And Just Like That, Jesus Can Set You Free
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
A good friend of mine recently passed away. It was both a sad and happy time. She had suffered from pancreatic cancer but every day she would tell me to be happy for her because she would go to see Jesus soon. During her funeral we sang upbeat songs and told funny stories about her life. We laughed a lot and cried a bit and after it was all over, there’s still an ache in our hearts for her friendly smile and caring heart.
Her name was Rita and I feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to share a story about her today.
The first Sunday I preached at my church here in Farmington we had Communion. I noticed that during the hectic activity of people getting up, moving around, going to altar, and returning to their seats, a lady who skipped right past the Communion station and instead went to the altar to pray.
When I was returning the elements I noticed that she had been crying. After the service was over, I made it a point to seek her out. “I noticed you didn’t take Communion today,” I said. “Is there anything we can talk about?”
She looked me over a couple of times and said, “Father, (she came from a Catholic background and always called me “Father”) not to be blunt, I’m sure you’re a nice man and all, but I don’t know you well enough yet.”
And that began a game of sorts between Rita and myself. Every first Sunday of the month we would have Communion. Every first Sunday she would pass on the elements and instead go the altar and cry. And every first Sunday I would say, “Rita, I noticed you didn’t take Communion. Is there anything we can talk about?” And every first Sunday she would smile, pat my arm and say, “You’re getting there. Maybe one day soon.” I visited Rita quite often.
About a year after coming here, Rita went through another bout with cancer. While she was in the hospital, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to take her Communion. So I loaded up my portable Communion set with cold grape juice and Sunday’s bread and went to her hospital room.
While visiting with her she kept glancing at my portable Communion set. Finally she said, “Now just what in the world is that!”
“I’m glad you asked,” I smugly said and started to set up the elements while saying, “On the night in which He gave Himself up for us, He took the bread, broke the bread and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take. Eat. This is my body which is given for you.” And Rita started to cry. In between sobs, I tried to pat her arm and say, “It’s OK, Rita. It’s OK.” And she would say, “You don’t know all the things I’ve done!” and she sobbed some more.
I started to put the Communion set back up, but felt the Holy Spirit tell me not to. Like a loving parent trying to give a child cough medicine I held the bread and juice in front of her and said, “Rita, I don’t care what your sins are but Jesus gave this to sinners. He gave it to you!”
And like a child unsure of what the medicine would taste like, Rita took Communion for the first time in decades.
And just like that, Jesus set her free. When we had Communion at church after that, she was always the first in line. She still cried at the altar, but our conversations changed. Now she always said, “Jesus did that for me” after the service.
The day before she died, Rita received Communion for the last time. It was ice chips and a piece of cracker instead of juice and bread. And one of the last things she whispered to me was, “Jesus did this for me.”
And the best thing of all is, Jesus can set you free as well. Because He came not to judge you for your mistakes, but to forgive you for making them.