Category: Lord’s Supper (page 2 of 13)

His Presence is the Proof: Part 4

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” ~Luke 24:36

It’s a greeting of comfort. Peace be with you. It’s a blessing from the risen Lord to all the people gathered around the table. The presence of Jesus ends our anxiety about what’s happened to Jesus and whether God’s plan for our salvation is still going. Well, guess what? Jesus is alive and God’s plan is on!

The disciples are almost paralyzed by the realization that Jesus really is risen from the dead. Everything written about Jesus has been fulfilled! Everything Jesus said would happen has! There’s great joy and amazement around the table because the disciples are experiencing what Scripture promised and what the angels and prophets had longed to see.

The presence of Jesus at the resurrection meal provides the proof that there’s a direct continuity between who we are today and who we’re going to be on that great day. Suffering is not an unfortunate detour, it’s the designated path. Death is not the end, it’s the transition to the new creation. Jesus is with us at the meal to prove to us that what he’s saying is right.

And his presence makes all of us first generation disciples. It places all of our meals together on the table at Emmaus. The risen Lord is with us when we eat with his disciples in his name. It’s not just the people he appeared to during those 40 days after he rose. We don’t have to keep our faith alive on a think diet of two-thousand-year old reports of the people who saw him back then. We’re not second-hand Christians removed by time and space from those powerful events in the Gospel. Jesus is with us. The risen Lord is really present.

Now, I don’t know what’s going on with you. You might be in the same spot as those two disciples on the way to Emmaus. You might be in a place of despair. You might be experiencing grief. Maybe some dreams have been dashed. Maybe you’ve been numb for so long you’re used to it. You’re living in a fog. You’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and bad circumstances. You’ve given in. You’ve almost given up.

Accept  the invitation to the Lord’s Table. Take your place and participate in the supper. Listen for his voice. Be open to his leading. Be comforted in the warmth of his presence. Experience the meal. The meal explains what it is about Christianity that grabs us and holds us in the middle of everything that’s so wrong with our world and with ourselves. Jesus is alive and I’m going to be, too! God’s promises are real and they’re coming true!

Peace,

Allan

His Presence is the Proof: Part 3

I asked Valerie last night if she did anything special for her 21st birthday. She told me that she and one of her good friends, Paige, had gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and Valerie had a Dr Pepper for the first time in over a month. See, Valerie is trying to eat healthier, she’s trying to exercise more — just like her old man, she’s really good at it during January and February. She ordered a water with her lunch, but Paige told her, “No, you’re getting a Dr Pepper.” Valerie replied, “I want water.” Paige insisted, “No. You want a Dr Pepper.” So, she got one. And it was amazing. I told Val, “You know, a lot of dads worry about their daughter turning 21 and looking for beer. You’re just craving a Dr Pepper.” She answered, “I love the burn.” Good kid.

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“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:25-31

Jesus calls these followers on the way to Emmaus foolish and slow of heart to believe the Scriptures. “This is God’s design,” he says. “This is how it has to be!” And when he opens the Scriptures, it’s not just a couple of isolated passages or a few random texts. He explains all of Scripture to them, it says — the whole story! He tells them that salvation can only be found when God’s anointed Son takes on our suffering, when he takes the whole world’s suffering into himself, when he dies under the crushing weight of that sin and suffering, and rises again as the beginning of God’s new creation, God’s brand new eternal people. This is what had to happen, and now it has!

At the Lord’s Meal, Friday turns into Sunday.

Their eyes are opened when Jesus breaks the bread. They recognize Jesus at the table.

Now, allow me to say this about that:

Knowing the information is one thing. Getting the correct content into our brains, understanding the logic, engaging the truth with our minds — that’s very important. We shouldn’t neglect that. But let’s also nurture the emotional experience at the table. Let’s pay more attention to the tangible, touchable, tasteable proof we experience in the Church’s Meal.

The future reality of resurrection of us is experienced in the present reality of the risen Lord around the table. He’s here! He’s with us at the table!

Some days it can feel like our sin or the devil has more power than we do. Some years it can feel that way, I know. But we have direct access to the Holy One of God who has already overcome whatever Satan throws your way. He has already defeated everything the devil might possibly use against you. And we have direct access to him! We eat and drink with him all the time!

