Tag Archives: Eucharist

Wonderfully Mysertious

given on Sunday, November 6, 2016

Scripture connection:

Psalm 145:1-4 (NLT)

I will exalt you, my God and King,
and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
yes, I will praise you forever.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
No one can measure his greatness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.

 

1 Corinthians 2 (NLT)

2 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.[b] For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.

                  6 Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God[c]—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”[d]

10 But[e] it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

                  13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.[f] 14 But people who aren’t spiritual[g] can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to teach him?”[h]

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

 

Psalm 145:17-21 (NLT)

17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
but he destroys the wicked.

21 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever.

 

Reflection:

Early mornings are a personal delight and this week what a gift the weather has been because it gave me an opportunity to literally sit outside and marvel at the universe as the world started waking up. As I sat watching the stars, feeling the west winds blowing, hearing the leaves rustling, and smelling fall in the air, the words came to mind—how wonderfully mysterious God is.

Two words, wonderfully mysterious, seems to capture the understanding of God’s relationship with creation. Even putting it into these words really cannot define this unique relationship, but our words are simply part of this wonderfully mysterious relationship.

Sitting in the early morning well before sunrise, I feasted on the stars. There are three stars in a row that Mom called “The Three Sisters.” Gazing on them in the southern sky directly above the deck, I feel a closeness with Mom, but also with the story that gave these stars my family connection.

Mom was only two and a half when her mother called her into the kitchen with her sisters surrounding her. She asked mom which one she would like to live with if something happened to her: Aunt Onie, Aunt Dora, and Aunt Millie. Only 2.5 years old, yet Mom remembered that conversation. Sadly, her mother did die about a month after that kitchen conversation; and no, Mom did not go to live with one of the sisters because she stayed with her dad.

Such stories probably fill the journals of families everywhere, but watching those stars this week the story surfaced in my memory again. And those three stars, “The Three Sisters,” twinkled in the morning sky connecting me to generations already gone. Wonderfully mysterious started singing in my mind.

This week marched us ahead through the season as October closed and November opened. The harvest in our area is nearing completion and some fields are being prepared for the spring as the stubble is plowed and fertilizer applied. The rhythm of life continues and the wonderful mystery blesses us with all that we need to feed the multitudes.

The pre-dawn world wakes up slowly. The owls still call to each other as the rooster belts out its cock-a-doodle-do. The coyotes begin to quiet as the dogs wake up and bark at who knows what. The cats decide to eat before curling up for the day, and the quiet birds begin to flitter about in the trees and bushes surrounding the yard. Nature is wonderfully mysterious.

November is not a favorite month for me. In fact if I dwell on it too long, it can squash my optimism. This is when the color in our world disappears. In my family’s history, this month seemed to be marked with tragedy and losses. At times, November seems to last forever and because of all these personal experiences, I struggle to see the value of the month. Yet, the mere symbolic relationship of November to the cycle of life again fits the descriptor “wonderfully mysterious.”

God created what we know as our world, but the calendar is a tool humanity devised to create order in our lives. God did not design the world around the calendar. God created the world to sustain itself and tasked us to take care of it. Are we?

Tuesday is our American election day; are we prepared to vote knowing that each vote we make is part of the responsibility we have to be stewards of God’s world. The outcome may not be a personal favorite, but taking part in the election and accepting the final decisions is simply one tiny part of the complex structure humans created—and it is certainly not perfect. Only God is perfect and we are blessed to know him and place our trust in him.

The wonderfully mysterious relationship we have with God is established through the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. The practice of sharing in the Eucharist (more commonly referred to as communion in our church) reconnects us to God. Each time we share in the bread and the cup and review our beliefs through the liturgy of the sacrament, we are brought into relationship with God. Even communion is wonderfully mysterious in that it reconnects us with God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.

Reading scripture, praying continually, and being in Christian fellowship sustains our relationship with God. These practices keep us centered on God and his connection to us right here, right now. The Holy Spirit is wonderfully mysterious and a constant presence in our lives when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior.

Accepting the reality of God’s personal sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ places us in a wonderfully mysterious relationship with God. Once in that relationship, we are in union with all that is God—the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Each person is gifted with certain skills and God asks us to use them to be stewards of his creation. That work wonderfully, mysteriously keeps us in relationship with God.

November is filled with opportunities to witness to the wonderful mystery of God in our lives. We take the bread and the cup to symbolize the relationship, but the Holy Spirit is present and will guide us to fully participate as God’s agents in this world.

Step up to the communion table, but remember that God is in communion with us at these times. He is alive. He acts through us. He reaches out to others through us. He sustains us through our work in the fields and in the kitchens. He comforts us as we reach out to those in pain and in sorrow. He blesses us with the joy of family and friends. He welcomes us to life eternal as we join him in death. Wonderfully mysterious is our relationship with God.

Closing prayer:

Dear wonderfully mysterious God,

 

Our lives overflow with the blessings you provide.

Our lives are vehicles to serve as stewards of this world.

Our lives are witnesses to the power of love in the face of turmoil.

Our lives are given to you to be all that we can for all the needs we can.

 

Thank you for the glory of your creation;

For the stars we watch in the dark,

For the harvests that feed the hungry,

For the warmth of the sunshine and the shade of the clouds,

For the thirst quenching rains in times of drought, and

For the fellowship of believers willing to serve one and another.

 

Guide us through the Holy Spirit

To read, study, pray, and worship together.

Guide us through the Holy Spirit

To hear you speak and to speak for you.

Guide us through the Holy Spirit

To do as you want us to do as stewards of your creation.

 

May our work be your work,

May our words be your words.

May our lives be blessed

by the bread and the cup

we share today

in the name of you,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. –Amen

 

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How did Jesus teach? The Beatitudes & The Last Supper

given on Sunday, October 6, 2013–Worldwide Communion Day

Scripture Base:  Matthew 5: 5-12 and Luke 6:20-23

Teaching and preaching seemingly follow similar methods and often the two careers seem to merge.  In fact, the training is very similar especially in classes concerning delivery of content.  The difference between the two careers is primarily the audience, as one might expect.

The Sermon on the Mount officially signaled the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The audience was defined as the Jews, originally, but opened up to any interested person who was within hearing distance of this man.  Certainly the first notice taken of him was in the tabernacle where the Jewish rabbis were listening and interacting with him as a child even as a student.  Yet as early as 12, the scripture tells us that Jesus may have been more a preacher than a student.

Personally, I would love to learn more about this young man between 12 and 30.  Was his development typical or did he develop an aura of mystery around him causing people—family, friends, neighbors, even strangers—to start whispering about him in an almost fearful manner?

The stories of Jesus’ pre-ministry life are scanty at best, but I cannot believe that he was just quietly growing up and being trained as a carpenter.  I think there must have been a sense of calm and peace surrounding him visible in his actions and his eyes.  I think he was soft-spoken, but gifted at knowing the inner thoughts of others.

How else could one man, walking along the dusty paths along the Jordan River, up and over coastal mountains, in and along the village paths, call out the name of someone completely absorbed by the task at hand, and have them drop everything, walk towards him, and begin a journey without a thought!  I know there had to be a unique presence about Jesus.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is the Sermon on the Mount and the list of Beatitudes is recorded as the introduction to his teaching.  At the point he becomes aware of the large crowd growing around him and the Apostles, he shifts from preparing them for their new career to teaching and/or preaching to the curious onlookers.

What do the Beatitudes teach?  At the first reading, one might consider them to be riddles.  The words twist and turn, stating one thing, then flipping into another.  The wording is a cause and effect statement in reverse:  God blesses those (the effect) who did (the cause).  But then comes the concrete result—the Kingdom of Heaven is just one result.

Breaking down each statement like that, certainly demonstrates the rewards outnumber the expected behaviors.  One new law erases the Old Law, primarily based on the Ten Commandments:  love your neighbor as yourself.  How you are to do that is outlined in the Beatitudes:

  1. Realize your need for God
  2. Mourn for one’s loss
  3. Be humble
  4. Hunger and thirst for justice
  5. Be merciful
  6. Be pure of heart
  7. Work for peace
  8. Do right even if others do not
  9. Stick to your beliefs even if others make fun of you.

10. Be happy

These are seemingly so simple that I am sure the change in one’s lifestyle during those ancient years really did appeal to the masses.  Remember that at this time the ‘good life’ was for those in power and for the priests in the tabernacle.

Which brings us back to the audience and Jesus’ teaching style.  If the tabernacle was so holy that only certain areas were open to the people, the working class, as we might know them today (or maybe we should call them the working poor class).  Add to that group of people, the ones living and working around the area that were not even Jewish, who were living outside of the Jewish faith.

Any speaker who can deliver a new idea with such success that the crowds start growing and growing into an unmanageable crowd who could only fit along the road on the side of a mountain, must be a gifted teacher and/or preacher.

The Sermon on the Mount was a beginning.  The crowds were curious, the tone was inviting, and promises sounded appealing.  Jesus was teaching these first followers methods to simplify their lives.  Following the Old Law was demanding and built upon fearful consequences.  Jesus’ message was different and provided hope to the masses.

For three years, Jesus continued walking the dusty paths, speaking to individuals, to families, to educated and uneducated.  The legal authorities were noticing a change in the communities, the priests were watching, too.  I even suspect that attendance during Sabbath services was diminishing, too.  Change was in the air!

In fact the change was also affecting the community’s daily business.  The legal authorities were becoming agitated, not to mention the Jewish priests.  The teaching and the preaching were not stopping, but the new followers enthusiasm became overshadowed by fear.   The movement grew but also became more secretive.  The crowds were closely watched, who was following whom was noted.  Still Jesus continued teaching, preaching, and healing with his following growing and growing.

As that Passover Week rolled around and three years of work was nearing completion (the Sermon of the Mount began Jesus’ career) now the Last Supper was going to close his earthly career.  The setting changes, the audience diminishes, and the seriousness of the gathering shifts to a tone of caution.

Jesus the teacher is now preaching.  He must reinforce his message and he needs his disciples to understand the importance of their role with each other as well as the newest followers.  He has taught, preached and healed without ceasing, but his time was ending.

Parents and teachers know that their role changes when children and students grow up and move on.  Jesus knew this too.  The promises shared in the Beatitudes would not be fulfilled if he did not complete his earthly job.

The Last Supper signaled the transition of teaching, preaching and healing from him to his Apostles.  And, as the Apostles hear the words we now use in the communion liturgy, they graduated with fear into new roles.  They were now to be the teachers, the preachers, and the healers.

Still, the setting and the tone of that final meal was filled with casual conversation, with laughter, with hope, with calm until Jesus commanded their attention and began explaining what was about to happen.  The clamor in the room stopped, the silence filled the room, and Jesus’ words filled the void (Matthew 26:21-24):

I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.  . . .One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me.  For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago.  But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him.  It would be far better for that man if he had never been born.

Shock, bewilderment, defensiveness, horror, disbelief, and fear:  the emotions at that moment are far different than the emotions of the crowds listening to the Sermon on the Mount.  The hope and the promises listed in the Beatitudes suddenly become just distant memories as Jesus’ prepares his handpicked Apostles for the final phase of his ministry.

The simple act of sharing a meal with those closest to you creates a bond of trust.  The Last Supper, also known as Communion or the Eucharist, does this for each of us yet today.  We symbolize that meal with Jesus each time we take the cup and the bread.  As we remember how Jesus’ spent three years teaching, preaching, and healing, we also renew that bond with God.

God loves each and every one of us so much, that he came to this earth as Jesus to teach us, to preach to us, and to heal us.  The words of hope and promises delivered in the Beatitudes are as meaningful today as they were 2,000 years ago.

The rule, the one rule, simplifies our lives so much that we want to share it with others, too, because we know the difference it has made in our lives.  It is a rule that creates the Christ-filled lives we experience here on earth as well as leads to the promises of eternal life with God once our earthly lives are completed.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son and of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives to His glory.  May we be the Church, teaching, preaching and healing others so they may experience the grace and the love of God.

[At this time, join in the ritual of Communion.  Take the cup and the bread as a symbol of the bond between you and God.]

 

Closing Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Jesus your son, and the Holy Ghost,

Thank you for the gifts you have given us

so we may join You in teaching, preaching, and healing.

We acknowledge our human weaknesses,

but we believe in your grace and your forgiveness.

Help us share that sense of hope found in the Beatitudes

with those who are lost and forlorn.

May our skills be instrumental in the transformation

of the lives of your children, young and old alike.

Through the sharing of the bread and the wine,

renew our bond, our commitment to You and to each other.

To Your glory, amen.

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