Thinking Out Loud

April 4, 2014

Communion Service: Just Me and God

Church Established AD 33

Church Established 33 AD

A variation on this story appeared yesterday at Christianity 201.

So last weekend our friend Brenda — the one who wrote the short poem that’s been in the sidebar of this blog for the past three weeks — took us church hopping.  It was a storefront church in the central business area of a smallish town.

There, we participated in a most unusual communion service. The elements — the bread and juice — were placed on a table in a self-serve style. Nothing unusual so far, right? But to get to them you walked behind a curtain, single file, one at a time. Suddenly, you were in there, all alone, just you and God.

Others were waiting and they joked ahead of time that they’d ‘tie a rope to your feet and pull you out if you stay too long,’ but you had these brief seconds to enter into the ‘Holy of Holies’ and express to God in a whispered prayer whatever you would say to Him, or listen to whatever He would say to you. But you did have those few seconds, and I found it rather awe-inspiring.

It’s a communion or Eucharist that I will never forget.

It brought home the idea that although we worship corporately at weekend services, ultimately, our relationship with God is individual. We’re not saved, or counted among God’s people because of what our church does collectively, but because of our personal response to God.  Consider the difference between these two phrases:

  • ‘We had communion at church this Sunday’   or
  • ‘While in the service today, I communed with God’

That got me thinking about the broader aspects of making our experience(s) with God more individual.

I think that sometimes people are critical of the phrases “accepted Christ” and “personal Savior,” when the problem can be solved with a rearrangement of one or two words. Consider the difference between:

  • ‘I accepted Christ as my personal Savior’   and
  • ‘I personally acknowledged Christ as Savior’

But then, the personal has to go beyond the initial conversion experience. It’s got to stay personal. Consider phrases like:

  • ‘We’re now part of local congregation’
  • ‘I’ve joined a weekly small group Bible study’

Each implies the idea of assimilating into the larger body, and that’s right and good, but total assimilation would mean the loss of personal identity. (We once visited a church that had someone listed among the staff as ‘Minister of Assimilation’ or maybe it was ‘Pastor of Assimilation. Seriously.)

Your relationship to Christ cannot be expressed in terms of a relationship to a Church or study group; neither can it be defined in terms of your place in a biological family.

Rather than concentrating on the body you are part of, these more personal statements on for size; say them out loud if necessary; and see if they fit you:

  • ‘I am growing in my understanding of the ways of God’
  • ‘I am more fully aware of God’s presence in my life’
  • ‘I am increasingly making decisions subject to God’s desires’
  • ‘My appreciation for what Jesus did is a daily factor in my life’
  • ‘I am so thankful for God’s grace’

These I/My statements — and others like them you can add in the comments — should be at the core of our spiritual identity, not statements like:

  • ‘I’m really enjoying the church I’m attending’ or
  • ‘My pastor is absolutely amazing’   or
  • ‘Our lives changed when we joined this church’

Maybe your pastor is amazing, but he will have to give his own account to God, and you will have to give yours. Maybe all your life you’ve wanted to be part of something larger, but again, your spiritual life can’t be defined in terms of membership in a group.

Or maybe you need your own personal ‘Holy of Holies’ experience to remind you that it’s God that’s amazing.

II Cor. 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (ESV)

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. (NLT)

Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (NIV)

May 17, 2013

Exploiting Communion to Make a Political Statement

Rainbow Communion Bread

I believe my good-better-best approach to the whole gay debate is much healthier response to the issue of Christians and homosexuality than the hardline, binary right-and-wrong approach that’s more prevalent.   In that respect, I think the Christian gay community have a better ally than this blog than I might get credit for; though some progressive Christians will consider me conservative nonetheless.

But the decision by Jay Bakker to create a rainbow themed communion bread on the occasion of the opening of his church’s new location in Minnesota clearly crosses a line — for reasons I get into below — though not everybody feels that way.   For example, if you don’t know the story, Tony Jones describes it:

Last night, Courtney and I were on hand to help our dear friend, Jay Bakker, launch the new Minneapolis site of Revolution Church.  You can hear Jay’s inaugural sermon, “Vulgar Grace Throws the First Stone.”

