- It might be helpful for new Grace Groups to be created around new “members.”
- A process for discerning whether “membership” is where God is leading someone might be a helpful thing to offer (but without a specific time frame expected for completion).
- If a process for discernment is suggested, it would be helpful if the steps are easy to understand and communicated well.
- It seems that regardless of people’s “membership” status, everyone should feel welcomed and encouraged to participate (with no guilt attached for not becoming a “member”).
On Sunday at Theophilus, I improvised some words as we prepared to celebrate God’s meal together. Someone asked me to re-share what I said, so I wrote it down in an email. I’m reposting it here, just in case anyone else would like to reflect on it more:
Now is the time in the service when we celebrate God’s meal together. I want to share 4 stories from the Bible that included meals:
- In the story of God’s people in the Old Testament, there was an event called Passover. It was the time when God freed his people from bondage and slavery in Egypt and gave them a new home. It included a meal. And in the meal God’s people were supposed to eat unleavened bread, which is bread that didn’t sit and rise. After God’s people were rescued from slavery, they were to re-commemorate the event every year by eating this meal. And when they ate the unleavened bread it was a reminder that God’s mercy and redemption were going to come quickly, and there wasn’t time to wait for the bread to rise.
- Jesus, the night before he was handed over to his death, ate a meal with his closest followers, his disciples. And that night he got on the floor and washed his disciples feet. And he told them that he was giving them a new commandment – that they were to love one another. Jesus was teaching his disciples that power and leadership doesn’t come from beating people down with violence or intimidation, but it comes from humility and service. Jesus’ followers were going to be known by their love, not their hatred or violence toward others.
- After Jesus’ death and resurrection, a couple of his followers were on the road walking. They were discouraged and confused about what had happen to their teacher. A stranger came alongside them, and began explaining to them what had happen to Jesus and why it was necessary. Jesus’ followers stopped and invited the stranger to eat a meal together. When they sat down, the stranger took bread, broke it, and gave thanks for it. And suddenly the disciples recognized something they had heard before. And then it clicked – and they realized it was Jesus with them, risen from the dead! And instantly he was gone.
- The final meal that Jesus eats with his friends is yet to happen. It will be the meal that we celebrate with Jesus for eternity in the new heaven and the new earth. This meal is the feast that every tribe, tongue, and nation are invited to. And Jesus will be there with us, face to face.
This meal that we celebrate today is a reminder and a foretaste of all these stories that include meals. Everyone is welcome – come to the feast at God’s table!
Here is the benediction we have been using the last couple of weeks at Theophilus:
We have been washed in the Word,
We have been nourished at God’s table,
We are sent forth as agents in God’s Kingdom
To love and serve our neighbors.
Go in peace and live the church.
This benediction clearly outlines the order of service that is concluding (Gathering – Word – Meal – Sending). It reminds you of everything we’ve just experienced:
- We’ve heard portions of God’s Word read and the Gospel proclaimed in the message
- I borrowed the phrase “washed in the word” from Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
- “Washing” also reminds us of our baptism and our inheritance as God’s children
- We’ve celebrated the Eucharistic feast at God’s table (where all are welcome), a foretaste of the eternal banquet that Christ presides over
- With the conclusion of this benediction we are sent forth to work in God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of light
- What does work in God’s Kingdom practically look like? Loving and serving our neighbors.
- We’re reminded that as we leave our liturgy, we don’t just return to normal life and self-centered thoughts/actions. We are launched out as missionary vessels to witness to God’s purposes and redemption of the world.
- We are sent in peace. We have peace with God through Christ, and we are sent with the ministry of reconciliation, bringing more people peace.
- “Live the church” is a little phrase that we end every benediction with. I borrowed it from Vox Veniae. The church isn’t a building or a social club. It’s the living/breathing Body of Christ, and it needs to be lived out in the world.
Audio from 9/5/10 at Theophilus “The Wayfaring Stranger.” Featuring Clayton Faulkner on vocals/acoustic and Floyd Morris on 12 string acoustic.
The song “Amazing Grace” from Sunday 8/8/10 – featuring Clayton Faulkner (acoustic guitar/vocals) and Floyd Morris (electric guitar).