Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | March 10, 2018

Uncle Elmer’s Revival

Elmer lives in a small town, thirty minutes outside of Akron, Ohio. A retired master carpenter for 35 years, he now works part time on weekends at the local hardware store. Yet inside his rough exterior is a sensitive heart that’s inclined to reach out to those less fortunate. And nobody knows that more than Elmer’s niece, Jenny.

Jenny, a 39-year-old former attorney, is severely disabled and confined to a wheelchair due to a horrific auto accident 8 years prior. Life is challenging for her, to put it mildly. Her lack of mobility doesn’t allow her to do many of the basic things that are necessary for her to take care of herself, and with no ability to drive, she must rely on others to take her to doctor appointments, bring her to the store and just get her outside the four walls of her small condo. When asked how she’s able to get through the challenges that each day brings, she shakes her head with a spirit of gratitude and explains, “I don’t know what I would do or where I’d be today if it wasn’t for my uncle Elmer.”

Elmer starts each week-day enjoying an early morning coffee at the local Waffle House, catching up with some of his long-time friends and engaging in friendly and oftentimes humorous banter with the wait staff. As soon as he begins to enter the restaurant, the staff gladly begins his order since it hasn’t changed in 8 years; one small light roast, two creamers, one bag of sugar and a lightly buttered English muffin. Over time, it’s as if they’ve become their own little happy family. At 9am sharp, Elmer leaves a $5 bill on the counter ($3 for his order with a $2 tip) and heads for the exit. No one bothers to ask him where he’s going or how he plans to spend his day; they’re already very familiar with Elmer’s love and service towards Jenny.

Elmer arrives at Jenny’s at 9:30; having a key to the door, he enters her condo, walks across the family room into the master bedroom and declares, “Jenny, do not fear, for Uncle Elmer is here!” to the warm smile of Jenny. He helps her to get from the bed into the wheelchair and they proceed to the kitchen, where Elmer prepares her favorite breakfast; blueberry pancakes, a glass of fresh orange juice and a side of fresh fruit.

No day is exactly the same with Uncle Elmer, but some things do remain the same, like the chess match they both look forward to after breakfast. Sure, they both enjoy chess, but Elmer also knows that this simple game helps to activate the right side of Jenny’s brain, which is responsible for one’s creativity and problem-solving skills…. something that’s invaluable to Jenny’s well-being, especially considering her susceptibility to depression.

After the match is over, Elmer relaxes in the Lazy-Boy recliner while Jenny gets online to check out the day’s main news stories and current events. She’s always enjoyed being “in the know” regarding what’s happening in and around the world, and this always seems to lead to some interesting discussion between Elmer and Jenny.

When Jenny has to go to the bathroom, Uncle Elmer helps her out of her wheelchair and onto the toilet seat, and then waits outside until Jenny says, “Done.” She has no ability to reach back and wipe herself, so she relies on Uncle Elmer to do that for her. This was awkward to Jenny in times past, but eight years of unconditional love and sacrificial service by Uncle Elmer towards her has gradually eroded those past feelings of shame and embarrassment.

After preparing lunch for Jenny, Elmer excitedly declares, “Today, I have a wonderful surprise for my lovely niece!” Jenny laughs and replies, “Oh, you know how I love surprises!”

“It’s a beautiful day, and I want to take you to a special place,” says Elmer.

He wheels her out to his minivan which is equipped with a chairlift for Jenny. Although the minivan doesn’t seem to be a match for Elmer’s rough exterior, he doesn’t care what people think; the van is not so much for him as it is for Jenny. The chairlift cost him a pretty penny for sure, but to Elmer, the investment is well worth it.

After a thirty-minute drive, he pulls into a parking lot adjacent to Willow Lake, which is one of the more scenic spots in the county due to the stunning display of willows surrounding the lake’s perimeter. After wheeling Jenny to a scenic overlook, he briskly walks back to the minivan and then returns with an easel, some brand-new canvas, a paint brush and some colors that he recently bought at the local Arts & Crafts store. “It’s peak bloom, and I thought you may want to catch this beauty on canvas,” says Elmer, as he leans down to give Jenny a warm hug. Jenny, at a loss for words, finally whispers a soft “thank you,” and for the next several hours enters into the beauty of God’s creation…. exercising her artistic talent which was evident even when she was a young child.

They pack up about 4pm and head back to Jenny’s. Upon entering her condo with the day’s masterpiece on her lap, she asks Elmer, “Do you think I should sell this one on E-Bay? Or keep it for myself?” Elmer, after a brief moment of thought, replies, “Well, if you ever get around to appearing on Shark Tank, this one might move Mark Cuban to dig deep into his pockets on your behalf!”

“Now that’s a plan.,” exclaims Jenny, as they enjoy a hearty laugh together.

For the next hour or so, they relax in the family room and engage in conversation. Elmer knows that Jenny’s struggle isn’t confined to just the physical, and it’s during these conversations that she oftentimes opens up about her thoughts, her dreams, her shattered dreams…, and the depression she periodically yet intensely struggles with. Elmer listens much more than he talks, knowing through his own past experience of losing his wife to cancer that what’s needed more than anything else during such times is an empathetic ear and the willingness to enter into and identify with a person’s suffering… rather than trying to “fix the problem” through pat answers or Bible proof-texts.

On this day, with teary eyes, Jenny confides, “Elmer, I was an aspiring attorney; all that schooling, the dream law firm, making a difference for all those victims of abuse, and now look at me. It’s hard not to think about where that could have led.”

Elmer, with his own teary eyes, takes the liberty this time to speak words of encouragement: “Jenny, your value to me, your friends, your family and our Lord is not based on what you do or don’t do, but on who you are. You’re precious to all of us, and deeply loved…. Never forget that. And as icing on the cake, you’ll always have our backing and support in whatever you choose to do in your life.” Elmer then stands up, lifts up Jenny’s Willow Lake painting, and adds, “And that would include the creating of masterpieces like this one.”

Jenny breaks out in a soft smile, and with a look of intrigue, exclaims, “Maybe I will go ahead and sell this on E-Bay.”

“If you list it for anything less than $500, you’re leaving money on the table,” replies Elmer.

Elmer & Jenny then move to the kitchen to end the evening with a dinner that Jenny prepares (with a little help from Elmer) at her lower table with the ingredients Elmer purchased last week from the store. Every Monday night, she prepares one of Elmer’s favorite dishes. Jenny explains, “I don’t do this to pay back Elmer for what he’s done for me, and I certainly don’t do it out of obligation. I make his favorite food not because I have to, but because I want to.”

After dinner, the doorbell rings. It’s Patty… Jenny’s longtime friend. She takes over at 6pm on weekdays to visit with Jenny and get her ready for bed. Elmer, before heading towards the door, leans down, gives Jenny a warm hug, and reminds Jenny that “tomorrow is Tuesday.”

“Oh yes!” replies Jenny, “can’t wait to see the crew at Waffle House for breakfast!”

“And they can’t wait to see you,” replies Elmer.

Elmer’s unconditional and sacrificial love and service to his niece hasn’t been seen merely by Jenny. The “regulars” and staff at the Waffle House have been touched by their special relationship first-hand every Tuesday morning for the last eight years and are all well aware that their time together extends far beyond a once-a-week breakfast.

Furthermore, Elmer’s family has taken notice. Although Elmer rarely goes to church like they do, no one can legitimately question the Spirit by which he functions, or the authenticity of his faith in Christ.

In addition, Jenny’s family has taken notice. They had tried helping Jenny during weekdays but found it too demanding and burdensome. They were prepared to pay a local facility to admit Jenny, before Elmer stepped in and insisted he get involved. They’ve been astounded at Elmer’s faithful and joyful service over the last eight years, knowing deep-down that Elmer operates in a love and is animated by a life-source that they simply do not possess.

In addition, Elmer’s co-workers at the local hardware store know about Jenny, and themselves have found Elmer to be warm and inviting. “Elmer is a great employee,” says his supervisor. “And whenever someone is going through a hard time, they seem to be naturally attracted to Elmer as a ‘safe place’ to share their burdens.”

