for her son. Sometimes she hates her job and forgets to be grateful that she has one.
22) Sometimes she loses patience with her parents who are getting older and who are wonderful to her and her son. Sometimes she just doesn’t feel like praying and doing the right thing. Sometimes she whines and complains and lets self pity and envy enter her heart.
23) Maisie writes: These are just some of my defects of character, some of my daily sins. And, if you think that’s bad, you cannot begin to imagine how much better I am than I used to be.
And, most important, with all of these faults, some great, some small, God loves me and I am going to Heaven. Because a long time ago a man named Jesus Christ died on a hill, on a cross, with nails driven through his hands and feet, for me...and for you. So that we may be forgiven our sins. And I have accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour and that is all that God has asked of any of us. That we acknowledge or sins and accept Jesus as our Saviour. And God knows my heart. He knows how badly I want to do better. And he also knows that in spite of all the many faults I have today, they are a tremendously vast improvement on the way I used to be.
And if there is anyone out there who is not a Christian and feels intimidated, like I used to, and that Christians are "too good" and you could never "measure up", well I am living proof that you can be a Christian and still on the road to some massive improvement. Now, someone, perhaps a good upstanding Christian from my church, might see me standing on the street someday smoking a cigarette and say, or think "oooo - she smokes" and their estimation of me and who I am may drop markedly. Now, someone like, say, my sister, who detests smoking, might see me on the street smoking one day and what she would think is much different than that person who doesn’t really know me. My sister might think something like "thank God that’s only a cigarette she’s putting in her mouth."
And God, I don’t know what he thinks, but I do know that he carried me out of hell on earth at a time when cigarettes were the least of the harmful and shameful things I was putting in my body and wrapped his loving arms around me and brought me to this point. A much better point than I have ever been. You see, we all see things from a different perspective based on our personal knowledge and involvement with a human being. The only one who knows our hearts and complete experience is God himself - and he says it right in the Bible that if you come to him, in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, he will never turn you away.
24) And the God who has welcomed Maisie, and begun a good work in her, now in Jesus welcomes you to dine at His table.