And Just Like That, Je­sus Can Set You Free

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - CHURCH - PAS­TOR TROY CON­RAD IS MIN­IS­TER OF FARM­ING­TON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. EMAIL: FARMINGTONCHURCH@ PGTC.COM.

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.

Troy Con­rad

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