Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eleuthra Day 5 - Grand Bahama Response

Another beautiful day dawns in the Bahamas and we are probably heading back to Eleuthra later today. This trip to Grand Bahama has been interesting and opened up some new possibilities. Two days ago when I wrote about the vine, I didn't realize how connected we really are. Yesterday I met the pastor of a church in Freeport and it turns out that we were at Candler at the same time and knew the same people.

My morning devotional was from Luke 21. Strange stuff about the end times and signs but in the midst of that Jesus says, "You will have the opportunity to testify...I will give you the words and a wisdom." That is his promise for us today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grand Bahama First Responders

We arrived safely around noon today about 24 hours after the tornadoes first hit Freeport, Grand Bahama. It is unbelievable to be invited to be the first people on the ground to respond to this disaster on behalf of the Bahama Methodist Church. Since this is a relatively new effort, we were demonstrating that the planes and people and tools can be brought together and put in the right places quickly. It is also an honor to be working the Bahama Methodist Habitat folks who are professional and well connected so that they can really get things done.

The team from Concord and Church Street includes experienced team leaders and youth with lots of construction experience and medical personnel. We are ready to do anything they ask.

Eleuthra Day 4


We heard yesterday about the tornadoes on Grand Bahama and our first thoughts were whether we would see that same weather system here. But as it lifted north of us we were thankful for our safety but concerned for others. Bahamas Habitat is such a great organization because before they started worrying about their safety, Abe and his team were planning for how to help others. When the earthquake hit Haiti, they loaded up their planes and headed down there. So this morning we are loading up as many supplies as we can and 8 people to fly over to Grand Bahama and do whatever we can over the next three days. It is a great adventure into the unknown and uncertainty.

My devotional for this morning was from John 15 where Jesus talks about being the true vine. It is such a blessing to be a branch on the vine and feel our connection with Christians around the world. So whenever anyone is hurting or in need, all of the branches hurt and are in need. Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you...you are my friends if you do what I command you." So we don't know what these next days hold for us except to be called friends of Christ and branches on the vine.

Blessings,
DR

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everyone on Eleuthra is fine

We understand from the news that a bad storm hit Grand Bahama earlier today causing some loss of life. We've had some wind and rain but everyone is fine here. The director of Bahamas Habitat will be going over in the morning to see how we can help and we'll likely take part of our team over there later tomorrow.

We just confirmed that 8 of our people from Church Street and Concord will be leaving early in the morning to go to Grand Bahama. Pray for us as we go to respond to this emergency.

Eleuthra Day 3


This morning we awoke to a gorgeous tropical morning. The sky was filled with God's glory as the palm branches waved their approval. There are beautiful places and then there are places that resist words.

The parade yesterday really helped us understand the people. Every speaker talked about their hopes and dreams for the settlement of James Cistern. One significant effort is to finish a medical clinic; we were glad to learn last night that we would be working on that project.

So this morning came and we disbursed to all of our sites, some to homes and others to the clinic and the youth center in town. My team stayed behind at the camp to work on the cistern. Water is expensive so the best way to have enough is to have a cistern to collect the rainwater from all the roof. Unfortunately, there is no roof on the cistern now and so it is unusable but provides plenty of mosquitos. So we're getting it ready for a new roof which we'll hopefully start on Wednesday if the materials arrive from Nassau.

For an island surrounded by water, in fact most places you can easily see from Atlantic to Carribean because the island is so narrow, water is do valuable. Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4 and offered her living water. She misunderstood and puzzled as to how he could get water without a jar to draw it in. At one point today when we needed water for the concrete we were mixing, Derek climbed down into the cistern and lowered a bucket. So perhaps when we finish we'll provide water for the camp, for showers and cooking, and maybe even a little living water along the way there.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday on Eleuthra


Greetings for the island of Eleuthra! In case you haven't missed us yet, a group of 25 youth and adults from Church Street are down here working with Bahamas Methodist Habitat. We just arrived yesterday so we really don't know much about what we will be asked to do. Check out Marc's blog linked from the youth site for pictures and stories.

It's Palm Sunday and as we get ready to leave for church I've been reflecting on the story we hear on this day. We are excited about worshiping here in James Cistern; they say that the service this morning will last about 2 1/2 hours! But the best part is that we'll be a part of the parade this afternoon. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds like some way of participating in the Palm Sunday story.

