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Communion Meditation 2021-09-12

Yesterday was the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11, when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.  That was a terrible, tragic event, one that I hope never happens again.

The whole country, the whole world, was alarmed, very watchful, on high alert – and rightfully so.  Everybody was glued to their news sources – television, radio, newspapers – for days on end, wanting to find out more, to understand what had happened.

Which brings me to my own twenty-year anniversary, which is today.  On September 12th, twenty years ago today, I was scheduled to have my gall bladder removed.  We had confirmed that yes, the surgery was going to go forward.  So I went.

My memory is a little hazy, because of the anesthesia, but my recollection is that everybody, from the receptionist up to the surgeon, was watching the TV.  The nurse feeding me jello afterwards would kind of aim the spoon at my mouth and let me finish the action, because she was looking elsewhere.

Did this concern me, make me wonder about the quality of the surgery I had just gotten?  Yes, it did – but without reason.  As distracted as they might have been, the doctor and nurses were still professionals.  They got their job done, regardless of the cost.  They may have had relatives or friends on the planes, or in the buildings, but they did what they needed to do.

And that makes me think of Jesus.  He had a task – to do God’s will.  That included living a perfect, sinless life, and dying on the cross without guilt.  He gathered and taught the disciples across years, teaching and correcting them. He had one job, and he did it perfectly.  Was it easy?  No – He was tempted in every way, just as we are – but He resisted temptation.  Did He want to pour out His blood on the cross?  No, He prayed the exact opposite.  Did He do His Father’s will?  Yes.  Hebrews 12:2 says “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He did the job, He ran the race, He won the prize.  That is what we are remembering now, with the bread and the juice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You loved and still do love Your Son.  You loved and still do love us.  Thank you for having Jesus show us the way, and pay the price for our salvation.  In His name I pray, Amen.

James 1:17 says “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.”

I had a friend who used to say that if you’re ever asked a question in Sunday School, and you haven’t been paying attention like you should, it’s a pretty safe choice to answer “Jesus”. And here, he would be right. 

We are surrounded by good gifts – I think of the physical world here. The breaths we take in, the wonderful food we consume (and sometimes over-consume), the medical support system available to us when things go wrong – these are all good gifts. 

And then perfect gifts, I tend to think of as spiritual. This church – not the building, which is good, and for me would fall into the first group. But the people – this church is a blessing. Salvation is a perfect gift. And the means of salvation – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – well, I don’t know how to rank perfect gifts if everything is perfect, but He’d be at the top. 

And yet, after He had offered His sinless body on the cross as a sacrifice for my sin and for your sin, He descended to Hell. Did God His Heavenly Father turn away from Him? Habakkuk 1:13 says of God the Father “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil”, and Jesus Himself quotes Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“. 

But we just read that “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”. So how could both be true? 

I think God’s light shines everywhere, even into Hell. I’m no theologian, and I’ll accept any guidance or correction on this. When Jesus spoke of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, the end of verse 22 and then 23 says “The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.” He was seeing from Hades – what we would call “Hell” – into Heaven. I don’t know if this was optical light or spiritual light, but the rich man saw

And I believe that God cannot look upon sin, but He sees people. When Jesus went to the cross and died, he became sin. The first part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us”. Christ was not a sinner – He was carrying the guilt, the shame, the punishment for our sins. The final verse of the chapter Jesus quoted from the cross says “For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from Him and but has listened to His cry for help.” 

And because of that, on the third day Jesus arose from the grave, triumphant. That’s the second part of that verse in Corinthians: Jesus was made sin for us “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. 

And that is what we are remembering now, with the wafer and juice representing the body and blood of Jesus. Let’s pray. 

Father God, You who do not turn, thank You for the perfect gift of Jesus – His example, His teachings, His work on the cross. All part of Your perfect plan. Because of that, I can approach Your throne boldly. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

I wish I was a dog.

I was having one of those whiny, gripey woe-is-me moments, thinking life was unfair, and then I realized that dogs have many advantages.  They get fed on a regular basis, and sometimes get scraps from the table.  They get to go for walks with their owner.  And even at the end of their lives, they aren’t worried, because they trust their owner. Wonderful.

