Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Today's Devotion - Instructions for the Lord's Supper

The first written words about the Lord's Supper are not contained in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Instead, the earliest words about the Lord's Supper were written by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 (You will find this Scripture passage posted below). As with any Sacrament, sacred observance, or word from Jesus, the meaning of the Lord's Supper can be distorted. At the time of Paul's writing of 1 Corinthians 11 which came only a few decades after Jesus' ascension, the early Christians in Corinth had already forgotten why they observed the Lord's Supper.

In vs. 20 of this passage, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that it is not the Lord's Supper that they eat. Sure, they were drinking wine and eating bread in their church setting, but they were doing so with no regard for each other. Furthermore, in disregarding each other, they were ignoring the presence of the Living Lord among them as they ate the elements of the Lord's Supper. For years (maybe even centuries), people have read vs. 27-30 and abstained from eating the Lord's Supper in fear of being unworthy of the Sacrament and thus bringing judgment upon themselves. However, eating the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner doesn't mean that one eats the Lord's Supper before becoming "good enough" on his or her own merit. Instead, eating the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner is to eat without regard for one's brothers and sisters in Christ and without remembering the Living Lord who gave His life for her or him on the cross.

In eating the Lord's Supper, how do you take worthy consideration of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you pray for them? Do you seek reconciliation with them? How do you remember and meet the Living Lord in the eating of the bread and juice? Think on these questions.

1 Corinthians 11
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.
When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat,
for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.
New International Version

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Today's Devotion - The Passover

This past Sunday, we studied the way in which Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper while eating the Passover Meal. There are many similarities between the Passover Meal and the Lord's Supper.

First of all, the disciples were eating the Passover Lamb with Jesus who was also the Lamb of God. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul refers to Jesus as "our paschal lamb, Christ, (who) has been sacrificed." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of The Christian Church simply defines the "paschal lamb" as "the lamb sacrificed and eaten at the Jewish Passover. By analogy Christ is regarded as a 'Paschal Lamb.'"

Secondly, in the same way that the blood of the Passover Lamb was placed upon the doorposts of the Israelites' homes to deliver them from slavery and death in Egypt, so the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross and consumed in the wine/juice of Holy Communion became our deliverance from sin and death.

Thirdly, the Passover Meal was eaten during the Jewish Festival of Unleavened Bread. The bread was a symbol of God's sustaining grace. Jesus took the Unleavened Bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples as a sign of the grace God was offering the world through Him.

Certainly, there are other similarities between the Passover Meal and the Lord's Supper. Therefore, to consider more about the Passover Meal, read Exodus 12:1-13 (provided below). As you read, answer these questions: How is the Passover Meal similar/different from the Lord's Supper? How is Jesus like/unlike the Passover Lamb? Pray today and thank God for sending Jesus to be our Paschal Lamb.

Exodus 12:1-13
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,
"This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.
The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire--head, legs and inner parts.
Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.
This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover.
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Today's Devotion - Betrayal at the Last Supper

For today's devotion, read again the passage in Mark 14:12-25. You can read this passage and look also at my sermon outline for last Sunday by looking at my previous posted message for February 21, 2007.

As you read today's passage, look specifically at verses 17 through 21. In these verses, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, "one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me (vs. 18)." Although Mark does not tell us who this disciple is, we know him to be Judas Iscariot.

As we consider Judas' betrayal, let us not be too quick to condemn Judas. Like the other eleven disciples, we often think "surely, not I (vs. 19)" and believe that we are incapable of betraying Jesus. But let us consider how we betray Jesus in small ways...perhaps by choosing our own way instead of Jesus' way...perhaps through selfish indulgence instead of self-giving denial.

After reading verses 17 through 21, ask the Lord's forgiveness for the ways you have betrayed Him and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal God's loving presence with you as you work through this day. Also, reflect on how you met Jesus yesterday before, during, and after receiving Holy Communion. Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Season of Lent Begins

Today is the first day of Lent. It is known as Ash Wednesday. Tonight at Calhoun First United Methodist Church in Calhoun, Georgia, we will begin this season with an Ash Wednesday service. We will put a smudge of ashes on our foreheads and begin six weeks of fasting and prayer as we seek a closer walk with Jesus. As we "give up" something dear to us in fasting, we will also give toward the ministry of Habitat for Humanity as we seek to raise funds to build a home for a family in Gordon County.

This coming Sunday, February 25, I will begin a six week sermon series on the final day in Jesus' life...a day that tranformed the world and eternity. The sermon series is entitled, "24 Hours That Changed the World." The first sermon in this series is about the Last Supper and comes from Mark 14:12-25. At the end of this paragraph, you will find the Scripture passage and sermon outline for this sermon. Starting Monday, February 26, I will post a daily devotion based on the sermon for previous Sunday. May God bless you as you join us in studying the Scriptures and devoting yourself to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

Mark 14:12-25
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'
He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me."
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"
"It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
"I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

24 Hours That Changed The World
Part I: The Lord’s Supper
Mark 14:12-25 (pg. 48)

I. A farewell banquet for Michigan State’s next punter.
A. At a farewell banquet, the host and celebrants normally
gather to prepare the traveler for the journey ahead.
B. At Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples, the traveler
prepared the hosts and celebrants for their journey without Him.

II. They ate the Passover meal– an important Jewish Festival remembering their ancestors’ suffering in Egypt and celebrating their freedom from captivity through God’s deliverance.
A. A sacrificial lamb was prepared. (Exodus 12:1-6 pg. 56)
B. The lamb was roasted along with bitter herbs which
represented the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt. (Ex. 12:8)
C. The blood of the lamb became their deliverance. (Ex. 12:7,
D. It was prophesied that blood would be the sign of God’s
covenant with Israel through their coming King. (Zechariah 9:9-
11 pg. 833) [This prophecy looked backward and forward].

III. Their meal became the Lord’s Supper – sharing in the suffering of Christ and celebrating complete deliverance from sin.
A. The unleavened bread became the sign of His body (vs. 22)
B. The cup became the sign of the covenant blood (vs. 23-24)
C. In eating the Lord’s Supper, we share in Christ’s suffering
and celebrate our redemption through Him.

IV. Why was this meal so important to Jesus?
Jesus intended it (the Lord’s Supper) to be the central means
whereby His kingdom-achieving death would be known, believed,
appropriated and lived out. Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone

Responding to God’s Word: Participate in the Lord’s Supper believing, appropriating, and living out Christ’s sacrificial death.