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Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s Supper’

Bread and wineMy wife and I like our son to eat food that’s nutritious and good for his development. We allow ice cream once in a while, but we know that giving our child a steady diet of junk food would be parental malpractice. He needs vegetables, vitamins, fruit, protein, complex carbs, and a reasonable dose of fat.

When he gets bored at mealtime and doesn’t want to eat the rest of his green beans, we encourage him to finish eating. We tell him that eating his food will help him to be big and strong like his daddy.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “You are what you eat.” That doesn’t mean that you become green beans if you eat green beans. It means that eating healthful food empowers you to have a healthy body and a healthy life, while eating too much junk food empowers you to have a junky body with a junky life. This observation reminds me of another saying: “Input equals output.”

My congregation’s sermon this weekend comes from Romans 8, and in verses 1-11 we find a similar inside-outside connection.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)

What goes into us shapes how we live. “You are what you eat.”

When the Holy Spirit lives in us, God transforms our lives. “Input equals output.”

The Spirit enters us in various ways.

We “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” when we believe the good news of Jesus and when we are baptized (Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:13).

The Holy Spirit enters people through the laying on of hands (Deuteronomy 34:9; Acts 19:6).

The Holy Spirit can enter people who are around others in whom the Spirit is working (1 Samuel 19:18-24).

The Holy Spirit fills followers of Jesus when they speak (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 13:9) and when they are persecuted (13:50-52).

God gives the Holy Spirit to people who ask (Luke 11:13).

The Holy Spirit can even enter people before birth (Luke 1:15).

Beyond these ways, the Holy Spirit can operate in ways that are unexpected and unexplainable (John 3:8). As the hymnist William Cowper penned in the 18th century, “God moves in a mysterious way.”

I look forward to listening to tomorrow’s sermon on Romans 8. Before that sermon, I get to say a few comments to prepare the church for communion. As I get ready for that privilege, my meditation on verses 1-11 leads me to see communion as one way in which the Holy Spirits enters us and empowers us for life in God’s mission.

A long-held belief in Christianity is that Christ is somehow present with his followers in communion (also called the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper). Although great thinkers in the history of the church have disagreed about exactly how this presence operates, many Christians have believed that in some way Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present when gathered communities of Christian faith consume the bread and cup, commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and celebrating the hope of his return.

Through this process of remembering and celebrating, the Holy Spirit continually fills the body of Christ (the church) and empowers that community of Jesus-followers to carry out God’s mission of blessing the world.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we do more than eat crackers and drink wine or grape juice.

When we participate in this event, the Holy Spirit enters us yet again and strengthens us to live for God.

As a child, I experienced amazement when the bread and cup were served. When I looked at the people around me, I could tell that this practice was something special, something mystical. I didn’t understand what was happening, but the holiness of the moment drew me in.

I have not always experienced that amazement at communion. The Lord’s Supper has not always seemed special. I have not always noticed the mystery of the Eucharist.

So I pray for the ability to see the mysterious transformation that God is working through the Holy Spirit when followers of Jesus take the bread and cup together. Through the Spirit, the bread and cup become more than a snack and more than an ancient practice the meaning of which we’ve forgotten. They become a meaningful meal that fuels us for life.

When we eat the body of Christ together, the Spirit empowers us to be that body.

We are what we eat.

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The Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist or communion) unites us with God, with each other, and with Christians around the world and throughout time. Our unity with each other is a focus of First Corinthians 10-11.

“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor 10:17). The Lord’s Supper is a unity event that strengthens our oneness with each other. All Christians are members of one body, the body of Christ. As such, we should care for, encourage, be patient with, and love each other.

In first-century Corinth, Christians were already losing that focus, as we see in 11:17-34. When Christians gathered for the Lord’s Supper, the rich ones didn’t wait for the ones who were late, possibly due to work. By the time everyone arrived, some already were full and drunk. Their concern was for themselves instead of for each other. Paul wrote into that situation, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (11:29). “Recognizing the body of the Lord” is to live out the unity that’s an inherent characteristic of that body, the church.

We need to be united when we take the Lord’s Supper, but that unity won’t survive if its just a once-a-week event. Unity in the body of Christ needs to exist more than just on Sundays. To be real and thriving, Christian unity requires daily intentionality as we live together in meaningful relationships through which God transforms us; and those relationships must stretch beyond our “comfort zones” and across divisions and differences (11:18-19).

(Day 334: First Corinthians 9-11)

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In yesterday’s post about the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist or communion), I observed that the event reframes our relationships. Today’s reading sheds more light on this little meal with big meaning.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he encounters a couple of his followers on the road to Emmaus, walks with them, and engages them in a conversation. They don’t recognize him, and he doesn’t tell them who he is.

Then they eat. Jesus takes some bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to the two disciples. Then their eyes are opened; they recognize him and ask each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

In the breaking of bread (in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, communion), we recognize Jesus. Through that special event, God opens our eyes and empowers us to see Jesus differently, to see each other differently.