Then I started to count my blessings.  I do have ready food, and choose when I want to eat.  I don’t get scraps from the table – I have a seat at the table.  Dogs lying around most of the day is overrated – ask anybody who has spent quantity time in the hospital.

And then, as He does, God moved my thoughts into the spiritual realm.  That table that I have a seat at – it could be anything from David’s “Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” to Revelation’s marriage supper of the Lamb.  Going for walks with my owner – well, the great theologian Merle Haggard put it like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

The leash that dogs wear?  Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  All through my life, and at the moment of my death, and for all eternity, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting and guiding.

And all this is because although I am a creation of God, like dogs are, I am much more than that.  I am made in His image.  And because I have accepted the gift of salvation, I am a child of God.

So, my life, as it exists right now, even with burdens and cares, is much, much better than a dog’s life.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”.  And why rejoice?  Because of God’s love for us, expressed through Christ and His sacrifice.  Jesus was willingly obedient, by choice, by love, to die for my sins and yours, to ensure that the end of our lives would not be the end of our life with God.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate communion with wafer and juice representing Christ’s body and blood, I thank You for the indescribable gift of salvation.  Your ways are not our ways.  Like Job, I sometimes need to put my hand over my mouth.  I know You love us, and You have plans to give us hope and a future, plans established in time immemorial.  Help me to seek Your will here and now, not wish for something not in Your plan.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Remember being in junior high school – everybody was against you, and nobody would let you do anything you wanted?  If only you could be in high school, because they could do anything, even drive when they got old enough.

Remember being in high school – nobody would let you do what you wanted?  You were an adult, almost, and you should be able to make your own decisions.  If only you could graduate right now, and then go to college or get a job, and everything would be perfect.

Remember being in your first job, thinking about how you didn’t have enough money to do what you wanted, how you had to live in a little apartment or with your parents, and thinking to the future where you would be rich and could do anything you want?  Get married, buy a car, buy a house – the possibilities are endless.

This sounds a little like “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” –  and there’s some truth to that.  Certain parts of other people’s lives can look appealing, but we don’t always see the whole picture.

But this isn’t a “be peaceful and accept your lot in life” meditation.  There’s some truth to that, too – but that goes against the Proverbs 31 wife.  Verse 16 says “She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.”.  That isn’t passive.

I am not recommending some sort of middle ground, where sometimes you’re active and sometimes you’re passive, based on a coin flip or doing what you want.

John 5:19 says “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”  And that’s what Jesus does.  He has His own wishes and desires – praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.”.  He knew it was going to hurt.  And He knew that the physical pain wasn’t going to be the worst part.

But that isn’t where Jesus stopped.  You all know that He continued “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus could have had anything He wanted – that is how Satan tempted Him. But Jesus, though He had a choice, did His Father’s will.

And that is what we are celebrating now – the death of Jesus on the cross, in the body and blood represented with the wafer and the juice, and the resurrection on the third day that gives us hope.  Let’s pray.

Father God, Jesus showed us how to live perfect lives.  He was in fellowship with You, and it cost Him His life, and gave us eternal life.  Help us to live not wanting more, but wanting Your perfect will.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Communion meditation June 6, 2021

Jim Knowles died earlier this month. He wasn’t a large man, but he was a big man.

He was big on his family.

He was big on his wife, Nancy.

And he was big on Jesus. A licensed minister, a holder of a Masters degree in Religion, and he had more than twenty years of service as a minister in a couple different churches. I don’t have pictures, but I have memories of him. He’s sitting in his rocker, early in the morning and late at night, Bible on his lap or right next to him.

He wasn’t an ivory-tower saint – he lived in the world, knew how it worked, and understood people. And loved them.

One thing I don’t understand, though, is how to reconcile the fact that the Bible says that there will not be marriage in Heaven, in contrast to the eternal love Jim had for Nancy.

God will work it all out. Jim trusted Him, eternally, and God is still working out His plans through Jim and his legacy.

Every one of us are unique.  We are created in the image of God, but we are not identical.  We all have something that we’re born with, maybe something that has happened to us, that makes us different than anyone else.  My wife Bettie has something that’s different, and only shows up when her hands get cold.

She has a thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome.  How it works is that some of her blood vessels like to go overboard – they clamp off the blood supply to part of her fingers if she gets too cold.