So I went to Matthew 21 and read the story of Jesus' triumphal entry. Unlike the other accounts, this one seems to give a lot of the story to the donkey. I have observed before that perhaps the donkey thought the parade was for him. There's something in our human experience there; that we often think the world and the celebration and the cheers of the crowd are all directed at us instead of Christ.

But today I also thought about what it means to carry Christ to the people of Eleuthra. We are allowed this awesome opportunity to be the bearers of Christ in this place at this time. Often that means being a servant, not really understanding what we are doing and why, and not setting our own direction but following the leading of another. That is what our team will hopefully do today and this week. I guess I can indentify with the donkey.

Blessings wherever you carry Christ,
DR

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 14, 2010 Jesus, Barabbas and Pilate

Which Jesus Do You Want?
Mark 15.1-15 - Jesus, Barabbas, and Pilate

STORY OF THE TRIAL BEFORE PILATE
A. Jesus and the Temple leaders have been up all night. As soon as it was daylight, about 6:00 a.m., the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. Someone said at Bible study this week that this council when fully assembled amounted to 71-men. The point is that this was not just a few ruthless leaders; this was the whole group agreeing together that Jesus must die. Further, it is not just a lynch mob stirred up by emotion; it is a considered, official decision.
This is an example of the hearts of all persons being revealed through their response to Jesus. As Simeon said when he blessed Jesus when he was 8-days old in the Temple,
"This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed" (Luke 2.34f).

B. It is still early in the morning. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate is the Roman procurator or governor. This was most likely a short walk to the Fortress Antonia, located at the edge of the Temple. Pilate has Jesus brought into the hall where he does official business; this would be similar in purpose to a modern courtroom. Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
Now, this question from Pilate is not a request for information; it amounts to an accusation of insurrection. Herod is the Roman-approved ruler of the Jews; Pilate is the Roman proconsul. Jesus has been accused by the Jewish leaders of being a revolutionary – a charge which no Roman ruler will tolerate. For Pilate holding a hearing on that Friday morning, it is a legal question. In the legal sense, an answer, Yes or No will determine guilt or innocence. At another level, there is a different meaning to this question: For Christians, reading through the eyes of faith, this is a call to answer, "Yes!" It is a call to confess Jesus to be the Lord. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. Of this kingdom, faith knows that Jesus is the king.

C. But, according to Mark, Jesus answers only one this time: He answered Pilate, "You say so." What Pilate hears is courageous contempt. Jesus stands before Pilate as a beaten, exhausted Jewish peasant. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus responds with a non-answer: “You say so.” Jesus is not defending himself. He is doing nothing to help Pilate make this decision.
Once again, though, hear the double meaning. Pilate asks, "Are you the King of the Jews?" To which Jesus responds: "You say so." Faith hears the Roman governor acknowledging aloud the reality that Jesus is the King of a kingdom that is not of this world.

D. 4 Pilate asked him again, "Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you." But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

For one who is charged with a capital crime to refuse to respond to Pilate's authority is contempt. Jesus will not speak again until his dying words from the cross. The defenseless silence of Jesus in the face of all the questioning by his interrogators, all the sly accusations of the religious leaders, and all the shouting of the mob speaks volumes. It proclaims that Jesus suffers deliberately and willingly, knowing what lies before him better than any other actor in this drama. I am not suggesting that Pilate and the Jewish leaders were puppets in Jesus' plan to make himself a martyr. I am suggesting that, like any wise person, he could see the direction of these events and realize the obvious destination. I am suggesting that, like the obedient Son of the Father, he believes that this is necessary and is willing to go to the cross.

E. Now, the events around Jesus take an unexpected turn. The scripture tells us that at the festival Pilate had a tradition of releasing a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. This is a most unusual custom considering how rebellious this province was.
Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. In the Gospel according to Matthew, there is a textual variant which names him "Jesus Barabbas." This raises an interesting parallel: that both of the prisoners were called "Jesus." There is a sermon here: Pilate brings out both Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas and says to the crowd: "Which Jesus do you want?" It is a question that Lent asks of us also.
Pilate asks them,
"Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.

