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Communion Meditations (2016)

Waiting in Court

Originally scheduled for January 31

A courtroom proceeds at its own pace. We were waiting in the courtroom for the trial of a friend of ours, and the judge decided to begin the day by reviewing a very large stack of manila folders that had been placed on his desk. Along the wall on one side there was a row of chairs; each chair occupied by a man who looked just a little worried. They were in alphabetical order, as were the folders. As I found out fairly quickly, these men had been arrested and convicted of drunk driving.

The judge would take each folder and examine it. He looked for two things: first, had the individual in question stayed out of trouble (nothing more than parking tickets). He also looked to see whether or not the individual had completed certain required courses. He was looking to see what you didn’t do and what you did. If the examination was successful, he would call the individual up in front of the desk and tell him, “you may now say that you have never been convicted of drunk driving.”

My first reaction to this was, “You have got to be kidding me!” After all, if you haven’t been convicted of drunk driving, what are you doing in this courtroom getting your folder examined? But then I began to think about the practical consequences of this. It’s very difficult for a man who has been convicted of drunk driving to get a job. You would certainly not hire him unless he had been thoroughly rehabilitated. Drunk drivers are human beings too, and they have wives and children. If we did not have something like this, such a man would be very prone to despair. It is likely enough he would take up a life of crime just to have money for food. So I saw the wisdom of the procedure of this court. If you stay out of trouble, and do the things we tell you to do, we’re going to give you the chance to get a decent job.

This is very much parallel to the way that God forgives us. We “enter the program” by baptism, promising that we will take up the life of the Christian. God, for his part, expects both positive and negative things. He expects us to stay out of trouble by following him; thus we are responsible for the things we do not do. We are also responsible for the things we should do; the life of the Christian carries with it prayer, study of the Scriptures, fellowship, service and much else. But we must remember that the forgiveness we get is not something we earn, but something for which Christ paid a great price.

How can we know the price of grace? Let’s start with the obvious: God’s justice is perfect. Like the judge in that court, he expects that all that is commanded will be done. God’s justice cannot be satisfied with anything less than a perfect atonement. That atonement is what Christ did for us on the Cross. So that we might be reminded of the price of the sacrifice, he has given us the Lord’s Supper as a memorial. The cup represents his blood, shed for us. The bread represents his body, broken for us. As he commanded, take and eat. The result will be that on Judgment Day you will be able to say to the judge, “I am not guilty” — for your sins will be covered by the atoning blood of Christ. Do this, in remembrance of Him.

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