Category: Lord’s Supper (Page 1 of 14)

Triple Shot Sunday

Three observations from a jam-packed Lord’s Day in Midland, Texas.

We are attempting to move our communion time at GCR in a direction that makes the Lord’s Meal more communal and less individualistic, more participatory and less observance, more sharing and less partaking. While the trays for the bread were being passed yesterday, we asked our church family to talk with one another in their seats about their favorite parts of the Christmas season. That seemed innocent enough. Non-threatening. Then when we passed the trays with the cups, we asked everyone to tie their favorite parts of Christmas to Jesus. How do those favorite things connect to Christ? How do those favorite things remind us of Jesus or honor Jesus or point to Jesus? That seemed a little more difficult.

Our youngest daughter, Carley, mentioned right out of the gate that her favorite parts of Christmas are family and food. When it came to connecting those things to Christ, I offered that Jesus came here to bring all people into his family, to create a holy family connected to one another in him. As for food? Carley didn’t hesitate to say, “The feast. Eating and drinking with Jesus as his table. Jesus ate with everybody. And so do we.”

Oh, that made my heart feel so good.

It was good to overhear Eddie and Carol having a similar conversation with their grandchildren in the pew behind us. It was encouraging to watch these conversations taking place all over the worship center. We’re trying to make the Lord’s Supper more of a true communion at GCR. Connecting our everyday lives and events – and the seasonal events, too – to Christ is another way to obey the command to eat and drink together in remembrance of him. And it’s more communal.

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After yesterday’s win over WFT, the Cowboys have a three-game lead in the NFL’s worst division with four to play – a playoff berth is now a done deal. But how good do you feel about it?

Something’s wrong with Dak. Still. He threw two picks yesterday and Washington dropped at least two others. Prescott’s inexcusable pick six late in the game almost derailed the entire afternoon. He’s not reading zone coverages, he’s miscommunicating with his wide receivers, and he’s sailing balls over everybody’s heads.

Elliot ran for a grand total of 45 yards. The Cowboys offense only scored one touchdown, and that was a 41-yard drive after a turnover. Four Dallas drives ended with super short field goals of 35, 28, 37, and 29 yards. We call that playing between the 20s, bogging down in scoring territory.

This was against a six-win WFT that was completely decimated on both sides of the ball with injuries. This was after shipping their own sideline benches to FedEx Field to make sure the heated seats worked. This was after Mike McCarthy made a weird “guarantee” of victory to the media.

The Cowboys are going to win the NFC East and host a Wild Card playoff game. But does it matter? The way the team is playing right now, the way they’ve been playing for the past seven weeks, they can’t beat Arizona, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, or the Rams. They’re not even in that same universe. I guarantee it.

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Last night, my new friend Gary and I took in 66.667% of ZZ Top at the Wagner-Noel here in Midland. Obviously, it’s not the same without Dusty Hill – we knew that going in. But, good night, it’s still pretty stinkin’ good.

We had great seats at this tiny, intimate venue – it only seats 1,800 – sixth row dead center. Longtime ZZ Top guitar tech Elwood Francis played bass and attempted some vocals and mostly stayed in the background while drummer Frank Beard and ZZ Top founder and front man Billy Gibbons did the heavy lifting. And, for all intents and purposes, it was a standard ZZ Top concert, very much like the seven or eight I’ve attended before.

They played all the hits, everything you would expect from a ZZ Top show, except maybe “Cheap Sunglasses.” They ran through everything from “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “La Grange” to “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man” and all points in between. They went deep, way deep, with a B side from their very first album called “Brown Sugar.” They brought out the fuzzy guitars for “Legs.” They changed the words in “Head’s in Mississippi” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to reflect our locale in Midland. They covered “Sixteen Tons.” They engaged in their signature choreography, minor steps and subtle hand motions that Gibbons describes as “low energy, high impact.” They played for an hour-and-a-half with nothing but a three-minute break in the middle. In other words, they delivered.

