Celebration, Eating Together, and Reconciling Romans 14:17

Celebration


The word “celebrate” is used 4 times in the New Testament, in Luke 15, in the story of the two sons.

It is awesome to celebrate when the prodigal comes home, but is that the only time for celebration?  Celebration is indeed bigger and more wide-spread in our lives than just when the prodigal comes home.

Celebration meals: eating is celebration in the Bible

What if God’s design has always been for meals to be a celebration?

Giving thanks is a huge deal, when it comes to food, yet we often take it for granted.  We have made meals into just consumption.

What if God’s design has always been for food to be what binds us together, what we have in common and share together, in a joyful, thankful, and celebratory fashion?

Food has always been linked to community and celebration.  In the Bible, there are feasts.  In the Bible and in Jewish tradition, celebrations sometimes go on for a week.  There is eating in the Bible, from cover to cover.

The first command in the Bible is “eat freely”, and the last command is to “drink freely” (Gen. 2:16, Rev 22:17).  Leonard Sweet has noted that it’s been said that the OT could be summed up with:

  • They tried to kill us.  
  • But we survived.  
  • Let’s eat.  

Sweet says the NT could be summarized as:

  • I love you.  
  • Forgive me.  
  • Let’s eat.  

And Sweet says the gospel might be summarized to say, “Jesus ate food with sinners”.

A Christians, we are always celebrating Jesus, and we especially do it or particularly do it, when we have joyful thanksgiving in meals together, with each other and with him with us.

This is eucharistia.

How do we reconcile or explain Romans 14:17?  

Someone might object to the whole thesis of food being linked with celebration.  They would quote for us, Paul’s words in Romans 14:17, where Paul writes:

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy, in the Holy Spirit.

How do we reconcile Paul’s word here, with the fact that Jesus sat down and ate in his ministry, with people, so much so, that they called him a glutton, and a drunkard?  Could it be that Paul is giving a word about legalism and not stumbling your brothers who are not able to live in the freedom to eat bacon and lobster?

Romans 14:17 is a word against both the ‘ceremonialization’ and ‘libertine-ism’ in regards to food and drink.
Jesus nor the kingdom does not give us a new ceremony to participate in.  And kingdom values like righteous, peace, and joy; which are brought to bear in how we love others, inform or regulate all our behaviors, including how and what we eat.

Do this in remembrance of me.

And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
-Luke 22:19

When he said, “Do this in remembrance of me”, he was not instituting a ceremony.  He was saying simply what he said.  And what he said was that when you have meals together, remember me.

The “Do this”, is to share meals, with each other and with him in our midst.  We, the church, after Christ, institutionalized, ceremonialized, or sacramentalized things.  How you ‘do this’ is fine, but to say that you are doing what Jesus commanded is where the problem lies.

The “Do this”, was not an institutionalization of the way we take communion

What he did was not a ceremony, he did not have a special golden holder with juice thimbles nor a golden plate with matzah.  Neither did he have them get into a line and take a sip and a nibble from the elements, wine and bread, from his hand.

What was the “this” that Jesus did do?

Jesus had a celebration meal with his friends and followers.  He did a special toast, that was a prophetic, parabolic, and symbolic act; when he said, “This is my blood”, and, “This is my body”.

We take in his life to have life, and his life was sacrificed and raised from the dead for us.

This is what and who we are gathering around and celebrating.  That’s the “Do this”.

In the Old Covenant, doing the ceremonies, which sometimes included food, and even laws regarding food, were extremely important and had to be followed, or else.

Paul’s word in Romans 14:17, is to say that, “food is not the kingdom, nor does eating properly bring the kingdom; so stop imposing food rules on others who are free in Christ!” 

The wider context of Romans chapters 12 through 14, is to be careful and sensitive around others who don’t walk in the freedom that you have.

A contemporary example might be that we are free to drink alcohol, but many Christians choose a life of never touching alcohol.  Paul is saying to folks who are free to and enjoy drinking, to be sensitive around those who do not feel that way, but still have Christ.  That is the application or teaching of the wider context of Romans 12-14.

Paul is saying, in Romans 14:17, that the kingdom has come in a fuller manifestation, now in Christ, and it transcends the OT ideals expressed in Jewish life and tradition.

A legalistic mind today might see food as a necessary item like air, water, and sleep.  And while agreeing that Christ transcends OT law and we should not obsess over food, ritualistically; we can then go overboard, and see the enjoyment of food and thankful celebration around food, as something that the pagans do, with worldly trapping to be avoided.

I See The Lord Now, Today

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

-Psalm 118:24
I see the Lord now, today.

Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day of deliverance.  Today is the day to trust God.

Today thank God.  Today trust God.  Today see God.

The Lord is here.  He is on the scene.  The Lord is working.

