Thursday, October 20, 2016

ONE BREAD, ONE BODY, ONE TABLE

WORLD WIDE COMMUNION SUNDAY

               Recently our minister reminded us in his sermon of the prayer that Jesus made for his disciples.  On the night that he was betrayed Jesus prayed that all of his disciples, those present and those to come in the future, “may be one, as You, Father, are in me and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).

               Jesus went on to give his disciples a symbol of their unity in Him, the Lord’s Supper.  The apostle Paul realized that the Lord’s Supper symbolized unity and wrote to a badly divided church at Corinth these words:  “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:15-16).  Yes, we have one Lord, one faith, one bread, and we are one body.

               It is particularly appropriate that we should celebrate oneness today in the Lord’s Supper because this is World Wide Communion Sunday.  All over the world today Christians and churches of every kind are participating in this symbol of unity.  Let me share with you the words of one such participant.  Here is a communion meditation by Mordicai Chikwanda of Zimbabwe’

               When Jesus was with his disciples for a final meal, he said that one of them would betray him.  He said it would be the one who dipped bread in his dish.  The disciples began to question him, asking one after another, “Is it I?”

               When we come and sit at the same table, there are essentials that we assume we have in common.  Essentials like a belief in one Lord and one faith and one hope.  These essentials form the basis of our fellowship.  When I think of this kid of table, I cannot imagine that any division would exist there.  I cannot imagine a betrayer being among us.  Instead, my image of such a table is one where we all belong to each other, where we wish one another well, and where we genuinely value oneness.

               I hope that the original disciples of Jesus had the same understanding.  I believe that is why they became so upset when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him.  Jesus was saying to that person that he was violating the meaning of the Table.  The betrayer did not understand the essentials of oneness and so did not really understand the Table.

               He concluded by saying: As we come together at the Lord’s Table, it is an expression of the unity that exists among us.  Participation at the Table makes the unity come to life.  And the oneness we share becomes real.*

               As one body may we now join in the confession of our one faith.









*One Church.  A Bicentennial Celebration of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address.  Glenn Thomas Carson, Douglas A Foster, & Clinton J Holloway, editors.  Abilene; Leafwood, 2008.  P 117.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A FATHER'S EXPECTATIONS: A Meditation for Father's Day


               When a son or daughter is born it’s OK for father to dream a little, to dream of playing catch, going fishing, watching his child win a race or sing with a rich, pleasing voice, and eventually become a great writer, lawyer, doctor, or (heaven forbid) a politician.  Often the dreams turn into expectations, which can be either good or bad.  Bad if they are unrealistic or pushed in demanding, unloving ways.  Good if they come with love, support, and a growing freedom.

               I don’t know if my father dreamed of anything special when I was born but as I grew up I learned of his expectations.  I learned that he expected me to do what I was told and if given a chore to do it right.  I learned that there could be unpleasant consequences when I did the wrong thing.  He didn’t say a lot.  In fact, his expectations were communicated by his behavior – he worked hard, he was honest, he enjoyed many friends, he supported his family, and served Christ and his church faithfully.  And this is what he wanted for his children.  Thinking about this I wondered, what would Dad have said if I had asked him, just what do you expect of me in life?

               And then, as I thought about this meditation for Father’s day I began to imagine God the Father having a similar conversation with his Son, Jesus.  God speaks to his son: “Jesus, it appears that mankind has made a mess of everything and there’s no way they can set things right.  They have totally alienated me by their hatred and violence, their greed and lust, their divisions and selfishness.  I want you to go to them, as one of them, show them how a human being should live.  Then I expect you to take upon yourself the guilt of their sin and make atonement for them.  It will not be easy.  You will suffer and die but through it all I expect you to love them and forgive them.”

               If Jesus had not been one with the Father such expectations might have crippled him.  It certainly would overwhelm any of us.  But as 2 Cor 5:19-21 says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

               Jesus did what God expected.  Now our heavenly father expects something of us, his children.  As Paul said, we have a ministry, a word of reconciliation, we are ambassadors saying to the world, “Be reconciled to God.”  And, because we are his children, his family, be reconciled to each other.

