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Do We De-value the Lord’s Supper?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (MSG) 

52  Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53  Jesus replied to them: In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. 55  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. John 6:52-56 (NJB)

“Don’t recoil: your life is going to be a soothing of suffering. This is why you are a disciple of the Master!”  (1)

“When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: ‘May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.’ These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?”  (2)

When I started writing this blog this morning, I was thinking about the chapel service I led last night for a bunch of seminarians.  Great guys, who for the last three weeks I have been privileged to watch engaged in worship, To engage in worship with for a short period of time.  Last night, I had the greatest honor, as I fed them the body of Christ, as another pastor gave them the cup of blessing.

The reaction of some was gratefulness, thanks, rejoicing… comments I overheard talked about how they felt more united to each other.  That’s cool.

It’s one of the reasons for this blog….those Bible verses above, make it clear – this isn’t just  ritual, it is a communion, a time to give thanks, a time to realize the presence of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, given and shed for us, that we may live!

This morning, instead of opening the Furrow, (the devotional book I am reading) for some reason I opened the Way.  (Both are written by the same guy, St Josemaria Escriva)   The two quotes are from the introduction and the forward, They hit me even harder with the necessity of our people to regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

The first is that we encounter much suffering.  In the last two weeks, not only have I seen it in the eyes of my friends, my parishioners, but I have seen it as well in the hearts of my brothers who shepherd God’s people, who feed them the Body and Blood of Christ.  Severe pain, caused by hard transitions.  Some are forced, some are taken on because they knew it was time, even though the pain is excruciating.  (Including the pain of those who second guess and play armchair quarterback)   We are called to soothe each others wounds, and that is critical in our actions, in our life.

And the best place for dealing with such suffering is on our knees, receiving the Body of Christ. drinking from His fount, reveling in His cleansing presence in our very bodies, in our very lives.  For us who are called to soothe suffering and for those who are suffering, this time is precious, it shouldn’t be rushed, it becomes a time of peace.

For the other comment comes into play.  Seek Christ, Find Christ, Love Christ.  For He is seeking you indeed, but here at the altar, you find him.  You know His love, you turn and love in turn.

We devalue this precious time with God in so many ways.  When we think it only worth a twice a month offering.  When we fail to find ourselves united together with Christ, when we fail to work to see the entire Church able to participate in it together.  When we refuse to let what we believe call us to the altar, instead maintaining it must be the name on our church that determines who is worthy.  When we fail to point out the healing that occurs, the relationships mended, the life given.  We devalue it when we reduce our appreciation of it to what we can observe, when we evaluate the celebration and the bread an from a rational, logical, scientific position.  When we fail to recognize the Body and Blood of Christ  given and shared with us, for us.  When we fail to see the Body of Christ, all those whom it was given for.

This time is precious, it is ordained by God.  That alone should be enough for us… but there is so much more…..

Come my friends, you are invited to the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…. Let us rejoice and go to the house of the Lord!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 72). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 111-113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Church, Discipleship, and “No pain, no gain”

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

10  For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:10-11 (NLT)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning.  (1)

This morning I went to work out.  I still am sore from my last work out, still moving slowly.

Instinctively, I wanted to skip this workout, to wait until I feel better, till the pain subsides, til I am no longer stiff, and can move freely.  Which is, of course, exactly the wrong thing to do.

The pain is a sign of progress, the soreness is not a bad thing.  That’s why coaches talk about “no pain, no gain.”

So why do we think our walk with God is any different?

A few days ago – a friend put a post up on FB talking about how one should never, ever use the Bible to cause pain. The picture was of three men bashing a fourth man nearly to death, with Bibles in their hands. What is interesting is that the meme and the words that accompanied it were as confrontational and divisive as what was being done.  It sought to use the bible to bash those who would confront sin.  Similarly, there has been of posts and emails about the recent World Vision decision, and counter decision.  One of my favorite writers wrote saying it is not right to condemn the sins that we hyper-focus on, then he goes and condemns those who…. yeah…. are guilty (in his opinion) of the very sin he has spent most of his ministry confronting.

