Being Shown The Way

you-are-not-alone

If one thinks of conversion superficially, there is a tendency to see it as solitary at first and with an emphasis that it stays that way.  But what if ones conversion experience is meant to start with someone else’s take on Jesus?  There is the message of the good news of Jesus Christ but messages typically come through messengers.

In western society we have a common phrase, just tune into the right channel, that one can accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Can that be valid as the central point of ones Christian faith?  A decent scan of the Bible and Church history will show that Christianity is communal or relational as well.  The evangelism and ongoing conversion of the experience is meant to be in both a communal context and ones personal decision.   This effects the person and the world can be effected by God through such a person.  Taking this fact in one way, this is what it can mean to be an evangelical Christian which can apply to Christians of any community.

In Protestant Christianity a common term is “led to the Lord” where someone makes a personal decision for Christ to be Lord and Savior but some mortal person was greatly involved in proposing Jesus (hopefully not imposing). Often converts of the last 2,000 years have converted through someone being an instrument of the grace of conversion.  But to give way to the idea that someone else knows more than you on an eternal subject takes humility.

Such was the case for a fisherman named Simon from the town of Capernaum who would one day be a fisher of men.  This is the beginning of the story of Jesus lived through his life.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter (John 1:40-42).

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother-  At the moment that this story takes place, Simon is just Simon.  The narrative throws in the full title with the hindsight of who Simon becomes, is better known as, and the irony that Andrew seeks him out. Again, to have the gospel proclaimed to us at any level will have some level of humility inherently tied to it.  Before Jesus, like any of us, was indeed lost without Jesus and needed to be found by Jesus vicariously through Andrew.  In away, Simon had to be found by the Church; albeit loaded with only two people.

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon–  What can be lost on the reader is that the conversion experience of Andrew is expressed too. Andrew’s expression of conversion was in part to share the extent of Jesus that he knew by that time.  Andrew had seen Jesus pointed to in the foundations of faith, be favored by the Father, and had been able to “come and see” where Jesus lived. Those beautiful experiences of “in-reach” should inevitably being expressed in outreach.  Jesus impressed something on Andrew that had to be shared and soon.

You will be called Cephas –  Many Christians of good conscience see Cephas and see a verse that Simon Peter is the first pope.  Others see the title as symbolic.  I must confess, I have a bias.  For a moment, I would like to step back from that controversy and point out that Jesus calls all of us to be on mission of some kind.  To be converted to Jesus is not to have a mental assent or a goose bump.  We are to express that grace according to the individual calling of God on our lives and at some point we should see in our decision for Jesus his specific calling for us. Jesus leaves a deposit into the heart of this man as a point of reference.  Weeks later, Jesus returned to this man while he is working on his boat and adds to the foundation of this moment.

which, when translated- This may seem like a peripheral detail but not with more thought.  The conversation from an objective perspective was three men chatting in Aramaic on an average 1st century day in Roman-ruled Palestine.  But in a spiritual hindsight when one reflects on conversion stories there is a beauty in extrapolating the relational dynamics and apply it to more than one place or culture.  That said, the disciple John departs from the Greek so the reader can be especially in the feel of how personal Jesus was and give a reminder how down to earth the background of the gospel must be read. Jesus is applicable to every scene because his presence is always practical to each culture and through each culture.

In review of this encounter of the three men, one can draw out the profoundness of a properly composed Christian community.  This is not a matter of social conjuring of excitement or group think.  Any called out community that is centered on Jesus Christ has a distinctive of thinking of the other, proclaiming the person of Jesus, humility, knowing his call on our lives and echoing that relational aspect through the world and through the ages.  That is the Church that Jesus builds one person at a time and one pair at a time.  Such are the followers of the Way.

Day 2- Right Principles as Whole People.   

Incesne with angel

I like stories of drowning people being saved by a good lifeguard.  The images that come to mind are often the flapping in the water, gasping for breath and tunnel vision right before a powerful hand swoops in to save the day.  The intervention in those stories range from the lifeguard being fully in the water to being anchored in something that floats.  The trick is that the lifeguard may not be received in full trust as a gift to be received fully and simply.

To this point of not receiving that help is a story by Watchman Nee.  There once was a man who got a cramp and was drowning in a lake.  A champion swimmer stood by fully dressed and did not move until the man began to go under.  When he did, he got out of his sweats and saved the man.  When asked what took him so long he said that the drowning man had to be at the end of himself or they both would have drowned.

When John the Baptist formally presents Jesus to the crowd he uses words for  Jesus to fulfill in several dimensions and continues to fulfill when we cooperate.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34).