And finally, there’s more to Jenny’s story than meets the eye. After her horrible auto accident, she went through a period of deep depression, questioning God as to why He would allow this to happen to her. One evening, she watched a dynamic TV preacher who promised a miracle healing to anyone who would be willing to sow a $1000 seed into his ministry “in faith.” Feeling so desperate due to her recent accident, she mailed the check and had one of her friends drive her to a nearby city to attend the preacher’s “Experiencing The Glory” conference. She went forward for prayer. Nothing happened. She was out $1000, and no miracle healing.

Jenny confides, “That experience not only cost me $1000… it nearly cost me my faith. I’d been exploited in the name of God, and quite frankly, I walked away from Jesus. But apparently, Jesus never walked away from me. Elmer has demonstrated to me what genuine faith looks like and what it’s all about. I’ve experienced ‘the real deal’ over the last 8 years, and my faith has been slowly but surely restored.”

His name is Elmer.

His “worship of Christ” is a life given over to love and service.

And His church is Jenny.

Friends, the term “revival,” although not specifically used in the Bible, is often spoken of in Christian circles to describe a “spiritual awakening” of sorts. How this word is used, and ideas of what it consists of, usually depends on the persuasion within Christian religion that one is giving their attention to:

– The Baptist Church on the corner advertises that Evangelist So & So is coming to town next week for a “three-night revival….,” imploring people to come….

– A member of a downtown mega church speaks of “revival” taking place at his church, explaining how awesome the “worship” is with incredible music, lights flashing, smoke rising from the stage, and a dynamic worship leader who can “usher in the presence of God” (gag). Plus, the pastor’s teaching is really, really, REALLY good!! They’re experiencing “revival.”

– The charismatic personality-centered Apostolic & Prophetic sects of our day promise reform and revival to the Body of Christ through their “special knowledge” into the “deeper things of God,” like “submitting to Apostolic authority” or having “proper governmental alignment” (of course, the Apostles and Prophets are always at the top of the governmental order and should be shown ‘special honor’ for the office they hold…).

– The community church down the street claims to be in “revival.” After all, they had 20 decisions for Christ last month…, up 20% from last month! Of course, we never hear how many of these people are still around one year later and what their relationship with God (and others) looks like. These numbers likely won’t impress… if the leadership even knows these numbers, or the people who represent these numbers.

Instead of viewing revival through the lens of religion, what if our “revival” is simply a spirit of life and love received through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, AND LIVED OUT for the benefit of one another and humanity? What if we recognized that revival has very little (if anything) to do with the list above, but everything to do with an abundant increase of unconditional love and sacrificial service being experienced and expressed within the context of relationships? What type of “reform and revival” would come to the Body of Christ and the world if this was the reality we lived in, and lived out?

Not deep enough? Too simple? Not exciting enough? Don’t believe it? Consider what the scripture says:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love………” (Galatians 5:13)

“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

“For Christ’s love compels us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

“Now these three remain… faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another… (Romans 13:8)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:13)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20-21)

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 34-40)

How can it be that we’ve missed this?

It can be humbling to one’s religious pride to come to the realization that Uncle Elmer’s love and service to Jenny, and the resultant witness and effect to those in their sphere, has “revival” written all over it… while many highly charged church environments and charismatic ministries, saturated with celebrity preachers, dynamic personalities, church pageantry, side-show distractions, fringe novelty and manufactured stimulus, only offer an illusion of revival.

Many will not recognize Elmer’s “revival” as legitimate because he’s just a common man; his revival isn’t highly visible, doesn’t provide an adrenaline rush, isn’t flashy, won’t make the news, and it’s actually costly… an ethic that’s totally foreign to the narcissistic “bless me” fake revival environments of our day.

But it’s real.

Just ask Jenny.

Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | August 20, 2017

Jesus, Politics and the Church: A New Covenant Perspective

We live in some crazy times.

