The past few weeks in August the Gospel Lessons from John chapter 6 have been about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I thought I would share a few of my reflections on what Jesus as the Bread of Life means for me. Especially as it relates to the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
Every week we celebrate Communion. Sure, we could have it less often but, we have it every week because It is who we are. As Christians we rely daily on God’s grace and we know that every Sunday we can receive God’s grace at the communion table. We receive his promise of his presence and his forgiveness.
First, As Lutherans, we believe in the real presence of Christ. What does this mean? It means we trust that when Christ says “This is my Body given for you” And “This is my blood shed for you” it is true. It is a promise. That not only is Christ present in the Bread and Wine but that this gift is “for you.” How can Christ me present in bread and wine. This gift is one of the great mysteries of the church. It can be hard to wrap our heads around. St Claire says it best: “What wonderful majesty! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the Universe, the Son of God, should come to us in bread and wine, for our salvation.”
The question often asked when faced with this great mystery is: Am I worthy to receive such a gift? Who comes the table is not about what any of us did or didn’t do. It is about what Christ offers us. Every Sunday at the beginning of our service we confess our sins and we announce that we are forgiven in the name of Jesus. Being a forgiven child of God makes us worthy. As Christians we gather as broken wounded people around the table of our savior who endured the cross and death and yet rose again. We find life in him. This bread of life is for all those who follow Jesus and need food to keep them going. It is for people who might think they are unworthy or have doubts but even the smallest part of them trusts Jesus has something for them anyway.
Lastly when I think about communion, I think about the communion of saints. I think about all those before us who have partaken of this meal and all those who long after us will do the same. The Mystery of this meal is that just as Christ promises his presence in the bread and wine when we receive it Christ becomes present in us. And we all become part of the body of Christ. Christ lives in us.
What is important about communion for you? How do you feel Christ present when we gather? What do the words “For you” mean we celebrate communion? Do you ever miss communion if you are away? I’d love to hear your answers.
What does it mean to be Christian? As we see a lot of religious talk and bible quoting in the public sphere. This has been my question for the past few months. I am reminded of what Paul reminds us Galatians about living in the Spirit.
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. "
As Luther Might say, what does this Mean?
How do we live by the Spirit? How do we evaluate ourselves and those leading us to see if they are living the Good News of Jesus entrusted to us?
Galatians provides us some guidance. In our culture we get hung up get up on few of the first sins related to sex and can’t move past them. They are important, but the rest are just as if not more important. Just look at our country. We have made idols of money and politics, we have outright hatred for people based on race or who we voted for. The list of things that draw us away from living in God’s Spirit our numerous.
I urge you as we think about how we live our lives, who we support, and what things we give allegiance to. Use the Fruit of the Spirit as your guide. Are the people leading our country, our communities, in our lives Loving, Joy filled, working toward peace, patient and diligent, Kind, Good, Faithful (to not just to God but to all people), gentle (humble) and self-controlled (purposeful and disciplined toward the wellbeing of others)? I hope you find someone. And if you can't find anyone, maybe God is calling you.
Nobody is perfect but if each day we ask for God's grace to be just a little more loving, more kind, more peaceful, more patient, gentler, and more self-controlled. If we can help others around us do the same. The world will be a better place. Following is Christ can be difficult and us be nourished by the Fruit of the Spirit along the way and share this fruit with others. How are we as a community of Christ cultivating and sharing this Fruit?
Summer is a wonderful season. Sunshine and fun. It is a season full of growth. This summer pay attention to our Sunday lessons as we re-encounter Jesus and his disciples. As they are healing, teaching and interacting with people they sometimes face resistance. We too face resistance when things change and grow in our little community. We recently welcomed new members. We have had old members move away. We are still the same loving and welcoming community and yet we are also different. Each new person brings their gifts and personality changing us. When people leave something of them leaves us. We are experiencing new dynamics that challenge how we do things as God’s people and how we experience our faith. We are experiencing both joy and sorrow.
I was recently at Synod Assembly. We have several congregations that closed. Among them was St. Stephen and James Lutheran Church with 166 years of ministry. As a way to remember their ministry the altar pieces and paraments from these congregations we used for our communal worship. They were a reminder that change happens whether we like it or not. Sometimes that change is death. But we have hope in the resurrection. Many of the resources and people from these former congregation are now being used to help other surrounding churches and even helping start a variety of new communities that can hear the Good News of Jesus. Praise the Lord.
In our own church when Joan King had a stroke, we saw people jump at the chance to help and carry the load, so Joan could focus on recovery. It sparked some new life and energy into our food pantry. It created a new dynamic, new energy and maybe even some tension as we continue to figure things out. Joan and Allen are doing much better and are ready get back to this ministry.
