I grew up in the Bible Belt of the American South. I can honestly say that I cannot remember a time in my life that I did not know who Jesus was. But in so many ways, even though I knew who Jesus was, I had yet to begin to understand who Jesus was for me.
One area where my theology was completely backward was the Lord's Supper. Growing up I remember that it felt more like the Lord's Funeral. I sat low in the pew with two fearful thoughts.
1. That I would spill the grape juice tray and go straight to hell.
2. That my sin had killed Jesus.
I felt ashamed, guilty, and felt the urge to pray and make sure Jesus knew how sorry I was that I had killed him. This was my way of remembering Jesus during the Supper, by remembering that I killed him and that I felt awful about it. The Lord's Supper was the greatest guilt trip that I could experience in church, and I dreaded it the older I got.
I could often be found at the end of the service during the altar call on my knees, fearfully rededicating my life. With my head down on the steps of the altar, I was promising to do better and "really mean it this time." I often begged to receive what was already given to me by Christ; the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. With every stumble in life, I thought God was disappointed in me.
The Lord's Supper is all gift. It is the body and blood of Jesus for us. Our relationship with God is based on gift, not guilt. The Lord's Supper was never meant to be a time where we marinated in shame over what our sin had done to Christ on the cross. It was never meant to be a time where we focused on ourselves and what we did to Jesus. It was always meant to be where we received what Jesus did for us, the forgiveness of sins. It is not a time for us to feel like we should run and hide. In the Supper, God's grace, goodness, and mercy run after us to deliver to us refuge in Christ.
When I was the main actor in my relationship with Jesus, it is no wonder that all I saw was bad news. When Jesus is the main actor (and he is) in our relationship, only good news can be found. The entire Christian faith changes when we are shown that the whole shebang is revolving around Christ for the Christian rather than the Christian for Christ. More specifically, it revolves around Christ and him crucified for sinners.
In scripture look for Christ and what he is doing, especially in the Lord's Supper. Bet the farm on that what he is doing is giving, saving, forgiving, living, dying, rising, uniting, promising good things to you and for you. If you are feeling guilty in church, odds are you are hearing the Law. If you are feeling relief and freedom in church, odds are you are hearing the gospel. The Lord's Supper is 100% proof gospel. A church that hands it over to you as a gift is one to plant roots in.
More good news! Christ to you as a gift is independent of how you are feeling. The Lord's Supper is a reminder of what Jesus did for me, outside of me, while I didn't want it, ask for or it, or do anything for him. It is not a funeral, but a feast! It is more than a reminder; it is a delivery system of the gospel, of the goods, of the forgiveness of sins courtesy of Christ himself. Enjoy receiving "the goods" in the Lord's Supper.
"Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" (Psalm 34:8)