Peace,

Allan

His Presence is the Proof: Part 2

Valerie Nicole is 21 today! Happy Birthday to our Little Middle! I wish I were there in OKC with you today, Sweetie.  Hopefully Aunt Rhonda is taking you to Ted’s for dinner!

We’re so proud of you, Val, and so blessed by God by your love for others and your joy for life. Have a wonderful day, daughter. We love you!

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If the story of the Prodigal Son is the greatest story Jesus ever told, the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus is the finest scene Luke ever penned. It’s got everything: sorrow, suspense, mystery, a little bit of humor, a gradual dawning of light, unexpected actions, and a flurry of excitement. This is such a great story. And it is so about us.

The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. And it opens with the two disciples walking and talking together on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s Sunday, Resurrection Day. The tomb has been found empty, the women have seen some angels, but nobody has seen Jesus.

But the focus of this story, at least here in the beginning, is on these two Jesus-followers. They’re in despair. They’re experiencing grief. There’s been a death and it’s ended their dreams. They feel hopelessness. For the past three days they’ve been in this place between dashed hopes and maybe possibly daring to hope again. There’s maybe a tiny fraction of a glimmer of expectation. But mostly it’s bad. For three days it’s been terrible. And these two disciples have adjusted to the numbness. They’ve accepted the reality of the situation and now they’re moving on. They’re in a haze, but they’ve accepted it and they’ve got to live with it. They’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and the bad circumstances. They haven’t given up, but they’ve certainly given in.

And they’re talking about these things with each other. Serious things. Life things. They’re not talking about their golf game or the dry weather or if anybody can ever beat the Patriots. This is a raw human conversation about important things, things that matter. And Jesus says, “That’s a conversation I want to be a part of!”

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.

It was difficult to articulate everything that had happened, how horrible everything was, the despair they were feeling. They couldn’t talk about it. It’s almost like they didn’t want to talk about it.

But Jesus forces the tough conversation. And then he opens up the Scriptures to them: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

They arrive in Emmaus and the two disciples invite him into their home for dinner. And that’s where everything changes.

“When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:30-31

The story of the resurrection meal in Luke 24 perfectly mirrors our experience as Christians. We go through seasons of sad dismay at the failure of our human hopes. We endure periods of frustration and doubt, depression and despair. Let’s face it, sometimes we can get into a dark place where we question where all this is headed. We wonder if God really is in control, if Jesus really is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand, if things really are going to work out for me at the end.

Then we take our places at the table and we realize that Christ Jesus himself is with us. He warms our hearts with his truth, he comforts us with his presence, he assures us with his peace.

The realities of the Christian experience are revealed during our meals with the risen Lord. His presence with us at the table is proof that humility leads to victory, that suffering leads to glory, and that, through God in Christ, death leads to eternal life.

Peace,

Allan

His Presence is the Proof: Part 1

I’ll suggest that the Church’s weekly communion meal is shaped at least as much, if not more so, by the resurrection meals of Jesus on that first Easter Sunday than by the Last Supper in the upper room. It’s the Resurrection Day meals that most inform the Church’s Lord’s Supper and give it its meaning. One of the main reasons is that the disciples first encountered the risen and living Lord at those meals.

The very day he walked out of the grave, Jesus made it a point to be present with his followers at the main evening meal. He showed up at mealtime.

In Mark 16, we’re told “Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating.” They risen Lord is physically present with them at the table. Luke 24 says “Jesus himself stood among them.” They offered him some fish and “he ate it in their presence.” The Gospel of John is describing this same scene when it says “Jesus came and stood among them.”

Jesus is present with his followers at the Sunday meal. He is here. He is with us at the table, eating and drinking with us on the other side of the salvation work he came to do. On the other side of his death and resurrection, Jesus is present with his people at the meal.

And his physical presence provides the proof of God’s promises. It’s the proof the disciples need to know for sure that Jesus really is alive and that God is really doing everything he says he’s going to do.

