Excerpt taken from "Good Ole Rotten Apples", pages 25 - 29
As I continued speaking, the people seemed to be more relaxed, and I felt God helped me relax right along with them. Now I had their attention. Smiles of joy seemed to be glued on their faces, wondering what funny story I would tell next. But what I was about to share with them next was not funny at all, it was very serious.
I could feel what God wanted me to say. For a moment I froze, and then God's peace again came over me, and I was able to continue. I pointed to the baptismal fountain. It was beautifully carved in mostly white with little brown accents. As I was looking at it, I thought about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 that the Lord gave to Moses. I had learned every one of those commandments in that very church. The Lord said "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…." In the dictionary "graven" means, a carving representing a god.
As I pointed to the "graven image" I told them that that was exactly where I was baby baptized. For years and years, I kept the white handkerchief that Mom had given me one day, that the pastor used after he sprinkled water on my forehead, baptizing me. Of course, my Mom and Dad and my brother and sister were right beside me. The pastor then would turn to my appointed godmother and he would ask her if she would make sure I would be brought up in this theology, to which she would respond, "I will."
I pointed to the round, wood altar with the maroon kneeling bench. I said that this is where I took communion many times. I was not confirmed in this church. I took classes with other church kids in a big Lutheran Church in a town nearby. To this day I still have my old, gray, Lutheran catechism handbook where I learned all about my Lutheran religion.
I can remember as if it were yesterday, parading up to the front of that big church with my confirmation class. We all had white robes and red roses pinned to our lapels. Each of us said a little speech and then the pastor asked us "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour? Then answer 'I will.'" To which our whole class in unison replied "I will." And then the pastor said, "And do you renounce the Devil in all his ways? Then answer 'I will.'" And again we all said, "I will."
Our parents came up and we all took communion at the altar. And then we were given a certificate and we had our pictures taken individually and together as a class. I will never forget the look on Mom's face. It was a look of relief that now this was over and I did what I was supposed to do and I was going to be okay.
Then I paused, and very humbly said, "But I am here today to tell you it was not okay. Did I really accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour? No. Did I renounce the Devil in all his ways? No. The baby baptism and the confirmation were nothing more than a hand-me-down religious tradition. The Lord even warned people in the Bible about manmade, religious traditions."
Their smiling faces turned to somber faces.
For the first time in my life I noticed what religion can do to a person. I noticed some ladies sat up a little straighter in their pews. Some just stared at me. Some looked a bit angry. Like the saying goes, baptized in pickle juice. Many of the ladies were giving me "the look" that I so well remembered my Mom gave me in my younger years. I am sure they wanted to get up and walk out but didn't quite have the nerve to do it.
I told them that I had accepted Christ only recently. I realized I was a sinner not saved by grace, but a sinner that needed a Saviour. I needed Jesus. Not just a Sunday morning Jesus, but an everyday, personal relationship with Jesus. I repented of my former lifestyle and surrendered my life to the only One who could save me, that could give me peace. It was Jesus! The Bible says that "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life."
I could see by "the looks" that I was getting, that they didn't have the foggiest idea what I was talking about. In one of the pews towards the back, I noticed that there was a lady whom I had never seen before who was wiping her eyes. The more I talked, the more she quietly cried. I don't know what happened, but I give God all the glory for whatever He did to that lady's heart that morning.
I then continued by asking them a question: "Now, how did I know that I truly had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour and that it was not just lip service again? Because, I noticed that, when the very next time that I took communion, it took on a whole new meaning."
And let me stop right here and talk about that word "communion." It should never be called "communion." It's the Lord's Supper. When we call it "communion" we take the Lord out of it. So now that I had given my heart to the Jesus, the Lord's Supper took on a whole new meaning. That little cracker represented Jesus' body being beaten and broken for me and for my sins. Like the Bible says, "…this do in remembrance of me." And before I drank from the tiny little cup, I kept staring into it. The dark juice seemed to be shimmering in the glass.
I felt a tear run down my face. It gave me goose bumps as I thought about the pain and suffering Jesus had while hanging on that cross and it was all for me. I realized this was not just another Sunday ritual, it was a time, an important time, a very special time, to remember what Jesus had done for me. Now John 3:16 took on a whole new meaning, "For God so loved the world…," —that's me and you! "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
As I am writing this now, I can remember before, when I took the Lord's Supper, it was just another lip-service, moment-in-time, as we all marched up to that very altar. The pastor would hand us the tiny glass of wine and the wafer and we would quickly chew up the wafer and down the wine.
The Bible reads, in 2 Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Did I think about the sins I had committed that week before and did I have a little talk with Jesus and ask him to forgive me before I took the Lord's Supper? Was I even saved? No way! But remember, I supposed that I was a "sinner saved by grace." And I had my fire insurance ticket to heaven through infant baptism.
I am ashamed to say I concentrated more on the wafer getting stuck in the roof of my mouth than where I needed my heart to be, and that was with Jesus. I would hear the pastor say, "Your sins are forgiven, now go in peace." That is another fallacy. No one has the right to declare to another their sins are forgiven. That's between you and Jesus. And we would march back to our pews, and the next bunch would march up to the altar and the same thing was done.
As I got older and attended other churches, the little oyster cracker would be passed around in the pews. The pastor would give a long speech that really meant nothing to me. I can remember to this day how I would see people around me eat the cracker, then quickly their heads would bob back as they took the drink. Just like myself, there were people looking all around. It wasn't two seconds later and I heard the click, click, click of people's tiny communion cups, including mine, as they were all placed in the carved-out holes specially made directly in the back of the pew in front of me. There was never any time to reflect on what this all meant. It was: "Well, what's next."