Invitation: Come as You Are

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Most of our experience with communion is in a fairly formal setting. The priest or worship leader takes us through a familiar ritual. The bread is dedicated specifically to the purpose of communion. Depending on your tradition and beliefs, it may or may not be considered sacred but, knowing what it symbolizes, we all treat it with reverence and respect. As far as reenactments of Jesus’s last supper go, it’s pretty inaccurate.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread…” No one processed into the room with consecrated wafers or a loaf with a slit in the bottom to make it easier to break. There may have been unleavened bread on the table for a traditional Passover meal, but otherwise it was unremarkable. Jesus used bread that was already present — and possibly half-eaten. The cup was just a cup. The gathered disciples would have washed it up after the meal with all the other cups and by the next morning probably couldn’t remember which one it had been.

Then there’s Judas. In all four Gospels, Jesus is aware his betrayer is at the table. He doesn’t identify Judas by name. He doesn’t exclude Judas from the meal. Instead Jesus shows him the same love and offers him the same blessing as everyone present.

The last supper — or first Eucharist — was made of the ordinary: the half-eaten, backwash-tainted, treacherous things and people at hand. It was sacred not because of the sanctity of the elements, but because Christ’s transformational presence makes the ordinary sacred. Your participation in communion does not require your perfection; it requires humble recognition of your deeply flawed nature. That’s the door through which Christ’s broken body and shed blood enter and transform you. And nobody can shut it but you.

If Christ welcomed even Judas at the first Eucharist, what possible reason could there be for anyone to be excluded? Who can say: “I get to determine who is worthy of the grace Christ gives freely?” We don’t get to decide that about other people, and other people don’t get to decide that about us. We don’t even get to decide it for ourselves. Communion isn’t about the perfect loaf of bread for the perfect people. It’s about Christ turning leftovers into a banquet that feeds the world.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

Get Fruity

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 108; 150, Genesis 18:16-33, Galatians 5:13-25, Mark 8:22-30


Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia introduced the phrase “fruits of the spirit.” He wrote this letter to the mostly Gentile church because they had fallen under the influence of Jewish evangelists who were persuading them they needed to observe Mosaic law to be good followers of Christ. Paul reminded the Galatians that salvation through Christ leads to changes in attitude and behavior, not the other way around. Over the centuries some Christians have ironically twisted Paul’s insights into a new set of rules and subverted his intent.   Continue reading

Looking for Loaves in All the Wrong Places

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, Genesis 18:1-16, Hebrews 10:26-39, John 6:16-27


Carbs are the enemy of faith. Continue reading

Attitude of Abundance

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, Genesis 17:15-27, Hebrews 10:11-25, John 6:1-15


Our culture promotes irony and cynicism. Even in faith communities simple optimism is often characterized as simple-mindedness. When push comes to shove, we tend to hoard the resources we have rather than trust them to God’s abundance. Continue reading

Body of Work

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Genesis 16:15-17:14, Hebrews 10:1-10, John 5:30-47


Circumcision can be a divisive topic. Parents don’t always agree on whether it’s right for their sons. In some circles its medical benefits and risks are hotly debated. Many men –circumcised and not – find it a barbaric and abusive practice and actively work to abolish it. Others, such as those who incorporate it into tribal rites of passage, defend it just as vigorously. Continue reading

Test Everything

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new window/tab):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, Genesis 16:1-14, Hebrews 9:15-28, John 5:19-29


Some days the biggest stumbling block to faith is scripture itself. Amid its inspiration, today’s passage from Genesis contains some truly horrifying ideas. God promised Abram he would father a nation, but he and his wife Sarai did not immediately conceive a child. An impatient Sarai suggested Abram impregnate her servant Hagar. Under the law, Sarai could have claimed legal possession of the child. The law also claimed that if Hagar started acting “uppity” after conceiving, her mistress could punish her – so naturally that’s exactly what happened. When Hagar ran away, God advised her to return with the promise her child would also beget a nation.

Forced surrogacy. Abuse. Slavery seemingly endorsed by God. Is it any wonder many people find it so easy to reject the Bible wholesale? Continue reading

Breaking the Law

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Today’s readings (click below to open in a new window):
Psalms 54; 146, Genesis 15:1-11, 17-21, Hebrews 9:1-14, John 5:1-18


The fourth commandment is “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” For most Christians Sunday is the Sabbath but after church is over it’s not much different than the rest of the week. We are free to go shopping, eat out, and do as we please. Therefore we may underestimate the enormity of Jesus’ decision to perform a healing miracle on the Sabbath. This wasn’t someone declining an opportunity to “take it easy” – it was an act of defiance punishable by death. Continue reading

Cast and Crew

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Today’s readings (click to open in a new window):
Psalms 57; 145, Genesis (14:1-7) 8-24, Hebrews 8:1-13, John 4:43-54


Do you stay to watch the credits at the end of a movie? It can take hundreds of people to see a film through from beginning to end. Writers, producers, directors, stars – these people have the name recognition to get the project off the ground, but without gaffers and grips the production would falter or fold. Every name buried in that scrolling list provides a vital function. Continue reading

Invitation: Faith is a Roller Coaster

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Who doesn’t love roller coasters?

OK, lots of people don’t, but I sure do. One of my favorites is the Superman ride at Six Flags in Gurnee, Illinois. Once a rider is strapped in, your arms and legs are free, and your torso is harnessed so that your back is to the track and you are facing outward. As the track soars, swoops, and twists you get a superhero-eye’s view of the sky and earth – a childhood fantasy come to life.

The first time I rode it the line was two hours long. The day and the company were pleasant, but still I had a queasy feeling replacing the usual excitement. Part of the fun of a coaster ride is the fear and feeling of survival, but for some reason the fear was more intense than usual. I hadn’t been to an amusement park in years, and had put on a lot of weight since the last visit. Part of me was irrationally convinced I was too heavy for the ride. Voices and visions of snapping gears and the rapidly approaching ground filled my mind. Other people heavier than me were getting on and safely returning, but reality wasn’t reassuring. I considered ditching the line and waiting for my friends.

Unlike Superman, I can’t deflect bullets, but once in a while I can bite them. Sweating and nauseated, I said a little prayer as the attendant secured me into the ride and launched us down the track.

It was the best coaster ride I’ve ever been on, and you can bet I’ve been back. Why the irrational fear? It’s because I wasn’t who I thought I should be, and let my insecurities tell me lies about where I belonged.

Church can be that way.

Some people don’t come to church because they believe they aren’t good enough. Or others come to church and believe the invitation to the communion table couldn’t possibly include them, even when the attendant tells them it does. In their minds, somehow their sins and shortcomings are weightier than the sins of everybody else in the crowd. They may even believe God has forgiven far worse sins than theirs, but for some reason they are still afraid. This attitude may seem like humility, but in truth it requires an enormous ego to believe your burdens are the only ones in creation God can’t lift off you. You just aren’t that special.

But you are beloved by God. Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 and Matthew 9:12) Your sins and imperfections are not barriers between you and Christ: they are doors. The bigger your issue, the wider your door. You just need to be willing to open it.

Faith has lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. It can be exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Through it all, no matter your burdens, God will be strong enough to carry you. Strap in and come to the table.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.