I encourage everyone to be patient and loving as we figure out how to manage this change. Learning to take on new tasks, learning to let go so others can participate is necessary for each of us. We are in this together for the sake of sharing Christ’s Love and helping our neighbor. Let’s not forget that.
Another exciting change is Caitlin and I are expecting. We are excited as we prepare for the baby due on Dec, 7th. We are excited to be parents, and this will change our ministry together.
There will be lots challenging things ahead. We each have our own challenges and burdens. Life can get difficult, the challenges taxing, we can even screw up, but Jesus is with us offering us love, hope and forgiveness. Jesus is with us and encouraging us through the good, the bad and the ugly. My prayer for you is that you will embrace the challenges ahead of you. Christ has gone before you. He is preparing the way. As Romans 5:1-5 reminds us
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Let’s be bold as we face the many moments ahead. Amen!
It seems the longest Season of the Church year Pentecost has come quickly upon us. We celebrate the presence of the risen Lord and fulfillment of Jesus promise to send his Advocate the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther in his small catechism in describing the 3rd Article of the creed as “On being made Holy.” It is through the Holy Spirit we can know Jesus and it is through the Holy Spirit us leads us to repentance and to receive forgiveness. Being Holy is being whole in the presence of God. It is through the Holy Spirit God calls us, not just us individually but as Christ’s body in the world to make the world, Holy. A world aware and alive because God’s presence. As John 3:17 says “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
How does Holy Spirit’s make the world Holy? “The Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers” as stated in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.
We understand the Holy Spirit is a variety of ways: As Wind, Fire, A dove, a wild goose. It is certainly not something we can control or tame as John 3:34 reminds us that God “gives the Spirit without measure.” The Holy Spirit most simply described is an outpouring of God’s Love upon God’s people. Think about it, Love is often depicted in the same way: as a wild animal, as fire, as a fragrant breeze. So during Pentecost we celebrate this wonderful outpouring of Love upon God’s people the Church. This outpouring of Love is for the world God created.
The Holy Spirit works and inspires so many people in our congregation, giving them the energy and gifts to share God’s Love. To love their neighbors through words of forgiveness and caring but also by feeding the hungry, providing clothing, tending the sick, offering God’s presence. We worship together, we pray for each other and the world. We study God’s word and we try to follow Jesus out in the world. All this is happening here in this place. And that same Holy Spirit is working throughout the rest of the world too. Isn’t that exciting?
During this season I would ask that we do three things. First, be grateful for every breath and know the Holy Spirit is in each breath. Second, Pray for the Holy Spirit to surprise you, pray for open ears, eyes and mind. Lastly, Take time to study God’s word, it can be the lessons from Sunday or a devotional you like. Take some small action around what the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to do. You are not alone in these tasks. Ask your fellow pilgrims, remind each other to be grateful, pray with each other, take action together. The Holy Spirit is here in and among us inspiring and moving us to make not just ourselves Holy but the world around us as well.
Lent is in full swing early this 2018. It is a time of reflection as Jesus makes his way toward the cross. The number 40 is a significant number through the Biblical Story, a symbol of struggle and transformation. 40 days and nights of the flood in Genesis with Noah. 40 years in the wilderness with Israel and Moses in the Torah. And of course, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness facing temptation.
As we experience Lent this year, I realize that many of us are going through our own wilderness and trials. With health, finances and family circumstances. God walks with us through it all. This Lent on Wednesday evenings, we will encounter the voices and experiences of people who knew Jesus through dramatic monologues. These moments from the Gospels will help us see Jesus as a friend and teacher. As human and one who cares for us deeply. My prayer is that you will experience Jesus in new and profound ways this Lent. I encourage you to join us on Wednesday evenings for dinner at 6pm and our service which will include these monologues at 7pm.
Every year is unique and different. This year Lent has me thinking about our journey as a congregation toward the Cross and the Resurrection. We can’t have resurrection without death. Resurrection is a change. It can be a change in perspective or a significant change in life. Every person goes through moments of change. I am reminded most vividly of the 17 deaths we experienced on Valentine's Day/Ash Wednesday from an act of Gun Violence in Parkland Florida. One certainly things about life and death after something as tragic as that.
As Christians we are called to live a daily dying and rising. Death is a normal part of life and we try our best to trust God in it, because we know that we have hope in the Resurrection. As a community of believers we are also called to a continual dying and rising. People die, People leave, programs change or stop for various reasons and yet God sends us comfort, new people, new ideas, new ways to begin.
Questions to ponder this Lenten Season:
These are big questions! Let’s explore these together. I’d love to hear from you. God is in the midst of it all.
Posts from various People reflecting on How Christ intersects with daily Life.