Photo by Debbie Hudson/Upsplash
By Dr. Bascom Ratliff
Pastor, Parker/Beagle/Fontana United Methodist Churches
As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and said, “this is my body”. He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples and they all drank from it. Then he said to them, “this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for many. Do this in remembrance of me”.
Several years ago, I went to church with my sister. At the end of service the pastor offered communion. I was told that, because I was not a member of this church, I could not take communion. I was disappointed. Recently, I was again denied communion. I was at a church celebration with friends and communion was offered. However, again, because I was not a member of this particular church, I was told that I could not take communion. When I inquired, I learned there were several rules about who could take communion. I was excluded because I was not baptized into that particular denomination and had not professed my allegiance to this religious group. I was told that I ran the risk of great spiritual harm by taking communion because I was deemed unworthy in the eyes of God. I was disappointed.
I think that too often we use rules to exclude others from full participation in the life of Christ. We deem others as unworthy when they worship differently. Unfortunately, we also deem others unworthy when they do not look like us, talk like us, or believe like us. I think this gets in the way of the two commandments Christ specifically gave to us. These commandments are to “love God with all our hearts and souls and minds”. The second is similar: we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus tells us that all of the (church) laws are covered by these two commandments.
I have found that the teachings of Jesus are very clear on this point of loving others. It is important to remember that he ate with sinners, healed the sick, and freely forgave sinners. He also makes it clear in Matthew 25 that when we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and serve others, we are serving him. Sounds pretty simple.
I do not believe that Jesus is a “rules” person. He saw the many rules, laws, and ordinances of the church as obstacles to loving God and others. I believe that he tells us that loving God and loving others is more important than excluding and minimizing others because they are not like us. Jesus is calling us to open our churches and our hearts to others. Jesus is telling us that if we see someone in distress we should offer them assistance. And most of all, I believe that he is telling us that the greatest gift that we have to share with others is the gift of his love and compassion and forgiveness. As a final note, I also think that the only requirement for taking communion is a sincere love of God and a desire to strengthen his Spirit with us. Service First.
If you want to hear more about God’s wonderful promise of unfailing love and enjoy a great morning of music and worship, please come and worship with us.
We will worship at the Parker UMC during April & July & October 2023.
We will worship at the Beagle UMC during May & August & November 2023.
We will worship at the Fontana UMC during March & June & September 2023.
All services are at 10 a.m.
We offer communion on the first Sunday of each month. All who love God are welcome.