Last Supper 5

2 Peter 1:3-4

The fear of public speaking is one of the most powerful of all fears. It is a frightening idea to think of standing up in front of other people and presenting information. It is especially daunting if you are called to give a message in church, because the importance of what is being said is far greater.

When I am talking to anyone new to preaching, and sometimes when I am dealing with my own anxieties over preaching, I simply point out that those who preach are never alone. The Holy Spirit is present with you as you speak. God is moving to help in that moment.

The same is true of our life of faith. We may feel that we are unable to be the type of Christian we are called to be and the celebration of Communion can make us feel even more unworthy as we confront our own sins and our own inabilities. But Peter has a message for those who believe.

What does Jesus give to us? What does this gift enable us to do?

As we take part in Communion we are taking part in a moment of invitation. We are both invited to come before God to be forgiven and to accept Christ as our Savior, and to invite the Spirit of God, through Jesus, to live within us. Christ’s presence in us gives us the ability to live a life of godliness. It is through knowing who Jesus really is that we are able to be holy and good in our living.

By accepting the sacrifice of Jesus and the presence of his Spirit in the ritual of Communion we accept the promises of eternal life and the promises of the ability to be holy. With Christ present with us we can avoid the temptations of sinfulness and the corruption that surrounds us in the world.

We must remember the words of Jesus as he instituted the act of Communion. He said, “This is my body given for you.” The cup represents his blood poured out for you. You are the person that Jesus died for. You are the person who can receive his grace and power.

Knowing that you are the center of this act, the one who receives Christ’s presence, can make you able to be strong in your faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember that Jesus is with you during Communion and after the celebration as well?

Last Supper 4

Mark 2:18-19

I remember the times when my uncle would come to visit, flying back to the United States from the job he had in Pakistan. I also recall when our friends came up from North Carolina to visit us in Ohio. The normal flow of life, the monotony of the routine, the required chores and so on, were all happily discarded so that we could heap all of our time and attention on our guests. Nothing else mattered for those few days except being with these loved ones.

Jesus often challenged the norm and the rituals of his day. What question was asked when the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s followers were fasting? What metaphor does Jesus present?

The ritual of Communion carries with it the importance and significance of Christ’s sacrifice. It is also a time to remind us of our responsibilities as Christians. What we often overlook, however, is that it is also a time of celebration.

The celebration of Communion is not simply a re-enacting of what Jesus did with his disciples in that upper room. We do go through the actions that Jesus did during that time, and the purpose of that is to be reminded of what Jesus did for our salvation.

But Communion is also a time of joining our spirit with the spirit of Jesus. That is why we call it “communion;” communion means sharing a time of intimacy. As we take part in Communion, as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are symbolically inviting Jesus to enter into us so that he might rule our hearts and guide our lives.

While acknowledging our own sinfulness and acknowledging the sacrifice Jesus made for us can be a sobering time, a time of deep reflection and prayer, we must also accept Christ’s presence. And in that acceptance, in that awareness of Jesus’ presence, we should experience joy, the same joy that guests at a wedding might feel, and the same joy that we felt when we were with a loved one who was usually so far from us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you celebrate the presence of Christ in your life and in your heart?

Last Supper 3

Matthew 20:22

I shared the other night in our Bible study group that when I was very young I begged my parents to have our family rent a houseboat on one of the TVA lakes in Tennessee. Year after year I asked for it, and year after year I was denied. Then one year my parents finally gave in and we, along with my cousin’s family, rented a houseboat.

It was terrible – three days on a small square of metal and wood in the middle of a lake with nowhere to go. It was dark and cold at night, stuffy and smelly in the day. Sometimes we don’t realize what we are asking for when we ask for something.

One day the mother of James and John came to Jesus with the request that her sons be permitted to sit at Christ’s right and left when he came into his kingdom. What does Jesus point out? What type of cup is he talking about?

Like this woman, and possibly James and John themselves, many of us would love to receive the praise and acclaim for a job well done. There are some of us who would love to have the renown and respect of some of the religious giants we know. But there is a price to pay for serving the Lord.