And by “they,” I mean Billy Gibbons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reverend Billy G is more than capable of carrying a show by himself. He is an icon of Texas music, a rock and roll ambassador for the Republic for more than 52 years. He’s a legendary Hall of Fame songwriter and guitar player. He plays a blistering electric guitar with incredible precision and dramatic flair. He has such fun doing it that everyone watching can’t help but have fun, too. He’s both traditionally conservative and wildly innovative at the same time. He puts on an amazing show. Every time.

But it’s not ZZ Top without Dusty Hill.

Gibbons paid appropriate tribute to Dusty at the beginning of the concert and he modified the lyrics to “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to include his partner’s name. But, man, it felt different. Dusty’s harmonies were gone. Elwood attempted to blend his voice with Gibbons’ during the songs from the Eliminator album and it was okay. But during most of the show, it was solo Gibbons. Which is fine. But it’s not ZZ Top. Hill’s harmonizing gave the group its depth. And Hill’s antics gave the group its energy. While Gibbons sings with a low gravely bass, Hill always sang with an excitable energy that was contagious. Much higher pitch. Almost frantic. I’ve always imagined it was Dusty who came up with their choreographed dance moves – it just seems like something he would do. ZZ Top has always been a two-man show, Dusty and Billy playing off each other, making each other better, singing together, laughing at each other, in perfect lockstep literally and figuratively for 52 years. Last night was a Billy Gibbons show with a backup band. Again, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was really, really great. But it’s not ZZ Top.

I wondered how they were going to sing “Tush” without Dusty. It’s a signature ZZ Top song, one of their all-time biggest hits, and a concert staple. But it’s also one of the few on which Dusty sang the lead. How were they going to do this? Would they even try?

Turns out, the last song of the encore, the final number of the night, was a recording of Dusty’s voice as he sang “Tush” at his last ever concert last spring. They’ve singled out the vocals so they can play it alone, so Dusty can sing his favorite song with Billy’s guitar and Frank Beard’s drums. So we could all sing with Dusty Hill again just like we have for five decades.

At every show, Billy Gibbons always says ZZ Top is “the same three guys, same three chords.” Last night he said, “Three guys, three chords.” Close, yes. And good, of course. But not quite the same.

Peace,

Allan

On Passing Trays

For the first time in almost 20 months, we are passing communion trays up and down the aisles and across the rows on Sunday mornings here at GCR Church. And I would urge you and your church, if you’re not already, to begin doing the same.

The original Greek word for “communion” in the New Testament is koinonia. It means “sharing together.” Fellowship. Partnership. It’s a communal word that describes a communal event. Community. Togetherness. The Church in the New Testament expressed and experienced the righteous relationships they had with God and with one another with frequent and regular thanksgiving meals. Fellowship meals. Communion meals. We shared our food and drink with one another. We served each other and were served by each other. The meal fed us, but it also formed us. It taught us. It reminded us that we belong to one another and we are saved in order to share with and to serve one another.

Over the centuries the Church has watered down the meal itself to almost nothing. It’s not a celebratory feast anymore, it’s a solemn snack. We took the Church’s meal from a full fellowship supper to an individualized, introspective crumb and a sip. Even then, as awful as that is, we always retained the practice of serving and receiving; of making eye contact with the person serving you or the person you are serving; of recognizing the relational aspect of Church and the blessings we share together in Christ.

With COVID, we lost even that.

For years, I had imagined there was no way we, specifically in Churches of Christ, could make the Lord’s Meal any more individualistic. But COVID made the unimaginable our new reality. For more than a year-and-a-half, most of our churches, including us at GCR, have been using those rip-n-sip disposable communion kits. We completely stopped serving others and began serving only ourselves. For 20 months we grabbed our own little plastic container of Chiclets and juice, ripped off the tops, and served ourselves.

Christians never take communion; we receive communion, we are served communion. Except for the past year-and-a-half. We took communion. This new way of eating and drinking has been shaping us, too, and it’s not good. We’re able to eat and drink independently of anyone else. That forms us. Our practice during the Supper has been to only serve ourselves. That becomes habit. It has become habit.

