Posts Tagged communion

Living Bread

John 6: 51

I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.

It’s easy enough to accept this verse at face value. If someone says to us that Jesus is the bread of life we easily agree with them. What, though, does this verse really mean? Jesus said we are to eat this bread. If we do, we shall live forever. Okay, sign me up but how does one eat this bread?

Here is another question. Does this verse speak about consuming the Word or about communion? Better still, is there something else we are missing entirely? How do you imagine we are supposed to ingest this living bread, the bread of life, as it were? Go a step further and ask, how are we supposed to consume Jesus. That almost sounds disgusting, doesn’t it?

The truth of the matter is that He lost some people over this teaching which is kind of interesting. He had just told them how to have eternal life and they fell away. He even asked the twelve if they were going to leave also. As you know, they stayed with Jesus but this teaching was so strong and so difficult that many people stopped following Jesus. I guess we have the same problem today though. When the message gets tough the weak just leave.

It is a simple thing for us to say that in order to be saved, in order to gain eternal life we must partake of Jesus. The more difficult part is in figuring out what that means in practice. I am going to leave this for you to decide for yourself. Obviously this was not some platitude that Jesus offered. Had it been a shallow, non-substantive message, people would not have left him. So, there has to be something deep and strong about this, probably something which requires something of us. In any event, there is no life without Jesus, no life without eating the bread from heaven.

Rites, Ritual and Religion

Mark 2: 18                 Amplified

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting [as a ritual]; and they came and asked Jesus, “Why are John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fasting, but Your disciples are not doing so?”

Yesterday we looked at the Sacraments. We saw how the observance of them can vary between denominations. I wish to reiterate that there need not be war over the proper number of sacraments or how they are observed. In contrast with the Old Testament, there is very little specified in the New Testament about feasts, rites or rituals. Largely, churches and denominations have developed ritualistic patterns which meet the needs of their congregation. Further, there is enough diversity among the Christian churches that every person ought to be able to find a system of worship which meets their individual need. What is important is that we practice a true faith.

Some of the less formal and less ritualistic churches bemoan the pomp and circumstance of the ceremonial services but I have discovered that we all have created a system of rituals. Even in the least formal of churches you may find some patterns emerging. That is okay. It is acceptable to develop practice patterns with which we are comfortable as long as we do not begin to serve them instead of the Lord Jesus.   

This is the main point. In the Old Testament there was great emphasis on the feasts and other forms of ritualistic worship and how they were to be conducted. The celebration of the Jewish faith had, to a greater degree, a corporate expression. In the Christian faith, so much of what calls us to higher ground happens within us. If we then choose to express that with pot luck dinners or high mass we may. We must, however, keep our focus on that spiritual reality which is happening within us as Thomas á Kempis suggested. The sacrament, feast or song is not the worship. It is the gift we give God from our hearts which matters, and truly, that is all that matters in the end. You won’t go to hell for not practicing the sacraments but you can practice all of the sacraments and never connect with Jesus in your heart. This is the important concept and we really must embrace it. 

May I be so bold as to say that it is not communion which is holy? It is the honor, dedication, servitude and, most importantly, the love which you give to the Father that matters. Some people find that practicing the sacraments, especially communion, helps them to connect with that part of their heart which loves God. To my way of thinking, the sacraments are about giving, at least as much as they are about receiving. This is a subtly but an important point and one which makes a great deal of difference to our Father. As we take communion are we doing so in order to receive from the Father? Perhaps we hope to receive the grace Kempis wrote about. Or, do we eat the bread and drink the cup in order to remember what Jesus did for us? Perhaps we should not say “receive” communion because it is supposed to be an offering of remembrance and thanksgiving. “When He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11: 24). It is almost like raising your glass in a toast to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. He has already given us everything. He has already done for us everything. Now we honor him in recalling all that he has done and all that he is.

Tomorrow I wish to share with you two final thoughts as you consider the role of the sacraments and other rituals in the Christian faith. Let your heart be at peace. We will see what Jesus teaches so that we can know that we are building our houses on the rock. Be blessed.

