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Wayne Spry died Thursday, at the age of 94 years and a few months. He will be buried next week by a little church down in Kentucky that he helped build.

1 Thes 4:13 says Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

It is a different kind of grief – and yet it is definitely still grief.

From a birthday celebration three months ago

His wife Gwen preceded him by a few years. Her motto was FROG – Fully Relying On God. Interesting that tonight Bettie found a frog in one of our window wells – and as I was catching that one, I found a toad there also. I categorically do not believe that God sent these two critters as some sort of a sign – and I know that Wayne was also in the FROG category.

Wayne was a great man, who didn’t know how great he was. Humble, caring, always dressed up to go to church. For him, that was part of honoring God.

I’m going to miss him.

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 it says “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Do this in remembrance of Me. It’s a commandment from Jesus. We even have it on the front of our communion table. But what does it mean?

Somewhere, across history, there is probably somebody who said “Jesus – long hair, beard, good with kids. I remember him”. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.

Then there are the people who know about Jesus. They go a bit deeper – facts about Jesus. And there’s a little deeper level – being able to say what the facts mean.

Then there’s even deeper – asking “What Would Jesus Do”. And then applying it. I do have to caution you – there is also an element of timing. If you’re coming out of a bank with a lot of money, asking “What Would Jesus Do?” is great. On the other hand, if you have just robbed that bank, and now your car won’t start, you probably waited too long to ask “What Would Jesus Do?”.

Seriously, though, there’s a difference between asking that question and doing the answers to that question. The Christian life – being in Christ, having Christ in you – takes involvement, it takes commitment, it takes sacrifice.

And that’s what we’re celebrating now – the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross to save us from a life of sin and an eternity in Hell. As we take the wafer and the juice, let’s do it in remembrance of Him.  Let’s pray.

Father God, even our best attempts to be like Jesus fall sadly short of His perfection and sinlessness. Thank you for accepting His blood as atonement for our sins. In His name, amen.

Mark 5:25-34  Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians.  She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”  But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”.  And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

The woman who was healed, she did it by touching Jesus’s clothes.  Many were touching Him.  She came with intent, with faith, and was healed.

Now this was a miracle.  The power that Jesus had – and still has – is what healed the woman.  It wasn’t human means; it was supernatural.

I heard someone say that when a farmer prays for rain, God expects him to say “Amen” with a hoe in his hands.  And that’s what this woman did.

Her faith healed her, but it was her faith in action.  She had just as much faith a second before touching Jesus’ clothes, but there is something about the person of Jesus, something about touching Him.

Jesus died, was crucified, so that we could be healed without touching Him physically. And that’s what we’re celebrating now, with the wafer and the juice representing His body and His blood.  Let’s pray.

Lord God, You don’t look at us on the outside – You see into our hearts to see our intentions, our faith.  We are judged not by appearances, not by human effort.  Thank You for the gift of Jesus, Whose sacrifice allows us to become holy, and to enter into Your presence.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

You might have noticed that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. The evergreen trees, the lights, the eternal circle of the wreaths, the stars, the gifts. The nativities with the beautiful baby in a manger. All tied to Jesus, His birth, His attributes.

And yet, just like babies tend to do, Jesus didn’t stay a baby forever. He grew up. He went through childhood and into His teenage years, growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. I think He irritated His parents – but for once in human history, the teenager was on the right side. He continued to grow, and in adulthood He began His ministry. A few years later, He experienced the truth “It is appointed once for men to die”.

And yet, because the baby Jesus was both fully man and fully God, His death was different than our deaths will be. Because He was sinless, perfect and pure, His death is the only one that could atone for every sin, in His death on the cross. Jesus spent His life giving to others, as an example for us. And now we give gifts at Christmas, because God the Father gave Jesus as a gift to us. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we would be lost if not for the light of Jesus. Possibly physically lost, as we think about all the contributions that Christians have made across the centuries. Definitely spiritually lost, without a savior. And because You loved us while we were yet sinners, You sent Jesus. Thank You for that, and help us to remember as we eat the wafer and drink the juice. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I got a fortune cookie a couple weeks ago. It said, the whole fortune said “You deserve the best”. I didn’t like it. I don’t like all the commercials telling me what I deserve. I’d be more inclined to believe it if they weren’t pitching that new car, or a two-week vacation, to a million of my best friends at the same time. I get the sense that there might be an ulterior motive.