(Day 306: Luke 23-24)

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For about two millennia Jesus-followers have shared a common experience. Some call it the Lord’s Supper. Others call it communion. Still another name for it is Eucharist. Whatever you call it, it’s a precious event that remembers and reenacts the story of Jesus’ last supper with his closest followers shortly before his crucifixion.

It’s a little meal, usually consisting of small crackers or pieces of bread and tiny portions of wine or grape juice. It’s a little meal with a big meaning. It reminds us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it reminds us of his promised return.

It also reframes our identity as his followers. It reminds us of how he wants us to live.

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

(Day 305: Luke 21-22)

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JD Morris blogged some reflections on Genesis and Exodus today.

“Anytime God would do something for the Israelites, he would have them pick a special way to mark the event so that they would never forget.”

“It seems to me that God finds it very important for us to mark special occurrences in our life that remind us of him.”

We see this in Leviticus 23. Various events in the life of ancient Israel remind people of who they are, whose they are, what God has done for them, and how they should respond.

JD mentions communion (Lord’s Supper, Eucharist). What other events remind us of God’s goodness and calling on our lives?

You can reply here on my blog or on JD’s blog or, even better, on both.

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We enjoyed another church softball game Saturday afternoon. Church league softball is rather popular around here, but we don’t have a church league team. We just get together once in a while to play, and we invite friends to join us. It’s good fellowship, and it’s a non-threatening, casual way for friends to get to know the church… and for us to get to know them. Of course, it’s decent exercise, too.

This time, a church league team from another church was arriving about the same time we got there. They were planning to just practice on their own, and we invited them to join our game. They welcomed the rare chance for a scrimmage. They had only 8 players, and we had 12, so we let them use a couple of ours. The game was a lot of fun, even if my team lost big time!

Toward the end of the game, with my team scoreless and down by 8 runs, I was playing second base when a batter hit a grounder my way. I was having a conversation with a teammate, and the ball scooted right past me into center field. Another teammate yelled, “Steven, what are you doing?!”

Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention–not just in softball, but in all of life.

I used this story to prepare us for the Lord’s Supper yesterday morning, and I encouraged us to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and the ministry we, as his body, are to be about in this world.

My prayer today is that God will grant you the ability and desire to stay focused on important things–in softball and beyond.

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Here is what I plan to say before the Lord’s Supper this morning…

If you were to browse some of the contemporary nonfiction book titles most popular among my generation of Christians, you would discover a theme. Hear two examples:

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

I Like Jesus But Not the Church: Following Jesus Without Following Organized Religion

Then add this sermon series from a church in Santa Cruz, California: “Don’t Be a ‘Christian’ – Exchanging Religion for the Mission of God.”

Soon you can discover something profound: Many of us younger Christians don’t like the church. We “like Jesus but not the church.” We want to follow the compassionate teacher and miracle-worker who showed us what a godly spiritual life looks like, but we are fed up with the hypocrisy and bureaucracy that we find in institutionalized religious systems. Less-than-ideal church experiences have hurt many of us and left us longing for something else which we often cannot name, as illustrated in another recent book title: Searching for God Knows What.

And this common experience of our younger generations could explain at least part of the reason that movies like The Da Vinci Code and plays like The Last Days of Judas Iscariot speak to us in such deep and meaningful ways. We are longing for spiritual experiences that are genuine, honest, and true.

And many of us have suffered marginalization in the church because of our searches for authenticity.

I have.

And many of us end up leaving the church altogether or starting new churches filled with people like us.

I have not.

Why? Because I like Jesus and the church. Because the church is the body whose head I want to follow and in some sense become. Because I know that people—even people in the church—are imperfect and will always be limited in their understanding and practice of the heart and message of Jesus. Because I know that leaving the church will not help the church become a truer representation of its founder and guide. And because I admit that my youthful spiritual pursuits and theological explorations, while healthy and helpful, are unhealthy and unhelpful without the experience and wisdom of older Christians with whom we think we disagree. My primary practical personal guideline for ministry leadership is this: The health and unity of the church is always more important than any opinion or belief that I might have as an individual.

Jesus expects his people to follow him together, not as renegade individuals. It’s OK for us to disagree. It’s good for us to challenge each other. But all of this questioning and searching is best done in community. We are brothers and sisters in a family of faith, and there’s no other way to follow Jesus.

That is why I like Jesus and the church.

So look around you. Make eye contact with the person to you right and the person to your left. Look in front of you and behind you. See the people. We’re family.

We’re a family that embraces the outcasts and accepts the marginalized. We are a family that God seeks to unite despite our differences. We are a family that comes together, even with our frustrations and hurts, to worship the God who gave His Son so that we could experience and proclaim spiritual healing.

Now we celebrate that healing sacrifice as a family of faith, a body of believers. We join with each other, with all our differences, with all our hurts, with all our frustrations and confusions. Together, we commune with our God.

Let’s pray:

God, thank you for your Son who gave up Heaven and lived as one of us and died on the cross and rose from the grave to heal our brokenness. As we break bread together, we remember his body on the cross, and we accept our calling to be his body here and now. In his name we pray. Amen.

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