The photo above is a detail shot by Courtney of the rainbow communion bread that we contributed to the service. We baked that loaf — the same loaf that Courtney baked with our friends Rachel and Rachet for our (sacramental) wedding — in support of marriage equality. Jay has been an outspoken proponent of marriage equality and has performed several same-sex weddings. When he broke the bread last night, Jay told us to remember not just the broken body of Jesus, but also the broken bodies and spirits of many GLBT persons who have been persecuted for their non-heterosexuality.

At the blog Juicy Ecumenism (yes, that’s its name) we read another account:

Complementing the rainbow bread, Bakker spoke on grace and inclusion, focusing on St. Paul, who “gets grace the most,” as he was a ruthless persecutor of Christians before his conversion. “The Bible is full of unperfect [sic] people” and it was “murderers and traitors … literally starting a faith, being part of a faith and that’s what I would call the good news,” Bakker said. He added that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi also “Really got the idea of what inclusion was meant to be, what loving your enemy was meant to be, what loving your neighbor.”

At Huffington Post:

Bakker reports that the rainbow communion has gotten people questioning his orthodoxy. He responds that “I don’t think Jesus is insecure about sharing communion with others, including gay folks who suffered. So many lives have been lost because of what Christians say and preach. Heterosexisim and homophobia are deadly.”

I don’t want to give a lot of space to this issue. I know this is an issue about which Bakker and Jones and many others are truly passionate.

However when you are also remembering the plight of people in the LGBT community when you are supposed to be remembering the death of Jesus, then you are creating a mixed meaning to the communion service, and making the remembrance of Christ’s death share the stage with some contemporary social issue.

But there is also the issue of altering the symbol used in the sacrament. True, Jesus lived in a world without food coloring, but we have to believe that when the scriptures say “He took bread and brake it;” we are looking at bread that free and clear of any additional symbolism, references, advertising or fortune cookie message. The formula is: The bread = Christ’s body, broken for you. There is no room here to add anything or manipulate this Eucharistic formula.

And why stop at rainbow coloring? There are other “ribbon” colors. Shall we observe a particularly colored bread on behalf of those who suffered child abuse or are fighting cancer? 

No.  The broken body of Jesus Christ is for the forgiveness of sin. And woe to anyone (see Rev. 22) who adds anything to that.

February 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Praise Him In The Hallway

  • Napkin Thelogy: If you can communicate it better with a quick drawing, why not?
  • Just like universities agree to honor some of each others credit courses, four Reformed denominations and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed to honor each others infant baptisms. (For some this confirms that the CRC denomination is not evangelical.)
  • Here’s how some churches look at the issue of copyrights involving music or materials. This example is not a good example, though. 
  • Church planters sometimes are often guilty of reacting to existing trends or conversely, copying existing trends. There are three other factors that can motivate planters, and certain risks and dangers in all five types.
  • When you release a dove ceremonially, it’s not supposed to be attacked by seagulls.
  • Should communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper) be done with a common cup or several cups? Actually, that’s not the issue; the real reason I posted this is because it’s a great example of taking Bible study notes.
  • Or this question: Should Churches shift weekend service times to accommodate the Super Bowl game? Perry Noble’s church did.
  • Last week Rachel Held Evans linked to a trio of articles with the common theme, Do Christians idolize virginity? One of the recommended articles is being recommended here as well; the story of a girl who believed that, in her words, I am Damaged Goods.
  • For my local readers who enjoy Robin Mark’s annual visits here each summer, here’s the best version of the John Wesley song I can find. (YouTube audio.) Watched it three times on Saturday.
  • Michael Belote has a very lengthy, heartfelt article on dieting that he then uses as springboard for looking at our spiritual diet. There are some great principles here including this question: Am I using the right fuel in the right amounts? This is a five-star blog post!
  • We’re a bit late arriving at this one, but this February list transcends time. Here are 28 ways to show gratitude that are good anytime. 
  • Wanna start a church in Orange County, California? You’d be in good company, and there are currently 17 churches for sale.
  • A New Jersey pilot credits her faith in God for her and her passenger surviving a crash in the Hudson River.
  • When Michael Hyatt spoke to real estate professionals about social media, he discovered they didn’t know what to post to Twitter or Facebook. Here are his ten suggestions
  • Canadian hockey player Mike Fisher, now with the Nashville Predators, made Brad Lomenick‘s young influencers list for January. Here’s his testimony and a link to his Zondervan-published biography.
  • The Calvinists gotta hate this song; but probably the Arminians are glad they have enough free will to turn off bad church music. Click for The Free Will Song.
  • For something more contemporary… I’ve never been to the blimeycow YouTube channel before, but this take on five-minute instant worship songs, is far too cynical.
  • …Click the images for sourcing from Clark Bunch’s blog (top) and Close to Home (below)…Feel free to add your favorite recent Christian blog links this week in the comments…