POINT: This strange clemency offer suggests that Pilate was not the worst actor in this drama. As Mark's gospel was circulated among the churches of the Roman Empire, it had the effect of softening the accusation that the Romans had caused the death of the Messiah. It is has had the opposite effect of pinning more of the blame for the death of Jesus on the Jews. This story has been the unfortunate source of much anti-Semitism across the centuries. //

F. Pilate speaks to them again, "Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?" While this is an unusual question for the occupying authority to ask a vassal people, it again emphasizes the responsibility of the Temple leaders in Jesus' death and plays down the responsibility of the Romans – a nice touch in a gospel directed to Roman Christians. And they shout back, "Crucify him!"
Pilate is presented as powerless before the crowd. To the eyes of faith, Pilate is the real prisoner while the condemned/Jesus is the most free. So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
NOTE: There is one note before we move on. In the Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ (though not stated in the Bible), there is the scene which shows the moment when Barabbas is released. As he exits the Palace, Barabbas looks back. His eyes and Jesus’ eyes meet for a brief moment. It seems that Barabbas understands that Jesus of Nazareth stays behind in his place. He gets it: he deserves to stay behind and see Jesus of Nazareth released. His freedom is bought at the cost of Jesus’ life. Barabbas gets it.///

II. Now, think with me about these two: Jesus Barabbas (as Matthew called him) and Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior whom we all know. Which Jesus do you want?
(Remember, as I said at the beginning, Lent is not finally about us and how we feel. Lent is a season to focus on Jesus.) So, which Jesus do we want? The choice while obvious is not as easy as it looks. If they made a TV movie about each, Barabbas would probably get the better ratings from the viewers.
A. Jesus Barabbas is a revolutionary. He was caught and found guilty of murder. I get the impression that he is the man of action that we all admire or hate depending on which side we are on. Curiously, the Bible does not tell us who Barabbas murdered.
1. Did he murder a Roman or a Roman sympathizer? This would be the obvious choice. As a revolutionary, he would deal with anyone who took Rome’s part; he would stop at nothing to stop the Romans. He would be the partisan hero like many others:
–George Washington,
–John Adams,
–John Hancock. You might not know that most of the 58 men who signed our Declaration of Independence were hunted by the British. To Americans, these are heroes; to the British, they were the enemy to be destroyed.
2. Or, did Barabbas murder one of his own kind? One of the facts of armed conflict is that we are willing to take up arms against our own. What do you do with deserters? What do you do with those who are willing to negotiate before you have achieved your goals? When passions are high, friends can become enemies.
3. The details about Barabbas’ crime are few. Josephus simply calls him a bandit; there is nothing else known about him.
Barabbas is the man of action, the partisan man, whom we admire. He is willing to take a stand; he is willing to take a side; he is willing to risk his life to further his cause. And we admire such strength of conviction. We admire the soldier who is willing to risk everything to win the battle.
–Rambo,
–The basketball player who is willing to stand in the lane and take the charge.
–Our American fighting men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
–Presidents who take firm action, even it requires the sacrifice of war.
–Or very specifically, the Pentagon security officers who returned fire this week when an intruder ran past them, shooting two of them.
All of these gain our applause and our trust. Barabbas never did anything to hurt Jesus; he is a bit player in this drama. And Barabbas is only a bad guy if you’re standing on the other side of his conflict.

B. Jesus of Nazareth is the one who is harder to understand. He will not take up arms to fight the Romans, even though he was encouraged to do so. He will not stand and fight the Romans even though it appears that they could have been a threat to him as they were to John the Baptist.
Think about it:
–“Turn the other cheek”
–“Go the second mile.”
–“Love your enemies and pray for those who hatefully use you.”
–“Forgive 70 x 7 times.”
It was the message he taught and it was the message he lived – even as it took him to the cross and death. We watch the cross begin to loom over him and wonder when he will change his tactics. We wonder when he will call down legions of angels to join him in the battle. We savor the great battle of the Book of Revelation, even though it is completely contrary to anything Jesus himself did and taught.
Think about it: those who call for change without calling for arms are hard for us to understand.
Illus: Adam Hamilton in his book, 24 Hours that Changed the World, makes a distinction in his book between Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. Malcolm X did not disavow violence if that is what freedom from racial segregation required. He quotes Malcolm-X:
“I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man's problem - just to avoid violence. I don't go for non-violence if it also means a delayed solution. To me a delayed solution is a non-solution” (2).

On the other hand, Martin Luther King, Jr. called his followers to work without and against violence. He believed that human rights and equality come only by changing people’s hearts though encounters with nonviolent resistance and sacrificial love (3). King took inspiration from Jesus of Nazareth.///
What do we do with a Savior who will not take up arms? Frankly, most Americans, even Christians, do not believe that non-violence will win the battle. You can see evidence for this conviction in Avatar, where the sweet, peace-loving native peoples finally have to take up arms against the corporate invaders. What if John got it wrong in Revelation and the final battle is not one of power and might, but willing and sacrificial suffering beyond reason?
Which Jesus do you want? Which Jesus will you follow? I know this is church, and the answer is supposed to be Jesus of Nazareth. But, in our heart of hearts, we stand amazed (and maybe dumbfounded) in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.

