Thinking Out Loud

December 7, 2014

I Am Mess

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:43 pm

There is a Roman Catholic tradition that one does not partake of The Lord’s Supper without having been to confession. The confessional booth was created for this particular purpose, and is often looked down at by non-Catholics as ‘one more thing the Roman church has added to the Christian faith.’ But while it institutionalizes something the Early Church would have seen take place more organically, it is part of the our mandate as we approach the Eucharist or Communion table.

In the instructions for instituting The Lord’s Supper, the King James version translated I Cor. 11:28 with the familiar words, “But let a man examine himself.” Here’s how The Message deals with it through to verse 34:

27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.

29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.

The posture with which we come to Communion is a posture of confession.

Unfortunately, this is not always emphasized in all of our churches, and while a few do provide a time of silence for such, many places of worship do not, and many who have more recently become part of our congregations don’t know this teaching.

Having been raised with this, I have no problem remembering this. Sometimes my prayer begins, “Lord, I’m a mess.” I know my heart, and I know God knows my heart. Yes, the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9) and yes, we’re very good at rationalizing our own righteousness (Prov. 16:2) as in, ‘Hey, I’m not as bad as my friend.’ But the moments preceding the communion elements are no time for pretense, at that moment, transparency and honesty is the order of the day. My thoughts might be drawn to:

  • the anger I may feel toward someone who has wronged me, even things that happened years ago;
  • obsessing over regrets concerning past choices;
  • lustful thoughts and more lustful thoughts;
  • terrible stewardship over the use of time;
  • a climate of fear and anxiety which slows lack of trust in God;
  • neglecting Bible reading and study to the degree that would be expected of me;
  • wishes that certain proud or arrogant people would fail, or just people with whom I don’t see eye-to-eye.

Those are just a few that I thought of immediately. I’m sure there are more. You might be reading this and identifying, or maybe you’re further along in spiritual formation and now think I’m a terrible person! Either way, I come to God with some very small inkling of what my life must appear like before a capital ‘H’ Holy God.

But today, instead of just saying, ‘I’m a mess,’ I found myself saying, ‘I am mess.’ (Take a minute to reflect on the difference.) I don’t just sin, but I am sin personified. Without God’s help, I am a picture of the human condition. I know some will read this and say, ‘Well that’s just the accuser of the brethren talking to you, don’t listen to it.’ But David said, ‘My sin is always present before me (Ps. 51:3).

Both scripture and church liturgy are full of prayers of confession.

But — and here the writers of scripture would add, ‘Thanks be to God’ — we don’t have to stay defined by and defining what it means to sinful and separated from God. We also have the assurance of pardon.

I John 1:9 reminds us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)

From the link above, here is the assurance of pardon as found in the Book of Common Prayer:

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has no pleasure in the death of sinners,
but would rather they should turn from their wickedness and live.
He has given authority to his ministers to declare to his people when they repent
the forgiveness of their sins.
God pardons and absolves all who truly repent and believe his holy gospel.
So we ask him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit,
that what we do now may please him
and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy,
so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If your life is a mess, or if you just feel like you are mess, the Father wants us to come to him. But this is not something we do once upon a time and then write the date in the front cover of our Bible and that’s it, we’re done. No God wants us to come to Him regularly and confess that we do wander from His best, and that we are a people in need of a Savior. True repentance is a sincere acknowledgement of sin, but yes, we will mess up again. Maybe in another area. But his assurance of pardon is always there, even as we come to him over and over and over and over again.

Posted jointly with Christianity 201

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.

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.

 

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 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.

January 4, 2010

On the Night He Was Betrayed, He Took Bread

Most of the churches my wife and I visit are decidedly non-liturgical.   There are no set responses at certain intervals in the services, and nothing even remotely resembling tradition.

The exception occurs at Communion, aka The Lord’s Supper.

There, the reading from I Cor. 11: 23ff is obligatory.   “On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and… broke it saying, ‘This is my Body, broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”   (Didn’t even need to look it up.)

But it occurred to me that as English shifts, modern ears might be getting this as “After Jesus was betrayed he took bread…”

I think a better reading would be, “On the night that Jesus was about to be betrayed…”

Or better yet, “Knowing full well that he was just a couple of hours from being betrayed, he took bread…”

Judas was about to exit the building.   His scheming mind hatched the plan needed to locate and identify Jesus with the least interference from the crowd, and bring him before the Romans to mete out the death penalty on charges of blasphemy.   There would be profit in this, not to mention a place of honor among both Pharisees and Romans alike.

But before he even left, Jesus says, “This is my Body, broken for you.”   He is in control.   He is giving Himself.

The Wycliffe Version isn’t the translation on Bible Gateway that most bloggers turn to, but its rendering is unique: “Take ye, and eat ye; this is my body, which shall be betrayed for you; do ye this thing into my mind.”

It clears up the verb tense thing as it relates to the order of events, which shall (or will) be broken for you, only it has the surprise element of bringing betrayal in that clause as well: shall be betrayed for you.

Christ’s body was physically broken for us, but his esprit was no doubt broken by the betrayal of someone who He had walked and talked with; someone whom He had taught in the give and take sense of eastern teaching — for three years.

The Amplified Bible is one of the few other translations that addresses the order of events.   Note the section I’ve italicized:  “For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread…”

In a decreasingly-Biblically-literate culture, I think it necessary to sometimes nitpick over details of the story that we just assume that people know.   Necessary to clarify, to remove confusion.

But sometimes, in the examination, there is discovery, and the familiar narrative continues to take on shades of depth and meaning beyond anything we’d already considered.

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