Tag Archives: communion

Worry About Your Own Light

“When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.” (emphasis mine) John 21:21-22

There once were two churches in a rather small community. They were very similar in theology, ministry substance, worship style and polity. In many respects one couldn’t tell one church from the other. Both were effective in ministering to both their flocks and the community at-large. Even those who didn’t attend either or any church considered these churches as positive influences in the community. Many of the congregants were fast friends with congregants from the neighboring church. So close were they that it was common for them to “join communities of believers” for special holidays or a covered dish and Bible study.

In the course of time one of the churches required some repairs to their facility. The other church graciously offered the use of their building for services. The second church was so magnanimous that they unanimously voted to adjust their own service schedule to accommodate the displaced church’s gathering time.

All went well, so well in fact that impromptu discussions began regarding the churches joining permanently. Prayerful consensus grew and eventually the decision was made for the congregations to become one. None of the problems one would expect arose. The staffs merged seamlessly; worship teams joined in unity; ministries experienced a synergy not experienced as separate “bodies;” one building was renovated as a homeless shelter and soup kitchen while the other served as worship and education space. In fact, when it came to choosing a name for the newly formed congregation the choice was obvious, it was simply referred to as “The Church.” All went well beyond expectation…

It’s distressing how much time we spend preaching against what the other guy says instead of for what God says. We pay lip service to “preaching the what the Bible says,” but in reality, we spend much of our time preaching against what someone else says the Bible says. Sure, sure we need to make a distinction Biblical authority and false doctrine, but if Scripture really has the power that we claim that it has then it stands to reason that we simply state what it says and let the chips fall where they may. God has given us an intellect to expound on Scripture and for the hearers to receive what it says, but I think we waste a vast amount of time comparing what we believe to what someone else believes (I’m not speaking of defining the differences between, say, Christianity and Scientology, here. I’m talking about how venomous the discussion between worship styles or sacrament implementation has become.)

As an amateur radio operator (HAM) I regularly listen to police and fire department radio frequencies. Rarely does a week go by in our largely rural county that I don’t hear a dispatch for an attempted suicide. During the Christmas season it’s not uncommon to hear several “suicide calls” in a single day. I can only imagine the frequency of such calls in urban areas. In the “darkness” of our current culture people are routinely struggling with addictions, broken families, domestic violence, financial ruin, devastating illness.

Many of our churches are shining “The Light” in this darkness. In our ministry through Worship Concepts we’ve found that there are more churches with authentic, Scriptural ministries than many of us realize. I feel safe in saying that in every church that we have visited we have found at least one person who “gets it.” And when a light is shone in the darkness it’s pretty obvious that there’s a difference between the dark and the light. Have you ever had a flashlight shined in your eyes on a moonless light in the middle of the woods? Did anyone have to tell you that a light had been turned on? It may have been one solitary light, but it’s pretty obvious that a light is shining.

Our problem is that the distinctions that we make between one church’s light and another’s is often based on the color of the reflection rather than The Light itself. As I understand it, white light is actually a composite of all the colors combined. As a Christian, I want the light the that I reflect to be as pure and as white as possible. However, my individual light will never be pure white; only One has absolutely pure white light, in fact He is The Light of the World. All I can do is reflect Him as best I can, in spite of my colored view.

When I’m bumping my shins in the dark I don’t really care what color a light is. I just appreciate being able to see. Sure, everything might not be clear and maybe I would prefer bright noonday sunlight, but I’m still thankful for the light whether it’s incandescent, fluorescent or a candle. We are surrounded by entire cultures of hurting people desperately trying to find their way in the darkness. Does it really matter at the moment of their hurt that one church’s “color of light” baptizes by emersion and another’s “light” provides baptism with a few drops of water? While people are hurting and dying without the saving knowledge of Jesus as their savior, too many churches are busy discussing light gel colors.

It’s no small point that Paul refers to poorly reflected light as he wraps up an entire chapter devoted to love. Right now our love for a hurting world is distorted by the way we color The Light. One day we’re going to see clearly; we’re going to see clearly that my color was a little darker than I had thought and someone else’s color may have been a little clearer than I had allowed. What would happen if we worked a little harder to shine our light together rather than at each other? Would it be whiter, purer than the weak, ineffective flicker we’re shining now? Maybe, if we heeded Jesus words when He says (I paraphrase), “What’s his light to you? It’s none of your business. You shine the light I give you when and where I tell you.” In the vernacular of my kids, “I’m just saying.”

What happened to the two churches in our story?

All went well until the first time they were to observe communion together. It seems that some of the wording finally revealed a small crack in the foundation of the their cooperation. And it would have remained a small crack if they hadn’t allowed it to eventually become a chasm; a chasm neither of them could see for the darkness. You see, they took they’re lights off of the path God had laid out for them and redirected it on some small, insignificant words in their particular lectionary. They were words that both congregations believed were from the inerrant Word of God. Both churches could rightly claim that they were on strong Biblical standing for their position.

Unfortunately, arguments ensued, relationships were broken and an entire community lost effective ministries because an agreement could not be reached. Neither party would budge on the wording of The Lord’s Prayer to be said in the serving of communion. After much upheaval the churches parted ways with quite a bit of animosity over two words that mean essentially the same thing.

One church went back to their trespasses and the other back to their sins.

 

In Remembrance

“…I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:16

But, Jesus does eat it again. He does drink again from the fruit of the vine. He does them over and over againevery timeHis Body does.

The fulfillment of God’s kingdom came when Jesus became the sacrificial lamb, when He died on the cross for our sin. What Christians do now in communion is the fulfillment of The Passover. What the Passover started communion accomplishes each and every timeHis Bodyparticipates in it.

Caveat: as long as we participate in it asa healthybody.

Is there descension in the Body? “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there…and be reconciled to your brother.” Matt. 5:23,24

We don’t just participate in communion in remembrance of Jesus, we do it as Him. Not us personally, but as a body…His Body. If there is trouble between two parts or members of the body then something is wrong. Imagine the liver attacking the spleen. Or more realistically the immune system rejecting a new organ that was intended to make a body whole. The body is sick. In the body of Christ when one part attacks another it means that Jesus is sick (it sounds pretty severe to say that Jesus is sick, doesn’t it?)

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my addiction to the TV show “House” it is that when there’s an infection in the body “all hell breaks loose”. The entire system suffers. Even healthy organs are affected. And the breakdown only gets worse until it is reconciled. White blood cells may defeat the problem internally, medicine might cure a chemical imbalance, cancer cells might need to be removed…whatever the problem is it must be reconciled to health or inevitably the result is death.

When we take communion are we doing it as Christ’s healthy body? Is He breaking bread and drinking from the cup through us in fulfillment of His kingdom? Or is our hardheartedness, unforgiveness or disobediancea sickness, a malignant cancer in His body?

Imagine the joy Jesus must feel when His healthy body takes communion. How His aching stomach must be satisfied and His parched throatrelieved whenHebreaks bread and drinks from the cup because we do it in rememberance of Him. We are Him! We’re His body!