Grace Immersion

Day 49

Simply Amazed By Grace

As I write this, I’ve just returned to my room at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center. I was one of the speakers at a family camp all week and tonight was the final night. As is the tradition here, we ended by singing and sharing testimonies around the campfire and then it was time for communion.

The way they do communion here is this: People stand in a single-file line to receive the elements. Two ministers are at the front, one holding the plate of wafers, and the other the cup. Each person, in turn, is told by the first pastor, “The body of Christ, broken for you,” and when that person takes the bread and dips it in the cup, the second minister tells them, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

I was the first minister tonight, the one with the bread, so every single person in line got to me first. I looked at each one in turn and said, “the body of Christ, broken for you.” I tried not to let it get impersonal so I attempted eye contact and if I saw a nametag I said their name: “Bill, this is the body of Christ, broken for you.”

And what blew me away, because I wasn’t expecting it, was the variety of reactions I saw. One by one they came, and one by one I watched.

“The body of Christ, broken for you.”

Some seemed impatient, rushing through the ritual. Some actually looked bored. Some seemed to be barely holding back laughter — maybe nervous, maybe mocking, maybe giddy with joy.

“The body of Christ, broken for you.”

Some had tears streaming down their faces. Some paused, closed their eyes, and whispered in prayer, “Thank you.” I don’t think they were thanking me. Others stared for a long time at the elements and seemed deep in thought before they partook.

“The body of Christ, broken for you.”

As time went on, more people were crying, and I mean actually sobbing: the back-of-the-line people. Maybe that’s because they had more time to think about it. But I think it had to do with the time it took them to get up and get in line. I think some of them were reluctant, maybe thinking they were unworthy, and then finally decided in a deeply personal cathartic moment that they would receive communion after all. And perhaps thinking of a specific sin that they had been seeing as an obstacle just a moment before, now they remembered it was washed away, and they cried.

As the line thinned I looked and saw an older disabled woman still seated in the last row, so the other pastor and I marched down the aisle to her with the elements and as she received them she was wide-eyed with gratitude. Then I saw a young man near her who had not come down the aisle and offered him communion but he firmly declined.

And I began to think, “I am having a God’s eye view of communion right here.”

He comes to each of us, the Lamb slain for us, one by one, and He sees not a mass of humanity but each face, each person, each soul, intimately. And just like at the cross — still 2,000 years later — some laugh, some weep, some look the other way.

So it is with grace, the word we use to describe the reason and the result of that sacrifice. You might think you’ve heard it all before. You might be bored, maybe impatient. But look at that old man in line behind you. You recognize him. The great intellectual, the Apostle of Grace, Paul.

Paul, who in his lifetime thought more about grace and taught more about grace than perhaps anyone else ever, yet he is sobbing and laughing as, at the end of eleven chapters of theology about grace in the book of Romans, he exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)

Paul, who after three chapters of theology about grace in Ephesians says, ”I pray that you… may… grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… that you may be filled to the full measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17a, 18, 19b)

I hope you never feel like you have it all figured out. I hope you linger as you gaze at the price paid for you. Think of the love felt for you. Consider the sins washed from you. And become simply amazed by grace!

Here is my prayer for you: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, might have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how long and high and wide and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the full measure of all the fullness of God”! (Ephesians 3:17–19)