Archive for March, 2019
“The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover” (Mark 14:16).
As a memorial celebration dating back some 1300 years (see Exodus 12:14), Jesus would now heighten, and enrich, the meaning and understanding of the communion table. The one constant that must never change, however, is the significance of community as a “genetic” marker in our faith heritage; passed down from generation to generation. In a day when so many worry about the world stealing away our Christian heritage, the greater indictment is what we so carelessly and indifferently give away by our continued absence and sporadic attendance.
“While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is My body’” (Mark 14:22).
Coined by Lincoln biographer, Ronald C. White, Jr., in reference to the undefined faith expression of America’s favorite president, “The presence of an absence” conjures up various thoughts and application, especially in regard to communion and the life we are called to live as the followers of Christ. For the community of faith, the communion table is a picturesque way commemorating and saying, “God is still here.” To a skeptical and unbelieving world, the life we live either validates or invalidates the reality of Christ in us and God’s presence in the world.
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
While those failing to persevere and endure through times of trial might seek to make excuses and blame God, James is adamant and quick in refuting any such notion (James 1:13). Jesus’ instructive word is certainly no contradiction. In fact, Jesus is speaking to the realities of what disciples will face when they dare to live counter-culturally as salt and light. When in the midst of so many ensnaring pitfalls, disciples must live on high alert. Awareness sees not only the coming threat but the route of escape.
“And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Perhaps the most telling sign of having declared one’s spiritual bankruptcy (5:3) before God is the willingness and intentionality by which you forgive others. In other words, the proof of having experienced God’s grace and mercy is made evident in how you extend it to others. The problem is, because most think their situation is unique, they cling to bitterness with a sense of entitlement. Such an attitude isn’t without consequence. Instead of receiving grace, the standard by which you judge others becomes the standard by which you will be judged.
“Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
It seems that most prayers are offered with the hope that God will miraculously change the present circumstances. We have all heard the expression, “Prayer changes things.” What is more true, however, is prayer changes the “pray-er.” Paul prayed repeatedly for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed. Instead, God changed Paul. By God’s grace, he better responded to his hardship and viewed it from a more redeeming perspective. If given the opportunity, prayer will change you.
“Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
Longing for the “good old days” is a faithless proposition. That our God is a God who is making all things new means that no matter what era of time we might deem as being the best of times, it pales in comparison to what God is doing in the progression of His future. If our favorite time was truly the best of times there would be no reason for God to make all things new. Faith lives in the anticipation of what lies ahead and doesn’t lament for what once was.
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
We cannot allow the affluence of the American economy, and the seeming ease at which bread arrives to our table, to blind us to the greater implications of this petition. That Jesus was concerned with the feeding of the 5000 offers certainty that he is no less concerned about the 795 million people in the world today who do not have enough food to lead healthy and active lives. To pray regarding bread is to be mindful of the many moving parts within an economic system, from seed to final distribution, necessary to its arrival upon the table. It is a prayer that acknowledges our indebtedness to God’s daily provision but also our responsibility to be part of the solution in eliminating hunger in this world.
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
We should not be surprised that the rich theology of the vertical petitions (v.9-10), and the corresponding focus upon the nature and character of God’s person, eventually gives way to horizontal petitions addressing very real practical needs. It’s a needed reminder that good theology always has an earthly application. The One who said, “Man does not live by bread alone” was far too pragmatic to say, “Man doesn’t need bread at all.”
“And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17-18).
In the midst of debilitating pain, grief, and loss, the importance of looking ahead mustn’t be lost. Facing his own crucifixion, a pain heightened by the abandonment of his closest friends, our Lord did not say, “I’ll never eat and drink again.” Instead, he looked ahead to a time when he would. Like him, be thankful! There is a future beyond your present circumstances.
“And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” (Luke 22:15).
Loneliness can be found in any crowd. Loneliness emerges from a sense of isolation; detachment. It’s when you feel like an island in an ocean of activity. In the midst of our pain and suffering, we tend to isolate ourselves. Knowing what was about to occur, I’m sure it must have been a temptation for our Lord. Yet, he knew the importance of staying engaged with those closest to him. The communion table comes to say, “We are here together; we are not alone.”