By Nancy Karpenske
The notion of “coming clean” implies a person is concealing something, not being completely honest. Coming clean is connected to guilt and shame. If someone stares you down and says, “Time to come clean,” it probably isn’t a request to wash up before sitting down at the dinner table.
God invites us to dinner at his table. We have a standing invitation. Communion is a moment when we are invited to come closer to God. The bread and the juice, symbols of Jesus’ torture and death, remind us in a vivid way that we have already been cleansed. The saving and cleansing work of salvation is complete, finished. “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
But daily life takes its toll on righteous living. Sin creeps back in. Busyness blurs connection with God. At the end of the week, we are often weary and grungy and tangled back up in the old way of life. How can we approach God like that?
Communion can seem formidable. There’s pressure to clean up our act, to sort through our recent misdeeds and mess ups—well, let’s just call them sins. Let’s be clear. Sinful thoughts and actions don’t disqualify us from our position with God—Jesus took care of that. But the layers of accumulated pollution, that guilt and shame in our hearts and minds, make it more difficult to hear and respond to God.
God has a prescription for cleansing—return to the cross. He waits and longs for our return. When sin clouds our view of God and makes us feel like failures, participating in the Lord’s Supper can serve as the time and place where we return to God for renewal: we remember the One who cleanses us; we recall that we paid nothing for this privilege, but he paid everything.
Communion is the time and place to be renewed. Come clean, come asking for cleansing, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
That is the essence of Communion, a return to that original experience of cleansing. First we remember Jesus’ death as the initial and complete wellspring of cleansing. Second, we thank God for our own salvation experience, when the guilt and shame were removed. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:11). And then we willingly return again (and again) to “come clean,” to reveal our week’s accumulation of mess ups and failures.
When we draw near to God, dirt and all, and acknowledge our need, he points us to the cross and says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).
When we trade our sins for Jesus’ righteousness, we do come clean. We receive a new start, a new heart. Communion both reminds and refreshes. His cleansing power never diminishes. Celebrate that.
Nancy Karpenske is women and spiritual transformation pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church, Longmont, Colorado.