A few years ago, while visiting out of town, I was at a church that used white grape juice instead of the traditional red for the rite of communion.
I fought the overwhelming urge to stand up, wave my arms and shout, “Whoa! Time out! STOP this abomination, before God sends a lightening bolt from above to punish us for this sacrilege!”
Figuring that was a good way to get a hymnal stuffed in my mouth, I held my peace and begged for God’s mercy as I partook of the pale, totally inadequate, juice.
The next few days, I did not hear any reports of the Pastor or the Deacons being stricken with boils or leprosy nor a plague on any in their households. A bit surprised, I was still wary.
Maybe the answer was uncomplicated, easy, and totally acceptable. Maybe they had sent some novice to buy the elements and too late realized the terrible substitution. Maybe they had chastised the errand runner and explained the importance of sticking to the Biblically ordained elements of communion.
Perhaps, they had fallen on their faces, begged God for his mercy and received grace to substitute the white juice this one time? God is merciful; it was an unwitting mistake, never to be repeated. Whatever, there seemed to be no terrible consequences and soon, the event fell from my thoughts.
Again, communion was served, this time at my own church. Again, the juice was the white variety. Confused and fearful, I didn’t know if I should partake or pass.
The Bible is very explicit about if you do not take communion you have no part in ‘Him’, his death or resurrection. If I passed and did not partake, maybe I’d not have the chance to right the wrong of refusing the Lord’s Supper before I met an untimely death.
No, my best and safest recourse was to once again partake of the pale, surely spiritually eternally insignificant, powerless juice. As I partook of the elements, I begged for God’s mercy. Within my heart, I determined that before I was faced with the trauma of communion again, I would find out what was happening.
My heart troubled, my mind busy, I searched for answers. Perhaps, it was the carnal fear that somebody’s new carpet or upholstery would be stained. Putting the carnal thought of soiling carpet above the sanctity of Holy Communion, surely not?
Could this be the start of the ‘Great Falling Away’ that the Bible spoke of? Could this be the very act that would cause even the elect to fall, if it were possible? Was this the ultimate test of the faithful? (Matt. 24:24)
I had to have answers and I had to have them before I was faced with taking communion again. God’s mercy endures forever, but then, there was that specter of the unpardonable sin; the unforgivable act of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 12:31-32) Nobody ever seems to be able to say exactly what “that” is. No, I had to know and I had to know soon; I suspected I could be on thin ice.
I began to pray. My first thought was my brother in-law, Jim. I’d heard his sermons, I’d observed his life and I knew his heart. If he didn’t know, he would have the education and the mind to find out. I could trust him to reveal the truth; what EVER it may be.
I e-mailed Jim telling him briefly of my mental and spiritual battle. In short, I asked him if I had grounds to question this substitution or did I simply need to get a grip and make an attitude adjustment.
Within a couple of hours, the phone rang. I put the receiver to my ear and Jim’s first words were, “get a grip and adjust your attitude.” Jim laughed and went on to tell me that he too had fought a similar mental battle over the pale juice.
He had researched the scriptures thoroughly and confirmed that it was the representation of the covenant with Christ where his blood covers our sins, not the color of the juice being his blood that made the act sacred.
I sighed audibly in relief, I wasn’t going to have worry about committing the unpardonable sin. I thanked Jim profusely and in parting, he said, “Get a grip and play nice, you’ll get used to it, I did.”
Obviously, the elements are not what makes communion sacred. The blood of Christ that was spent for our sins is what is sacred. The ‘juice’ or ‘wine’ is only a symbol, a representation (Matthew 26:27-28); like an illustration used in a sermon or a picture illustrating a story.
We should never take communion without searching our hearts and humbling ourselves before God. Don’t drink the juice or eat the bread with busy thoughts on your mind or an unrepentant heart. (I Corinthians 11:27-29)
Focus on Jesus. Quiet your wandering thoughts and do as Jesus instructed, “do this and remember me, what I have done for you.”
I Corinthians 11:25-26 “after supper, he (Jesus) took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.