When we expose ourselves to messaging that ultimately becomes a hindrance to abiding in love, perhaps we need to ask ourselves how necessary or vital it is to expose ourselves to such messaging. Personally, I can’t live in the “rest” of God and look at humanity through the eyes of Christ while continuing to expose my heart to the messaging that’s emanating from this world’s power structures; namely, the media, the political establishment, and other associations that are in bed with this world’s political and governmental order.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and ultimately, He’s not going to use this world’s political and governmental order to bring the change to people’s lives that’s really needed. Rather, He’s going to use human vessels (the likes of you and I) to demonstrate a different reality than that which is demonstrated through this world’s order. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, etc…. within the context of our relationships (with believers and unbelievers) in the midst of all of this world’s mess.

How do I love others as Christ loves me? Who in my relational sphere is the “neighbor” that Jesus would want me to reach out to, walk with through their suffering, love, encourage or bless in some way? I believe these are the questions we should be asking ourselves (and God) at this time. For the most part, mainline Christianity is not only asking the wrong questions, but is actively engaged in the wrong arena.

When Paul said that the world is “eagerly awaiting for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)”, I assure you, he wasn’t referring to people campaigning for Trump, Hillary or Bernie; nor was He pointing to the Family Research Counsel or other organizations (left or right, doesn’t matter) that are trying to enforce their value system upon society through this world’s political and governmental order.

Spare me your political conservatism or progressivism pitch. Jesus and His kingdom ways transcend both.

Jesus saying, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “the Kingdom of God is within you,” along with Paul saying, “We are foreigners on this earth” and “we’ve been translated into the Kingdom of His Son” is all becoming clearer to me. This is more than theology, folks. It’s reality, and has implications on how we live and operate in this world, as ones that are not of this world.

What this world needs is a living demonstration of the life and love of Jesus through the likes of you and I; a demonstration of the reality of an entirely different kingdom that transcends this world’s political and governmental order. God wins people’s hearts through love. The degree to which the Church embraces Christ’s kingdom reality and incarnates this reality through lives well lived in His love, is the degree to which true transformation of human hearts (and therefore, society) will take place.


Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | August 6, 2017

Tithing: Exposing The False Narrative

It’s more than unfortunate that many teachers and pastors teach that “tithing” was established as an “eternal principle before the law” (through Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek: Genesis 14:18-20) and that it was also embraced by Christ after the law (Matthew 23:23), which therefore shows that tithing “transcends the law” and is a mandate upon the believer.


1) In Genesis, Abraham gave 10% of the plunder that he took from the spoils of war; wasn’t even his own resources. He did this ONE TIME (to Melchizedek). There’s no biblical record that he ever tithed again. How do we glean an “eternal principle” from a one time gift? How do we make “binding doctrine” from a poorly exegeted Old Testament proof-text?

2) In Matthew 23:23, Jesus tells the religious leaders of that day that they should pay attention to the “weightier matters of the law” (justice, mercy and the love of God) while not neglecting their “tithing” which was also in their law. Jesus’ audience is JEWISH LEADERS UNDER THE OLD COVENANT LAW. The New Covenant had not yet been ushered in since Christ had not yet been crucified and resurrected… the Old Covenant was still in effect and the Jews were therefore required to keep it.

THIS IS NOT POST-LAW! Jesus is teaching the law to those under the law. WE, AS BELIEVERS, ARE NOT JEWS UNDER THE LAW! To project this proof-text upon a New Covenant people as mandate is wholly and totally illegitimate.

Other teachers will soften their message a bit; they won’t say that tithing is a requirement, BUT…….. (and here comes the hook) they will say things like “since the law reveals the unchanging character of God, tithing (to the local institution, of course) is something that God would WANT us to do.

This is a very subtle, sly and manipulative way that pastors influence the psyche of believers to get them to give what they want them to give (10% of their gross income), in the way they want them to give it (to the local institution). The spirit of control is as the sin of witchcraft, whether functioning in it consciously or unconsciously.