The Sacrament

1 Corinthians 10: 16

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

Of course, Paul’s topic here is we call the Lord’s Supper. It is also widely known as “Communion”. Though the word Communion does not appear in the Bible, it is widely practiced and accepted amongst most Christian groups. In fact, it is valued as possibly the highest sacrament. 

The word sacrament is defined in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms as “an outward sign instituted by God to convey an inward or spiritual grace.” It is a rite or ritual that Christians participate in which is meant to be an external acknowledgement of what God is doing and has done in our spirits. There is wide disparity over the sacraments. Catholics identify seven sacraments while most protestant churches only recognize two. Other Christian faiths abandon the practice of sacraments wholly.   

Thomas á Kempis wrote in the Imitation of Christ that “in this Sacrament spiritual grace is conferred, the soul’s strength is replenished, and the recipient’s mind is fortified and strength is given to the body debilitated by sin.” For Kempis the sacraments, especially communion, are not just outward signs but something spiritual.  Some people feel that in the receiving of communion they experience Christ more than at any other time. Drawing deeper on Kempis we can see that the keeping of the sacraments were important to him because within them the spirit, soul mind and even body are benefited.

While my writing and thoughts are not on par with Thomas á Kempis I would like to offer a thought. If the rites and rituals of the Christian faith are meant to be events which stir our spirits and confer blessing on our minds, souls and even bodies then I wish to suggest that reading the Bible and meditating therein is the most powerful of all Christian activity. At least I find that my greatest connection with the Divine Trinity occurs over the Word.  

Some people find their greatest connection with Christ over the Word while others find their expression of Christian faith more easily in the sacraments. Those, like Kempis, who honor the keeping of the sacraments, would never suggest that they are meant to replace the Word. However, I do find that some of the church is divided on this point. Were I to suggest that we not observe any of the Holy Rites, especially Communion and Baptism, some people’s skin would peel right off of them. Nonetheless, I have seen whole congregations who give a high place to the sacraments but largely ignore the Word of God. This is not as it should be. 

We may observe the sacraments as fits us for there is a denomination at every level of sacramental observance. That is good. The Christian church does not have to be one size fits all. However, a church, a congregation or a believer without a steady diet of God’s word is one which can be led astray. Further, without the feeding on the word, that believer, congregation or even whole denomination will die. Practice seven sacraments if that suits you. Participate in daily communion if you like, but follow this piece of advice: forsake not the Word of God.

Martha v. Mary

Luke 10:41

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one.”

Can you guess what the one thing is that is necessary? It is our time with the Lord Jesus, of course. You probably remember this story. Martha is busy hustling around the house preparing food and accommodations for Jesus and his disciples. While Martha was busy serving the Lord, her sister Mary just sat at his feet listening to him. Martha was incensed and approached Jesus about it so that he would reprimand Mary and make her help Martha with all of the work. Surprise, surprise . . . Jesus didn’t do as expected. Instead he said that Mary had chosen the good part and it would not be taken away from her. I’ve always pictured Jesus shaking his head as he says, “Martha, Martha.” Can’t you just hear his tone of voice?

As you know, last week I struggled with my calendar. By Wednesday morning I was already exhausted from my striving. So, I put down my devotional and just started talking to the Father. He said to me, “Ivey, you are worried about many things. You have become like Martha. Yes, there is always work to do but there is only one thing that is important.” “Wait Dad! Did you really just call me a Martha?” I have always imagined myself at Jesus feet drinking in every word which proceeds from his mouth but here was my Father saying that I am acting like Martha rather than like Mary.

You see, I had allowed all the things I am doing for Jesus to become my duty, my job. I wasn’t praying, meditating, journaling and reading my Bible out of love any more. Each one of those items had become another item on my “To Do” list. I was quickly falling into the trap that so many people do. We become bogged down in the things to do, even those things that we do in service to the Lord that we partition him from our experience. “I’m working so hard for you Lord that I don’t have time for you.” Well, that needed to be corrected immediately and fortunately Dad did. He said to tune my heart to Him the very first thing in the morning and He would fill me and that together we would get it all done. And do you know something, He was right. I had begun to let my calendar and my “To Do’s” run me and they were cruel task masters. Everything became just one more thing that I needed to do and there was no joy left in it.

