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In numerous worship assemblies this Sunday morning there will be a sincere, well-meaning soul who says something to the effect of:

“Let’s completely focus our minds on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins and remove all other worldly concerns from our hearts as we share in the bread and the wine.”

“Whatever else might be going on in our lives right now with our families, our work, our finances, or our health, let’s put these things out of our minds for the next few moments as we completely center our thoughts on the cross in remembrance of Jesus.”

For most of my life, I have heard statements similar to these shared in communion thoughts before the Lord’s Supper or expressed more indirectly in the prayers that are offered prior to sharing in the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine.

Despite the sincerity and noble intentions of such admonitions for us to empty our minds of “worldly concerns” during this memorial feast, I would like to suggest that: 1) it isn’t possible, and 2) it isn’t necessary or advisable.

As to the possibility of self-induced, temporary amnesia, try this… don’t think about a banana… or your favorite sports team… or the name of your first pet.  How well did you do?  By merely mentioning “whatever else is going on in our lives right now,” our thoughts instantly lock on to our most pressing concern, the heaviest burden on our heart, our deepest pain, or the most recent source of our anxiety or guilt.  “So, now that you’ve identified it, stop thinking about it!”  Can we just instantly change channels like that?  I don’t think so.  But, here’s the cool thing: I don’t think we have to.

Let me clarify something, lest some readers misunderstand.

I completely agree that, in the solemnity and celebration of remembering the Christ who died for us, we dare not profane the feast and dishonor the Lamb by mere mechanical participation in the Lord’s Supper.  How tragic for us and how insulting to the Lord if our thoughts and sentiments are focused on self-absorbed trivialities like making grocery lists, checking Facebook, or adjusting the roster of our fantasy football team.  Regardless of your understanding of “unworthy manner” (“irreverently,” The Message) and “discerning the body of Christ,” surely this kind of trivialization of the bread and the cup (and the Savior’s body and blood which they represent) risks the guilt and judgment referenced in I Corinthians 11:26-29.

However, to suggest that our relationships, vocations, finances, and physical health are merely “secular” concerns which have “no place at the table” reinforces the erroneous notion of a compartmentalized faith in which our worship to God and our communion with Christ have nothing to do with “real life.”  On the contrary, there is no facet or aspect of my life that is to be exempt from His lordship.  “All He wants is all of me!”

So, bring your troubled marriage to the table as you remember the One who convicts and challenges us to sacrificially offer agape love to one another as husbands and wives, just as He did in laying down His life for His bride, the church.  Since God has declared the crucified and resurrected Jesus to be both Lord and Christ, let’s submit to His teaching and recommit ourselves to the hard work of “becoming one” and resolve to let nothing or no one separate what God has joined together.

How would the Christ who died for me want me to resolve a conflict at work?  How would He have me respond to a co-worker who has acted and spoken unreasonably and hurtfully against me.  Instead of engaging in a “mental block” about my relationships, wouldn’t the Teacher prefer, even during the Supper, that I “leave my offering before the altar,” walk across the assembly area, and be reconciled with an estranged brother or sister before I proceed any further with my worship?

In times of financial hardship and uncertain employment, I can be greatly encouraged by remembering that the Savior who bore my sins on the cross also taught me to trust in a heavenly Father who knows my needs and will provide for me just as He does the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  He will never leave me or forsake me.

The Great Redeemer is also the Great Physician who not only cares for our souls, but acted so compassionately and mercifully toward those in physical need and pain.  Because of what He suffered, we have in Him a sympathetic, understanding High Priest through whom we can confidently approach the Father’s throne to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

What better time is there for me to confess my sins through my Advocate, my atoning Sacrifice, my Passover, Jesus Christ the righteous, so that His blood, symbolized by the cup that I drink, will continue to cleanse me from all unrighteousness?  His sacrificial body and blood are the reason, the only reason, that I can live free and forgiven.

In all of this, primacy is still given to “proclaiming His death” through eating the bread and drinking the cup in remembrance of Him.  However, it is not merely a cognitive acknowledgment of a relationally remote death that is locked up in the annals of ancient history.  Rather, it is a memorial feast in which we praise, proclaim, and adore the Lamb of God, the Living Christ, the Conqueror of death, and the Hope of our own resurrection until the glorious day of His promised return.

Rather than seeking to temporarily ignore our burdens, doubts, struggles, and failings, let’s bring them with us to the foot of the cross.   As we remember the sacrificial body and blood of the Lord who saves us from sin, let us also lay claim to His power to redeem and restore whatever is burdening our hearts.

Let’s lay it all on the table!

Many of you who read this blog will be gathering together with other Christians this morning to offer worship and praise to God.  However, no two people in your assembly will be in the exact same frame of mind, condition of heart, or state of emotion.  Unity as a spiritual body and being “of one accord” as Christ’s church does not mean that we are an undifferentiated, monolithic mass of Christians who think and feel just like everyone else or who will experience the worship assembly in exactly the same way.

Some of us are filled with joy and expectation this morning.  Things are going very well in our lives right now.  We are employed, and happily so.  There is “peace in the valley” in our marital and parental relationships and among our friends.  We are feeling healthy, wealthy (relatively speaking anyway), and wise.  If that’s the case for you, then praise God!  I mean it.  Praise Him!   Thank Him!  “Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness.  They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness, and shall shout joyfully of Your righteousness,” (Psalm 145:6-7).

Some of our hearts are filled with fear and doubt.  I completely understand.  Faith and doubt co-exist in constant tension during our journey in the steps of Jesus.  Some days, faith has the upper hand; at other times, doubt appears to be winning the day.  If that is the case for you this morning, freely and openly acknowledge those feelings to the Lord .  He knows that we’re feeling that way anyway, so why try to hide it?  Join with the frantic father who, wrestling with faith, said to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24).

Some of us are feeling anxious, worried, and stressed.  We are still seeking a job after an extended period of unemployment, or we’re concerned about the stability of our workplace.  We are experiencing difficulties in our marriage or strained relationships with other people in our family.   Responsibilities just seem to keep piling up on top of us, and we feel increasingly more overwhelmed, further behind, and unable to cope.  Lay these burdens before the throne of God this morning.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (Philippians 4:6); “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” (I Peter 5:7).  Hang on!  Keep trusting!

Some of us are hurting today from the physical pain and discomfort of a chronic illness or degenerative disease.  Others are extremely weak and feeling totally wiped out because of ongoing cancer treatment.  Others are feeling numb and lost this morning because of the recent death of the person who sat beside them and held their hand every Sunday morning for over fifty years.  If you’re just not up to being around other people today, I get it!  May the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort grant you peace and strength to endure.  May He hasten the day when sorrow and pain will be no more, death will be swallowed up in victory, and His gentle, loving hand will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Some of us are angry this morning, either at someone or about something that happened in our life this week.  It’s natural to experience this intense emotion, but we need to process it, work through it, talk about it, get over it, and forgive whoever we need to forgive.  Otherwise, bitterness will consume us from the inside out.  “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Ephesians 4:26); “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20).

Some of us are feeling guilty this morning because of sin in our life.  Been there, done that, too!  Allow the God of salvation and the blood of Jesus Christ to take care of that for you!  “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.  How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Psalm 32:5, 1).

As we bless His holy name today from places that are scattered all across the emotional map, may His blessings fall upon each of us according to our need!

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December 2022