I see the Lord.  I see Him now.  I am glad, thankful and filled with joy about what I see God doing in my life and in those around me.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  There is no better day than today, to begin praising God.  There is no better time to trust Him.
Today is a day to choose to worship Him.  Today we have the opportunity, like no other day, to express our thanks to God.
Today is a day to begin trusting God.  Today we can begin to see God as good.  Today is a new day.
Every day is a day with God.  Every day is a day for God.  Every day is a day God made that we can choose to rejoice and be glad in.
Today is a day when I will choose to see God’s goodness.  Today is a day like no other day.  This day is a day to rejoice in because the Lord is my God.
I see the Lord as good and loving, kind and gracious, filled with mercy and faithfulness.  My heart is glad when I consider God.  Today I will be be filled with joy, because of the Lord.
I am no longer waiting on the Lord, but I now see the Lord and what the Lord has done already.  I am filled with thankfulness today.  I am going to live in today, knowing that God is at work, in me, around me, and in the lives of the people dear to me.
I see the Lord today and I am thankful.  Today is the day that I am letting joy flow.  I am no longer waiting for a breakthrough, waiting for the heavens to open, waiting for a miracle.  Instead, I see the Lord today, where I am.  And I see the Lord in all the people I know.
I am celebrating today.  The Lord is here.  The Lord is mine today.
The Lord has made my day.
I am thanking God and living in what He has done.  I will no longer discount today and short circuit my happiness.  I now see God and will live in today.
I see clearly now.  I see today as the day when the Lord has acted and intervened.  It may have happened yesterday, last week, last year or even many years ago; but I see what the Lord has done now, today.
A seed planted has sprung forth.  A plant planted has flowered.  A tree now is filled with abundant fruit.
I see it now.  I see the Lord today.
It did not happen today, but I see it today.  I am glad today.  I have been waiting for God while God has been waiting for me.
I have gotten up and gotten out and looked around and I now see all the good things.  My heart has changed and I am no longer pessimistic, cynical or negative.  I’m not judging things anymore.
Where I thought I saw ‘impossible’, I now see ‘possible’.  On the hardest places, I now see the Lord and his encouragement.  I sense the Lord saying something like, “If I am with you, you will be ok”.
I don’t don’t sense the Lord saying, “You can do it”, but, “I will be with you”.  I also have a strong, I mean overpowering sense that the Lord says, “I have been with you and I am with you today”.
Don’t misunderstand me,  I am not saying that I sense the Lord saying, “You can not do it”, but I sense the Lord saying that He is with me and has been with me.
I saw one note on Psalm 118, that told me everything: “This is the psalm or “hymn” that Jesus likely sang after the Passover supper with his disciples, before making his way to Gethsemane and Calvary” (TPT, Psalms, p, 253).  
This is the whole backstory on Psalm 118, from Thomas Constable:

This is the last in this series of the Egyptian Hallel psalms (Pss. 113—118). It describes a festal procession to the temple to praise and sacrifice to the Lord. The historical background may be the dedication of the restored walls and gates of Jerusalem in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time, following the return from Babylonian captivity, in 444 B.C.[474] It contains elements of communal thanksgiving, individual thanksgiving, and liturgical psalms. The subject is God’s loyal love for His people. The situation behind it seems to be God’s restoration of the psalmist after a period of dishonor. This would have been a very appropriate psalm to sing during the Feast of Tabernacles as well as at Passover and Pentecost. The Lord Jesus and His disciples probably sang it together in the Upper Room at the end of the Lord’s Supper (cf. Matt. 26:30).

And this is what Derek Kidner wrote, in his commentary (pp. 412-13):

“As the final psalm of the ‘Egyptian Hallel’, sung to celebrate the Passover . . ., this psalm may have pictured to those who first sang it the rescue of Israel at the Exodus, and the eventual journey’s end at Mount Zion. But it was destined to be fulfilled more perfectly, as the echoes of it on Palm Sunday and in the Passion Week make clear to every reader of the Gospels.”

And, I am always interested in seeing the context of a verse.  This is the immediate context, of the previous two verses:

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord; it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Am here it is, with the preceding five verses, for more context:

Open the gates of righteousness for me;
I will enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to You because You have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord; it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is a twenty-nine verse psalm.  It starts with the words,

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His faithful love endures forever.  

And the center verse, verse fourteen, echoes the song of deliverance, from Exodus 15:

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.

These two verses, one and fourteen, are what this psalm is about.  This is what rejoicing in the day that the Lord has made is all about.  Every day is the day of deliverance, with the Lord.

At every Passover, from the days of Moses, up to the night of the last supper; people worshipped the Lord for that day, the day, today: this day.  Every day is the day of deliverance, because that is what God is all about.

We live in the kingdom of God.  The kingdom is already and not yet.  We know this, and neither live in the triumphalism of an over realized eschatology, nor in a futurist theological mindset that says, “it’s all future, so I will just wait”.  Wait for the rapture or wait for God to do the next big thing.

Triumphalism and futurism are both errors and extremes, detrimental, unhealthy and dysfunctional (and fattening).  The kingdom life, the Jesus life, is lived in the already of the kingdom, while eagerly anticipating the not yet and seeing the not yet breaking into today, while still being held back as not (fully) yet.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.

I see the Lord now.

Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day of deliverance.  Today is the day to trust God.

Today thank God.  Today trust God.  Today see God.

The Lord is here.  He is on the scene.  The Lord is working.

I see the Lord.  I see Him now.  I am glad, thankful and filled with joy about what I see God doing in my life and in those around me.

Happy But In Need of Reconciliation in Our Family

But the righteous are glad; they rejoice before God and celebrate with joy.
-Psalm 68:3

I am glad, are you glad?  I am rejoicing and celebrating.  And it is before God.

I have hope and I believe things are getting better.  I believe in the redemption of all of mankind through Jesus Christ.  I believe God wants to save everybody, that the invitations have been going out and it is up to us to get the word out and up to the people to respond through their choices.

The big naughty, that I saw, heard, and read, from Christians to Christians, over this past year, was when we questioned the character of other Christians for their views.  This ought not be so, and highlighted the fact that the church in America is very divided and carnal in that we sometimes get too “over the top” about politics, and are unloving towards one another.

What happened to, “They will know we are Christians by our love”?

In a few weeks, we will celebrate my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  And at many tables, we will be sitting with our people whom we disagree with.  The banner over us should be love.

Love listens, love honors, and love always puts God and others first.  Love forgives and love reconciles.  Many of us need to live in and practice the ministry of reconciliation.  I am pretty sure that this involves the cross of Christ being at the center and God reconciling us to each other in Christ.