So I listened to Dad’s advice and the rest of the week I got everything on my schedule done and never once got stressed about it. I actually did more in less time at the end of the week than I did by pressing so hard in the first part of the week. I am beginning to think that Jesus really knew what he was talking about when he spoke to Martha. Just turn your face to him, the one important matter, and he will make everything else work for you.

This is the way Jesus walked in the earth. He began his day by tuning into the Father and then he just stayed in that connectedness all day. Isn’t this what we all want, to learn to walk in the earth the way Jesus did? Well, it begins by just starting your day connecting with your spirit and with the Spirit inside of you. Now my calendar is a good, stable structure for my day but it isn’t my Lord. God leads me through my schedule one step at a time and I am able to maintain that sense of calm that comes from the Holy Spirit.

There is only one thing that is needful and that is our time with the Lord. If your devotion is becoming an idol instead of worship, move it to the side for a day. If your prayers are a duty rather than a joyful meeting with your best friend, then change gears. When you do, Father will restore the joy and the anointing to those things. No matter what you have to do in a day, begin it with the lord in personal communion with him and I believe you will find your days flowing much more smoothly.

Made Strong

Psalm 105: 37

Then He brought them out with silver and gold; and among His tribes there was not one who stumbled.

I recently heard Pastor Joseph Prince teaching on communion. It is a brilliant teaching. The part that made the greatest impact on me was when he spoke about the Hebrew children leaving Egypt in the great exodus. He used today’s scripture in his message. The Amplified version says that there was not one feeble among their tribes. Prince ascribed that miracle to the immediate previous actions of the Israelites. They had just partaken of Passover. The people took unblemished lambs; slew them and used the blood to mark the entrance to their homes. Then they ate the meat of the lamb. You can see there the communion message because in our communion we partake of the body of the perfect lamb as represented by the bread. Since Jesus took all disease and physical ailment in his body we are able to live free of sickness and disease. The Passover looked forward to the slaying of the perfect lamb while our communion looks back to the sacrifice of our Lord. In both instances our sickness was born in his stripes (see Isaiah 53: 4 – 5, 1 Peter 2: 24).  

Joseph Prince’s teaching taught about the power in communion when you understand it and it is not merely a ritual. If it is done apart from faith, then it is meaningless. When, however, you mix your faith with the giving and receiving of the body of Christ then the miraculous can truly happen. That is what the bread is. It represents the body of Christ Jesus which was broken for us. Referring back to the fact that no one among the Israelites was feeble, Prince said that the partaking of Jesus makes you strong. If, therefore, you need healing in your body, it can be found in the broken body of Jesus, so receive the communion bread in faith expecting the healing power of Jesus to touch your body.

As I wrote earlier, I think it is a brilliant teaching but I am really trying to arrive at a different message by using Joseph Prince’s message as the foundation. When I heard him say that partaking of Jesus makes you strong my mind left the thoughts of the body of Christ which was broken for our healing and went to inner healing and inner strength. Partaking of the body makes your body strong but also partaking of the Spirit of Jesus and the Words of Jesus makes your inner person strong. 

Most of us have scars and injuries in the inner person and those injuries make us weak. They make us dance to other people’s tunes rather than living in true freedom. They incapacitate us and they steal life from us. However, if we will fill ourselves with Jesus we will be healed in the innermost parts and we will become strong. You can have everything you want if you will receive Jesus’ healing. It takes some courage perhaps. Too many of us are afraid to feel and afraid to make ourselves vulnerable even to the Lord. If you will let him, though, Jesus will make you strong in your body, mind and emotions. Of what are you afraid? Let him touch your heart. Partake of his spirit and his word and you shall be made strong. Of you it will be said, “Not one among them was found to be feeble.”