CONCL: Maybe we have had the wrong idea all along about Lent.
+Giving up something.
+Spending extra time reading the Bible.
+Getting to church more often – all focus on us.
Such disciplines are for people who think they get it – which they/we do not. Maybe the response of those who truly get it is to stand in immobilizing silence.
I know that when the end of the service comes, the message is supposed to find a destination, a tidy ending. But, this time, we watch the Savior go to the Cross that we could not face, and we have to stand in silenced amazement. “O Lord, my God, what hast Thou done?”
Which Jesus do you want?
1. The man of action: Jesus Barabbas?
2. Or the man of sacrificial and complete love: Jesus of Nazareth?
Think about that on your way to the end of Lent.



Notes:
2. Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm-X, quoted in Hamilton, Adam. 24-Hours that Changed the World, p. 73.
3. Malcolm X, quoted in Hamilton, Adam. 24-Hours that Changed the World, p. 74.
4. Allen, Robert L. His Finest Days: Ten Sermons for Holy Week and the Easter Season, CSS Publishing Company.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 7, 2010 Take this Bread

Take this Bread
Mark 14.12-25

1. If you knew that you had only one more night of freedom and life, what would you do? Who would you want around you? What would you want to do? On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he chose to celebrate the Passover Feast with his disciples. And more than just celebrating the ancient feast, he transformed the Jewish Passover into the Christian Eucharist or Holy Communion.

2. You might have read the story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel about the church in Pigeon Forge that was passing around a tract titled, “The Death Cookie.” According to the paper, it was an anti-Catholic rant which Catholic Bishop Stika spoke out against because it was “hateful, discriminatory, and full of prejudice and bigotry” (4). I read the tract, and it is all of that. More than spreading hate about the Catholics, its message claims a narrow view of Holy Communion, too. While there are doctrinal differences between the Catholic and United Methodist teachings on the bread and the wine, we have more in common than we are different. One indication of what we hold in common is that Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is part of the Wednesday Lenten Services that we are sharing with the downtown churches. This is perhaps a good time for us to talk together about the meaning of the bread and the wine of Holy Communion. My claim: To the extent that our teachings are consistent with the scriptures, we are in the right to offer Holy Communion; we are in the right share the bread and cup.

3. TASK: Today, we are continuing our focus on the last 24-hours of Jesus' earthly life. We will read the story of the Last Supper from Mark's Gospel. What is it telling us about being the church? How does eating this bread and drinking this wine shape us?

Sometimes Jesus just taught; sometimes Jesus gave an example; other times Jesus commanded: “Take.” Those things which Jesus commanded his disciples to do are those things that we modern disciples feel equally commanded to do. Holy Communion is one of those moments: Jesus broke the bread and said, “Take, eat.” Jesus took the cup and said, “Drink...” As disciples of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we hear the command to do the same? Today, let’s go through the story of the institution of the Last Supper. Each step is important.
First, notice that this is passage, taken together, is one story. It begins in v. 12 with the disciples asking Jesus, “Where do you want us to go and prepare the Passover feast?” It ends in v. 25 with Jesus saying that he will not drink the cup, which is so important to the Passover feast, until he drinks it new in the Kingdom of God. Avoid the temptation to jump to the familiar words of institution; we should read it as a whole.