If the law was truly given to believers as a helpful tool to “reveal the character of God,” or to “show us what God is like,” or to somehow function as a means of guidance for the believer, well, apparently the Apostle Paul missed that memo. He makes it clear that the law was “nailed to the cross with Jesus” (Colossians 2:14), so that we would no longer live by the oldness of the letter but by the newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:6). In 2nd Corinthians 3, Paul refers to the law as “the ministry of death and condemnation.” In Galatians 2:19, he states that he “died to the law that he might live for God.” And the author of Hebrews states that with the ushering in of the New Covenant, the Old has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

To try to propagate the idea that the law, as it relates to the believer, is “a revealer of God’s character” or “a means by which to show us what God is like” or “a guide for our life” and therefore “helpful to a believer’s life of faith” is ludicrous. It shows a stunning lack of understanding of the New Covenant and its implications on the life of the believer. Such teaching needs to be recognized for what it is; Old Covenant, performance-based legal bondage dressed in fine-sounding spiritual garb.

When the Bible says that Jesus “fulfilled the law,” it was in NO WAY meant to exalt the law in a positive light, or to somehow be an example of how believers should embrace the law or follow Jesus’ example in some sort of way! And this is where many pastors and teachers (like John Piper), through a misguided interpretation of this scripture, take believers into a confusing mix of law and grace which hinders one’s growth in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law in order to deliver us from it, and to introduce a new and better way to relate to, receive from and live before God; the New Covenant. It is nothing like the Old. It’s a better covenant, established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

The law was “our tutor to lead us to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24). We don’t look to the law to reveal the character of God; we look to Christ. We don’t look to the law to show us what God is like; we look to Christ. We don’t look to the law as a helpful guide to our life of faith; we rely on Christ and His Spirit which indwells our hearts. Jesus declared, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” The author of Hebrews states that Jesus is “the express image of God and exact representation of His likeness.” Through Jesus we see the unchanging character of God, and the demonstration of how life is to be lived in relationship with a loving heavenly Father. It’s in Christ (our union with Him) that we find all the sufficiency we need for all faith and practice.

And as it pertains to giving under the New Covenant, as people living in Christ, we are called to give to WHOEVER………. however, whenever and wherever as we are led by His Spirit. It’s really that simple.



Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | March 15, 2017

The Shack: A Movie Worth Watching

I went to see “The Shack” movie last Saturday with ten others, and we were absolutely blown away by how powerful this movie was! From the storyline, to the acting and everything in between, this was a top-notch production. I thought the movie did a wonderful job showing how even in the midst of our most unspeakable sufferings, the God of the universe is willing to enter into those sufferings with us to bring clarity, comfort, healing and restoration.

As you may already know, some on the “religious right” have been vocal in condemning the movie, giving dire warnings that it promotes universalism, along with other things that are at odds with the Christian faith. Now that I’ve seen the production, I can confidently say that such accusations are simply empty and without merit. In fact, every one of us who saw the movie last Saturday agreed that there’s simply no valid reason why an individual, especially a Christian, shouldn’t see it!

Below is a link to a recent article by Wayne Jacobsen entitled, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Shack.” Jacobsen consulted on the writing of the novel and formed the company that published it. The article discusses the movie, along with addressing the false accusations brought by some. It’s a great read for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the Shack, and hear how Jacobsen answers the critics. ENJOY!



Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | February 4, 2017

“Contending With Communion” by Guest Blogger Allison E. Robertson

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14: 17-26)

What do you think about when communion comes around? Some churches do it every week, others every month or quarter. Those who do not believe in Christ are asked not to partake. Especially if you’re not Catholic. Oh boy, I learned that lesson fast!

I first questioned communion a few years ago at my great aunt’s church. I was angry and not “right” with God. I thought I’d bring a curse upon myself if I partook, so I didn’t and went to the bathroom instead. I actually walked around outside seething.

My second thought was about why we collectively agree to assault our taste buds with a stale wafer and a chaser of grape juice to background music.

A third thought occurred each time I took my Hindu friend to church and she inquired about participating in communion. Embarrassed, I tried to explain without any good reason why she couldn’t. My final answer was simply: “I don’t know.”

