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Open/Closed Communion

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I had opportunity this week, as many of you know to spend time at St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. The place is absolutely beautiful. If I think to, I’ll attach a few pictures of the Abbey later. I haven’t taken any this trip, but I might be able to find a few from previous trips. Or, I”m sure you could find it online through a simple Google search.

Anyhoo… when we attended the “Mass” today it struck me how the Catholic church truly reveres the Lord’s Supper. It is, of course, much more than a memorial for them, it is a celebration of the actual presence of Jesus Christ. According to Catholic tradition in the process of a Lord’s supper the bread actually becomes the “host” of the body of Jesus Christ. It is a process that they call “transubstantiation.” It is, as they understand it, an actual change of substance from the bread to the body.

It also struck me how they practice closed communion. One must be (in theory) a Catholic to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a Catholic Church. When I went to Mass this very morning it struck me that I don’t really enjoy feeling like an outsider. I don’t wish I was Catholic, nor do I have any aspirations to do so, but I do wish I could share communion with these good folks.

My good friend and co-worker Daren Lugafet was saying this morning how being here helps us in two ways. It helps us to see how we could do a better job revering Jesus Christ through the Lord’s Supper. It also shows, by contrast, the fantastic gift of being able to share an open communion with all those who believe in Jesus and who claim him as Savior. For that reason, I have appreciated our time here at St. Meinrad as well.

I pray that the church will continue to grow in its willingness to share communion with other believers. The very church In attend has, as her history, a great desire for Christian unity. The America Restoration movement, from which the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the churches of Christ were “birthed” (so to speak) was at the onset, a unity movement. I wonder what the unity of the church will look like as we move into the future? The challenge will be to maintain deep spiritual and theological convictions on a personal and congregational level even as we move toward a greater and much needed ecumenicism.

May God continue to bless his church with knowledge of Jesus Christ and the magnitude of his love for all the saints.

(The picture below is actually a picture of the chapel at Ferdinand where the “Sisters of St. Benedict” do their work and worship.) But the idea is the same. Notice how, on their “altar” the “host” or “eucharist” is encapsulated and given special place and reverence. I believe that God’s exaltation of his body today is not in the “host” that is the bread, but in his “church” that is the living and active body of Christ in the world).

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A Broken/Healed Foundation

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I think it must be the case that there are things that happen to us in life, whether we may be at fault or otherwise, that bring changes in us. Difficult ones. I wonder, too, whether we might face changes so drastic that it changes the our very person. And … try as we might, we can never be the person that we once were.

I used to live in Tulsa. Our home was, like most of the other homes in Tulsa, on a slab foundation. I always remembering hear that the water table was too high or something like that. I know nothing about that sort of thing so just take my word for it when I tell you that almost no one in the Tulsa, OK area has a basement. If they do… its a very basic storm shelter and not essentially a two story house with an underground floor. The foundation of the home we purchased had been peered. Meaning that a portion of the foundation had broken away from the rest of the foundation and was essentially moving. I don’t know if it was moving right or left or down or what, but it was moving. Some foundation experts had come in some years before we bought the house and drilled down to the bedrock way beneath the home, and fastened steel rods from the foundation down to the bedrock. The end result is that the house was more stable, having been peered than it was before.

Knowing that the house had already been peered, my wife and I bought the house with the full understanding that the foundation, though cracked was solid! And during the years we lived in the home… the house had no movement. The foundation was solid.

Then we decided to move.

What we didn’t know is that people, in their ignorance, don’t understand that a peered house is actually more solid than an unpeered home. People hear that the foundation has been cracked and don’t want to buy. We had a difficult time selling the house for that very reason. The cosmetic appearance of the home was only slightly marred by the previous damage. There had been nothing done in the breaking of the foundation that had made the house unliveable, but people were still frightened at the concept of buying a home with a flawed foundation.

Something happened to that house that changed it. It would never be the same again. On the surface… it looked very much the same. Even the places that were cracked on the inside had only suffered slight damage, but had been repaired. Even though it was stronger than when it was first made, it was still seen as undesirable.

I think this same kind of thing can happen to people. I think it does happen to people. I think I’ve seen it. I think I’ve experienced it.

Consider the kinds of events that change the very foundation on which we live. Murder. Rape. Abandonment. Violence. Spiritual warfare that causes us to question the reality by which we are surrounded.

All of these things can crack our foundations. Through much spiritual healing and work, however, we find that we can by God’s grace dig deeper and find something beneath us that is more solid and more “unmoving” then anything we had imagined before. Getting to that place takes a lot of work… a LOT of work. It isn’t easy and the cosmeting or superficial damage done to our lives may be mild, or maybe even severe.