              


                 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

HER FAITHFUL EXAMPLE

           Its Mother's Day, 2016.  As Mother’s Day approached I thought of my mother.  Partly because it was Mother’s Day but also because it was just two years ago this Tuesday she died after almost reaching 105 years of age.  When I learned that I would do communion on this Mother’s day I thought of her example.  She taught Sunday School, played the piano, cooked, cleaned and more throughout a life of faithful service.  Dad was an elder and I have memories of seeing him at the Lord’s Table and her at the piano at the same time

             We lived in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, long before it all became one big city.  My grandparents, her parents, lived in Forest Grove and we would visit them occasionally on a Sunday.  There were no freeways.  We had to go through Sellwood, Tigard, Beaverton, and Hillsboro and it took a while so we needed to get away as early as possible.  Mom and Dad had responsibilities during Sunday School so we had to wait until church time to leave.  But we never left before communion.  We had an outstanding preacher and they hated to miss his sermons, but they did.  However, they would not leave before taking communion.

             They never explained to us kids why they did this.  It was years later as I studied the significance of the Lord’s Supper that this memory surfaced and I began to understand their action.  As a child I did not understand a lot of it but their actions impressed upon me the idea that there was something very important about the Lord’s Supper.  They could miss a good sermon, but they would not miss taking communion.

             My mother and father’s action demonstrated a faith in keeping with those of the earliest disciples that we read about in Acts 2:42, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  And also the words of Heb 10: “Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh, … let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering … And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

             I am thankful for her, and my father’s, faithful example.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

REMEMBER THE BENEFITS


             It can be self-serving but in most cases it is quite natural to ask “What’s in it for me?” when someone asks us to do something.  Why should I?  How will it benefit me?  Or, if we look for a new job, we want one that not only pays a decent wage but also has benefits.  More than ever before in this economy, benefits are important to us.

             In a similar way it is natural for us to ask why should I be a follower of Christ?  Why should I believe in God?  How does it benefit me?  The Psalmist has an answer for us in Psalm 103.  In the first five verses he lists five specific benefits.  He lived long before Jesus died on the cross on our behalf but what he says is a great summary of the benefits that we have in Christ.  Here is what he says:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
             and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
             And do not forget all his benefits—
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the Pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Who satisfies you with good as long as you live,
             So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

             Can you think of any greater benefits than those? 

·         ** Forgiveness for all sin.
·      ** Healing.
·      **Redemption from the pit of destruction.
·      **Being crowned, or as one version puts it, being surrounded by steadfast love and mercy.
·       **And being satisfied with good all of our lives, or as another version puts it, “who satisfies your years with good things.”


             Sounds like a good deal to me.  I like those benefits, and all of them are available by faith in Jesus Christ who loved us and gave his life for us.  Let us think of his great benefits as we remember him who said, “this bread is my body, given for you; this cup is the blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

Sunday, March 27, 2016

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DAY BEFORE

“It’s All About The Day Before”

            Some things are impossible to forget.  We all remember Sept 11, 2001 when hijacked planes brought down the Twin Towers in New York and struck the Pentagon in Washington D.C.  Another, United Flight 93, might have done even more damage if not for the heroic action of Todd Beamer and others who were on that flight.

            About five years later I heard David Beamer, Todd’s father, speak at the Emmanuel Christian Seminary banquet here in Eugene.  He spoke of how his son had “made it with man” as a highly successful software salesman.  On the day before 9/11 Todd and his wife were in Rome, ending a vacation he had won through his sales.

            They returned to Boston and he boarded Flight 93 to San Francisco, early on September 11.  After business in SF he planned to fly back to Boston that night, but as we know, he and all other passengers on the hijacked plane died that day.  We know his last words because he made contact by telephone with an operator, named Lisa.  Todd gave her a message for his wife, also named Lisa, said the Lord’s Prayer, and then was heard to say to others around him, “Are you ready?  Let’s roll.”  These were the last words that we heard him speak.

            On September 11, his father said, Todd died a Christian.  As he put it, “Todd had it made” with God as well as with man.  Then his father added this puzzling sentence: “It’s all about the day before.”  What did he mean, it’s all about the day before?  “You see,” he explained, “Todd had it made with God the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that .....” 

            It’s all about the day before.  We cannot wait until the crisis comes to establish our relationship with God and be ready for whatever comes.  Long before Todd Beamer and others like him, Jesus demonstrated this readiness, and this relationship, to an even greater degree.  His last words to his disciples, recorded in John 16:32-33, say it all:



The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered ... and you will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have said this to you so that in me you may have peace.  In the world you face persecution.  But take courage; I have conquered the world.

