Relationships, Not Religion

As I watch people file by and receive the Communion packet of bread and juice, I wonder how many of us simply take the Eucharist on the first Sunday because it is expected. It would be embarrassing, I think, for most people to not take it, even if they do not have a relationship with God. People wonder why someone is not participating, and I have seen someone ask a person not joining in if they need a packet. It seems to make other people uncomfortable for someone to sit and not partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Yet, I wonder if individuals really understand what it means to take Communion “In Remembrance of Me,” or has it become just a ritual expected by our religion that people think makes the right with God, without having to do the work of being in relationship with God? Do the rituals practiced today in religious institutions represent relationships with God or just religion, meaning man-made doctrine of what you must do to look religious to others?

For it is relationships that God wants with people, not religious rituals that have lost all meaning. Relationship with God entails obedience, thankfulness, and surrender. In First Samuel 15, King Saul disobeys the Lord’s command and kept the best of the plunder of the Amalekites, destroying only what was worthless or of poor quality. Then, Saul wanted to sacrifice the ill-gotten sheep, goats,  and cattle to God. Saul even saved the life of the king of the Amalekites, which was against God’s command.

Saul thought that sacrifices and burnt offerings were more important than obedience to God’s commands, or, in other words, being religious rather than in a relationship with God based on obedience to His commands. Samuel advised Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” Obedience to God’s words is so much more important than practicing religion.

Also, Psalm 50:14 tells us to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God, and to keep the vows we have made to the Most High. Then, when you call on God in times of trouble, He promises to rescue you, and you will give Him glory. Simply repeating the doxology or benediction or wearing the right clothes, as demanded in the doctrine of your denomination is not a relationship with God. Being truly thankful for all that God has done and continues to do in your life, and only you know what He has done in your life, is the real way to worship God, living in a relationship of acknowledged love and gratitude.

Lastly, if you live the same life before and after taking the Lord’s Supper, with no repentance from sins, then something is missing, and that is a true surrender to God.  Job 11: 13-15 states, “Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins—even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless.” Surrendering to God is a daily exercise for us who live in a broken world. To surrender means to yield to God’s power, control, and will  Even Jesus surrendered to God when he said on the Mount of Olives, ” Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine.”

I do not mean to disparage anyone’s religion, but to remind everyone that rituals do not impress God. In Isaiah 1, the prophet reminds the people of the northern kingdom that God was not pleased with them, because, although they brought to Him burnt offerings and sacrifices, and paraded through His courts with all their ceremony, it was considered as meaningless gifts, sinful and false piety. The problem was that they were just being religious, and their “hands were covered with the blood of innocent victims” (verse 15). Isaiah tells them in verses 16-17 that God says, “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Defend the rights of widows.”

Let us think about what the bread and the wine symbolizes as we take it into our bodies. It represents the broken body and blood of Jesus shed for the forgiveness of our sins. When we partake of the Communion, we must renew our relationship with the Father, in gratitude for the Son given for our sins. We do it in obedience, thankfulness, and in surrender to God. That is the relationship that God is calling us to today.

Dear Father,

     Thank you for loving us so much that you gave us the ultimate gift: the gift of a Savior to die for the forgiveness of our sins. Nothing we could do or give could pay the ransom for our sins. But Jesus came into the world, remained sinless, and at the appointed time, died the most painful and humiliating death of His time, out of His and Your unfailing love for us. He rose, because death could not defeat Him. Now, He sits in the place of honor at your right hand, intervening for us. What a savior! Let us remember to be obedient, thankful, and willing to surrender daily to You, for Your love is all we need. In Jesus’ s Name, Amen.

 

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