But the damage done to the surface of our lives isn’t nearly as significant as the way that the world perceives us. Life is different when we’ve been broken. We can no longer see ourselves as we once did, and the world will no longer see us as it once did. However, if we are careful to seek the direction of God, we can, I believe, have faith that he will bring us to a renewed strength that surpasses the capacity of our original position or situation.

I pray that if you find yourself in a situation where life has become broken, that you would take heart. The work is difficult, and the perceptions of the world around us may be that we are weaker and somehow less desirable. However, what you and I know, as does our God, that it is his strength that undergirds our very spirit, making us strong for his own purposes.

Strong In Freedom

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people find a way for truth to meet its home in practical application. The first lesson in Post Encounter is called “Strong in Freedom.” In it, I tried to make very practical some ways that, through disciplines, we an not merely have a mountain-top experience, but live a mountain-top way of life.

I shared four “D’s” of Surrender. The key to Freedom and staying in it, is of course, Surrender. We typically think of surrender as the beginning of enslavement. But where God is concerned the opposite is true. Surrender to God equals freedom.

But how does one surrender? How does one surrender to God?

It begins with an “encounter” moment. Simply put, an encounter moment is any time at which a person meets some element or portion (whether large or small) of God’s truth that challenges them to change… to start something or to stop something. In that moment God has given the individual direction. That direction can come straight from God’s word (i.e. Scripture reading), or it can come through the influence of a believer or another avenue. The point is… it is God’s truth and it is challenging change. This is Direction…the first thing to which we must surrender in order to keep moving toward greater freedom.

Once we are surrendered to God’s direction, or leading, we must be surrendered to God’s discipline. There are many spiritual disciplines, but I like to use the acronym RPMs to describe what I see as four fundamental or foundational spiritual disciplines.

READ.

PRAY.

MEET (with other believers)

SERVE (in the new way of the Spirit)

The great thing about these disciplines is that they can be practiced almost at any time by any believer. In reading Scripture, praying to God regularly, staying encouraged by other believers and serving others in some capacity, we find ourselves growing stronger in our personal freedoms.

Third, we must be surrendered to the beauty and balance of mutual domestic support in the realm of spirituality. I believe that God created the family as the mot basic discipleship group. Before there was a tribe, a nation, a people… there was a family.  God made families to function in a way that would pass faith on from generation to generation. It began with Adam and continues on today. Everyone is born to a family, whether they are ever able to enjoy that blessing or not… we all have parents. Within this familial institution, men and women both must surrender to the need to be mutually submissive to and supportive of one another. We pray for each other, we do life together, we train up children together… it is fundamental training grounds as even Paul attests in his letters to Timothy and Titus. For a man to serve as an elder in the church he must prove himself capable of making disciples by having believing children.

Fourth, we must be surrendered to other people in the form of a small (or relatively small) accountability group. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpents another. A chord of three strands is not easily broken. We are to bear one another’s burdens. So many passages of Scripture indicate that faith is a relational endeavor. If we fail to submit ourselves to others for accountability, we become isolated, proud, and then comes the fall. By staying accountable to other believers, we stay flexible in the way we walk from day to day. In this behavior, we allow ourselves to be shaped and molded by the Holy Spirit as he works on us through the lives of other people.

These four things keep us surrendered… And staying surrendered means staying free in Christ!

Reclaiming the Priesthood Part 3

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I’m absolutely thrilled about Sunday’s lesson. The implications of and the responsibility that God has placed upon us in preaching the gospel of repentance in the name of Jesus Christ. What a priestly responsibility! That God has given such authority to me… to proclaim forgiveness in his name. And to know… that people either believe it and receive it… or the reject it. Powerful stuff.

For your consideration: What are the implications of Luke’s version of the Great Commission? What are the implications of the story of Jesus healing the lame man and first saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” And then the people are amazed that God had given such authority “to men.” Does the church today still wield that authority in his name?

Are still to be about the business of proclaiming forgiveness of sins in his name? Do we actually have that authority and to what end? To what limit?

Great questions, aren’t they?

Today’s Contemplation

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I was thinking today on the idea of “contemplation” which means literally to “align temples.”

Think about how your inner temple… the dwelling of the Spirit of God within you is aligned with the heavenly tabernacle, where Jesus dwells at the right hand of God. Take a few moments just to meditate on the following contemplations:

Jesus is at the center of the temple, both heavenly and inward.