            He was not alone as he went to the cross; the Father was with him.  He could say, therefore, even as he faced death on the cross, “I have conquered the world.”  Jesus was ready when the crisis came because he was ready on the day before, and the day before that, and his resurrection proved that he had indeed, “conquered the world.”


            There is no better place for us to renew our relationship with God the Father and with Christ our Savior and be ready for whatever crisis may come than at the Table of the Lord.  Here we renew our covenant with him, receive the forgiveness of our sins, and refresh our faith.  Here we are one with him who conquered the world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

DISCONNECT AND RESET


               Jesus apparently found it necessary to get away and refocus, to disconnect with the world and reset his priorities.  In chapter one Mark describes a very busy and demanding day in Jesus’ life.  Then Mark 1:35 says, “In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, he went out and departed to a solitary place; and there he prayed.”

               Recently I had a problem with the DVR.  I wanted to delete a program but couldn’t get it done.  I tried several approaches but nothing helped.  In fact I went through all of the usual procedures twice.  Finally, I disconnected everything from the power.  After a short time I reconnected and hoped for the best   In some mysterious way the system reset itself and I was able to delete the program.

               All kinds of things can go wrong in our lives and often, try as we will, there is nothing we can do to set things right  That’s why we need to disconnect from the world from time to time come into the presence of God and allow the mysterious working of His Spirit to help us set things right.

               I was in a meeting recently where a friend told about a stressful visit back home in Illinois over the holidays.  A number of things were wrong in the family that she could do nothing about.  They had a long trip back home and needed to leave on Sunday but she said to her husband.  “I have to worship first.”  And so they waited until after church to leave.  She needed to disconnect and allow the mysterious working of the Spirit to do its work in her life as she came to the Table in worship.  It didn’t change the circumstances but it changed her and let her begin to set things right.


               I invite you to disconnect from the world right now, focus on our Lord Jesus Christ, listen to him say, “Do this In remembrance of me,” and let His Spirit do His work In your life.

Monday, February 29, 2016

OUR CONFESSION OF FAITH

             Two men are neighbors.  Both are good neighbors.  They are honest, family loving, hardworking, faithful, conscientious friends.  One is a Christian and the other is not.  Why?  What makes one a Christian?  Hopefully, Christians are characterized by good works, honesty, love for neighbor, and many other desirable qualities, but none of these provide the one essential mark that Identifies us a Christian.

               Is not the one mark simply the fact that we believe in and are committed to Jesus Christ and thus wear his name?  Jesus said in Matt 10:32, “Everyone who confesses me before others, I will also confess before my Father in heaven.”  We do this when we become a Christian and we do it every Sunday when we confess our faith at the communion table.

               The confession of faith we use is actually a composite of several that are found in the New Testament.  When we say it we are saying what people like Peter, Paul, and all of the earliest Christians said.  The four parts of our confession come from four places in the New Testament.

               Consider first, “JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.”  This is what Peter said in Matt 16:16 when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  They had been hoping for the Messiah, the Christ, for centuries and Peter comes to the remarkable conclusion that Jesus is the Christ and that He is the Son of God.

               Second, “AND MY PERSONAL LORD.”  This reflects the shortest and probably the earliest confession of faith in the NT: “Jesus is Lord.”  Paul says in 1 Cor 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  In the Roman context Caesar was Lord; in a world of slavery, the owner was Lord and master; among the Jews it was applied to God.  But now, believers in Jesus confess that he is Lord.

               Next we add: “AND SAVIOR.”  In Acts 4 Peter and John are arrested for preaching Christ.  After a night in jail they were brought before the highest and most powerful Jewish authorities who challenged them: “by what power or by what name have you done this?”  Peter’s answer included these words about Jesus:  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  It is no accident that the very name “Jesus” means “savior.”  And so we confess him as savior.

               We begin with: “I BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART.”  Should this be part of our confession?  Yes, Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

               What does it mean to believe “in your heart?”  Or “with the heart?”  The Bible consistently uses the word “heart” to signify the “whole inner self, the source of the inner life, thinking and feeling and volition” (Thurston, Bonnie, God Alone 18).  It means that I believe this so much that I am willing to invest all that I am, my very being in it. 

               This confession of faith is the essential mark that says to the world: I am a Christian.   Will you say it with me now?


I BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD AND MY PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR.