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Thanks for visiting our website! Picture of the Month: sharing the word in Pilanqui, Ibarra, Ecuador; a view of part of the crowd, two baptisms. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Preaching in Pilanqui

Ministry is always a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 48+ years! Countless others have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. My favorite breakfast is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of quality coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature in Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!

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Archive for the ‘Lords Supper’ Category

It’s Sunday Again: Mystery?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Christmas is past. For most, that means the holiday season will begin to wind down. Yes, one more less than routine week remains between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but the gift returns and exchanges are already planned, the decor will soon come down to be stored for another year, and life will return to “winter normal.”

The Sunday after Christmas is a sort of “let down”. The pews are emptier, the spirit less buoyant, the Nativity all but forgotten. What should one say on the Sunday after Christmas? What can be said after all of the happy experiences and the excitement of Christmas?

Listen carefully. What I want to say is in the form a question, and then more questions. “What if there remains a mystery we cannot explain?” The Christmas story we know, but what if we don’t understand? What if familiarity has blinded our eyes? What is this process of a divine Word becoming flesh, a divine Being emptying himself to become human? What kind of God penetrates the human experience once for all with his own presence, fully participates in what it means to be human (including death), and blasts open the God-human, Creator-created barrier to restore full fellowship? What kind of transformed life is made possible when those trapped in human experience, temptation, and disgust are allowed to become participants in the divine nature?

What if we don’t have it figured out? What if 1+1+1+1+1=5 doesn’t reflect the whole truth? What if S+P+P+C+G=W is technically correct but practically lacking? (Singing, Praying, Preaching, Communion, Giving = Worship) What if it is more than H+F+R+C+B=S? (Hearing, Faith, Repentance, Confession, Baptism = Salvation) What if the older version which includes life applications is more accurate? (F+R+C+B+LF=S, that is, Faith+Repentance+Confession+Baptism+Live Faithfully = Salvation)

The Supper is a good time to ask such questions. What if there remains something mysterious that is beyond comprehension in the three-dimensioned existence of this world? Something that has been revealed, but remains in the “not quite” category? “This is my body….this is my blood.” Do this, declare my death (not life) until I come? Something strange is going on here! Will you take a moment to touch the strangeness, or are you already back to the routines of a “check list” Christianity?

It’s Sunday Again: Approved!

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Today the people of God around the world assemble as a grand Christian community and declare His praise and virtue. God is acknowledged and recognized–songs of praise exalt him, his purpose, his wisdom, his compassion, and his love demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The church speaks to God and listens to God. We listen in the word read and preached. The Christian community seeks his will for the coming week; remind us what God wants from us. Remind us of our glory, our potential, our responsibility. Remind us of our capacity because of his presence among us. Refresh our commitment to his cause and his work–generate within us renewed strength so that we go forth restored and whole resonating with his presence in our hearts and lives.

A significant part of the weekly assembly for the first century church was the opportunity to “break bread”. This biblical phrase refers both to fellowship meals, sometimes called “love feasts”, and also to the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper or the communion. The church assembles to remember and give thanks to God in the Supper.

When I lead God’s people in thoughts and prayers to prepare mind and hearts for the Supper, I am constantly in search of fresh words and translations. Today I share the first few verses of Romans 5.
“Now that God has approved us, thanks to faith and through our Lord Jesus Christ, there is peace between God and us. Through faith, Christ has delivered us to the generous love of God that we now enjoy, and we are happy with the hope of sharing the glory of God. There is more. We are able to feel this happiness even when we suffer because the sufferings teach us to be patient. If we have patience, our character is strengthened and with a strong character, our hope grows even more. That hope is not going to fail us because God gave us the Holy Spirit who has poured out God’s love on us. Christ died for us in the necessary moment when we unable to save ourselves, being enemies of God. It is difficult to imagine that someone night die to save a righteous person, but perhaps someone might risk their life for a very very good person. But God demonstrated his love in that Christ died for us even we were sinners.”

Time does not permit a complete treatment of this text, so I call attention to only a few concepts.

  • Approval. God has stamped us “approved”. We have God’s approval, we are being “let through”. We may not feel approved, we may not look approved, we may not act approved, but God has put his seal of approval on us and in us. (This is the way Paul describes the Holy Spirit in other biblical passages.) Today as you partake of the Supper, relish and enjoy the fact of God’s approval.
  • Peace. This is not only the peace of God which Paul describes to the Philippian church, but peace with God.
  • Hope. We enjoy love and are happy in hope. Is the love of God something you enjoy? Does hope make you happy? Notice the cycle of happiness which we celebrate in the Supper: hope, problems, patience, character, more hope.
  • Love. The love of God provides the great bookends for this repeated cycle. We enjoy God’s generous love because Christ has introduced us to it and because the Holy Spirit pours it out in our lives.

As described in the next chapter of Romans, the continual poured out love of the Spirit is only possible because of our transition from enemies to friends. The text of Romans 5 does not apply to those who continue to live as enemies of God. That we are now friends of God is shown by the fact that we do with our lives what he did with his life. We participate in his activities. We attend his parties. He is our hero–we imitate him. We participate in his death (through baptism) so that we will participate in his glory. The hope of his glory in the text of chapter 5 is made reality as we are assured of participation in his resurrection–both in renewed lives here on earth, and also in the ultimate resurrection at that final day.

The approval God grants is not random; it is not fleeting. The foundation of this approval is firm; God has acted in Christ, we have reacted, God continues to bless. Approval, peace, hope love. These we celebrate today as we eat this Supper together.

It’s Sunday Again: Remembering

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

It’s Sunday again. We are traveling again. Another Sunday away from our home church family. Another Sunday away from normal routines, worshiping with part of our extended spiritual family. We love meeting and knowing other Christians, but it is not the same as being “at home.”

It’s Sunday again–a good time to reflect upon why we assemble. Yes, we enjoy fellowship. Yes, we enjoy our horizontal, interpersonal relationships. But, these are not the primary reason for assembly. If these were the reason for assembly, we could assemble at times other than Sunday. The early church spent time together daily, but they assembled on the first day of the week for a special purpose. The purpose of the Sunday assembly was not fulfilled at any other time on any other day. Today–on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Resurrection Day, Sunday–of first importance, we assemble to remember Jesus’ death and promised coming. We celebrate the One who is our Passover, the blood on our spiritual doorpost, rescuing us and redeeming us from sin’s death.

If we focus too much on the horizontal aspects of assembly, we are tempted to overlook the vertical. We may begin to think that assembly doesn’t matter. When we are away from home, on vacation, or traveling, the temptation is to forsake the assembly. If we do not keep clearly in mind that the reason for the Sunday assembly is to remember Jesus, we may come to think that a person can be a faithful Christian without celebrating the Supper.

Sunday is not only about surrounding the Table, but it is first about surrounding the Table. It is first about remembering. It is first about celebrating what we have received and continue to receive from Jesus. Jesus opened a new a better way to the heavens for us. In that good news, we find our encouragement and the power to go on. It’s Sunday again–let us remember what God has done for us through Jesus. As we declare his death, let us remember that we also declare that he is coming again.

It’s Sunday Again: Remembering Forward

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Sometimes we remember our past and relish the experiences, relationships, and emotions as they were–a part of the fabric of our lives, but something locked in the past. Sometimes we remember and celebrate the past because of its continuing impact in the present and future. These two kinds of remembering, remembering back and remembering forward, we do almost automatically based on the life situation.

On Thursday, I was in a meeting where we reviewed (remembered) the history of the work at the Baxter clinic over the past several years. Some of what we remembered is forever in the past and is only interesting history. But we also remembered so we could understand various dynamics and bring the helpful aspects of the past work foward into the future in a new agreement.
On Friday, Jan and I spent several hours with friends from Michigan. As we had lunch together, we remembered a shared history. Part of the time we remembered back and relished the past. More often we remembered forward with the goal of sharpening our faith and becoming better servants of God in the present and future.

These two options also exist for Christians today in the remembering of the Supper. Will we remember back or will we remember forward? Or can we do both?
Sometimes I hear the phrase, “Let our minds go back….to the cross.” Nothing wrong with remembering backward. It is healthy to try to grasp the pain and suffering Jesus endured on the cross. It is helpful to try to understand the impact on the disciples–the hesitancy, doubt, distancing following by joy and commitment. But let us not forget the other possibility.
As we surround the Table this day we should also be aware of remembering forward. To avoid crucifying the Son of God afresh in my life in the coming week, I bring the cross forward. It is ‘my’ cross in that it will make a difference in how I live my life this coming week.

With these two possibilities in mind, I pray that your worship in surrounding the Table this day will be especially meaningful. Nothing wrong with recognizing the cross as an event of 2000 years ago and “letting our minds go back.” May we also be aware that the cross event extends forward 2000 years into these last two months of 2012 and that it intersects our minds in the present time and in our future hopes and dreams.

It’s Sunday Again: The Communion We Share….

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

For me, Sundays provide time for reflection. What is the nature of the fellowship Christians share? What does it mean that we assemble, that in fact the Greek word for church can also be translated assembly when referring to secular meetings? Is assembly something we do or something we are? How do the shared activities in our assembly communicate our shared lives?

Last Sunday I was in Latin America. I confess a growing appreciation for the practice of many Latin American churches for all who are present to participate in the Lord’s Supper both Sunday morning and again on Sunday evening. In shared feasting around the Table of the Lord, we declare that we share common faith and common forgiveness, thus common fellowship (which is the meaning of communion). [Interesting note: the Spanish word often used for fellowship is comunion.] This declaration of oneness and acceptance I shared last Sunday with brothers and sisters in Christ in two different congregations. We mutually declared also our anticipation of Christ’s return.