PART-1: The disciples ask Jesus where to prepare the Passover feast. This feast is the defining feast for the Jewish people. It began when Israel was enslaved in Egypt. God heard the cry of their distress because of the treatment of their slave masters. And God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. When Pharaoh was hardhearted and would not let Israel go, God began to send plagues to punish Egypt and to demonstrate His power. There were frogs and flies – nine plagues in all. Now, on the night of the tenth plague, God sends word to the Israelites to prepare. God tells them that after this plague the Egyptians will gladly let them go. They must be ready.
All Israel is commanded to kill a lamb and smear a bit of the blood on the doorposts of their houses. Then, they are to eat the meal hurriedly with their coats on, waiting for the Angel of God to pass over them. Any who are not ready will suffer the plague with the Egyptians; any who are prepared will be spared. On that night, God’s angel passes over the land, and the first born of every house of the Egyptians is killed. One by one as the Egyptians realize the devastation God is working on their people, they let out a cry of anguish. Even Pharaoh’s household is not spared this plague of God.
So, the Egyptians turn from their refusal and now send the Israelites out of their bondage to freedom and to the Land of Promise. The Israelites’ escape sets in motion their epic journey though the wilderness, a 40-year trek that transformed them into a nation.
To remember that defining experience, the Israelites began to retell the story of what God did for them that night. The Jewish people still celebrate the Passover feast. The meal includes foods that symbolically tell the story of Israel’s deliverance.
+They eat bitter herbs–horseradish and parsley, reminders of the bitterness the Israelites experienced when they were slaves in Egypt.
+The herbs were dipped in salt water, which represented their tears.
+They eat charoset which looks like the mortar the Israelites used to make the bricks as slaves in Egypt.
+The unleavened bread reminds them of their hurried escape.
+And of course, they eat lamb as the Israelites ate on the Passover night in Egypt.
This is the same feast, with all this rich meaning, that Jesus and his disciples celebrated on the night we know as the Last Supper.
For the Jews in Jesus’ day and now, the Passover reminds them that they used to be slaves but now, by God’s hand, they are free. They used to be owned by their Egyptian slave masters, but now by God’s hand, they are a people – the people of God.
In the Last Supper, Jesus is taking these great themes which had nourished the Israelites across the centuries and recast them into the message of Holy Communion. (We’ll come back to Jesus’ message in the third part of this text.)

PART II: At the meal, Jesus makes a prediction: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."

In Biblical times and, to a lesser extent, even now: To eat with someone is extend a hand of friendship and trust. It is to offer your guest the protection of your home and your reputation. Jesus was constantly being criticized because he ate with sinners. It is not that he ate in public places that were shady or located in bad parts of town. By sharing meals with people, he extended his friendship and his reputation to them.
+If he is a prophet, he is supposed to know what kinds of people these are.
+If his is a prophet, he is supposed to protect himself from a bad reputation.
At the Last Supper, he extends this kind of friendship and loyalty to his disciples. Who sits at the Table with him matters - especially at an important feast like Passover. And now, he says them, “One who is eating with me” is the one who will betray me. 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?"
MOVIE
On Monk several weeks ago, there was an episode in which a woman was missing and feared dead. The husband, who had killed her, was trying to hide his crime. So, when the authorities organized a search across a field of high grass, he joined the search hoping to look innocent. This was an old fashioned, “Who done it?” The detective, who was beginning to suspect the husband, stopped everyone and said to the crowd of volunteer searchers, “I believe that this woman is not missing but has been murdered. Further, I believe that one of you might be the guilty person – the one who killed her.” Of course, no one stepped forward to confess.
Later, Monk said with confidence that the husband had done the crime. The other officers asked how the detective could be so sure. He said, “Did you watch the husband when I told the volunteers that one of them had killed her?” Everyone *looked around* to see who it might be. Everyone except the husband. He stared straight ahead because he knew that none of them had done anything.”

Well, all the disciples looked around, asking if they might be the one AND sure that they could not possibly betray Jesus. And Jesus goes on to say:
"It is one of the twelve,
one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.

PART-III: 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

The disciples did not expect Jesus to say anything like this. When he took bread, he was supposed to give thanks to God, then remind them that they ate unleavened bread as their ancestors had one. But, he doesn’t say that. Instead he says: Take and eat; this bread is my body.”
Now, think with me about this action.
1. Jesus took the bread, as the Passover tradition expected him to do.
2. He blessed it and broke it. Again, the tradition expected him to offer the blessing:
“Blessed art thou, our Father in heaven,
who gives us our daily bread.”

++So far, the disciples find nothing unusual about this meal and neither should we.

1. What they now *expect* is that he will offer them the memory of the Exodus bread which sustained Israel on the long journey out of slavery to freedom. On that journey they became a distinct people; they made a covenant with God; they discovered their limitations; and they saw the grace of God demonstrated in their lives, and they were led to the Land of Promise. In the breaking and eating of the Passover bread, every Jew claims a place in Israel's great story.

2. For the disciples who expected Jesus to be the revolutionary king, as some did, they might have expected him to promise that he would lead them to throw off the oppression of Rome. "*Eat this bread* as the promise that we will re-create the Exodus journey to freedom. For those who wanted Jesus to be the revolutionary king, this would have sounded sweet, indeed.

