“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:18
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see…
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”Matthew 23:1-5,13
This week I read about a gathering of religious leaders meeting to decide if certain people should be allowed to receive the bread and the wine of communion. Wow. A table, full to overflowing with grace and goodness; Jesus, arms outstretched, saying “welcome.” But first you have to navigate a room full of old men who get to decide if you deserve it….
Imagine a young woman humbly responding to Christ’s winsome invitation, only to have the door slammed in her face by a gang of authoritarian men!
I may be giving away my best point in the very beginning here, but I think it is important to remember that Jesus not only invited everyone to take communion (“Take and eat; this is my body… Drink from this, all of you”), but he served the bread and the wine to Judas too. Jesus invited Judas; Jesus embraced Judas; Jesus washed Judas’s feet; and Jesus then served Judas the bread and the cup.
From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus emphasized this absolute standard when it comes to invitation: “Come to me, ALL YOU who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus invited everyone. Jesus still invites everyone. No litmus test necessary other than our need to experience grace.
Then we slam the door shut!
Jesus points out how deeply upset he is when religious leaders, “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
There is only one qualification needed to receive the bread and the wine, and that is showing up as a sinner in need of grace.
Let me say this simply and clearly. If your church (and, sadly, there are Protestant churches who “fence the table” too) puts any barriers between you and receiving Holy Communion, please come over to WFPC and take the bread and the wine with us.
There is only one word that should stand in front of the table, and that word is “WELCOME.”
A woman who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house… As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears… When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner…” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” – Luke 7:36-50 (selected verses)
We are not a perfect church. No church is. But we do try our hardest to avoid shutting the door in the face of anyone responding to Christ’s beautiful invitation to “come home”. Come to think of it, it may be the thing we’re criticized for the most.
In love, and because of love – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.