At GCR, we are no longer willing to eschew the serving and sharing character of the Lord’s Supper that our God always intended. It’s gone on long enough. We’re passing trays again. Eye-contact is in again. Participating with one another to make sure everybody eats and drinks is in again. And the reviews have been wildly encouraging. Overwhelmingly positive. We’re talking during the passing of the trays; we’re teaching our kids, sharing encouraging words. Fellowship. Community. Koinonia. Serving and sharing are the nature of the meal again.

Okay, it’s still not a meal. But one thing at a time.

Peace,

Allan

A Table Before Me

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” ~Psalm 23:5

The central image in the great 23rd Psalm is the prepared table, an obvious symbol of provision and honor. The fact that our Shepherd/King provides for us and honors us “in the presence of my enemies” paints a beautiful portrait of our God’s protection and blessing while we journey through life on earth. A life lived in the presence and power of God is still life lived in a world not yet restored to the wholeness he intends. So, even though we presently experience his divine presence and reward, we are still among enemies.

We should recognize that being in Christ doesn’t mean the troubles, cares, pains, and dangers of this world are removed from us. We remain “in the presence” of our enemies. However, we should ask ourselves and reflect on the ways, day after day, our Father is setting a table for us in the presence of those enemies.

One of those ways our Lord protects us and provides for us is in acts of love and service done for us by our Christian brothers and sisters. When the culture and the world seek to taunt us and tear us down, we find comfort and strength in the handshakes of friendship, the hugs of caring, the community of fellowship, and unity in the blood of Jesus.

These acts of love toward us become tables prepared by God – through his people – in the presence of our enemies who want to ridicule us and steal away our hope.

God prepares the table of provision and protection and honor. I challenge you, today, to become a caterer at that table. Join our God in setting tables of blessing for those we know and love who are currently surrounded by enemies.

Peace,

Allan

Not a Potluck

I was raised on church potlucks. It feels like to me we had them all the time when I was kid – fifth Sundays, a couple of times during the summers, and almost any other time we could find an excuse to have one. I love the church potluck because it does so much to form us into a people of God.

Everybody brings a dish to the church potluck, one they prepared or at least paid for, and places it on a common table and everybody shares. You’re cooking for each other at the potluck, serving one another. Everyone’s eating the same meal together. There’s unity: Hey, we’re one big family! There’s hospitality: Hey, y’all come sit with us! There are kind words: Who made this? Lisa made this? Lisa, this is so good! There is common conversation, common laughing, common love at the church potluck. And seventeen kinds of banana pudding!

I regret that church potlucks are disappearing because they are the closest thing we have today to the Lord’s Supper the way our Lord Jesus instituted it during his ministry and the way the first Christians practiced it in the early church. The potluck is the best thing we have for experiencing and expressing the unity, community, sharing, and love that happens when we’re saved.

The good news is that we are all invited to eat and drink at the great feast in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ invitation to his banquet table is for you and me and for everybody you know. The best news is that it’s not a potluck.

You don’t bring anything to the feast but yourself. God through Christ has paid the price for the great banquet. He alone has prepared the feast and provided the meal. Nothing we could possibly bring to the table would be less than an insult to our gracious and generous Father.

We try, though. We try to pay our way in or contribute somehow to our salvation. We show up with a little bowl of self righteousness. We bring a little platter of good works with a side of baptism. We bring a basket of Bible classes and mission trips.

No, no, no! Jesus Christ has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption! The great feast in the Kingdom of God has been completely paid for by Jesus at the cross! The whole thing is a free gift of our God’s amazing love and grace. The invitation is not to bring anything. It’s to sit together at the table with Christ to experience and express the abundance of God’s rich blessings.

It’s a feast where all the walls are down and the guest list is unlimited. Where crippled people are walking and blind people can see. Where hungry people are eating and sinful people are completely forgiven. Where enemies are sharing lunch and swords are turned into spoons and forks. And all you need to do is simply show up.

Peace,

Allan

His Strategy is a Table

God does not hide from us. A lot of people think God won’t associate with sinners or with brokenness, that God separates himself from the fallen creation. But we know that’s not true.