The thing is, I read my Bible, and I know exactly what I deserve.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Romans 6:23 starts out “the wages of sin is death”.

And at the end of when Jesus was talking about the sheep and the goats, in Matthew 25:46, He says the goats “will go away into eternal punishment”.

So that’s what I deserve – and incidentally you do too. You are part of the “all” in that first scripture.

But God . . . But God the Father sent Jesus the Son, wholly man and wholly God, to live a sinless life and die an undeserved death on the cross, so that I wouldn’t have to go to Hell.

John 3:17 says ‘For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.’

His death, His resurrection, that’s what we’re celebrating right now. Not what we deserve, but God’s gracious gift. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, You give good gifts. The gift of Jesus on the cross, the gift of eternal life – that isn’t what we deserve. It’s what You chose to offer us. Your ways are not our ways, and Your thoughts are not our thoughts. And I thank You for that. In Jesus’ name, amen.

This past Monday was a change of seasons – we moved from summer to fall.

And we can see it, too. Days getting shorter, night arriving earlier.

It made me think of one of my favorite Bible verses – James 1:17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

That phrase – “no shadow of turning” – that’s a beautiful phrase, and it’s true. God doesn’t change, ever. The Jews of that time knew about shifting shadows, whether from a sundial or watching a building’s shadow walk down the street. The day changes, their month was based on the moon’s cycle, and the yearly changes – they were familiar with all of that. They knew about change.

And they knew about God. They knew that He never changed. Pretty easy for them to figure out. The first part of Malachi 3:6 says “For I am the Lord, I do not change”. Pretty black and white.

And yet after Malachi, there was silence from God for 400 years. No prophet, no new word. And then Jesus arrives, claiming to be God. And He was, and *is*, God. Some of the Jews didn’t like that, and crucified Jesus. That’s what we’re remembering now, with the wafer and the juice representing His body and His blood, that we call communion. And three days later Jesus arose, triumphant. God is not dead, and God has not changed.

James reminds us of this with his “no shadow of turning” phrase, and this week I realized that there is no shadow because God is the source of light, and Jesus is the bright and morning star, the light to the world. Hallelujah and amen!

Let’s pray. Father God, Father of lights, thank you for illuminating us. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for mercy and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bettie and I went to the jewelry store a couple weeks ago – not to buy something new, but to get something fixed. In her engagement ring, one of the prongs that holds the diamond had broken off. It’s fixed now, and we’re thankful that the diamond didn’t get lost. But even if it did, or if the ring was lost or stolen while getting repaired, it would have been sad, but we still would be married. The ring is wonderful, it’s preciousand it is only a symbol.

Then I thought of our country’s flag, the stars and stripes. It’s the same type of thing – the flag is not the country, it’s a symbol of the country. Respect the flag, honor it – but don’t defend the flag with your life.

And you see the direction I’m headed with this – the wafer and the juice we partake of as we celebrate communion are a symbol of Jesus’s body and blood. That’s true, but not the whole of the truth. Mark 14:22-24 says

And as they were eating, He took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Jesus never sinned, so He wasn’t lying. I think He meant it in a spiritual way – that *spiritually* it is His body, His blood. And yet it’s more. Philippians 3:10-11 says

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

So there is both the spiritual and physical aspect to communion, both symbol and reality. I don’t understand it all, and I don’t have to. There is a place for mystery. Ephesians 3:20-21 says

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,  to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Let’s pray. Lord God, the wisdom, the knowledge, the love that You have for us – sinners – is still a mystery to me. And yet I know that I am a sinner saved by grace, through the body and blood of Jesus. Thank You for that indescribable gift. In Jesus’ name, amen.

There are many ways to read the Bible – straight through, like the church is doing, or reading some from the Old Testament and the New Testament every day, or even chronological – in the sequence it happened. One thing I have heard, though, is that you should always look for Jesus in whatever part of the Bible you’re reading.

So Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine – let’s take a quick look at that.  We have a wedding, and His mother, and there’s Jesus.  Boom!  Found Him.  We’re done!!

But let’s look a little deeper.  Let’s look not just at what happened, but at what it could mean – the symbolism, the story behind the story.

Here’s what happened, on the surface.  While Jesus and His mother were at a wedding, the wedding ran out of wine for the guests. Mary urged Jesus to – essentially – “do something”.  From John 11, verses 6 through 10:

Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

A good miracle – Jesus didn’t do any bad miracles – but what does it mean?  Helping the wedding reception, sure.  Deeper, though, the jars were for purification – for the Jews washing themselves.  Not cleaning up at the end of the day, but for becoming ritually pure. Jesus turned that water into wine – good wine, but still just something to drink.

Except that at the last supper, in Matthew 14:23 and 24,

Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

So at that wedding in Cana, Jesus took something that was external – the water for purification – and turned it into the wine that represented His own blood, that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins.  An internal cleansing.  The change that Jesus did *then* with the water and the wine, He would go on to make that change available for us.  Not external any longer, not legalistic and ritualistic, but internal and life-changing.  *That’s* where Jesus is found. And that’s what we are celebrating now.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, Jesus was aware of what He was doing when He changed the water into wine – both the physical action and the meaning.  And He was aware of what He was doing by dying on the cross. Thank you for offering Him as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In 1 Kings 4, verses 29 and 33, the Bible says “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls.” Now I understand Solomon talking about the cedar trees – tall, majestic, awe-inspiring. But a plant that grows where nobody plants it? That’s a weed. Why would the wisest man in the world talk about weeds?

I’m guessing it’s because he heard his daddy talking about it. King David said in Psalms 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  Solomon wasn’t perfect, but he was a good learner.

But where did David hear about hyssop? From Moses. Exodus 12:21-23 “Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.”

That shedding of blood, saving the Israelites from their oppressors, was a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do on the cross, when He paid the penalty for our sins and saved us from Hell and eternal death. Let’s pray.

Father God, I am sorry that I sinned and caused the need for Jesus to die on the cross.  And because He gave His body and blood, which we celebrate now with the wafer and the juice, all of us can be welcomed in Your arms, and call You our daddy. None of us here on earth are perfect – Jesus was and is, but we are not. Thank You for offering to pay our way back into Your family through the sacrifice of Jesus.  In His name I pray, amen.

I was thinking to myself that it’s been too long since we had a communion meditation about architecture. This is going to change that.

Churches now can look like anything and be anywhere. Going way back in time, churches in the middle ages were cathedrals, lofty and soaring, inspiring people to look up to God in Heaven. Our church has some of that – the peak arching up to the skies – and that is good.

Let’s look at some practical architecture. Behind me is a brick wall. When it was built, a few decades ago, the wall was bare brick. We added the light-colored structure a few years ago, while adding a baptistry. It’s functional, holding the monitors and helping us focus on the baptistry, which was used just last week.

But it isn’t just functional, it’s reminiscent – it looks like something else. To me, it has the appearance of the altar of sacrifice from the Old Testament. Leviticus chapter 16 talks about how the high priest would enter the holy of holies one day a year, first sacrificing a sin offering for himself and then sacrificing for all the people. I don’t know that it was intentional for this bulkhead to look like an altar, and I’m always open to correction.

The other thing that this new piece of architecture did, is to move our song lyrics from the center projector screen out to the side monitors. That *was* intentional, in order to make sure that the cross was always visible.

The use of the sacrificial altar from the Old Testament did cleanse from sins, but it wasn’t permanent. It had to be repeated every year. The sacrifice offered on the cross, Jesus’s sinless sacrifice, is permanent. Hebrews 10:14 says “by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”. That’s us. That sacrifice was and is offered to all, freely given, paid for with His body and blood. That is what we celebrate now in taking communion. Let’s pray.

Father God, from before the start of time, Your perfect plan was for Your perfect, sinless Son Jesus to die on a cross for imperfect us, imperfect me. Help us to remember, always. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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