|The Celebration of the Christ of the Eucharist|
Less for Tech (by Jeff Cook)
Dec 10, 2014 @ 0:05 by 11 Comments
Jeff Cook lectures on philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and he is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes(Zondervan 2008) and Everything New (Subversive 2012). He helps pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. You can connect with him atwww.everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook
Spend Less on Tech, More on Wine (by Jeff Cook)
A wedding at taco bell is clever but lacks some of the holy.
I was baptized in a hot tub. I’m still bummed I didn’t wait for a more celebratory time and space.
I am aware there isn’t a secular/sacred divide (“for the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”). But as churches across our country spend countless dollars hiring speakers, purchasing the best tech, paying for upgrades to the building and new carpet for the floor–Don’t you think it’s time to move past cheap crackers and plastic thimbles in order to enjoy and receive the body of Christ broken for you?
Intimacy with your spouse ought to be elevated.
“Quality time” with your children deserves first consideration—so too, the sacramental: the physical events, times and symbols God tells us uniquely unveil his nature, love and character.
The quality of the elements churches purchase and offer speak to us all of how highly we view the meal, especially when compared to other events in our gatherings.
It’s no secret that many of us tend to idolize the sermon, to idolize our tradition, idolize the music, idolize the community itself. We have a tendency to idolize our buildings and our programming. If you are a church worker like me responsible for creating a weekly gathering, you will be tempted to spend vastly more time thinking on such things, than on how your community enjoys the Lord’s Supper, how it will be experienced, unpacked and enjoyed.
But “This is Christ’s body broken for you.” And for all your guests, family and enemies. And it should be elevated.
Those who love Jesus, may have come to hear a speaker or lift up their hands to music, but these are secondary, and need to be viewed as secondary by service creators. Is not the experience of Jesus, and that alone, worthy of your community gathering regularly? Are not all other centering events and experiences mere idols in comparison? Should we not embrace the perspective of the Baptist, who, when many came out to him, said: “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven … [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less”?
How can churches elevate communion in their gatherings? How can we transform large church auditoriums with theater seating to showcase the table? What are the most meaningful qualities to your communion experience?
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Lord’s Supper: Who is Unworthy? (Jeff Cook)
Dec 15, 2014 @ 4:56 by 48 Comments
I went to a large wedding a few years back in which the clergy invited only those who had jumped through the right hoops to come forward and receive the body and blood of Jesus. The leader then asked those of us who had not jumped through their hoops to “pray for the unity of all believers.” Of course, I sat there thinking, “The only thing keeping us disunified are your silly hoops.”
Unfortunately many choose to use the Lord’s Supper to display the in-crowd versus "everyone else". In such “celebrations” the power of the Lord’s Supper is actually inverted—showcasing the division of humanity and unveiling a God whose displays of affection and grace are conditional.
How unlike Jesus.
Christ didn’t give those who came to him a theological quiz before he fed them. Levi didn’t have his theology all lined out when he rose to eat with Jesus. The 5,000 were basically a mob. Some who received the first Lord’s Supper rejected the cross (Matthew 16.21-23)—and still Jesus invited them to the table and said: “This is my body broken for you.” In fact, the Gospel writers go out of their way to call Jesus’ dining companions “the sinners” (Mark 2.16, et al).
For some, communion was where clarity started.
In my previous post, I critiqued churches that have too low a view of Communion. In the next two posts I’d like to critique those who have elevated the Lord’s Supper so high It loses its primary function—the tangible display of God’s grace extend to all.
I would challenge those who reject an open table to answer the following: Where is the boundary marker clearly displayed in the Bible for who may eat the meal Jesus offers? And has God really made it our job to judge who can and cannot commune with the Church?
In a previous conversation, some immediately turned to 1 Corinthians to argue that exclusivity at the table is Biblically required, that if the table were open to everyone some would receive the Eucharist in “an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11.27). Those arguing this position apparently believed they (or their church) had the authority to tell the rest of us who is unworthy (something lacking in 1 Corinthians 11) and which hoops the guests they exclude have failed to jump through (something also lacking in 1 Corinthians).
Ironically, the purpose of 1 Corinthians 11 is to rebuke those who have excluded others (namely the poor) when gathering for the Eucharist (11.17-22). In response Paul teaches how to receive the elements, not who has the qualifications for feasting. Paul said, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (v. 28). And again, “If we learn how to judge ourselves, we will not incur judgment” (v.31).
Paul does not say, “Pastors and overseers, ensure that only [enter the description of worthy folks] come to the table.” No. The only person Paul says you have the authority to deem unworthy is yourself.
By making the table exclusive, some churches are ironically telling those they believe most need a transformative encounter with Jesus not to come forward and have a transformative encounter with Jesus. How unlike Christ.
Next time we will push into this and discuss how Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners was prototypical and sets the standard for our practice today.