What a meaningful reflection of the nature of the communion is this practice of declaring fellowship at all Sunday assemblies. How much better this authentic participation and sharing in the horizontal realm than to treat the Supper as mere checklist and indication of vertical relationship. Already did that today–no more need for declaring fellowship today!

Worship today with the spiritual family I have known and loved for almost a decade will be special–not because of anything that will happen or not happen, but because of the communion we share–declared most clearly in the Supper. No wonder the weekly Supper was seen as a primary reason for the church’s assembly in the New Testament (Acts 20:7). It is true that we will share understandings, prayer, worship, and conversation. But at the Table, we declare unity, acceptance and hope, possible only because of the blood of Jesus.

It’s Sunday Again: Eat the Word, Drink the Covenant

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Jesus took break, broke it, and gave it to his disciples: “This is my body.”  The contemporary church has at times struggled with that concept. We have felt compelled to explain that the bread was not his literal body, or to explain how and when the statement is true. In the history of the church, we can study the development of concepts of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc.  Others, rejecting such concepts, have talked about the emblems or symbols, but these ideas also fail the test because the  Bible never uses such descriptions. We may describe Jesus’ words as metaphorical, but the Bible doesn’t call it a metaphor. Jesus said, “This is my body.” Listen, think, apply. By faith, the bread is the body of Jesus. The Word became flesh in the Incarnation, and in the Supper, the Word is again enfleshed as it becomes part of our flesh. We eat the message, it is ours, it is within us, and it will be our guide this week.  It will direct everything we do.  That is what we are declaring when we eat the bread. By faith, we eat the body of Christ so that he dwells in our hearts by faith and his presence within us totally changes every aspect of our lives. We eat the bread and we are changed.  We do not curse, we do not backbite or gossip, we do not get even, we dress modestly, we act appropriately, we avoid immorality.  By faith, as we eat, we are saying all of these things. Do not eat the supper if you are not saying this—this is not a matter of being worthy because of what we have or have not done, this is a matter of whether we are serious about taking Jesus’ body into our physical body. This is a matter of identifying ourselves as serious about the body of Christ, as part of that body, functioning as part of that body, connected with the church which is his body, seeking every opportunity to interact with that body—prayer for one another, fellowship, encouraging, stimulating, worship together, this evening, Wednesday night, during the week….  The body matters to us.  “This is my body, take and eat.”
God, we do not understand the wisdom and might of your ways, and how you can actually make it possible for us to take into ourselves the message, the body of Jesus, and to also be that body in the world today. Even without understanding, we are serious about that reality in our lives, and we today eat this bread which is his body by faith, declaring that we are serious about living this week the faithful message which we now eat. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus took the cup, and he said, “This is my blood of the covenant.” By faith, this is Jesus’ blood.  Not emblem, symbol, metaphor, or fancy explanation. By faith! The blood of the covenant—we drink and we reaffirm the covenant. We are in covenant with God—we are living in the covenant. Only covenant people drink the covenant blood. I am in covenant with God—this week I will be his. I will keep the covenant. When I drink the covenant, I am committing myself to the covenant, I am renewing the covenant, I am saying that I will live in the covenant.  Am I not also saying that I will be here again next week because the covenant controls my life? Covenant faithfulness is not sporadic; it is not one week on and two weeks off. We assemble as God’s covenant people, and we covenant with God and with one another—we will love, we will encourage, we will care, we will be here when the body assembles, we will live out the covenant—the rest of today, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday….
God, thank you for making possible a covenant between divine God and human frailty, and thank you for declaring us clean by the covenant blood. We could not cleanse ourselves, but we can commit ourselves to the covenant in gratitude, and we do that this day as we take this fruit of the vine which is the blood of the covenant. Dear God, we will live as covenant people until we renew the covenant again next Lord’s Day. Yes, we will. The church says, yes, we will. Yes, we will. Thank you, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s Sunday Again: Remember What?

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

We take the phrase often repeated in the Lord’s Supper for granted: Do this in remembrance…. We so often read or quote 1 Cor. 11:23ff that we do not feel the disconnection. Do you know that the phrase also appears in Luke’s gospel? Jesus says to his disciples—before his death!—do this in my remembrance. What were they to remember?

The easy answer is that Jesus was speaking with the future in mind. He was anticipating the observance of the Supper by the early church after his death. But one can rightfully ask, “Is there something more?” What were they to remember? Was it the challenge of faithful discipleship? Was it the tendency to argue about greatness? Was it the challenge of fear and faith existing side by side? What was it?

Today we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and we celebrate his return as we observe the Supper. We are often asked to send our minds back to the cross—to remember backward. Is something else involved in our remembering? Should we not also remember forward and think about how the Christ events have made all the difference in our life, and how his death and resurrection continually change us? Might we remember our own challenges, and with gratitude praise him because our weaknesses, failures, and sins are overcome by his blood? Might we remember his promise to return? Today, let us remember back, but let us also spend some time remembering forward.

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