Which brings me to the question of this blog.

Does the church, and those who are its shepherds, have a duty to disciple people?  What if that discipline will hurt?  Do we have the responsibility to still bring the issues to the surface, to confront the sin, so that healing can take place?  That the people can be free of its oppression?  What if the sin is simply not forgiving the sins committed against them?

There is a need to do all things in love, but that love can require us to do things that can be painful, that can cause heartache, for such is often required,  Even so, causing that pain is a daunting and scary proposition. No matter what the sin is, no matter who the person is,  For it is not loving, to refuse to disciple someone, because it might hurt.

It is just like working out, where parts of our body need to be broken down, in order to create healthy muscle. That which separates us from God, has to have grace applied to it.  The behaviors and thoughts that are not of Christ, have to be nailed to the cross with Christ.  And those who love us, our family of God, have to know that we are willing to willing to be challenged, willing to hurt, to be sore.  Willing to let God bring healing into our lives, and confront the darkness that clings to us, which we sometimes want to cling to as well.

Are you willing to suffer, that you may know God’s grace all the more clearly?  Are you willing to suffer, that someone else will?

That’s not the question to ask..really, for it puts the emphasis on us, when the work of cleansing us from sin is already accomplished, in Christ.

The question is, do we desire the peace God has prepared for us to dwell in, as we dwell in Christ?

Lord – have mercy on us sinners…….

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You must be a Theophilus (Loved/r of God before being a Theologian

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 2  I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (TEV)

7  The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. 8  Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9  and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousnessPhilippians 3:7-9 (MSG) 

“You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”” (1)

For the last year or so, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school, to get a doctoral degree.  I’ve thought about which degree to get, for there are a number of fields that interest me – from worship, to sociology, to counseling, to homiletics and other pragmatic areas of ministry.  Yesterday I went back to where it all started, 30 years ago this fall, as I entered a “non-denom” Bible College – in a very accidental “God-thing” type moment.

Combine with that preparing to preach this weekend – “Trinity Sunday” we call it, a day to meditate upon how God has revealed Himself to us, as three distinct, yet …..One.  One of the greatest, most complicated theological doctrines there is, and yet, still so far out of ability to comprehend. ( Read the Athanasian Creed – an incredibly beautiful explanation of God, yet each phrase, raises more questions, leaves us more in awe.  And for a theologian, albeit an amateur one, (as all pastors are – as serving others takes precedence…always… over such deep thoguhts) I love to just sit back and plumb the depths of the minds who wrote far more comprehensively than I can think.

But then I come to St. Paul – a man who was a first rate theologian in his day, prior to His conversion, who wrote the quotes above.   It doesn’t matter how much I know, I’ve got to realize I am loved, I have to understand why Paul so desired to be embraced by Christ, why everything else took a back seat to knowing, not the details.

Which is where Theophilus – the person Luke writes his gospel for comes in.  The name in Greek is Loved by God/Lover of God. But it is that relationship that matters, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed that we are the beloved, that we never walk alone, that we have been cleansed and healed and are loved.   It is starting from there, realizing the miracles our being justified and sanctified are only to deliver us, the children of the Father, the ones Jesus calls His friends, the ones who are the Home of the Holy Spirit.  We must be Theophilus, before we ever become Theologians..

English: Gergeti Trinity Church cross relief

English: Gergeti Trinity Church cross relief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would never say to not study theology, but first, come to know God, as St Josemaria says – get acquainted with Him in prayer.  Talk to Him – about everything and anything.  Listen to Him, hear Him tell you of His love, of His mercy, of His grace.  That is what matters, in a way, it is ALL that matters….. for knowledge even all the data we can generate about Trinity – without that love… is nothing….empty…worthless.

I pray for you  (and ask you to pray for me, as the apostle Paul did for the people of Ephesus…

 14  For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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