These thoughts swirled around in my head for months until I asked God outright, “Why can’t everyone partake of the elements?” I do concede that one should not simply eat and drink for ritual’s sake. But by what doctrine do we insist that only believers may partake? Did Jesus ever say, “Hey, do this in remembrance of me… only if you truly believe”? I also concede that taking the Lord’s Supper in remembrance will typically imply that one already believes, but overall, did Jesus say, “only if you accept the Spirit and understand what this all means, you can partake”? Church leaders certainly think so.

Then there was the Catholic mass I attended just a few weeks ago. I went with a new friend to learn about the Catholic service. I had never been before. After the announcement of communion, my friend whispered to me, “You can stay here while we [Catholics] go up.” To my chagrin, I scathingly said aloud, “Oh, you have to be Catholic to do communion, you can’t just be Christian.” My response got the attention of my friend, so I myself went forward to partake.

I was watching as people filed through the line for elements. They did the “cross your heart” thing, took a Styrofoam-like wafer, and then sipped from a communal goblet. Ok, not too bad. However, I would absolutely not touch my lips to anything fifty people’s lips had already touched. Instead, I resolved to dip the wafer in the goblet. Wow, I was giddy. I got my wafer and did a little bow, eh, whatever. I dipped the wafer, and then as I turned, I absent-mindedly bit into the wafer. The priest called out, “You’re not allowed to do that!” I thought he was talking about the wine, so I said, “I don’t want to drink after anyone.” He meant “snapping the wafer in half.” I was supposed to put the whole thing on my tongue. It was a poignant experience… learning how even a Christian could be excluded from Catholic communion simply because they are Protestant and new to the service.

A common passage used for how to serve and partake of communion is from 1 Corinthians 11. Paul upbraided the church for desecrating the Lord’s Supper by not waiting for all to sit down at the table before eating the meal. Instead, they served their own families, ate individually, and filled themselves up while others went hungry. Paul was telling them to do it together and share the meal among everyone. Not waiting for one another so that the communion meal could be taken together as a family was what Paul referred to as “eating and drinking in an unworthy manner” and “not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Friends, taking communion “in a worthy manner” is a relational, community thing… not a “personal inspection for sin before you can partake” thing. Perhaps it’s this erroneous interpretation of the Lord ’s Supper which has caused the Church to exclude some from the table. After all, if you’re a believer, then you’re pretty much “clean” (as long as you haven’t sinned recently…), so you can partake. But if you’re not a believer, you are certainly “defiled with sin” and therefore cannot partake. But how can this all be, considering that Jesus ate with ALL of His disciples (including Judas) on His way to reshaping the entire faith into an inclusive one? How can this be, after Judas, the traitor himself, was eating right along with them… whom Jesus personally served at the table! How can this be, considering many disciples themselves struggled to understand and believe?

Christians these days, from what I’ve experienced, say they want everyone to belong and come as they are. Yet, once someone draws near, they are still not fully able to participate. Christians themselves are feeling excluded and tired of legalism. Yet it seems as though we are introducing others into exactly that by being exclusive at the communion table.

Jesus died and rose again to rip open the Holy of Holies, to allow everyone in, and we are laying out another hoop? What if, through taking the elements, a person can learn through symbolic actions God’s redemptive plan and actually come to understand Christ’s sacrifice and recompense for them? Though some may fail to accept Christ’s love, can we request that they not experience a meal with those who do embody his Spirit? What if, by allowing all to eat at the Lord’s Table, we invite non-believers closer? What if we all, believers and non-believers alike, held the elements as Christ’s words were recited? Couldn’t the Spirit work through that experience of touching and tasting, as well as hearing and seeing? Shoot, what if we were to ditch the whole juice and cracker thing and invite these people to dine on real food, to experience real love at a table together… all of us sinners, all of us shown mercy?

We all know how to eat good food. Judas knew that, and Judas was at the first Lord’s Supper. He got to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste along with the others. Even though he betrayed Christ, Christ did not bar him from the table. In fact, Jesus brought Judas closer before sending him on his way. I believe if Judas had repented like Peter, Jesus would have welcomed him back with open arms. But we can save that thought for later.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

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