Reflection series

Communion: The Sacrifice

communion-bread-and-wine

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Thursday Reflection Series: Tossing in the Tide

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I have always admired people who are good at swimming. I admire how they control themselves in the water as if walking on dry ground. Mostly I admire their confidence in the water. A good swimmer appears totally comfortable in the water, seemingly without even a thought toward the ever-present risk of danger. So, to all the good swimmers out there, I admire you.

The reason I admire good swimmers so much is that unlike them I am not comfortable in the water. Although I took swimming lessons at school, the frequency of these lessons and my lack of extra practice left my skills underdeveloped. Thus, as an adult I am admittedly a very poor swimmer. My performance in the open water starkly contrasts with an experienced swimmer’s. The experienced swimmer appears relaxed, I feel panicked. The experienced swimmer seems confident, I am completely unsure. The experienced swimmer feels safe, whereas I feel the constant looming prospect of a life-threatening emergency. Swimming for the experienced swimmer is enjoyable; for me, it is rather something I try to avoid. As we will see through this reflection, being a Christian can at times resemble a person’s relationship to water depending on their experience and ability in the water.

For those curious about Christianity, for new Christians, or for those who have claimed Christianity for years, there are always times when we need people to help us along the way. As Christians we accept that there is no higher power than God to help us in our need, however, Jesus himself reinforced the concept of fellowship and the strength of his disciples together. Christians need each other, we exist for God as well as for the encouragement and support of other Christians. But when we are in need, whom shall we approach for fellowship? How should we approach them for “good advice?” Perhaps one seeks or receives council in a church, perhaps in a Christian friend or mentor. Regardless of the source of assistance, it is important for a Christian to be wise and thoughtful in this process so as not to be misled. That can be very difficult to do, as anyone who has needed wise counsel but not known where to find it can confirm. It is this helpless feeling that best highlights this idea of swimming without confidence, completely at the mercy of the great body of water. James commented on this state of Christian life when he said:

James 1: 5-6

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Before I had fully given my life to the Lord or learned anything about him, I heard Christians say certain things that used to make my judgmental eyes roll. One idea that I often heard but never believed was that, “the Bible has the answers to everything.” However, it must be confessed that this snap-judgment of mine was made without any inquiry into the Bible itself. While the Bible does not answer every question literally (for example you will not find how long you need to preheat the oven when cooking a turkey), the Bible reveals the source of every challenge that stands in the way of our progress as human beings and a collective community. But in regards to the issue of spiritual counsel and whom we should seek and avoid for said counsel, the Bible actually answers this question rather specifically.

While Jesus did himself address the problem of false teachers or advisers, let’s look at what the apostle Peter had to say about it:

2 Peter 2: 1, 3, 12-14, 17-19

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them —bringing swift destruction on themselves…

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories…

12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. 13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed —an accursed brood!

17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

For the next few weeks, our Thursday reflections will lead us in examining these hallmarks of the false teacher. These passages in Peter’s epistles teach us of certain qualities that false teachers or dangerous spiritual leaders possess. A dangerous spiritual leader can be identified mainly by looking at the relationship of their teaching to Jesus. We can deduce that a spiritual leader is dangerous by examining their:

 Motivation and Jesus

Power and Jesus

Purpose and Jesus

 We hope that as this series helps illuminate the dangers of false teachers, it also reminds us of our need for true spiritual leadership, and the certainty of finding it in Jesus Christ.