”Receive what you already are.”-St. Augustine presiding over Communion
So every July the Shepherds at Highland give me a month to get away and study and plan and pray for the coming year. It’s always a great gift, but it makes me miss Highland and the regular routine. So while I won’t be blogging as regularly for this month, I want to try and stay connected with what is going on at Highland.
This past Sunday, Jeff Childers preached during our Summer Series Sacred, by talking about Communion. He did a great job, and you can hear it here, but you should know, this is not a message for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is communion.
Did you know that back in the 4th century, after Constantine had converted the Roman Empire, the church had a very difficult time figuring out who they should let convert to Christianity? They had a legitimate problem. Now people wanted to belong to the church because it was the socially acceptable thing to do, Jesus was cool, and cross jewelry was just around the corner.
So now the church had a problem…how could they make sure that someone would take following Jesus seriously?
The Road to Communion
So the church developed a plan, that began with something called catechumenate, which was basically three years of hearing the “word of the Lord” and then the candidates who had done well with that, were taken on to the next round where they had their lifestyles examined and went through “daily exorcisms.”
Because let’s be honest, once a week just isn’t enough.
And then, if you went through that round successfully, then they would let you get baptized and take communion. Meaning that in the 4th century it was slightly easier to become the next American Idol than it was to convert.
But then we get upset when we hear about that pastor having the affair, or the minister stealing or embezelling money. It’s all so cliche, which is a fancy word that just means, it happens so much we are tired of hearing about it.
But the sad truth is that Christians in America are very accepting and inclusive, but we aren’t that different.
A Different Kind of Discipleship
I read last year that in China, when someone becomes a Jesus follower, they are asked 7 questions:
- Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
- Are you willing to lose your job?
- Are you willing to go to your village, to those who persecute you, forgive them and share the love of Christ with them?
- Are you willing to give an offering to the LORD?
- Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny Jesus?
- Are you willing to go to prison?
- Are you willing to die for Jesus?
Now that’s a welcoming packet.
The churches that I’ve worked at, make following Jesus as easy and non-threatening as possible. And rightfully so, but never forget that the questions that Chinese Christians are asking now, are the kinds of questions that Christians have been asking for thousands of years. It’s not enough to just have a dynamic student ministry and great programming and the right facilities. When the Church gathers it is to make us into different kinds of people.
The ancient view of communion, was that through this moment God gives Himself to His people.
And in order to do that, for thousands of years, Christians have excluded those who weren’t ready to make that kind of sacrifice.
There’s lots of ways to be ugly about excluding people, in fact, I think most of us have experienced both sides of this. But the question isn’t whether or not your group excludes, every group does!
And if you doubt that, just find out how your group responds to someone who is exclusive.
The question isn’t whether or not your group excludes, it is how you treat the people that are on the outside,
That is the uniquely Christian virtue, we are not called to just love our neighbor, we are called to love our enemy.
If you want to make a difference in your town or city, than the best place to start is to commit to become a different kind of person.
It’s time to stop just talking about Jesus, it’s time to follow Jesus.
And then you can eat with Him.