How an Empty Communion Cup Strengthened My Faith

Communion cup

This morning, I went to church—like went into an actual physical building and didn’t just watch the service online. I hadn’t been in over 3 months. It was a warm, welcoming, and if I’m being honest, much-needed experience. I’m home most of the time, thanks to remote work and the desire for solitude most days, so being around people again was both weird and comforting. During the service, communion was had and that’s where I want to focus on now.

Biblical and Personal Background

A little Biblical background first: In ancient Egypt, the Jews were instructed to take the blood of a male animal and, after eating it in a hurry, they were to mark the doorposts of their houses with its blood so that the Spirit of the Lord would pass over them when He killed every firstborn male as the Ninth Plague before delivering them from Egyptian tyranny. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb, slaughtered to save not just the Jews and the nation of Israel but the Gentiles and us too.

***

Over the past month, I have been lightly studying the different views of atonement through different denominations, specifically Lutheran. Christian rapper Flame has made a lot of traction recently because of his albums Extra Nos and Christ for You (which I bought out of curiosity). These albums tell the musical journey of the destruction of his Calvinist upbringing to eventually align with the Lutheran doctrine founded by Martin Luther. Luther’s doctrine follows that when Jesus broke bread with his disciples during the Passover meal, He told them, “This is my body which is broken for you; take and eat.” And similarly, with the cup, He urged them, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; It is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.” According to Lutheran doctrine, these statements are to be taken in a literal sense. In essence, when believers are taking Communion, we are literally eating Christ’s broken, crucified body and drinking His spilled blood.

Leading Up to the Communion Walk (Pondering in the Pew)

I almost didn’t take Communion. I’ve only ever done that once when I was at my childhood church and was in the midst of deconversion, and even then, it wasn’t out of respect but because of fear. I’m not sure why I hesitated this morning. My brain was thinking of Lutheran doctrine and literally eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking His blood, and how that differed from the doctrine I, and most Christians I know, grew up under (where the Passover elements are meant to be metaphoric) and questioning if I took Communion now, when I wasn’t sure which camp I belonged to, if that meant I was taking it in vain? And if I was, would the punishment be mine? Would I be cursed like the Scripture said? And on and on my brain went, until I took a deep breath (to calm myself down and prevent an anxiety attack) and quoted 2 Timothy 1:7 under my breath as I left the pew to walk to the altar to take the familiar elements of Communion.

For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.

2 Timonthy 1:7

Taking Communion (God Meeting Me in the Pew)

As I walked back to my seat, I kept praying under my breath for God to help me—I didn’t know and still don’t know why taking Communion today was such an ordeal— and that made me think about faith and how I approach God. I quickly started to go down a rabbit hole when I realized my mind was a tornado of unending questions:

Is the act of merely asking God for help a matter of faith, because I believe that He will actually help me with my inner turmoil, or is walking out of my seat, though uncertainty and fear nip at my heels like untrained dogs, an act of faith because I am doing something I am afraid to do, and I’m telling myself that I’m trusting God but maybe I’m doing it because I am more concerned with the consequence of not participating in taking Communion—namely, being cursed—than actually taking Communion for the right reason: to remember the death of my Saviour. Am I using faith as a bargaining chip to give God something (my words of faith) so that He’ll give me something in return (for my fear to be gone and take Communion in peace)? Am I being pursued by Satan right now? Why do I feel this way? Am I to actually drink this like I’m drinking Your blood, Yeshua? What’s the implication of Lutheran’s take on Communion? What if he’s right? What if the other way is right? Does it matter?

I thought it would never end.

And then the Holy Spirit dropped this jewel: “Nothing matters but the blood that was shed. Everything else is secondary.”

And then, of course, Holy Spirit, in His quiet, strong way of establishing Himself in our relationship, flooded my heart and spirit with so much assurance of His love and peace, I could’ve cried. I responded in worship as the worship team was singing one of the most intimate worship songs I’ve ever heard. I’m listening to the song now as I write and my soul can do naught but worship the Lamb who was slain to bring me to Himself.

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And God is right in what He revealed to me through His Spirit. Think about it. Everyone—including Jesus’s own disciples—thought he was crazy and made no sense. The religious leaders wanted to kill Him because He was claiming to be God. If you’re gonna make a bold claim like that, you’d better be able to back it up with some awesome evidence; thankfully, Jesus was more than capable of doing that!

If Jesus had not shed His blood, had He just been murdered without blood being shed, he likely would’ve been known throughout history as a good teacher, at best, a prophet, and a lunatic at worst. But the blood of Yeshua is what makes all the difference. For it is the blood of Jesus that washes away the sins of the world—my sins—and calls me to surrender, calls me to Himself.

***

The blood of Jesus Christ is the sole reason why we who have trusted in His finished work on the cross can even come into His presence or have a relationship with God. Hallelujah that we can come to Him in whatever state we’re in and receive love unconditionally, for the blood that He shed rejects no one.

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