Reconciled people can say, “I love you, even though I do not understand you or agree with you”, and then, “Please pass the bread”.  We need the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ Communion, as a meal where reconciliation and the celebration of Christ occurs, now, more than ever.  Do you think that when Jesus ate at all those suppers with ‘sinners’ that he was taking a day off or ceasing from being himself?

We, Christians, need to practice the presence of Christ, and find Jesus in the communion meal, together, for healing, reconciliation, and becoming like him.  I need to see Jesus in you, as I look across the table, and I need Jesus’ ears as I hear you and begin to understand you.  We need to make Christ the center and be mediated and reconciled in him again.

Today, I am not rejoicing that God is on our side, or my side; but that God entered in to our election process and has had mercy on us.  Not saying God is a Republican.

We are glad.  We are happy.  We rejoice.  We are celebrating.

Who are we glad towards?  God.  Who makes us happy?  God.  Who causes this celebration?  God.

Who is our Savior?  Jesus.  Who is our King?  Christ.  Who is the Father of lights?  My God, Yahweh, The Lord.

Who do we worship and serve?  God.  Who has got the whole world in his hands?  God.

The last supper and first communion

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Luke 22:14-20

Happy Maundy Thursday.  This is a re-post from 2006.

The first communion was at a meal. Today, we are used to having communion or the Lord’s supper or the eucharist in a church service in a church building. The Jewish Passover supper was at a home or hall. Jesus last supper was in a room. The early church had pot lucks in which they celebrated communion.

When Jesus said  “do this in remembrance of me.” What’s the “this”? Does he mean: have a meal together, get together, or share sips of juice and bits of bread? I think that the context is as important as the elements are. I think the elements are there to point to something. I think that you can remember Jesus without getting out bread or wafers and juice or wine. I don’t think Jesus point was that you have to do it a certain way and if we really believed that we have to do it the way Jesus instituted it, written in the Bible, then why don’t we have the meal that goes with the loaf and cup? I believe in finding Christ in the meal. We are Christ’s body here on earth and Christ is dwelling among us by The Spirit. Christ is in you and in me if you are His. I’m looking for Him among us when we gather in His name. What if we are gathering with no food or drink. Can’t we still have communion? To me communion means sharing Christ’s life together which can be done at the beach, in the car or in a dusty attic.

He Came Eating and Drinking: God’s Banquet

He brought me to the banquet hall, and he looked on me with love. 

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.

-Song 2:4, Matt. 11:19 & Luke 7:34
Photo: Pixabay
This is from the forward to Winn Griffin’s “God’s Epic Adventure”

One of the best definitions of the gospel I’ve ever encountered is this one: “Jesus ate good food with bad people.”  Goethe, in a famous essay, suggested that Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” was written to convey Christ’s words “one of you shall betray me.”  But why not “Take, eat: this is my body?”  Why not Christ instituting the eucharist rather than foretelling his betrayal?

A Jesus revolution is a dinner party, the art of play more than work, celebration more than cerebration. Anything artistic involves “play”, whether, sports, music, or video games.  You “play” baseball, not “work” baseball.  You “play” piano or violin, not “work” the instrument.  You “play” video games on PlayStation3 or listen to music on RealPlayer.  Liturgy (forms of worship) is not something you “work” at but “play with”. If it’s not “play”, it’s not a Jesus Revolution.

The bookends of the Bible are “Eat” and “Drink”. God’s first command in the Bible is “Eat freely” (Genesis 2;16). God’s last command in the Bible is “Drink freely” (Revelation 22:17). In the middle: The Table.  In His book, God’s Epic Adventure, Winn Griffin shows how everything in between is a never-ending banquet, not a snack, on which we feast on Him in our hearts with thanksgiving (eucharista).  If the revolution is to mean anything, and if Jesus has anything to do with the revolution, it must “revolve” around that Table.  For as Griffin shows in his winsome books, on that Table is spread out a feast that can give life to a dying people and planet.

-Leonard Sweet (2007)

Simon, Simon

When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it (again) until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, (which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.)  But look, the hand of the one betraying Me is at the table with Me! For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do this thing.

Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. But He said to them,“The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called (call themselves) ‘Benefactors.’ But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. You are the ones who stood by Me in My trials. I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

(Then the Lord said,) “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you (all) like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

“Lord,” he told Him, “I’m ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”

“I tell you, Peter,” He said, “the rooster will not crow today until (before) you deny three times that you know Me!”

-Luke 22:14-34

Artwork: Gerard van Honthorst (1624)

“Simon, Simon”, the Lord called out to Peter, from across the table.  Luke records Jesus as peculiarly and particularly, saying his formal, given name two times, to get his attention, or to underscore the seriousness of what he was about to tell him.  Just previous to this, we see the disciples arguing about who is the greatest among them.

Jesus and the guys had been eating the meal and Jesus had shown them how the meal was about him and told them to keep having meals together, “do this”, to remember him and celebrate what he has done.  Jesus makes mention that, in the future, they will all be having meals together, eating and drinking in the kingdom.

The dispute about who is greatest shows us that they didn’t get it, after three years with Jesus, on some levels.  It is so often the case, that they and we do not get it, but Jesus calls us and uses us anyway.  Living the life in Christ and doing his ministry, always requires on the job training.  Jesus deploys troops on the battle field or players in the game who are not experts, not seasoned, and not really ready.

To stay on the sidelines or at home base, because you say you are not ready is a mistake.  Christianity, living in Christ and participation in Christs’s ministry is always with on the job training. And it is also very common to get into ministry and think we are ready, when we are not ready.

