Thursday, January 26, 2012

One of the best habits of my life is to read the "Proverb of the day" -- that is the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the date. I wish I could say that I never miss, but that is my goal.

Today's Proverb, 26, is an expose of the fool, the sluggard, the meddler, the gossip, and the malicious man. It is a penetrating chapter that calls each of us to read it for ourselves rather than quickly hoping someone we know considers the parts which we are certain apply to them.

After a stunningly negative description of the fool, verse 12 suggests that there is one kind of person who is worse than a fool,that is, "a man wise in his own eyes," because "there is more hope for a fool than for him."

The "man wise in his own eyes" is a person who does not have a humble, teachable spirit. He/she is so certain of being right that there is no openness to hearing something different.

"Lord, give me a teachable spirit."

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Lord's Supper

Today for our Communion Service we focused on the bread and wine from 1 Corinthians 11. The notes are too long to post but later this week the sermon will be up on the church web site:

(1) The bread is a picture of Jesus’ body broken on the cross to pay for our sin

Think of the process involved in producing bread. A seed is planted in the ground and grows quietly till the grain is formed (like the first 30 years of Jesus’ life). Then the grain is cut, bundled, and thrashed and winnowed to separate the grain from the stalk and shell. Next the grain is smashed -- ground into powder to make it into flour. Made into bread dough, the flour is then fired in a hot oven until the amazing aroma of fresh bread invites us to rip off a piece to both enjoy and be nourished by life’s most basic food – bread. What an amazing picture -- in order to become the BREAD OF LIFE to give life to the world, Jesus’ body, like the grain had to be cut off, smashed, violently pulverized, ground up, and then put through the fire. How He loves us!

(2) The bread is a picture of Jesus’ body the church unified by love to carry out His mission throughout the world

Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17

The church is the body of Christ on the earth today. Jesus is doing His work in the world today through His body, the church. The church represents Jesus on earth today. The church is “one loaf” and “one body” – its unity a powerful demonstration of Jesus and His love.

That’s why when he wrote a letter to the first century church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul was so incensed and brutally confrontational about what happened at their communion service. Imagine how uncomfortable the Corinthian Christians must’ve been when these words from Paul were read in their gathering: In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Obviously these early Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper in conjunction with what we today might call a “potluck supper.” They actually called it a “love feast” because it was to be a wonderful display of unselfish love and unity.

After all, the church was the one, perhaps the only place in the ancient world where all the barriers were down, where everyone was equal. The church was an island of love and unity in an ocean of selfishness, division, racism, elitism, sexism, and discrimination. The church was a place where rich and poor, slave and free, men and women, old and young, educated and uneducated – all were one, equal, accepted, united, and loved.

But at the Corinthian communion pot luck, rather than showing selfless love to each other, especially to those poor members who had no food to contribute, the better off members pushed to the front and gluttonously consumed the food and got drunk on the wine leaving the poor members with nothing but their hunger and thirst. Some of the members were driven by selfishness rather than love.

The church was divided by those who wanted their way at the expense of others. The unity of the church was damaged by those who had the attitude, “It’s all about me and getting my needs met.”

Wait a minute. Isn’t the church supposed to be a place where it’s about Jesus and others rather than about me? Isn’t that the difference between love and selfishness?

Here are some observations on Paul’s pointed teaching in 1Corinthians 11:

• Authentic Christians care about the poor – it is so gratifying to see how God has been transforming Calvary in this regard. The generosity of our church family in meeting peoples’ needs has been astounding!
• Christians aren’t perfect – I shouldn’t be surprised when I see that in others or recognize it in myself
• Churches aren’t perfect – While I may be saddened by this, I shouldn’t be shocked or become cynical or disillusioned and walk away.
• It’s not okay for an individual or a group to divide the church and harm its unity in order to get their way or benefit themselves at the expense of others.
• If someone damages the unity of the church and divides it, they should be strongly confronted, rebuked, and called on to repent and change their behavior – like Paul did here in 1 Corinthians 11. These were very uncomfortable words but necessary if the church was going to be the body of Christ rather than some ugly misrepresentation of it.
• In a remarkable indication of the importance of love and unity in Jesus’ church, Paul asserted in verse 19 that divisions in a church reveal which members have God’s approval and which do not. Regardless of what they make think or say, those who cause division do not have God’s approval on their lives.
• This is the flip side of Jesus’ declaration that the way His true disciples would be recognized is by their love for each other (John 13:34, 35) and that the unity of the church is the way the world would not only know that they were Jesus’ true followers but also the way the world would come to believe that God sent His Son to rescue the world (John 17:20-23).
• A selfish Christian who must have his/her own way at the expense of others or who fails to share God’s blessing with those in need thereby denies the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
• Paul called on the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves before participating in the service lest they fail to recognize the Lord’s body and partake unworthily. To bring selfishness and division to “the body of Christ” is to sin against Jesus’ body and blood, and thus invite God’s serious judgment (1 Corinthians 11:28-34).

By the way, there’s an important lesson here about all relationships – not just the church. Wherever there is division you can be sure that there is selfishness. Love unites. Selfishness divides. Selfishness always results in division – in a marriage, a family, a friendship, a team, a business, a community, or a nation.

The Communion service is a dramatic picture of self-sacrificing love in order to benefit others. Jesus gave up everything in order to give us forgiveness, make us part of His family and kingdom, change us from selfish to loving, and give us the hope of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.

Watch or listen to the entire study later this week at