Fortunately, there’s an easy cure for this – just warm up, and everything is fine again.  The blood vessels open up, blood starts flowing, color returns, and everybody’s happy.

If she doesn’t get warmed up, I imagine there could be some significant consequences – we all need the blood to flow to keep on living.

And then I realized this is true for us spiritually.  If we don’t have the blood of Christ, we don’t have life.  1 Peter 1, verse 18 and into 19, says

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ

And that is what we’re celebrating now, the life-giving body and blood of our sinless Redeemer and Lord, available to all who answer the call.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You know us.  You see us in all of our imperfection, and You love us anyway.  You love us so much that You sent Your perfect, spotless Son to die in our place.  We are called to remember that, and to celebrate it.  We thank You so much for that priceless gift, the blood that washes away our sins.  We thank You for the gift of eternal life, and the calling to follow Jesus Christ down that narrow road.  In His name I pray, amen.

Communion meditation April 11, 2021

Nobody wants them. From Exodus 32, verses 7 and 11:

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

Almost a game of Hot Potato. God, as He does, came out the winner – and also accepted the Israelites back. He is good, at many levels.

I heard something interesting the other day.  Seems like newspapers are having trouble getting the newsprint to publish their papers.  All that paper is apparently being turned into cardboard boxes for shipments from Amazon.

During these times of pandemic and quarantine, it seems like people may not know what they want, but they sure do want it now.  Psychologists have a concept called delayed gratification – the idea is that a person is willing to give up something now to get something more later.  I’m afraid that next-day shipping has thrown all that out the window.

But I don’t think that’s a very good way to think.  Goes against the idea of working towards a goal, of understanding what’s important and putting forth effort to get there.  That credit card bill is coming soon – there is always a price to be paid.

Delayed gratification reminds me of the description of Jesus, described in Hebrews 12:2 –

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Would it have felt better for Jesus to avoid the cross?  Yes, definitely.  Would it have been easier for Him to not be scourged, whipped, had a crown of thorns forced over His head?  I have no doubt.

But those things are a short-term release – immediate gratification.  Jesus had His eyes set on the long term – on eternity – because He knew what mattered.

With this delayed gratification, Jesus isn’t teaching us a life hack, one weird trick to get into Heaven.  He is showing us that being obedient to the Father is the only way to live.  His sacrifice on the cross, that buys our salvation and which we celebrate now, is a recognition of that, and a calling to that level of sacrifice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, you created us.  You created us with free will – we can choose the route of immediate gratification, or we can choose the straight and narrow road that leads to life – eternal life.  Thank You for the gift of Jesus to pay the price for our sins, and to be our Savior and our Lord.  In His name I pray, Amen.

I have been missing a lot of church services lately – my work has kept me away about half the Sundays. I participate online, but I have to say that there is something joyful in corporate worship – singing, taking communion together, hearing the Word preached.


And that reminds me of the words of King David, in Psalm 122:1: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” He was happy, joyful.


Then on one of those “compare and contrast” moments, we have Jesus cleaning out the Temple. In the book of John, it is recorded that Jesus made a whip out of cords, and used it on the people. And in John 2:16-17 “Then he said to the pigeon-dealers, “Take those things out of here. Don’t you dare turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered the scripture — ‘Zeal for your house has eaten me up’”. Jesus wants to be joyful in the temple, but cannot be when it is being used for other purposes. He needed the temple to be holy.

We come now to the time of communion, where Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of Me”. This is a time of joy and happiness, as well as a time of becoming more holy. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” That is not Jesus coming in with a whip. It is an invitation for us to take a look at how we have been keeping our own temple, an invitation to be holy, and invitation to joy.

Let’s pray.

Father God, You know us, better than we know ourselves. Thank You for loving us, thank You for sending Jesus to die in our place, and thank You for continually calling us to holiness. Thank You for the ever-present reminder of communion, whether in the church house or wherever we are – because You are with us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I was on LinkedIn this morning and saw this from a random company:

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

I don’t think it’s right to discriminate by hiding Christmas behind “holiday” and then blithely assume everyone uses the same calendar.

And yes, appealing to an external, shared sense of “right” assumes that such a thing exists. Which it does. And that’s why I’m celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus the Christ, instead of an amorphous “holiday”.

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