Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24 but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)
16 I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17 For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.” Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)
Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?
Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord
For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.
This is what we do, or what we try to do.
Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think. It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist. It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!
And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.
To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.
6 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)
There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him. All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear. Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it.
Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness.
That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin.
And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that.
Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God. We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)
It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace.
Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion. The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us.