3. IMPORTANT: But, Jesus does not make either one of these statements – neither the expected one about the past, *NOR* the hoped-for statement about a revolution. Instead, Jesus catches them unprepared when he says to them: “Take, this is my body.” Then, he offered them the cup of wine saying: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." What happened to the Passover speech about the past? Or what about the promise of a revolutionary king? Those speeches are not here. This statement is different: the bread they eat is his body; the wine they drink is his blood. There is nothing at this point on Passover night to help them understand. It will only make sense in the events *after the meal* as Jesus will be arrested, beaten, and then crucified. They will not understand this until the cross, because only on the cross will they see his body broken and his blood poured out.

4. Something extra and this is important: It was common in the sacrificial tradition of ancient worship, both in Israel and even in pagan religions, that worshipers would sit down and eat of the bread or animal which had been offered to God. The prayer of blessing over the bread and later the cup offered this piece of bread and this cup of wine to God. The basic model of worship was sacrifice; this is one of the world's oldest religious practices. Portions of all the O.T. sacrifices, except the sin and the guilt offerings, were expected to be eaten by those who brought them.
What this means is that the bread or the animal sacrificed was offered to God; it was now God's bread or God's animal. When those who worshiped sat down to eat the sacrifice, they shared in the sacrifice offered on their behalf and took its blessings into their own bodies and lives. This is the way you worshiped with sacrifices. Of course, the Passover Lamb, the bread, and the wine were all sacrifices: offered to God; they became God's lamb, God's bread, God's wine. As you ate of your sacrifices, given completely to God, you now took God's property/blessings into your own body/life. Now: Jesus said to them: "Eat this bread; this is my body.” Then, he offered them the cup of wine saying: "Drink this wine; this is my blood of the covenant." He is telling them that his body and his blood are the sacrifices, offered completely to God. Eating the bread; drinking the wine, they take the sacrifice offered to God, take it into their own bodies and receive its blessings. The bread remains bread, of course; but his death on the cross was very real, indeed.
As the disciples heard Jesus say this at the Last Supper, it could not have made any sense; it will only make sense when they stand at the cross to see his body broken and his blood poured out for the world. It only makes sense at the cross (1).
When you and I break the bread and share the cup of Holy Communion, we re-present that sacrifice which Jesus presented to his disciples on that long-ago night. And as we re-present it again, it is real for us as it was real for them. But, in every case the only place we truly get it is when we stand at the cross and remember Jesus’ body broken and his blood shed for the world.

C. So, can Holy Communion be as powerful for us as it was for the disciples long ago?

STORY: I Smell Bread
In one of the episodes of M*A*S*H, the sophisticated shell, inside which Major Winchester protects himself from the horror of the suffering and death with which he constantly deals, breaks; and he is left defenseless. He goes into a type of depression in which he struggles to find some answers to life ’s most perplexing problem —death. Finally, in utter desperation, he leaves the base hospital and goes up to the battalion aid station where the wounded are first taken. Winchester believes that someone at the moment of dying can see what lies beyond death; he wants to talk with someone at that terrible moment.
Colonel Potter discovers where he is and calls him, ordering him to return to the M*A*S*H hospital. But, a medical corpsman interrupts the conversation and calls Winchester over to a man who is dying. Winchester confirms the impending death with a glance. The soldier says, “I can’t see anything. Hold my hand.”
The major replies, “I am.”
“I’m dying,” the soldier moans, and this causes Colonel Winchester's unarticulated questions to surface: “Can you see anything? Can you feel anything? I have to know.”
But the dying soldier doesn’t answer. Instead, he says, “I smell bread.”
You cannot miss the significance of the symbol. Bread is the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. It is a symbol for going home.

It is at the table that we are brought face to face with the person and mission of Jesus Christ. In that meal, we celebrate our death and our life in Christ.

INVITATION - Come to the Table...
–Come to the Table all you who heard the invitation spoken with your name on it.
–and come, all you who were busy with the cares of the world, but hope you might be included. You are, you know.
–and come, all you who are sure you don’t deserve the richness of this invitation. The host sent word that you are invited, too.
–and when the hour is finished and we go out into the world, tell the people on the street that we broke the Holy Bread on Sunday morning, and Jesus spent the whole time watching the door, hoping they would come.
Come to the Table.




Notes:
1. Taylor, Vincent. The Gospel according to St Mark, p. 544.
2. Adapted from George Bass, The Tree, The Tomb, and the Trumpet: Sermons for Lent and Easter, CSS, 1984, p.75, 77.
4. “Bishop Calls Tract “Hateful,” The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Saturday, March 6, 2010, p. A-1.