God went out looking for Adam and Eve, right? Where are you? What’s going on? Our God is very interested in redeeming the world and restoring broken relationships. He goes to the lost and he finds them. He goes to the sick and he heals them. He goes to the broken and he fixes them. He goes to the sinners and takes all of their sin into himself and he forgives them. God’s mission is to do whatever it takes, everything it takes, for as long as it takes, so long as it takes him into closer relationship with you and me.

So he hangs out with us. He eats and drinks with us. He talks with us and shares himself with us around a table. That’s his strategy for expressing his acceptance of you and how you experience that relationship with him.

Jesus says, “I am bringing food that lasts for eternity. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” He calls himself the true bread from heaven and the bread of life. He tells his disciples, “I am giving you a Kingdom!” Why, Jesus? “So you may eat and drink with me at my table!”

The Pharisees didn’t like the people Jesus hung out with. So they called Jesus names. They called him a glutton and a drunk. They called him a friend of sinners. They didn’t eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners,” they didn’t associate with the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind because they thought God doesn’t hang out with those kinds of people.

They had God wrong. We’ve had him wrong for a long time. Our God wants to be in relationship with everyone. He always has. Jesus didn’t come here to change God’s mind about us, he came here to change our minds about God. When our God has his way, he is sitting at a great feast, eating and drinking with all of us – the lame who are now walking, the blind who can now see, the poor who are eating now, the sick who are now completely healed, and all the sinners whose transgressions have all been totally forgiven forever.

That’s what happens at the table of our Lord. That’s his strategy.

Peace,

Allan

A Week Late & 50 Degrees Warmer

Due to COVID restrictions and our desire to try something completely different, we had planned an Ash Wednesday Drive-Thru event in our church parking lot. But on Ash Wednesday last week in Amarillo, it was four-degrees and there were nine inches of snow on the ground. So we postponed the event until last night when it was 50 degrees warmer and 100-percent drier.

As a church family last night we joined our Lord on his way to the cross. We participated with Jesus, we walked (drove) with our Christ as he willingly traveled to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of all humanity. It was a come-and-go event with four different stops or stations to remember and reflect on Christ’s baptism, his triumphal entry into the Holy City, the supper he shared with his followers on that last night, and his crucifixion. We read the biblical texts and prayed focused prayers at each stop. We had meaningful conversations.

 

 

 

 

 

Last night we remembered that, while he was in the water, God publicly declared his eternal love for Jesus. In the same way, our heavenly Father acknowledges us as his precious children and commissions us for service in his Kingdom. We looked each other in the eyes last night and said, “You are loved by God and he is well pleased with you.”

 

 

 

 

We waved palm branches outside our car windows and shouted “Hosannah!” as we drove our vehicles over other palm branches and robes and coats. That’s where our people did some double-takes. “You want me to drive OVER the robes?” We discussed the differences between the way Jesus rules and the way worldly kings rule. We told each other, “God saves you.”

We shared the communion meal together last night. We thanked God for meeting our deepest needs in Jesus. We thanked God for washing away our sins in the blood of Christ.

And then we parked our cars facing the floodlit cross Leon Wood and Tom Grant had built and erected in front of our ancient chapel. Our shepherds met each car with words of blessing and prayers for peace. Holy moments. Sacred conversations. Nobody was in a hurry. Blessings were being given and received. God’s Spirit was comforting and transforming all of us. As the cars departed the event, our elders painted a gray cross on the window of each driver and passenger, reminding us that we are human – we are made of dust and to dust we will return – and that we need God and each other. The ash-colored crosses on our car windows acknowledged that the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus far surpasses in glory the burnt offerings made by the priests.

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the essence of the Gospel. God created us out of his great love, we have sinned and fallen short of his glory, we are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation, he forgives us and restores us through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

 

I am so grateful for our ministers and shepherds, for our church staff, and every member of this wonderful Central congregation. We have found creative ways to remain connected over the past year and we have seen our Lord at work in everything and everybody around us. May our faithful God continue to bless us during the days and weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. May we remember. May we walk with Christ. And may his will be done in and through this church and our city just as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

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