Close to Home  02 05 13

March 28, 2012

Wednesday Link List

  • Okay, so the guy who sold you the insurance coverage that looks after your pet dog or cat after the rapture wasn’t actually planning on doing anything after you vacated the planet.  Bart Centre, who lives in New Hampshire, came clean after the state Insurance Department delivered a subpoena because he appeared to be engaged in “unauthorized business of insurance” through his Eternal Earth-Bound Pets business. Just don’t tell Fido and Fluffy.
  • Equally ridiculous is the story where a Pentecostal church staged a fake raid on its youth group — to illustrate the conditions faced by persecuted church people  in the third world — and now face felony charges.  Be sure to catch the video where the pastor states he would do it again.
  • Jamie Wright may call herself “the very worst missionary;” but when it comes to the liabilities of short term mission projects, she really gets it. The “Hugs for Jesus” people who showed up in her part of the world had no clue what to do if anyone wanted follow-up. In baseball, a connection of bat and ball without follow-through is called a ‘bunt.’ Short term missionaries are bunting where they could be hitting home runs.
  • Not a Christian website, but does it count if a Christian told me about it?  Just kidding; anyway, enjoy Ten Lessons Parents Could Learn from the Pilgrims at NetNanny.
  • Got 36 minutes to hear a great sermon? I’ve dropped by Joe Boyd’s blog before but never heard him preach; but the idea of Jesus being blind got me curious. When was Jesus ever blind; literally or figuratively? This was videoed while he guested at another church, and his style is somewhat laid back but the content is excellent.
  • Your Sunday morning service was a communion service.  And after that there was a fellowship lunch.  Which one was closer to being the real sacrament?  Before you get nervous about that question, read what Deacon Hall has to say.
  • At age 103, Rev. Grover C. Simpson, pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Marked Tree, Arkansas is thinking it might be time to consider retirement. Well, closer to 103½ actually.
  • Brandon Hatmaker on serving the poor: “I’d consider it more a success if I spent an hour with a homeless guy and he never mentioned church, what he does wrong, or what he doesn’t do right. I know, sounds weird. But, I’d rather him talk about his story, his family, what happened that landed him on the streets. That would be an indicator to me that he’s not performing for me. And that maybe, just maybe, I really cared about his story. And that just possibly, my God might care as well.” Read more.
  • The post at Rightly Dividing is really short, but the comments add a lot of value to the question: Does anyone die “prematurely?” Does anyone die “before their time?”
  • Occam’s razor is not the latest personal care product for men. Maybe this will help. Anyway, at Glenn Peoples blog, loved this line: “…that this was one of those instances where a scientist had gone crashing headlong through a philosophical issue and made a bit of a hash of it.”
  • Two of the cathedrals destroyed in New Zealand’s earthquake may not have survived structurally, but according to one writer, “Increasingly, they had morphed into tourist temples…They were increasingly irrelevant to ordinary Cantabrians as vital centres of worship.”
  • As if we didn’t exhaust this topic yesterday, there’s always the website devoted to the forthcoming movie, Jesus Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex. The movie which just raise $32K in its Kickstarter campaign, will be “a feature-length documentary examining the teachings of the evangelical church on sex and exploring the undercurrent of idealism that leaves many lay members feeling frustrated and confused.”
  • Speaking of edgy movies, some people have seen the Blue Like Jazz movie already and have posted reviews; a lengthy review by Mike Cosper and a shorter one by Tiffany Owens at World Magazine.
  • And speaking of sex, Joy Eggerichs is the daughter of Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs who wrote the huge marriage book, Love and Respect. She blogs at Love And Respect Now, and offers this explanation as to why a rapidly growing number of women are watching porn.
  • No specific link, but if you head over to Timmy Brister’s blog, you should be able to catch the letter “Z” as he concludes his “Gospel Alphabet” series.
  • In Tennessee, when they say “community hymn sing,” it involves Michael W. Smith, Randy Travis, Committed, Marcia Ware, a 150-voice choir and full symphony orchestra. But you get to sing along with the projected lyrics.
  • If you go to Andy Stanley’s church, North Point Community, you know the worship time resembles a rock concert; hence a warning in your church bulletin: “This service contains flashing lights which may cause problems for people with photosensitive epilepsy.”  (Warning from me: .pdf file takes awhile to load.)
  • Can’t get enough links? There’s always Brian D.’s blog.
  • Today’s closing cartoon-type-thing is from Naked Pastor. David’s blog may seem irreverent at times, but tell me this is any different from what’s going on in many of the Psalms.

