Preaching the Eucharist in a World At War

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I spent the week doing many things, not least of which was preparing a sermon on Communion in my sermon series on “Why We Worship.”

As many of you know evangelical churches seem to be falling back in love with the sacrament after about 70 years of forgetting about it.  I managed to get in early on this trend because I was lucky enough to attend a youth group in high school where my youth pastor celebrated the Eucharist every week.  In fact, I would have liked to preach 6-8 sermons just about Communion but my preaching calendar prevented me.

So I have to try to scratch the surface in one sermon.  But what do you say in one sermon that summarizes the 2,000 year tradition of eating bread and drinking wine together?  This has been my question and my problem.  I started with John 6 where Jesus says, “unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no part in me and I have no part in you.”  This verse leads to the wonderful sentiment expressed by many lately that when we partake of the Eucharist we don’t just recall Jesus’ death but we are “re-membered” into Christ’s body, meaning we become members of Jesus’ body again.

One of the central acts of the Eucharist is the breaking of bread to remind us that the body we are membered into is a broken one.  I absolutely love how vague Paul is when he recounts the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11.  Paul says that Jesus took the bread, broke it and said, “do this in remembrance of me.”  Does “do this” mean “eat this.”  Or does it refer to “break” so that Paul meant, “Break in remembrance of me?”

If it is “break in remembrance,” then maybe when we eat the broken body we become a broken body.  The Eucharist does not stop there.  We go one step further and drink spilled blood.  The blood and water that poured out of Jesus’ side are contained for us in the Eucharist goblet of wine.  This reminds us that the solution to the world’s suffering might not be in taking the blood of others but by shedding our own.

And in a world saturated with conflict, especially over the last few months in places like Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq and now Ferguson, MO, it might be important for the church to be re-membered into Christ’s broken body.  Many in our culture currently seek to label the good guys and the bad guys in any given conflict, then encourage us to exercise violence accordingly.  When we listen to them, we find ourselves looking for the good lions who will rush onto the scene and destroy all the bad guys in paw’s reach.  We cry out, “Who will break their bones and take their blood?”  In our prayers we ask God to send down those lions.  And we are not surprised when many hurt and broken people volunteer, excited they finally get to execute “swift justice.”  Then we are surprised when the media puts them under a fine microscope and shows us they are no conquering heroes, but very flawed individuals whose pursuit of “swift justice” destroyed what they were trying to protect.

In such a world, in such a time, the Eucharist reminds us that to save the world, God didn’t come as a lion but as a lambe.  God’s body was broken and the blood shed and that begins the process of making things right.

When I finger those small pieces of unleavened wafer in my hands on Sunday mornings, I find myself asking the question a popular worship songs asks, “Who could have thought a lamb could rescue the souls of men?”  Who would have thought that a broken body and shed blood saves the world?  Then when I eat and drink, I become re-membered into that body, a broken body that refuses to break other’s bodies (even the most vile) and all in the hope of resurrection to come.

The Burden of Having Too Many Opinions

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I am opinionated.  I have way too many opinions about way too many things.  That is not a confession per say.  I kind of like my opinions and I worked really hard to get them.  I have read well over 1,000 books in my life and many more articles online and in print.  I spent many years and much money to get a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.  During these years my opinions were tested with the fires of academia.  So I don’t necessarily regret having opinions, though sometimes they cause more problems than they are worth.

Awhile back I did try to subject myself to a process called, “de-opinionating.”  I researched all my opinions by reading books, perusing news articles, watching TV shows and having conversations with people.  I did it all in the hopes of deleting some of my opinions.  It didn’t work.  All that reading and watching and conversing just got me more opinions.  Now I have so many that I don’t know what to do with them.

This week I read a few blogs and news commentators and even the dreaded comment sections.  I found that I am not alone in having no idea what to do with all my opinions.  Everybody has all these opinions about Palestine vs. Israel and ISIS Vs. Iraq and Russia vs. Ukraine and Mark Driscoll vs. pretty much everybody.  But not one person knows what do with these opinions except to write them in less than gracious but very colorful prose on the internet and then viciously attack those who disagree.

So if you clicked over here today looking for a new opinion, I apologize because I am choosing not to write down my opinions with the exception of the opinion that I have too many opinions.  Instead, I want to offer that if your opinion just makes you angry, bitter, hostile and frustrated, it might not be worth having, especially if you have no power over the details of the situation.  (Dang it, that is another opinion!)

I think maybe Mark Driscoll should do more than offer a shallow apology but I have no control over getting him to do more and I don’t know what else he should do.  I long for there to be peace in the middle east but it is way above my pay-grade to solve it and if I tried I would probably only make everything worse.  I think Putin is.  .  .well, the ex KGB communist he is, but I can’t even afford a plane ticket to Russia right now so what do I know?

Well, I know that today I had lunch with a new friend who makes much less money than I do but insisted on paying for my meal anyway.  After that I met with a retired high school chemistry teacher and showed him around our new town because he plans on moving here.  He was a wonderful guy who had a fair share of opinions himself.  Then I spoke to the mayor about local problems and frustrations and assured him I was there for him.  Tonight I will meet with our group of 20 or so teenagers.  That will be fun and I hope to get to know and like them a bit better.  They live such troubling lives.  Before youth group I am going to prepare dinner for them and read a little bit.

If someone did give me authority over peace in the middle east and violence in Iraq and who gets to be President in Russia I would probably make all the wrong decisions.  But luckily God didn’t call me to be opinionated.  God just called me to seek peace in the city where I find myself.  That might be a great deal harder than forming opinions about global events but it also might have a bigger impact on the world in the end.

Or maybe I just have too many opinions.