This Sunday evening at Grace we will observe the Lord’s Supper. I’ve had in my mind two striking passages about the sacrament that I came across in my recent book reading. What impressed me is that though they come from very different sources, they each make the same point.
The first is from John Paton’s 19th-century autobiography Missionary to the New Hebrides. Here he meditates on the wonder of having served the Lord’s Supper to converts who just a short time ago were murderers and cannibals.
It would give a wonderful shock, I suppose, to many namby-pamby Christians to whom the title “Mighty to Save” conveys no ideas of reality, to be told that nine or ten converted murderers were partaking with them the Holy Communion of Jesus! But the Lord who reads the heart, and weighs every motive and circumstance, has perhaps much more reason to be shocked by the presence of some themselves. Penitence opens all the heart of God – “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” (pg. 335)
The second is from Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Butterfield was a homosexual before coming to faith in Christ. Here she reflects on the fact her past was a little too R-rated for a certain person in a certain church to handle, thus scuttling hopes that her husband might be called there to serve as pastor.
Rahab the Harlot. Mary Magdalene. We love these women between the pages of our Bible, but we don’t want to sit at the Lord’s Table with them – with people like me – drinking from a common cup. That’s the real ringer: the common cup – that is, our common origin in depravity. We are only righteous in Christ and in him alone. But that’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you give yourself kudos for good choices. (pg. 138)
Both authors chide complacent or self-righteous believers who would struggle to fellowship at the sacred table with those whose past is scandalous. Christian, I pray that doesn’t describe you. To hesitate to share the Lord’s Supper with any believer, no matter how corrupt their former life, is to fail to discern the body of Christ who died for such sinners (1 Cor. 11:29). And who is to say your sin is any less grievous in God’s sight?
But both passages also point to the wide mercy of God. Because of the suffering and death of Christ for hopeless sinners, our God welcomes us to the table despite our wicked past, and if we are repentant, our sinful present.
Come, sinners, and commune with your Savior who both reconciled you to God and to one another. All who belong to Christ are welcome – even you.