What follows is a true story. Some details have been omitted to protect the identity of the persons whose story I am sharing.
It was Communion Sunday.
The minister was about to launch into his sermon.
However, instead of standing at the pulpit, he walked over to the Communion Table and, with a vicious movement of his arm, swept the vessels and their contents off the Table and onto the floor. You can imagine the mess.
Then the minister said to the congregation: “You do not deserve to be at this Table!” And he stalked off the worship platform and made his way to his office.
This was a desperate cry for help. The minister was burnt out and deeply depressed – and, at that point was blaming the congregation for his distress. Fortunately, he was able to allow some folks to come alongside of him, got into psychotherapy and on an antidepressant, and, after a couple of years, was able to return to ministry in a different congregation.
But is there some truth in his action? Do we deserve to be able to gather around the Lord’s Table?
There are always some folks in any congregation who have hurt others by their words and actions – it’s inevitable.
And there are some folks who are not able to forgive and let go of the hurts they have experienced.
And there are differences in how we think certain things should be done.
And there are differences in how we understand the Bible and in what we believe the Bible says about some things.
So we bring that stuff with us as we gather for worship and, on Communion Sundays, as we gather round the Table.
Does that stuff mean that we do not deserve to share in Communion?
No – we DON’T have to earn the right to be at the table around which we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
We are there because Jesus graciously invites us to be there.
And we have accepted that grace-filled invitation.
The minister who swept the communion elements off the Table and castigated the congregants was wrong, of course. Somehow, he had allowed his expectations of himself to destroy his own personal acceptance of that grace-filled invitation. His castigation of the congregation was really a reflection of his castigation of himself. In a state of self-rejection, he rejected the members of the congregation and, for a while, rejected God.
Here is what I have to say to those who read this blog: Know that we are accepted by God just as we are. All that is required of us is that we believe that Jesus is God and want to live our lives in relationship with Him.
And it is our privilege, always, to be able to welcome all those for whom that is true.
John C. Carr, Nearly Retired Pastoral Psychotherapist and Educator, © 2017