Behold, the Lamb of God– – Where a lion is known to conquer, the lamb is known to be conquered and consumed.  Jesus is proclaimed as one who would give all and not take like kings of old nor exploit the resources of the people.  Jesus is counter-intuitive as a gift for our redemption that we are unable to obtain for ourselves.  So we depend on Jesus for that.   Jesus is wholly self-giving.

takes away the sin of the world– Here is indicated that the gift of self is beyond Israel but to the world (John 3:16).  The gift is not tied anymore to a temple in a certain city but is universal.  Salvation as a gift for the world is shown in the Church which Jesus founded and as early as 110 AD was called that by Ignatius- – Catholic. And before Jesus came this was foreshadowed of Jesus being re- – presented by the people of God like this.  Jesus is wholly accessible.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations;

Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere,

and a pure offering;

For my name is great among the nations,

says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11).

he existed before me–  Here John shows Jesus to be beyond the time of a human life span.   The gift is divine.  After all, one can look at the gospel of Luke and see that John was conceived three months before Jesus if one views Jesus only according to the flesh.  John opens  a perspective  later seen more fully by Paul that, “from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  The gift transcends understanding.  Jesus is timeless and thus must be discerned with eyes for the eternal than the timely.

I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him– The only time before that the Holy Spirit had come down on a single direct object was the temple of Solomon.  One more reason that Jesus said,  “I say to you, something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6).  The gift is consecrated because Jesus is that gift and he is holy.

will baptize with the Holy Spirit– – Christ through His humanity and in partnership with the Holy Spirit brings in those who are His with adoption that is beyond a legal transaction.  If it was only legal, the relationship between God and the believer would be contractual in what I have is yours.  Instead it is “I am yours”.  To have a relationship with the Blessed Trinity that is covenantal is to be in synch to the original creation of humanity.  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba [Daddy], Father” (Romans 8:15)! The gift is intimate and is forward towards oneness.

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God– – John has already spoken that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.  By saying this officially, John steps back for Jesus to shine.  He does continue to baptize but the traffic continues to be more to Jesus.  Just as John yielded to Jesus, so in the process of conversion and formation towards Jesus there is a yielding to happen.  This yielding to Jesus as the gift is informed by how he redeems, transcends understanding, is consecrated, is universal, and is intimate. To hear John’s words right, is the beginning to getting Jesus right.  Such is the fulness of the proclamation of the gospel in the Church that Jesus wants. To yield is to be on mission in disposition.  And to be on mission is to be sent.  And to be sent is to be apostolic.    In one sense, all who have “testified” to the fulness of Jesus are apostolic.

The design for a people that are transformed and have ongoing connection to the authority of Jesus as Lord is one with the traits above.  And to water down these traits with a forgetting this kind of encounter is to move with the world that God wants to redeem through Jesus.  To hold on to these is to be the Church that instead moves the world as the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Feeding Line, Dividing Line PART V: One Proposal, Two Answers

Marriage-proposalThe conversion of the heart and a paradigm shift is no small thing.  Changes converts make are radical to the core of how they live, love and hope which happen only in total surrender.  The preceding moments of  tension may be a setting of ones choosing, God’s choosing or a bit of both.  When one is about to convert, the tension comes in the understanding of life as we have known and not knowing the details of what we are getting.  When Jesus told the Jews one day that to have eternal life they had to eat his flesh it was time to leap forward or backwards.

Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.   But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (  John 6:59-69).

Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever—  This could be the payoff if they get it.  The people in the time of Moses had manna from heaven which was the word for “What is it?”  Jesus comes as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) in a visible, sacramental context.

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum— This is not an incidental statement by John.  John made a point here that the very scene where the Law is read is where teaching happens that brings interpretation of the first five books of the Bible.

This saying is hard; who can accept it?— In my experience as a Christian in post-modern America moral relativism has often sneaked into how people make decisions on truth.  If they are grounded in the divine, truth is discovered and obeyed.  If they are grounded by the wisdom of this age then it is up for a subjective vote and the pope is in the mirror.

Does this shock you?-  This is like a spiritual soundcheck.  He then asks if they would be ready to know the big picture.  This may have been rhetorical.  The answer was no for most but Jesus is out to propose and not to impose.

It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.— For those that read this verse and say it proves the Eucharist is not efficacious then they misunderstand what is being said.  Notice Jesus said here “the flesh” not “my flesh”.  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sees the disciples sleeping when they were supposed to pray.  He says there that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).  The flesh is weak for the disciples in the garden because they were not engaging their flesh in obedience to the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  His flesh is spiritual life for the world because Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human.

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him— This is the moment of decision.  They declined the invitation of Jesus for a communion that is oneness with God: a divine proposal.  They were along for a great ride and got free bread the day before.  Jesus proposed more.  As an addictions counselor working with clients in treatment I tell them their “addiction is outside that door doing pushups”.   In the same way the former life for even those that are complete converts is always wanting reunion.  To leave Jesus is to look at truth in the eye and say “No. Not going to do it”.

“Do you also want to leave?—  When I became a Catholic I had much joy but I still knew that following Christ still is a continual process.  At Easter Vigil the congregation reaffirms the faith that is “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic” (Nicene Creed 325).  Even for those that are baptized and confirmed there is an annual decision to make where one reaffirms the Catholic Christian faith.  And for my Protestant brothers and sisters, to leave the same Lord, faith and meaning of baptism is always up to you as well. We all have free will.

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.—  The disciples are humble and thus tied to the wisdom of eternity rather than the wisdom of that age.  There is an objective truth, and they know Him as the all consuming reality (alethia).

We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God-  They have come to a conversion point and for each of them it has come gradually in how they came,  saw and were conquered. This is the nature of discipleship.