In John, Jesus shows them his hands and his side. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Thomas runs his fingers along the Savior’s wounds, he touches Jesus’ scars. Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe!” And Thomas does: “My Lord and my God!” In Mark, the disciples don’t believe the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Twice it says they did not believe — they didn’t believe Mary and they didn’t believe the two disciples who Jesus in the country. But after the supper with the risen Lord, they do believe. The dinner provided the proof. Everything changed. “And the disciples went out and preached everywhere.”

In Luke 24, the disciples thought the resurrected Lord was a ghost or a spirit. They thought Jesus was still dead. Jesus says, “No, it’s me! Look at my hands and my feet! It is I, myself! Touch me and see! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones!”

“Look,” Jesus says, “I’ll prove it. Give me some of that fish.” And he ate it in their presence. And the disciples went from startled and frightened to joy and amazement. Their minds were opened, it says, and they understood everything.

It’s very easy to see why these resurrection meals carry so much weight. The risen Lord is present, he’s actually with us around the table. And it proves everything. This is not a dream or a vision, he is not a ghost or a spirit, this is not group hypnosis or wishful thinking. When Jesus appears on Sunday to eat with his followers, the realities are revealed. In Acts 10, Peter is preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. How do you know it’s real, Peter? Where’s your proof? Peter says, “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead!”

Yeah, the resurrection meals are loaded.

But the ultimate expression of the deep significance of these Lord’s Day suppers is found in Luke 24:13-35. This is the account of the very first of these resurrection meals, the first meal Jesus shared with his followers the day he walked out of the grave.

I’ll be breaking it down in this space over the next couple of days. In the meantime, you might read the text. You’re already familiar with this great story.

Peace,

Allan

God at Work: With Us

“We are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.'” ~2 Corinthians 6:16

In Exodus 24, God has come down to his people on a mountain. He comes to be  near them, to be with them. He’s keeping his covenant promise to live with us, to dwell among us. And you see all three of the Church sacraments in this passage. The people have assembled together in God’s presence. It’s the Day of Assembly. And the people are worshiping. They hear the Word of the Lord and they respond, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do!” They’re making burnt offerings, fellowship offerings, and sacrifices to God. The people are being washed by blood. Paul says in 1 Corinthians these people were all baptized when they passed through the Red Sea. But they are certainly being cleansed.

“Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you…’ Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel… They saw God and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:8-11

God comes to his people, he cleanses us, he makes us righteous and whole, and he eats and drinks with us. We see God at the table.

But that’s not enough for our God. It’s not close enough to us. So he makes his dwelling place in the tabernacle in the desert and, later, inside the temple in Jerusalem. But that’s not close enough to us for our Father. So he comes here himself in the physical flesh and blood of Jesus. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He tabernacle with us as one of us.

When Jesus was baptized, Luke tells us “all the people were being baptized.” Matthew says the people came “from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan” to be baptized. And Jesus joins us in the water. He meets us there in our cleansing. God’s presence is there. The dove, the Holy Spirit, the voice of God affirming and commissioning: “You are my child, I am proud of you.”

And Jesus meets us in worship. The Gospels say he went to the synagogue regularly, as was his custom. He went to the temple, faithfully, for the corporate assemblies and festivals. He never missed. And he ate and drank with everybody — rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, sinners and saints.  He ate with Mary and Martha and tax collectors in their own houses. He set up a picnic with 4,000 Gentiles out in the wilderness. He got in trouble because he refused to discriminate. He ate with all of us!

That last night with his closest disciples, around the table, he’s eating with us. “This is my blood of the covenant,” our Lord says.

“I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God… I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” ~Luke 22:15-18

And then on the day of his resurrection, Jesus can’t wait to eat with his disciples. He makes lunch plans with two of them on the road to Emmaus and when Jesus breaks the bread, they “see” him. That evening he shows up where the apostles are, right in the middle of dinner. They’re not sure it’s him — maybe this is a ghost. So Jesus asks for a piece of fish and eats it “in their presence.” Later, when people ask Peter how he knows Jesus is alive, he replies, “Because we ate and drank with him after he was raised from the dead!”

But that’s not enough for our God. He wants to be even closer. He doesn’t want his presence with us to be limited by physical space. So he pours out his Holy Spirit on everybody. By his Spirit, God Almighty takes up residence, he tabernacles, he makes his dwelling place, inside each of us and all of us.