Jesus mentions a cup in his response. Can these disciples drink the same cup that Jesus will drink?

This comment, of course, reminds us of the cup Jesus would use at the Last Supper. With that cup Jesus would point out the sacrifice he would make for the entire world. His “cup” was the cup of complete giving, allowing his blood to pour out as he hung on the cross.

The question had two meanings. Could James and John be part of this close group of followers and share in this moment of intimacy, this moment of realization of what Jesus was about to go through? Did they have the courage to see their master accept crucifixion?

He was also asking if these two would be willing to make as big of a sacrifice as Jesus would do. As we take part in Communion we must ask ourselves if we have the faith to accept Christ as our Savior, because in doing that we are also accepting the responsibility of being a Christian – and that requires sacrifice.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is the cup that you must take part in for Jesus?

Last Supper 2

Luke 9:23-25

As many already know, Peggy enrolled me in curling classes which I have been enjoying very much. (You can see some highlights from the first lesson on YouTube.) One of the first things I had to do was to sign a liability waiver stating that I did not hold the organization responsible if I suffered injury, permanent paralysis or death because of curling.

It made me laugh. I can’t imagine the set of circumstances that would need to happen for me to die while curling, but there it is. The organization had to let me know there were risks.

Jesus had a caution for those who would follow him. He presented a challenge and a warning for the faithful believers who would try to do his work. What requirements are upon those who would obey Christ? What question does he pose in verse 25?

Jesus knew that he would ultimately face crucifixion on the cross. The time spent with the disciples during the Last Supper was a final opportunity for him to be among those he cared for, and also a chance to prepare them for what was to come. But long before that meal Jesus let the faithful believers know what it would cost to follow him.

If anyone will follow Jesus – that is, try to live a life of loving and caring other people – then we will need to take up our own cross. It is likely not to be a wooden structure built for execution. Instead, our own cross will probably be the work and effort and struggles we will endure as we try to do good work for the kingdom of God. And it is not a one-time effort, but a daily sacrifice.

Being an obedient Christian is not an easy task. Jesus himself points out that we must deny ourselves by giving up personal comforts and ease for the trials of work and sacrifice. If we will save our life – have eternal life with God – we must lose our life – abandon the pleasures and personal gratification of our mortal life.

Communion is an opportunity to invite the presence of Jesus into your heart to help guide you in a life of service and sacrifice. While it is not easy, the reward is our eternal joy for serving our Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you lose your life in order to save it?

Last Supper 1

Luke 22:19-20

When I was very young I attended Catholic mass with my cousins and witnessed the ritual of Holy Communion being performed in a way I had never seen before. For years and years my family joked about my comments after that service. I had thought the priest was performing a magic act. But Communion is not a magic act. It has deep meaning and purpose.

The passage for today should be one familiar to most. It is what Holy Communion is based on, the actions instituted and begun by Jesus himself. What did he do with the bread? What did he say of the bread? What did he say of the wine?

The actions Jesus took at the Last Supper with his disciples were more than simple ritual. They had deeper meaning. The bread Jesus used was likely the bread that had been hidden as part of the Seder Meal tradition, hidden to be found again and celebrated.

As Jesus took this bread and gave it new meaning it is probable that the disciples recognized how important this was. It was more than just a bit of bread that was part of the meal. Jesus gave it more significance.

The same is true of the cup of wine. It was likely the cup of salvation, also part of the Seder Meal. Now the disciples were made aware that Jesus was offering salvation.

The ritual of Communion can be very stylized and become something that is performed without thought or emotion. We know what we are to do in Communion, but we may overlook why we do it and what it means.

By taking part in Communion we are being reminded that we need to take part in Jesus. His body was given for us, broken on the cross so that we might have salvation. His blood was poured out so that we might be forgiven of our sins.

But to gain this salvation and forgiveness we need to partake. We need to make room for Christ in our lives. We must open our hearts to allow this grace and love of God to enter in. We must accept this salvation, this sacrifice, and make it part of who we are, how we act, how we live, how we behave in our lives of faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to show that Jesus is the bread and wine for you, the very source of sustenance in your faith life?