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Archive for August, 2016

Invite Who?

Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you.  Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected. (Luke 14:13-14 CEB)

Jesus had been invited to a Pharisee’s house for a meal, not because he was a friend of the family but because the Pharisees wanted to keep an eye on him.  He had become quite famous in the Galilee area especially, and many people were following him, talking about his amazing teachings, healings, and miracles.

Most of us would love to have a famous person come to eat at our house or at least go to a banquet in their honor.  Being friends with a famous person makes us feel special and set apart from others.  One of my college classmates went on to become a television personality who probably wouldn’t know me from a “hole in the wall.”  Yet, it’s kind of fun to tell people that I “knew her when,” and she even said “hi” to me once!

So, when we think about what it would be like to hold a dinner in the famous his or her honor, we would have a pretty selective guest list.  We would certainly have to invite the town’s leading citizens, our family and friends, and other folks who might be “important” to us.

In the Luke passage, Jesus noticed that the guests were seeking the place of honor, and he reminded them about humility and not presuming that they were more important from others.  He also told his host to invite, as the passage above says, “the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.”  In other words, care about everyone; welcome everyone to your table.

This is a reminder to us, as a church, that we welcome all through our doors, not just those who can put enough money into the offering plate to help us meet our budget or those who dress up or those who will help out on committees.  The church of Jesus Christ is open to everyone!

We can exclude through our behaviors, our choice of words, through poor hospitality, through any number of ways that we send a message that someone who is different from us or “not as important” is unwelcome.  For too long, the church has seen itself as the building, but the church is in the world through us – the people.  We ARE the church.  Let us BE the church as we build the Kingdom of God on earth.

In what ways are we welcoming to all people?

How is your hospitality?

How will you open the doors of your mind, heart, and life to those who need to hear the word of God’s love and grace?

Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  John 6:35 (NRSV)

What does that mean?  There are so many images and metaphors in scripture that it’s easy to see why people become confused.  In worship, we also use a lot of symbols or symbolic language.

I remember serving communion one Sunday when a four year old boy came up and decided he didn’t want to dip his bread in the “blood.”  His mother told me about it later, and I was reminded once again that our language can exclude people who might come to church for the first time, such as this young boy.

There are people who have been attending church since they were children to probably don’t really understand the full meaning of communion.  As a pastor, I find it a privilege to serve communion with the bread and juice.  A variety of faces come before me:  young, old, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children – all ages and backgrounds.  It’s a privilege to be part of the community of faith.

Yet, it’s also important to remember that we aren’t a closed community, and new people do visit, some who have never been at a worship service – or maybe haven’t been in a long time.  There are those who come hurt and wounded; those who come seeking forgiveness from God (often for things they could never admit to anyone else); those who are indifferent and only see communion as a ritual; and any variety of reasons.

Our ways of informing them and trying to explain to them what it means can help them move into the deeper meaning of taking communion.  We can receive the love of God in Christ Jesus in so many ways, but the one that draws us together is communion.  The image of the Body of Christ, broken for us is a hard one to understand.

It’s sometimes helpful to explain that Jesus’ brokenness is reassembled in the church that is build in his name.  We, as members of Christ’s church receive the broken body of Christ and then re-member as the Body of Christ, sent into the world to make a difference, to share God’s love, to reach out to those who are in need (physical or emotional).

The bread of life is Christ, offered for us and given to us as a reminder that we are called to share God’s love wherever we are.  We have life because of Christ.  We share God’s love and grace through the way we live those lives.

How have you approached communion?

In what ways might you see more deeply into the ritual and the meaning behind it?

How do you offer the “Bread of Life” to others?

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