 

September 7, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Another collection of things my web history says I visited this week:

  • The Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit simulcast happens for Canada September 29th to 30th with the rebroadcast of  speakers from the U.S. event plus Canadians Tim Schroeder and Reginald Bibby. 
  • Clergy, or people doing the work of clergy, are entitled to IRS tax breaks in the United States including a generous housing allowance. But this doesn’t get applied in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention that don’t offer ordination or equivalent credentialing.  So as applied by Baptists the housing allowance becomes a sexist issue.
  • And speaking of tax issues, is this another case of the head of a charity being overpaid? I refer to the case of lawyer Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
  • New blog of the week — except it’s over a year old — is More Christ by K.W. Leslie where you’ll find some serious devotional articles, but, inexplicably, also a Jesus Junk page where you can purchase the t-shirt at right.
  • With the school year in full swing, Jon Acuff asks, When should you let your kids use Facebook?  130+ comments and counting.
  • Like most of you, I always keep a Salvation Army Captain or two on speed dial, and mine also happens to blog at Il Capitano Inquisitore. This week, he’s dealing with the contrast between the S.A.’s statement on gay and lesbian issues, and what it doesn’t say about when those same ‘welcomed’ people want to step into a leadership role. He tells me the comments pale in comparison to the off-the-blog mail…
  • Juanita Bynum updates Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctive theology by introducing typing in tongues on her Facebook page.  To which I say: fsdgklhs ddtowyet scprnap.
  • “…The man told me in the letter that he had seethed in a quiet fury and then picked up his Bible and walked out…”  Russell D. Moore tackles the thorny issue of “closed communion” or “fencing the communion table” in a piece at Touchstone appropriately titled, Table Manners.
  • Meanwhile, back at his own blog, Moore looks at the internet debates between people of different denominational and doctrinal (D&D) stripes as not much different than the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) club debates of his high school.  “The Dungeons and Dragons clubs came to mind because those guys, at least in my junior high school, seemed to be obsessed with something that seemed to have no relevance at all to their lives, or to anyone else’s. But D&D became their identity.” Read more, or rather, read Moore.
  • Glen Scrivener has written a poem that takes three minutes to read and contains 106 phrases that the King James Bible introduced into the language. He calls it a King James-themed something or other. (It may turn up here in full on a slow day, but you can read it now!) It’s also a video which you can watch here, or literally watch it here in the comments section.
  • Shawn Stutz offers his rant about Bible Gateway’s ‘sanctified’ version of Farmville.
  • Are you ready for “The Great Atomic Power?”  That’s the theme of a bluegrass/country song by the Louvin Brothers.  But as Darrell at SFL informed me, Ira Louvin’s story is a little checkered.
  • This one stretches all the way back to late July, but I guess this really hot breaking Christian news story took a little longer to reach us here.
  • This week’s cartoon — in keeping with our green t-shirt theme — is from No Apologies Allowed, which describes itself as “Weekly apologetics cartoons and quotes for the faithful, the faithless, and the full-of-its.” The blog consists recently of responses to atheists and Mormons.

May 11, 2011

Wednesday Link List

How about changing the name to “Linkerama”?  Just kickin’ around some ideas.  Looks like the links lynx is back!

  • What is about church life that gives us so much material for everything from Christian satire sites to cartoons?  This one is from Tim Walburg at ToonFever.com aka Church and Family Cartoons:

November 17, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Probably the most mixed-up link list ever posted here.  If this is your first time; please check out last week’s!   And though I don’t have a specific link for it, today is the 40th anniversary of the live recording of the Elton John album, 11-17-70, which, at the very least, gives us a nice graphic.  (Note to U.S. readers: note it’s actually 17-11-70, the right way to do it.  Smallest to largest, get it?)