We see all these sacraments on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, into the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day… They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” ~Acts 2:38-47

Look, baptism doesn’t work because we believe all the right things and we say all the right words. Baptism saves us because God is there. God meets us in the water. He forgives us, he cleanses us, he unites with us in baptism. He connects us to the salvation death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord so he can live with us.

And Jesus doesn’t meet us at the table to shame us. It’s not, “Look what I had to do for you — remember it!” It’s his gift to us, this sacred time with him and with one another where God accepts us and affirms us, where he nourishes us and sustains our lives. It’s not, “I had to die for you — be grateful!” It’s, “I love you; I want to eat with you.” It’s an invitation.

And worship doesn’t work because we’ve got it figured out and we’re good at it. Worship works because God is with us and he’s working. His presence is with us. God is speaking to us by his Word. Christ Jesus is eating with us and nurturing us at the table. And the Spirit is interceding for us with words we can’t begin to describe.

Our actions don’t move God to grace; God’s grace moves him to action. These sacraments, these ordinances, are gifts of God’s grace to us. He initiated these things we do together. In baptism and at the table, together with God’s people in holy assembly, God says to us, “We can meet each other here.” That’s his promise: I will meet you here.

He left heaven to give these gifts to us. He came to us and suffered and died for us in order to be close to you. He wants to be near you. He wants to change you and make you whole. He loves you. He wants to eat with you. It’s an invitation.

In baptism and at the table and during the assembly, God promises, “I’m here. You may not see me every time, you may not feel it every time, but I’m here. You may feel far from me, but I am present with you in these special times and places. I am near you. I am cleansing you and nourishing you and changing you.”

This is God’s work in transforming encounter, in the sacraments. Even if you don’t see it or feel it, you can trust it.

Peace,

Allan

God at Work: Sacrament

Sacrament: A physical symbol that acts as a means of God’s grace by which we participate in a spiritual reality.

This Sunday at Central we’re beginning a 13-weeks Bible class series on the sacraments of baptism, communion, and the Christian assembly. Our intent is to move more toward viewing these special moments together as places and times when our God is redemptively present and seriously at work. We want to learn how to focus more on what God is doing and less on what we are doing in these practices. And the word “sacrament” is significant for our understanding and growth.

The definition above is my own version of how the Church has understood the term for centuries. Let’s explain it using each of the divine ordinances.

Baptism – The physical symbol is the water. The water is real, it’s tangible. You can see it, you can feel it, you can experience it. It’ll ruin your phone, it’ll go up your nose — it’s real. But the water also represents a reality beyond itself. It points to something bigger. The water symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. What makes baptism a sacrament is that, by God’s Spirit, we actually participate in the reality it symbolizes. In baptism, we are buried and raised with Christ Jesus. Baptism connects us to Christ’s death and resurrection.

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” ~Romans 6:3-5

Lord’s Supper – The physical symbol is the bread and the cup, the cracker and the juice. Those are concrete, real things, physical things. You can smell the juice, you can crunch the cracker; it gets stuck in your teeth, it can stain your slacks — it’s real. But the meal represents Jesus eating and drinking with his disciples. What makes the communion meal a sacrament is that, by God’s Holy Spirit, we actually are participating in the thing it represents. We are literally eating with the Lord. Somehow, mysteriously, yes, he meets us at the table and eats with us.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” ~1 Corinthians 10:16

Christian Assembly – The physical symbol is the people in the room. It’s us. Real men, women, and children, wearing clothes, laughing, singing, whispering, chewing gum, praying; babies crying and people sneezing — it’s real. And it symbolizes something bigger. It represents the heavenly assembly around the throne of God. By God’s Spirit, we join that heavenly chorus — we are actually participating in what we can’t see yet. We are singing and praying with all the saints of all time in heaven, in the eternal presence of God. That’s what makes the Sunday morning worship gathering a sacrament.

“You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all people, to the spirits of righteous men and women made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…” ~Hebrews 12:22-24

God is present with us, saving us, nourishing us, changing us. When we view these three ordinances as merely commands to obey, we’ll focus on what we are doing. When we understand them as sacraments, we’re better able to focus on what God is doing.

Peace,

Allan

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