Communion with God
Reverend Jarrett B. Washington, Columnist
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14
As a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the fanfare of first Sunday’s Holy Communion worship excites me, ignites my spirit, and rejuvenates my praise. It seems no matter what I may have experienced in the week leading up to the first Sunday, it’s almost as if when I bow my knees and begin to declare the General Confession that all of the things of this world seem so inconsequential. During those moments, I begin to think about the very sacrifice Jesus made so that I might have life and have this life more abundantly. I think about the utter betrayal he experienced, the gruesome treatment on the cross, and even more so, the resurrection for a sinner such as I. For me, this is the true essence of communion with God. It is the very idea that I have been given another chance to get this thing called life right.
Something amazingly interesting happened to me on a recent first Sunday. In fact, in all my years of pastoral ministry (and even in ministry as an associate) what happened that Sunday has never happened to me. As the choir began to sing the communion hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” a member of the church motioned for me to come over towards where they were seated. As the chief celebrant, my immediate thought was there was “just not enough time” but I decided to oblige the request. It all happened so quickly. I am certain not many in the congregation even noticed what was occurring. The member forcefully grabbed me, in what I consider a partial hug, and whispered in my ear, “If I’ve ever done anything to offend you, I repent, I am sorry, and I love you.” My immediate response was to say, “Thank you.” In fact, I was simply taken aback. Arguably, I never thought this member and I had any issues. The more I thought about it, the Holy Spirit led me to say “thank you” because the forgiveness this member needed at that very moment was not for me, but it was for them to be right in their communion with God and God’s people.
As the day progressed, I wrestled with what had happened during the Holy Communion. I thought to myself, “When did this problem occur,” “What happened between us,” “Were there more people who needed to get something off their chest,” and the list just went on and on. Then I had what I consider my “a-ha moment.” I recalled that earlier in the worship experience I led the church in an impromptu altar call where I asked everyone to come to the altar and pray that every burden be lifted in the sanctuary. I compelled the saints of God to have a burden-less worship experience, where the focus was not on what they were going through but rather on what God continues to do. I coupled this burden-less worship experience with a message that focused on communing with God. Our point of reference was the text in Ezekiel 3, where the prophet was told to shut himself in his house (Ezekiel 3:24).
When we shut ourselves in our houses, or our prayer closest, the goal is to have true communion with God. Communion in this sense is not simply the bread and the wine, it’s not a ritual or ceremony, it is fellowshipping with God in such a way that God speaks and we listen. When we really reach the true essence of our communion with God, we have the greater ability to be in true communion with our brothers and sisters. I contend many of our relationships fail because our vertical relationship does not match our horizontal relationship. Ask yourself, can I really love God the way God intends for me to love, if I have hate or disdain for my brother or sister? Did not Jesus say the greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39)? Isn’t it said that when we receive communion we are to receive it with love and charity for our neighbor?
So the truth is that I should not have been surprised at what happened on that Sunday. In fact, the very act of my member is something that really ought to take place in churches and inside our communities on a weekly basis. What if we took more time loving each other? Today, I simply challenge you to work on your communion with God and God’s creation. If there is someone in your life who needs to know that you forgive them, you are sorry for the way things turned out, or simply you are not going to dwell in past hurts and hang-ups, your job is to let them know today. Don’t allow the very pettiness of this world to negatively impact the very things God wants to do through you. If it’s a co-worker, classmate, congregant, family member, or friend, let them know today. Be healed. Be restored. Most of all, have communion.
The Reverend Jarrett Britton Washington is the Pastor of Hopewell African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hemingway, South Carolina. He is a graduate of Turner Theological Seminary at the ITC in Atlanta, Georgia, with both the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Education degrees. Currently, he serves as the Co-Editor of The Voice of Mission Magazine and Layout Artist for the Missionary Magazine. He is married to Deronda C. Washington and is the father of one daughter, Braylen Jael.