The Spirit ministers to God on our behalf, and to us on God’s behalf.

The commandments of God lie underneath the mercy seat. Especially the greatest commands… Love God and Love Others. Embodied in the presence of Christ both in heaven and in our hearts.

The Father is worshiped above all in this place. All sacrifices, all gifts, all thanksgiving is given to him both by the angels in heaven, and in our hearts as well.

It is through these and thoughts like these that we truly “contemplate” and align our inner temple with the heavenly one.

How Are You Today? Tired…

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I’ve noticed an increasing change in the traditional way that we answer the question: “How are you?” It makes me wonder if it might not lead to a time when we just stop asking people how they are doing. But my observation is that I usually hear one of three responses…

1) Fine. This is the tradition. When people ask us how we are doing, for most of us, we know that the unwritten rule is that we are supposed to say “fine.” This is especially true when we don’t really intend to go into a discussion about our well-being with whoever has offered the greeting. We often deflect the question by this longer response: “Fine, thanks. And how are you?” That immediately tells the other person that we are both polite and that we have no intention of really talking about how we are doing?

2) Busy. I’ve heard this more and more in recent years. I’m not sure what motives us to tell people that we are busy, but it does get a little bit more personal than “fine.” We are, by and large, a busy people. We stay busy and we feel that being busy is a good quality of character to have. I ask Brent, “How are you?” He Brent says, “I”m busy.” What I hear that, I think… to myself… Brent is a busy guy…. he has a lot of work to do… a lot of kids to take care of… a lot of projects he’s working on… whatever. And so I nod my head and say, “I hear ya!” Which is another way of saying, “I can relate to that, I”m busy too!” Because I want Brent to know that I’m a hard worker and I have lots of stuff to do. Imagine someone saying, “Really? Busy? Imagine that! I don’t know what its like to be busy.” Translation: I’m a lazy bum and I have no idea what it’s like to have lots of stuff to do.” Ridiculous.

3) Tired. I’m getting this more and more. Because we are such a busy people, the result is, we are also a very tired people. It’s almost become the “norm” to be living on some kind of “caffiene” buzz. And if we’re not high on caffiene or even worse… then we’re “tired.” This has made me wonder a couple of things..

First, are we more “busy” than we really need to be? Can we not calm down and slow the pace of life enough so that we get back to answering, “fine” and actually mean it.

Second, are we really tried? Or are we so used to being “high” or “buzzed” on caffeine or hyperactive or busy… that what used to be a normal pace is now regarded as “tried.”

I don’t know. I do have five children. Maybe I really am busy and tired. Maybe that’s just life.

Segment from “Holy Longing” by Ron Rolheiser

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Rolheiser, Ron. Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. Doubleday, NY. 1999.

“What does God’s power look like? How does it feel to feel as God in this world?

If you have ever been overpowered physically and been helpless in that, if you have ever been hit or slapped by someone and been powerless to defend yourself or fight back, then you have felt how God feels in this world.

If you have ever dreamed a dream and found that every effort you made was hopeless and that your dream could never be realized, if you have cried tears and felt shame at your own inadequacy, then you have felt how God feels in this world.

If you have ever been shamed in your enthusiasm and not given a chance to explain yourself, if you have ever been cursed for your goodness by people who misunderstood you and were powerless to make them see things in your way, then you have felt how God feels in this world.

If you have ever tried to make yourself attractive to someone and were incapable of it, if you have ever loved someone and wanted desperately to somehow make him or her notice you and found yourself hopelessly unable to do so, then you have felt how God feels in this world.

If you have ever felt yourself aging and losing both the health and tautness of a young body and the opportunities that come with that and been powerless to turn back the clock, if you have ever felt the world slipping away from you as you grow older and ever more marginalized, then you have felt how God feels in this world.

If you have ever felt like a minority of one before the group hysteria of a crowd gone mad, if you have ever felt, firsthand, the sick evil of gang rape, then you have felt how God feels in this world . . . and how Jesus felt on Good Friday.

God never overpowers. God’s power in this world is never the power of muscle, a speed, a physical attractiveness, a brilliance, or a grace which (as the contemporary expression has it) blows you away and makes you shout: “Yes! Yes! There is a God!” The world’s power tries to work that way. God’s power though is more muted, more helpless, more shamed, and more marginalized. But it lies at a deeper level, at the ultimate base of things, and will, in the end, gently have the final say.

To work for justice and peace in this world is not to move from being Mother Teresa to being Rambo or Batman. The God who undergirds justice and peace beats up no one and His or Her cause is not furthered when we do.”