Posts Tagged ‘bread and wine’

ash-wednesdayTonight our church entered Lent with two Ash Wednesday services. One of the themes was “keys” and how we can use those keys to unlock those places hidden away inside our hearts.

Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heartand not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. [Joel 2:12-13]

We mark the beginning of Lent with this day. It can become a mere ritual of ashes, bread, and wine, or it can be enriched with commitment and desire. Do I want more of God in my life? Do I want to surrender the secret places?

Lent is not just a time of “giving something up.” It’s a time of exchange. I will to exchange one time sucker, one habit, for something new, for devotion, for meditation, for prayer, for reading, for conversation with Spirit. I not taking away. I am adding. I am making a promise. That is the message of Ash Wednesday and Lent for me.

One of the stations we had was a cross where we could affix a simple post-it note with something (or someone) that is hindering our journey to the Cross. This roadblock we gave to Christ. As one of the organizers of the Ash Wednesday service, I feel compelled to treat these requests with respect. And so, as part of my devotion, I will be praying over and with these requests along with those who left them there. I will be their Aaron for these 40 days, as God reveals.


Read Full Post »

As usual, I have been putting the cart before the horse. I’ve been waiting for the “outpouring” to descend before stepping out. I’ve been hoping for an umbrella before it starts to rain. But that’s not how it works. Call comes to us with the tools or resources at hand. Nothing more, at first.

I Timothy 1:14
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Many times, when I feel a kind of God-nudge, I start overworking the left side of my brain: I analyze the demands, inventory my current storehouse of resources, and assess my chances for success. I don’t want to fail; I want to know all of my options and I want to see if there is a back door. And to make matters worse, my old enemy likes to whisper test me with all kinds of questions like “are you sure it’s God speaking to you?”

Let’s say, I finally do step up and say, “yes” to the call. Intellectually, I get it: if God puts a call on my life to serve a people, then God will provide what I need to accomplish it. Even Paul, one of the strongest and undoubtedly, most stubborn Christ followers, acknowledged it was God who gave him the strength and faith he needed to persevere. (I don’t believe he could have predicted how difficult his journey for Christ was about to become.) Although Paul was well equipped with law, history, and heritage, his new life as an apostle for Christ needed many other gifts and outpourings, some miraculous and many seemingly insignificant.

  1. God gives gifts, blessings, and tools to accomplish His work but they may not be the same ones I think I should have. I may think I need lots of money to make something happen but God may decide to give bushels of corn instead. I may think I need a week to do the work at hand while God plans to bend time so that all is accomplished in a day. I may think I need a team of a hundred to complete the task but God may only provide twelve.
  2. God gives mercy to whom God wants to give mercy. By its nature, mercy comes into play when a person is undeserving of it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be mercy. This is true for me as much as it is true for others.

When God extends mercy to me, or to anyone, there is a critical moment of decision. With the sin is covered, the mistake righted, or the obstacle removed, I am still at a crossroads. I can either move forward into a new direction that has been opened up or I can turn back. On the surface, it makes no sense to turn back once mercy has been poured out–unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens all the time. Before grace and mercy appeared, my situation was familiar, horrible even, but familiar. Like the Israelites who complained to Moses about their trials and hunger in the desert and despite the abundance of miracles (mercy and grace), they still wanted to go back to Egypt [Numbers 1:4-6]. Am I any different? Not so much.

Or, in the story of Jesus and the woman who was caught in adultery. Grace and mercy were extended to her in abundance, so much so that her captors fled. And yet, she was cautioned to sin no more, to follow the new and unfamiliar way. [John 8:10-11]

Yes, God will give an abundant outpouring of grace, faith, love, and mercy at unique junctures in our lives. Sometimes, it’s at a point outside of ourselves, a saving grace that gives us a second chance. This first type often manifests in that initial discovery process: there is a God and there is a Christ who died sacrificially for me.

But all the other outpourings come in response to my navigation skills on the path God has laid out for me. The outpourings don’t come before I encounter the challenges on the way. Outpourings don’t come early so I can freeze-dry them and then use them at will. Like the manna in the desert that was only good for a single day, God’s outpouring comes as needed.

I remember a Walk to Emmaus Retreat weekend I attended some years ago and the Spiritual Director for that weekend was leading the group in communion. Unlike most communions where one is handed a small round, white cardboard sliver or a miniature saltine cracker, she held up an entire loaf of freshly made bread. She said, “Christ gave up His body to torture and destruction for the sake of all humans. So, we are invited to take as much as is needed because from Christ, there will always be enough.” And from the cup, she said, “Drink deeply, for this well would never run dry.” The Body and the Blood, the first abundant offerings.

In our small community, there is a small group of people who are planting a new church called Restore Church that will launch September 11, 2011. My husband and I have been asked to become a part of this adventure. There will be many challenges and many needs and in my mind, it’s understood, anyone who enters into this ministry now is making a covenant for the long haul because every hand and heart will be needed. Each person must come as is, say “yes” to God’s call, and then step out in faith. The outpouring is available, just ahead: grace, faith, love, and mercy. In Christ, it will be enough.

Read Full Post »

Look inside and out before eating the holy meal. Communion is a combination of a corporate act [with other believers] and a personal examination. The encounter doesn’t work very well if we don’t really believe or accept that the bread & wine [or juice] have power.

I Corinthians 11:28-29
Let a {woman or} man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ’s] body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself.

I encountered the word “examen” for the first time while reading Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home some years ago. It’s no “navel gazing,” far from it. Foster says, “In the examen of consciousness we prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how we responded. . . . God goes with us in the examen of conscience. It is a joint search. . . . if left to our own devices . . . our tendency is for self-flagellation.”

Examen is not about tying ourselves to the whipping post, it’s about seeing ourselves in truth, with love. It’s the time when we can begin to lay down our burdens and failures at the feet of the Christ.

In recent times, I have taken to the practice of examen at the start of my devotions each day. I ask forgiveness for my mistakes [sins] and give thanks for the successes, those times I responded to situations and people in loving way. Only then, can I really begin to pray forward.

Communion should be the same, but perhaps a little deeper, a broader swipe over the time since the last opportunity to eat and drink of Christ.

What has gone before is the foundation of who I am today. And my future is built on both, the past and present. If I ignore the past, then I may be setting myself up for repeating it, doing the same things again and again? It was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I cannot change unless I know what part needs changing. I cannot go on a diet and lose weight if I don’t know my starting weight, otherwise, how will I know the difference? I must be willing to face and accept my authentic self. Like the recovering alcoholic, we too must “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” [step 4 of the 12 steps]

The prayer of examen, particularly at the time of communion, is a photograph. I must let God see the true picture, not one that’s been airbrushed or “photoshopped.” And like a flipbook, only God gets to see the flapping of pages and photos that represent my progress over the years. God knows my whole story.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: