Taking communion at church used to scare the Hades out of me. I had heard the preacher say that people had “fallen asleep” (which I found out was code for “died!”) because they were unworthy, and because they took communion with unconfessed sin….at least that’s what I thought he said. So, when the elders would assemble at the front of the church to pass around the communion plates it got real for me...and I got my prayin' face on! I’d start my prayers in earnest as they headed my way...head bowed, hands folded tightly and trembling...
”Oh dear Jesus, I’m so sorry for all the bad things I’ve done and the way I treated my sister and disobeyed my parents…”
And I’d open one eye from my praying to see the communion plate getting closer, and I’d squirm back in the hard wood pew and prayed a little faster…
“…and for not studying for that test…and for my messy room…and for being so selfish….”
One row away and the man in the blue suit would be handing me that plate…I sped things up and did the big coverall close...
“…and for anything I forgot to confess I confess that too…amen…”
The plate passed by…
I took the bread…crunch.
I took the cup…sip.
I passed it along.
Fortunately we only took communion once a month at my church soI had 30 days to wait for my next near-death experience. My friend's church took it every week! No thank you! Too much drama for me!
Well, like TV actors growing to full size, those thoughts have grown up in my understanding and are far away from me now both in time and in maturity because I grasp the context of that Scripture and how I my naive younger self had misunderstood 1 Corinthians 11 which, while still very serious actually says:
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.Now, that makes sense! He didn’t say we had to be worthy because that would be entirely impossible ”…there is none worthy, no not one.” This is an immutable truth and an eternal problem save the rescuing grace of the Lord whose death we remember in this very ordinance.
He didn’t say we had to have all sin confessed which would also be an impossibility because the “heart of man is deceitful above all things, who can know it?”
He did say we had to “examine” ourselves which in the Greek means “examine yourself.”
We can pray as David did in Psalm 139, "Search me Oh God. Know my heart. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."
In the verses right before this Paul had admonished them because they’d been coming to church drunk and had been divisive and dishonoring to one another and still just taking the bread and wine like it was no big deal. This was literally breaking the the third commandment not to take God's name in vain. They had been admonished that taking the bread and wine was to “proclaim the Lord’s death”…instead their sin was such a distraction they were proclaiming their debauchery instead.
So, if I could sit next to my younger self in that church pew some 40 years ago I think I’d remind the younger me how deeply I loved Jesus…how strongly I desired to serve and honor Him and that while capable of finding and punishing the unworthy, God is less inclined to do that and more inclined as Scripture says to “to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” …and my little 10 year-old heart really was committed to Him.
The next time we prepare our hearts for communion, let’s take time to quietly examine ourselves, not so we’re all “prayed up” and can avoid sudden death but because we’re so incredibly thankful for His life and for His death which is, after all, what we’re supposed to be focused on anyway.
For more reading on communion from one of my favorite Bible teachers, read this blog
What about you? Did you have any naive notions about church or faith growing up? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
 Ps 14:1-3; Is 53:6, Rm 3:10-18
 Jer 17:9
 Strongs #1381 “dokimazo”
 2 Chr 16:9