That was the case here with Peter and some or all of the others.  They had the intimate time with Jesus around the meal.  Jesus shared many of his deepest teachings with them that night.

In the midst of Jesus teaching them, they turn to one another and begin arguing about who is going to be the greatest.  Jesus responds by teaching them about servant-hood in the kingdom.  Then Jesus turns to Simon Peter and gives him a very serious word about Satan’s workings on him and all the guys, in the hours to shorty come.

Jesus tells Simon that Satan, behind the scenes, has asked permission to sift them all, like wheat.  Sifting wheat is when it is tossed and shaken, until the husk or chaff is separated from the edible grain.  The wheat is flailed, threshed, or beaten; until the separation occurs.  It is thrashed.

He experienced Jesus, first hand, close up, for about three years.  Intensive discipleship, training, teaching, mentoring, and fathering from Jesus.  He still does not get all of it and he still is not completely transformed, but that is how Jesus uses us, while we are in process.

Now, here comes Satan.  He wants to destroy and at least corrupt us.  Satan does not have in mind to make us better.  He says, “Let me thrash them”.  This is what happened to Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).

Satan asks to and gets permission to thrash us sometimes.  But the thrashing has grace, a blessing, or a gift from God attached to it.  In this case, Jesus says that he has prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail.

Satan brings flailing upon us, so that our faith will fail.  Jesus prays for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25) that our faith will not fail.  Who’s prayer is God going to answer?

Imagine that Jesus spoke to you.  I will use myself as an example.  “Steven, Steven, look out!  Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail.  When you return, strengthen your brothers.”  Bad news and good news, right?

It looks like 5 phases:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Satan has been given permission to thrash you.
  3. But, the Lord has already, ahead of time, prayed for you.
  4. You can come through this.
  5. When you come through, strengthen (help establish) your brothers.
Jesus first says, “Look out”.  Many translations say, “Behold”.  It means, “Pay attention”, or, “Now get this”.  I often hear preachers say, “Watch this”, when they are about to make an important point, they want you to get, that is key.  I think that is the modern “Behold”.
Before the thrashing, before the trial, before Peter falls away; Jesus tells him that he has already made provision for him.  Jesus implicitly says, “You are going to fall, but you are also going to return, because I say so”.  Peter had to live out the awful real thrashing of that.
Peter’s first response is not good.  He says, to Jesus, “No way”, or “You’re wrong”.  In a word, Peter is audacious.

Jesus responds to him, straight up, head on; and gives him specifics.  Peter stops talking.  He is now beholden to Jesus’ words, even though they don’t make sense and he has not yet lived out the trial that is soon to be, with his fall and return.

In the midst of the best dinner party so far, where Jesus has shared his last meal with these roughneck guys,  some or all of them are not even fully aware of what is happening, how history is being made right before their eyes and the most important event in the history of the universe is about to transpire within hours.  In this, they argue, perhaps led by Peter, about who is going to be the top one in the kingdom.

Jesus patiently teaches them about servant-hood.  He is The Servant and they are to be servants.  But then, Jesus tells them Satan has requested to thrash them.  It was not enough for Satan to gain access to Judas, for Jesus’ betrayal and brutal torture and execution.  Satan also wants them all to go down and be done.

Permission is given to Satan, to thrash Peter, but Jesus has asked his father to help him.  The principle here is, “What God allows, he makes provision for”.  God already loved Peter before this.  But, when Satan makes a move on him, God provides provision for Peter to come back from it.

That is good news.  It is sobering news that, “You are going to get hit”.  But God always provides for us in life’s trials.  We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

We need to pay attention to Jesus as we go into hard times, and realize that he has been and is praying for us.  I remember when I was witnessing and feeling the pain of one of the worst things in my life and I sensed the Spirit of God tell me to turn my eyes upon Jesus.

The trashing still went on, but I saw the Lord, in my deepest pain, and it dazzled me, to quote a famous saint.  I really experienced that.  I can remember a number of times in my life, when the pain was acute, and I saw him.  It is very special and precious or awesome.

In your trial, in your sifting or thrashing, you are going through; God is there.  He has already made provision for you, just like he did for Peter.  In whatever is being done to you or you are doing to your self, God has given you a grace package, provision, or a care package.  It is a gift for this time, from Jesus.

In your trial or after your failure, it is available.  This is sobering and encouraging.  We need encouragement, because life kicks us down, and it seems that our courage is gone.

Open the gift of provision that Jesus has made, personally for you, when he saw that you were going to go through bad stuff.

Gifts From God: Christmastime All The Time

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.

-Matthew 7:7-12 (HCSB)
God is the supreme giver of gifts.  The ultimate gift from God is Christ (John 3:16).  What are the gifts that you are asking God for?  Giving and receiving gifts was invented by God.
Christmastime is all the time with God.  The word “Christmas” evokes thoughts of gifts and giving gifts.  We have the greatest gift and we give gifts to one another in celebration of that gift.  
Christmas also might mean Christ + Mass.  Catholic Christians call their church meeting “Mass”.  “Mass” is thought of to mean “Eucharistic service”, (the Catholic church service is usually a two-part affair consisting of communion and a Biblical exposition) from the Latin “messe”; but “mass” also comes from the late Latin, “missa”, as in “dismissal” (“to let go, send”), calling to mind mission, as in the great commission.  The idea being, “Having taken Christ into your being (or being reminded of such), and with prayers being sent to God; now go out, as his agents, into the world, spreading the good news.  You are dismissed.”  That’s what “Mass” means.
A reminder that although people say Eucharist means holy communion, the definition of the word is “thanksgiving”.  Saying “grace” before a meal is eucharisteo, “To give thanks”, or literally, “Thankful for God’s good grace”.  In the gospels, Jesus gave thanks before meals.  What I understand is that Catholics say, “The Eucharist”, for communion, meaning, “The Thanksgiving”.
The Eucharist is a Thanksgiving Dinner.  (1)
Christmas is when we celebrate God’s gift.  God is always celebrating Christmas and we get to join in.  The Christian life is filled with a reception of God’s gifts.  
God’s ethos is that he is a giver and God’s children become and learn the ethos of being givers.  Remember that as Christians, we are under or in and live through grace.  I don’t break the ten commandments (we keep the Sabbath differently under the law of Christ), because I am in God’s grace, not because I am under the law.  I have the living desire to be a generous giver, because I am in God’s grace.
I am convinced that God always has more gifts and wants to give us more.  We are the ones who decide how much we will get.  We get gifts from God by pursuing God.  
Every day is Christmas with God.  The Christian life is one of receiving gifts and being generous.  It really is that simple.  God gave, God gives; I receive and am thankful (a Eucharistic life); and then in turn, I am generous.
When Jesus teaches us about His Father’s generosity and benevolent goodness towards his children, he ends with this statement, saying, “In the light of what I have just taught you about my father’s care for you – to keep asking, seeking, and knocking for what you desire; because God is a father who gives gifts to his children, surpassing what the best human fathers do – in light of that truth, whatever you want done for you, do that for others.”

Jesus teaches us to, in a sense, “Give what we want to get”.  If you want a promotion, then promote others.  If you want to find a wife or husband, help others to find their future wife or husband.  If you need more money, give money to those in need.  If you need _____, then give ____ to others that need it.

The ethos of the kingdom is generosity.  God starts it and we get to play, and God keeps it going, as we go with it.  Christ-mass-time is all the time and Christmas is a time of receiving and giving.

Children eventually learn to receive and give at Christmas.  We also learn that we don’t give to get, but give from generosity birthed in our lives in God (John 3:16).  We get, then give to get to give.

Jesus addresses earthly fathers in Matthew 7, saying that, “As you give gifts to your children, Father gives gifts to you”, and “Keep asking for what you desire, keep believing your heavenly Father for those gifts.”

Jesus implies that there is often a time between the times, of waiting for something you desire – that thing you want.  He says, “You want something”, “Keep asking for it”, “God will give you the desire of your heart, as He is a father who gives his children gifts”; “And while you are asking with faith, but have not received it yet, give what you want to another person who needs it.”

Jesus also tags that last statement with stating that this is what the whole Law and the Prophets are saying.  This is the golden rule of, “Give unto others what you would have them give unto you”.  We are not under law, but we are in the kingdom that is themed with generosity.  The King is generous and we his subjects are generous.

The kingdom is about generous living.  

_______________________________________
Footnote:
1. The Eucharist is a Thanksgiving Dinner. You would never know that from the way that many churches “do it”.  Even in 1 Corinthians, we quote Paul, and skip the fact that the Corinthians celebrated the Eucharist or Communion in a meal.  The person with the microphone parachutes in to the verse that says, “On the night he was betrayed, Jesus…..”  But, in reality, the Christians hearing those words, had plates of food in from of them, and perhaps some flies buzzing around the room, and crumbs and spilled wine on the floor.


What does this all have to do with gifts from God?  What is has to do with God’s gifts is that feasting is a gift from God.  Jesus Christ is a feast and not a snack.  He is a full meal.  He is a long drink.  He is also someone we continually feed upon, 24/7.

A tiny package does not honestly and justly show the gift of God.  It actually sends the wrong message.  The gospel is wild and overflowing.  It can not be contained.

When God gave the gift of manna in the desert, it was very plentiful.  They filled bags with it.  That’s a contrast to the communion cracker.

Unless You Eat The Flesh of The Son of Man and Drink His Blood

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

-John 6:53-58
This is the original “hard saying” of Jesus.(1)  After saying this, some disciples remarked that this was a hard teaching, and, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied (followed) him.”(vs. 66)  
Today, this saying is still a hard saying, because it is either hard to understand or is something we don’t want to do.(2)  Obeying Jesus is hard and impossible, without God’s help and our total surrender.

He is the bread of life.  We must take him into our lives and assimilate his life in ours.  This is another way of saying the same thing as, “You must be born again”.  Eternal life comes from his life in our lives.

John 6 begins with the feeding of the five thousand, where Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread and fish.  People remembered the manna and quail that came from God, during Moses time, and perhaps expected the Messiah to feed them like that.
John 6 is not about the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion.  The earliest exegetical interpreters, such as Clement, Origen, and Eusebius interpreted the whole Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:22-66) spiritually.(3)  
Here is what Jesus said just before he said, “Unless you eat”:

“I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
-John 6:47-51

Jesus has been speaking about receiving eternal life from him by faith, in his words to the people, in John chapter 6.  His coming down, came down, is a single act.  When he states, “Anyone may eat”, and, “If anyone eats”, it is also a single act. (Morris, p. 331, explains the aoist tense in the Greek.)

Eating this bread causes one to not die, but to live forever.  This is the bread of everlasting life.  Once you eat it, you will never be hungry and the one who believes will never be thirsty again (vs. 35).  “The bread that I will give for the life of the world”, looks to the gift that would soon be made at Calvary (Morris, p. 331).  “I will give”, is a one time, single act.  We receive this gift of life, given through the cross, once.

The context of The Bread of Life discourse, in John 6, is Christ.  The bread that came down from heaven is Christ.  Eating and drinking Christ is the means of bringing eternal life.  We must assimilate and appropriate Christ.

Once we partake of him, we are forever changed.  Our hunger and thirst are taken away.  Now that we have him, we want more of him.  The unbeliever struggles with the whole concept of assimilating and appropriating Christ, because they have not done this and still have that unsatisfied hunger and thirst.

They can see Christ, but not believe (vs. 36).  When Jesus was on the cross, people looked at him and did not believe.  One of the men next to him looked at him and believed, while the second one did not.  It is the same way today.

At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,  because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
-John 6:52-8

The people did not understand what Jesus said.  They argued, verbally fought.  They still took his words too literally.  “How can this man be incorporated into us?”, they might have said.

Jesus is more direct here and it is interesting that he says “flesh”, which calls attention to his physical, historical, human body.  Jesus was a real person, flesh and blood, who felt pain.  It was not all an illusion, but the incarnation really happened.  That, I think, is the idea encapsulated in the stark word “flesh”:

“The Word became flesh”, writes John (1:14).  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man”, calls to mind the incarnation, and the fact that Jesus was born and lived as a man, in order to redeem mankind.  This is one of the glorious aspects of the gospel.

The flesh and blood of the Son is laid down (sacrificed) for the life of the world.  This is a repeated idea in John’s Gospel (cf. 10:11, 15; 11:51-2, 15:13, 17:19, 18:14).  Jesus is the Suffering Servant that Isaiah wrote about (Is. 52:13-53:12, 49:6).

Jesus is both from heaven, “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:32, 33, 37, 41-42, 50-1, 58), and a man, the one man, the Son of Man.  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man”, means that to gain eternal life we must eat, take in, assimilate, or appropriate the real flesh and blood (6:32, 55) of the Son, who is the one whom God sets his seal of approval on (6:27), who descended and ascends ‘to where he was before’ (6:62).  The Son of man is the man where God is supremely revealed.(4)

“The one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

We never have spiritual life in ourselves, but only in Christ.  There is no genuine spiritual life outside of Jesus.(5)


Debunking The Notion That John 6 is About The Eucharist

First, some notes about The Lord’s Supper.  There are several helpful articles on The Lord’s Supper, at the bottom of this post.

The word Eucharist is not in the Bible.  It comes from the verb that means “give thanks” (1 Cor. 11:24)  The application of that thanksgiving is when we give thanks for our food or “say grace” before a meal.

The Apostle Paul identifies or describes the sharing of food, while calling attention to Jesus Christ as “The Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20), which is a meal (vs. 21).  The background of this meal is that of God enjoying fellowship with humans during meals.  God created Adam and Eve, “For fellowship with himself”, so, “Then every meal that Adam and Eve ate would have been a meal or feast in the presence of the Lord”.(Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 989)

Is there a basis, found in the OT, for having a meal in the presence of God?  Yes.  For example, Exodus 24:9-11 reads,

“Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself. God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank”

And, Deut. 12:7 & 14:26b,

“You will eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” & “You are to feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice with your family.”

It is also interesting that Jesus said, at The Last Supper, that he looked forward to drinking with his disciples, in the future (Matt. 26:26) and also there will be a great feast of eating with God, called The Marriage Supper of Lamb (Rev. 19:9).  Wayne Grudem writes this in his, “Background in the History of Redemption”, section on The Lord’s Supper:

From genesis to Revelation, then, God’s aim has been to bring his people into fellowship with himself, and one of the great joys of experiencing that fellowship is the fact that we can eat and drink in the presence of the Lord.  It would be healthy for the church today to recapture a more vivid sense of God’s presence at the table of the Lord.

Jesus is not talking about the Eucharist, in John 6.

  • The setting is the synagogue in Capernaum.(John 6:59)  Jesus was speaking to a crowd that contained lukewarm opponents.  It would be absurd that Jesus would be speaking about (alluding to) something (Eucharist, communion) that would be only practiced later.  This would be completely mystifying.(6)
  • The strong language that Jesus uses (“Unless you eat”) is absolute.  He cannot mean that you must take the Lord’s Supper to be saved, because there is no repentance, no conversion, no believing.  It is absurd to think that he is saying you must take the Eucharist to have eternal life.  This cannot be about communion, because he is’t saying that if you don’t take communion, you cannot be saved.  To say that this verse (John 6:53) is about the Eucharist, and that in the Eucharist we are saved, is to be out of step with the whole NT, which teaches that salvation comes through faith (John 3:16 for example).(7)  
  • The consequences of the eating and drinking here are also spoken of by John in chapter 6, verse 35, “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry and no one who comes to me will ever be thirsty”, verse 40, “Everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him may have eternal life , and I will raise him up on the last day”, and verse 47, “Anyone who believes has eternal life”.(8)  These are not the consequences of taking communion, but of taking Christ into your life.
  • These words, spoken from the first century would have had a metaphorical meaning: taking into one’s innermost being.  The language here simply cannot refer to Holy Communion, or even a prophetic teaching about it.  The teaching stands alone, having its own full and consistent meaning in connection with the actual circumstances.(9)
Conclusion

The meaning of Jesus’ words, 

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in your selves”, 

are, that eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood, point to the same central saving act, described in John 3:16.  Jesus speaks of giving his flesh (vs. 51), but we must appropriate this gift by faith (vs. 47). Eating his flesh and drinking his blood is an extraordinary way of saying this.  The Son of Man must be assimilated into the life (the spiritual organism) of the believer.(10)
As Jesus said to Nicodemus,(John 3:3-21) he says here, that we have to take him into our innermost beings to have the life he died to give us.  The emphasis that Jesus makes in these verses is that he himself is the source of eternal life: the incarnate Son “only as given up in death, who is the bread of life.”(11)

To somehow misunderstand Jesus words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, to mean the bread and wine of the Eucharist, is to be in the same place as Nicodemus, who’s eyes, ears, and mind were on earthly things rather than, the spiritual revelation of Jesus’ words.(12)


This verse, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood”, “refers to the spiritual appropriation of Christ”.(13)  It secondarily shows us how we should receive communion.  The exegete, F.D. Maurice wrote this in 1885:

If you ask me, then, whether he is speaking of the Eucharist here, I would say, ‘No’.  If you ask me where I can learn the meaning of the Eucharist, I would say, ‘No where so well as here’.(14)

This passage of scripture teaches and John intended it to teach that Christ is present in the everyday life of the believer.  In the ancient church, the bread and the wine, in communion, were not symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, but joyful signs of his presence.  They celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and anticipated his return in glory without memorializing his passion and death.(15)  

________________________________________
Footnotes:
1. F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, p. 498
2. ibid
3. Brown, The Spiritual Gospel, 1960, p. 52
4. D.A Carson, John, p. 296
5. idid, p. 299
6. Morris, John, pp. 312-3
7. ibid
8. ibid
9. Odeberg, The Fourth Gospel, p. 256
10. ibid, p. 239
11. D.G. Dunn, NTS, XVII, (1970-1), pp. 337-8
12. Odeberg, The Fourth Gospel, p. 256
13. Morris, John, pp. 312-3
15. John M. Perry, NTS, 39, (1993), p. 22

Not cited, but consulted:
C.K. Barrett, John

For more information on The Lord’s Supper:

Some Considerations Regarding the Lord’s Supper Today, by I. Howard Marshall

The Lord’s Supper — A Holy Meal, by Steve Atkerson
Observing The Lord’s Supper, By Brian Anderson


Sky Links 6-11-15

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

And they were all together in one place…
-Acts 2:1

A Church For All Ages

Do you dream of a church where all ages are present?  I do.  J.R. Miller wrote some ideas about what his church has done to make this workable.  His church formulated, through a consensus of the adults, a list of expectations:

 Adults need to “Put on love” so we don’t ‘porcupine’ each other!  But what about the kids?  J.R. Miller wrote a

This list of expectations would be like a fence around a playground; it would keep our kids feeling safe, yet not restricted. The list of expectations would be like a guardrail along a cliff; it would provide security without unnecessary restriction.

So here is what we did.

The adults sat down during one of our gatherings and each of us listed behaviors we felt acceptable or unacceptable. This was a great opportunity for us, as parents, to build trust in one another to be responsible for holding all the kids accountable to our shared expectations.

J.R. Miller, What can we do with all these kids

Kevin Brown just wrote about why the “family of God” should gather all together, with all ages:

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient

…Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the onefamily. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. 🙂

D. Kevin Brown, Why Do We Have Babies and Small Children in Our Church Services?

The photo is from a story about a house church, from NPR- Swapping Steeples For Sofas.


Robert Stamps: “The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him.”

Dr. Robert Stamps teaches that what happens to us, by Christ, in communion, is the purpose of it.  Stamps has a PhD in Eucharistic Theology.  The emphasis of remembrance or memorializing Christ gets it wrong, says Stamps, because communion or The Eucharist is not about the past, but about the kingdom breaking in now.

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance.”, not, “Remember as you do this.”  The “this” is Jesus working today in people’s lives (together), delivering and saving them to be his disciples.  The “this” is not a hushed (memorial) moment.  Christ’s life is celebrated in a meal with laughter and weeping, sharing life in his life.

The “table” is the table at your house, or in your “upper room”, and not a special table, on a stage, or at an alter.  Your table might be a tv tray or a blanket spread on the floor or ground.  The table is the place between us where we experience the presence of Christ.  That’s Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, or The Eucharist.

The message of the Lord’s Supper, Communion, or The Eucharist (and The Gospel); is that God comes to your house, to your table, into your world, in this world.  We’ve had it backwards.

Stamps said,

“We don’t don’t just reflect.  Jesus Christ is a living presence.  And when the church has communion, and ‘remembers’ him, we remember as an encounter…  John Wesley said we believe in a real presence with a real encounter.  Jesus Christ is not a distant savior back there in history.  Jesus Christ is alive and present to us in the Holy Spirit… So, the question is not one of how he is present, but what his presence will do to us.”

Robert Stamps- The Meaning of Communion

Dr. Stamps is a longtime friend of Wayne Jacobsen (Finding Church) and has been on Wayne’s show recently and in the past:

“The supper of the Lord is a place where Christ is appointed for the church to meet him.”

Broken ‘People Pickers’

Many of us have trouble in our friendships.  Friendships are very unsatisfying when they are one-sided, when you do most of the giving, while the other person mostly takes.  We are all in the process of ‘growing up’.  Donald Miller wrote, Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should. :

Growing up as a Christian I was taught I should forgive and accept everybody. I still

believe that. But what forgiving and accepting has looked like over the years has changed.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was given to me by my friend Ben. We were taking a break from a writing project, sitting out on my deck when I brought up some trouble I was having with a friend.  I’d grown a little tired of this friend using me and I was losing trust.

Ben said something I’d never forget.

He said You know, Don, there are givers and takers in this life, I got rid of the takers years ago and I’ve been better for it. I’d recommend you do the same. To be sure, this was reductionistic but Ben was making a general point.

The point is this: Some people aren’t trustworthy. He’s right. And if we don’t believe that, I think we’re being naive.

Don Miller: Do You Filter Your Friendships?  You Probably Should

Don highly recommends the book, Safe People, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

The Biggest Mistake a Successful Church Planter Can Make 

Aaron Gloy is the pastor of a 5 year old church.  He recently wrote about how church planting and
disciple making are two different things:

I was trained in all the conventional methods of planting a church. But what I wasn’t trained in and what I failed to think through entirely was how we were going to make disciples.

This is rather problematic when you consider that Jesus never commanded us to plant churches. He commanded us to make disciples. Now when you effectively make disciples I believe church planting becomes inevitable, but it is very possible to plant churches and never get around to actually making disciples.

I thought, studied and planned relentlessly when it came to planting our church, but disciple making wasn’t given nearly the same kind of attention. I assumed that if we moved people into small groups it would just sort of happen on its own. This is easily the biggest mistake I’ve made as a pastor and church planter…

Aaron Gloy- The Biggest Mistake I Made As A Church Planter.


NT Wright: “Jesus is the hinge on which the great door of history swings…  ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’, is the key to the Church’s mission.”     

Shane Blackshear interviewed NT Wright on his show.  I was deeply impacted by his words on Jesus and the kingdom and the church.  I found this book and his chapter in it, where he speaks on this more.  He takes up the issue of holding together the kingdom, the cross, and the resurrection.

“He is the crucified, resurrected, kingdom-bringer, and Israel’s Messiah.  His crucifixion established the kingdom, his resurrection established him as Messiah.  On the cross, he did the work of Messiah, defeating the powers of evil, conquering death.  His resurrection means new creation has come, now and here.” -NT Wright

This is Wright, from the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference, on his work, that became this book; Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright.  These words are from his address & chapter entitled, “Whence and Whither, Historical Jesus studies in The Life of the Church?”:

“…What about fresh readings of the Gospels in the service if the church?

What is the “so what”?  This, I believe, is not basically about apologetics… but about mission.

Somehow, the whole complex of kingdom, cross, and resurrection must play out into a full-orbed gospel-rooted mission which will be significantly unlike the social gospel mission that forgot about the cross, or the “Jesus died for you” mission that forgot about the kingdom.

One of the great breakthrough moments for me when I was first struggling with historical Jesus questions was John 20:21: “As the father has sent me, so I send you.”

That derivative correspondence – the “as” and the “so”, with Jesus’ own mission the source and the template for that of his followers, as they receive the Spirit- suddenly opens up an entire hermeneutical world, demanding that the church again and again study the historical mission of Jesus not just to find out the back history of the crucified and risen One, but to realign itself with the shape and content of that mission in order to carry out its own.  

Jesus’ own mission becomes the template and the energizing force for all that the church has to do and be. We are to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.

You will only understand the mission of the church in the world if, instead of using the canon as a closed story, a charmed circle in which it means what it means, but which you can’t break into or out of, you go back to Jesus himself, which is what the canon is pleading with you to do, so that you can then see who he was and is and then discern, in the power of the Spirit, what (who?) we have to do and be.

If you want to know what it looks like, read the book of Acts: a story of doing the kingdom, bearing the kingdom, suffering for the kingdom, and eventually announcing the kingdom under the nose of Caesar himself. That is what it looks like when the church goes out, with the breath of Jesus in our lungs, to tell the world that he is its rightful Lord.

Sometimes people get hurt; sometimes a thousand people get converted ; sometimes all sorts of things in between take place; and somehow the Gospel gets to Rome, to the center of human power and authority, to announce there that Jesus is Lord and God is king, openly and unhindered.

 To do this, however, the church needs constantly to reconnect with the real Jesus, who the canonical Gospels give us but whom we have so badly misunderstood.  The world will pull these things apart again, will lure us into the smaller worlds of either social work or saving souls for a disembodied eternity.  

Our various Western worldviews will force on us political agendas that are culled from elsewhere, which we can feel good about because they don’t have the cross attached to them.  

-NT Wright: “Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church.”Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright By Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays (pp. 151-2).  The original audio of Wright’s lecture is here.

Engaging The LGBTQ Community

I listened to Debra Hirsch‘s Seminar on “Enagaging The LGBTQ Community”.  Debra Hirsch is the author of Redeeming Sex.  Here are some endorsements of her book:

“With lived experience, direct frankness and a pastoral heart, Deb Hirsch addresses the church on sexuality. In so doing, Redeeming Sex prepares the way for the places the church must go to be ‘among’ today’s confused and strife-ridden world of sexuality. It is a vulnerable gift that moves us beyond faulty stereotypes and pre-set notions. I cannot think of a better book to start the conversation.”

David Fitch

“Debra Hirsch’s own story—and what she learned about sex before and after meeting Jesus—is both convincing and convicting. But the book is more than testimony. Debra makes intelligent, faithful use of Scripture and of authors who have engaged with this topic. She also untangles key differences between sexuality and cultural roles. Noting the Bible’s extensive ‘sexual language and imagery,’ Debra affirms that ‘our sexuality lies close to our spirituality.’ Her book can lead Christians to an integration of sex and sanctity that enriches both—and makes us more faithful and redemptive disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Howard A. Snyder 

“I’m so grateful to Deb Hirsch for writing the best book on this conversation I have read. It speaks to the heart of our identity in Christ. It addresses complex and sensitive realities and tensions with grace, love, compassion, truth, justice and mercy. It is prophetic, profound, candid, transparent and should be read by every Christian. It will challenge you to the core, but we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that people are hurting and need real answers to real issues. I am giving a copy of this book to everyone I know. It’s that important.”

Christine Caine

Deb Hirsch: Engaging The LGBTQ Community – Exponential Podcast (you  might need to subscribe)
Redeeming Sex (Amazon link)
A 4 minute video primer from Deb Hirsch, on the topic in her book.

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