  • Starting in a different place this week, we go back to October’s Catalyst conference, where Craig Groeshel spoke on the generational tension that can exist in some churches, both large and small.  Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance summarized this well, and also has similar thumbnails of the other main conference speakers.
  • Julie Clawson fuses the Eucharist with a different interpretation (or explanation) of Jesus feeding the 5,000. “We were asked to share whatever we had with us–gum, granola bars, soft drinks, Goldfish, Altoids. The table overflowed with abundance, which we served to each other.”  Check it out at One Hand Clapping.
  • This was also linked at Christianity 201 on the weekend, but should be seen by more people, even though it’s written primarily to pastors.   Skye Jethani on the Ten Commandments of Scripture Interpretation.
  • This is a longer one, but it’s a must read.   On the weekend iMonk ran a classic from the late Michael Spencer on the Archie Bunker mentality.  “Archie loved an argument the way most people love dessert…” “I’ve decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can’t stop making their point…”   And this one, my favorite:

    “I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution. Pentecostal/Charismatics have all varieties of little brothers of Saint Archie who can’t stand it that someone isn’t riding the latest wave of the Holy Spirit into last days revival. Seminary students who can’t understand why there is anyone refusing to read N.T. Wright, and hand-wringers staying up nights writing letters to people who do read N.T. Wright.”

    You can read it all here.

  • And while we’re in a mood for ranting, we couldn’t not share — the above piece notwithstanding — this piece where John Shore lets out his frustration over people who tell him what to think.  He calls it Church Authority Smurch Smashmority.
  • Matt Appling visits a touring art installation based on Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution in China and ends up considering this particular piece entitled The Execution of Christ.
  • Don’t know how, but my wife stumbled on an interesting thread of articles all having to do with an obscure brand of medical products we’d never heard of: 666 Cough Syrup and other 666 cold remedies.  In this link, a customer is on the phone with a customer service rep trying to get them to see the other side of this; “But I mean it’s not, like, ’665′ or ’667.’ It’s ’666.’”
  • Okay, with a few exceptions, there’s not a lot of depth or substance to this week’s list but in case you’ve missed the fun people have been having for the past month at text-to-video site xtranormal.com, here’s one of the best:  How To Plant a Church.  And The New Music Minister.   And The New Youth Minister. (Don’t get confused that they’re all wearing the same shirt; this ain’t Veggie Tales.)
  • For a more serious take on church planting, check out Nancy Beach’s recent observations.
  • Our cartoons this week are from the UK: Jon Birch’s popular The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus.   It’s been so long, we should explain that the acronym stands for the British term, Anti Social Behavior Order.   ASBO is always thought-provoking and often controversial.   Click the images to link.

November 7, 2010

People Tend to Forget

This morning was the second of two sermons I got to do back to back.   This one had a lot of scripture in it, so taking my cue from Ed Dobson’s sermons at Mars Hill, I got Ruth to read all the scripture.

I wanted to tie in with Communion Sunday, but found out later it was also Remembrance Day (that’s Veteran’s Day for y’all Stateside) Sunday.  So the message was called People Tend to Forget.

We began by asking the question, “Why do we always read those same words from I Cor. before the communion starts.”   One answer we came up with is that the account in Luke 22 makes the disciples look really, really bad!   One minute Jesus is talking about giving His life for them, and the next minute they’re arguing among themselves which one is the greatest.  (v. 24)

That led to a discussion about how some of the Bible’s spiritual high points seem end with a crash a few verses or a chapter later.

Exodus 14 has the Israelites crossing the Red Sea safely while Pharoah’s army is drowned.  Exodus 15 is their worship and celebration service.   Think Pentecostal worship on steroids.

And chapter 16?   They’re complaining about the food and wishing they were back in Egypt.  Yeah.  Back in Egypt.   For real.

Then we looked at Elijah’s defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.   (Well, actually it was God, but you know what I mean…)   Both of these O. T. stories were things we’d looked at briefly last week, but this time we pressed further.

Now remember, this guy just played a major role in one of the most dramatic spiritual warfare encounters of all time.   Where is he at a chapter later in I Kings 39?

Scared silly over a threat from King Ahab’s wife.   Running off into the desert.   Moping.   Wishing he was dead.   No, really, he says that, ‘I wish I was dead.’  This is either ironic or pathetic, depending on your view.

And then there’s Jonah.

Jonah is sent to tell Nineveh to repent. They do. That’s good news, right? Well, not for Jonah. His message was framed as “Nineveh is about to be destroyed,” and their world doesn’t look too kindly on prophets who get it wrong. So when God changes his mind on the destruction of the city, Jonah’s all out of sorts. Check out Jonah 3: 6-10.

The hero of “Jonah and the Whale” in chapter 1 – sorry, great fish – who is also the hero of “Jonah’s Preaching Converts and Entire City” in chapter 3 becomes the less impressive story of Jonah and the Plant in chapter 4. God can’t help but tell him that he’s put more passion and energy into mourning the death of a worm-eaten shade tree than anything concerning the salvation of the Ninevites.

And that was only the first half of the sermon.

Here’s a key scripture:

Judges 2: 8(NIV) Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

People really do tend to forget…

Here’s another key scripture:

Isaiah 46: 9(NIV) Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10a I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come…

11b …What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.

The message ended up talking about Communion again.   Some major points:

Our fellowship, our communion is with God through Jesus Christ.

We don’t celebrate communion to remember what was, but we celebrate communion to remember what is.

We celebrate communion because Christ is in us, and because of who we are in Christ.

June 21, 2010

Masturbation and the Consequences of Sin

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind.   Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend.  I met her at least once, maybe twice.   She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.”  She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.”   Consequences.   Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.   But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion.  Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know.   But for some  of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar.  Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ,  you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow!  It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it.  [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences.  I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.


But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit.   Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress.   Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ?  It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it.   And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict.   (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.)  This person was also involved in a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease.   I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress.  But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing.   But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted?   Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.  t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.   (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there.   The tension is going to exist.   The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is going to bring consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?


Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Photo credit (upper) http://www.lookinguntoJesus.net
Photo credit (lower) product available at http://www.zazzle.co.uk
Graphic (middle) adapted from Chapter One text at http://www.thepornographyeffect.wordpress.com

Read more:  Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

May 1, 2010

Pyromaniacs: Don’t Tease Your Readers and Call It Serious Discussion

I’m not sure what to make of Thursday’s post by Dan Phillips at Team Pyro.   On the surface of it, it looks like a major concession for a conservative reformer to make:  “Women Must Preach in Church.”  (The use of must is probably the giveaway.)

But the (entire) text of the post says, “…on one occasion.”   And guess what, gang?  Despite the timing, he ain’t talkin’ Mother’s Day.

The text is also a link which takes you to:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  ~ I Cor 11: 26 ESV

(Well c’mon… if you know anything about that blog, you know it’s gonna be ESV)

So immediately, readers take the bait.

So then, after a bit of discussion about the role of women in the church, he reins it in:

OK, an ANNOUNCEMENT. I’d like to take this back to the topic of the post: the proclamation that is the Lord’s Supper.

I’m going to be pretty firm on this. My one regret about the last meta was not enforcing my call, after the first comment, to get back to the topic. So let’s stick with the topic.

So finally on topic, there’s some good discussion about this that you can read for yourself.  For those who don’t it’s basically about whether or not what some of us call “communion” is an act of worship or an act of proclamation or testimony.   And if it’s what others call “the Lord’s Supper” is a form of proclamation, who are we proclaiming it to?  (Especially when in some quarters this is often a separate, closed service only attended by believers in the first place.)

The problem here is that Pyromaniacs is widely read, and like I wrote a few days ago on the subject of prayer, every church’s — and every individual’s — understanding and expression of what yet others call “the Eucharist” is quite different.

So it’s a fair discussion on a worthwhile topic, and being good reformers, a few of the 160+ comments toss in the phrase, “the heart of the Gospel” just for good measure.

But I still say you shouldn’t bait your readers with what appears to be topic “A” when you really want to discuss topic “B.”

And don’t bring up topic “A” at all if you feel it just opens up a can of worms.   Because I think this time around, your readers thought topic “A” was equally worthy of discussion.

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