Each disciple of Jesus has a DNA in the church that Jesus started.  Together the Body of Christ is meant to be a bride to whom Jesus is returning. Jesus is The Bridegroom proposing marriage in the context of faith and reason sacramentally.

The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”: the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1336).  

Feeding Line, Dividing Line Part III : From Mystery to Scandal

Jesus Holding The Bread

Often religion gets a bad rap and often for undeserved.  One example is being ethnocentric on God’s the favor. But the message of Christianity is a universal in design and meant to be expressed that way.  To be a Christian is to grow in holiness while being holy.  Christians have fallen short at times in keeping Christianity moved by the world rather than moving the world.

It is worth noticing how the gospel’s proposal is unfolded with universality, mystery and challenge.  Unfortunately the proposal is met with unbelief and cynicism.

Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,  because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  (John 6:31-51).

It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven—  Jesus begins to challenge them to the transcendent.  If the manna, which means “What is it?”,  is drawn back only to Moses and the past then the faith is only a subjective religious experience.  Instead Jesus draws their attention to God the Father in the context of the present.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world— The distinction here is that this sustenance, coming only come from God, is for the world.  This revisits John 3:16 in that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”  Jesus is to be consumed and it is from divine love that resurrection life touches those from everywhere.

Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said… “whoever comes…whoever believes ….Everything that the Father gives me will come to me—  They have a hard time discerning how serious Jesus is about the nature of offering himself.  Jesus speaks to them with a qualifier about the “whoever”  and points to the heavenly Father.  To speak of this kingdom is by a family table and in mystery.  Also one can see the conversion is “both/and” in coming to Jesus by destiny and choice at the same time.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life— But the context is in coming and believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  If it is just by a worldly point of view that he is just a carpenter, good teacher, great prophet or nice guy then there is little redemptive.  Such a perspective of all that Jesus is has  much emptiness.

Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’? —-  Paul addressed this to early believers who could have, and likely were, swayed by the philosophies of their day. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  However, in the context of this whole passage it is worth considering the same for the Eucharist.  To the eyes of the flesh when Jesus died not he cross it was just a Roman execution.  Likewise, to the eyes of the flesh now one could just see a wafer at an altar of Catholic, Orthodox or Coptic parish and wonder what thus fuss is about.  But with eyes of faith the perspective changes when a priest hold up the Eucharist and says.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

I will give is my flesh for the life of the world— A beautiful thing happens in the path of conversion to Jesus.  One does get that introduction through evangelization  like what happened with the first two disciples by John the Baptist.  Then the disciples on that day by the river ask where Jesus is staying.  He said, “come and see” (John 1:39).   The measure of God’s love for the world of John 3:16 is  infinite.  The most normative way for us to respond is repentance, faith, obedience and with the greatest virtue of love.  From this we thank God for sending Jesus.  This is what early church communion was in Greek using the term for communion: eucharistia.

The Eucharist has been present since Jesus ascended and is an extension of The Sacrifice of Jesus who said he would be with us “To the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is not a later interpretation.  A eucharistic  interpretation was noted by St. Justin Martyr in 155 in his Dialogue with Trypho.

“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66. 155 AD)

St. Ireneaeus of Lyon agreed with this interpretation in 189 in Against All Heresies.

Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from the things mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the of the resurrection to eternity. (St. Ireneaeus  Against All Heresies Book IV, Chapter 18).

One interpretation is right and one is wrong. One embraces Jesus today for all he presented himself and the other has limitations. Such is the dichotomy of scandal or mere symbolism as I will address next.

House of Doubt-Rocking The House Part I

THE_CANDIDATE

If one looks at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, he presents himself as a supernatural person with an approach that is above earthly concerns. His agenda changes common narratives.  In the following passage he challenges norms with “super-norms”.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph” (Luke 4:16-22).

Jesus basically hit the assembly with a stun gun on the lowest setting but high in stirring a hunger in the truly humble.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to—  Simply, Jesus is saying that he is given authority from God in heaven.  Outside of the box thinking from an outside of this world source.

bring glad tidings to the poor— This is to say that there is a provision to be made who are poor.  Poor in money?  Poor in spirit? By going into the Old Testament he draws their attention to when manna fell from heaven to the Israelites.  Each day when the daily bread would fall someone would say “Basar!”  Meaning that provision for another day had come.  Jesus came to bring himself as what we needed in spiritual supply as the living bread and not just manna (meaning “What is it?”).

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives-Jesus was sent to proclaim that God wants peace on earth, has goodwill towards humanity and that the jail doors are open due to a pardon.  Where repentance falls in there is for the person to walk out if they accept Jesus in his totality.

recovery of sight to the blind— This has two meanings.  One, there was a blame game around at that time that if someone was infirm in their body that they or their parents sinned for them to be that way (see John 9). Jesus brings a much broader view than that.  The other is the awareness of the need of being saved.  Last, literal miracle on that which is disordered in his will.

to let the oppressed go free— This was about the power of sin that infects the individual as a slave.  Slaves had a servile fear of their master who can show wrath to them if they are caught failing.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul speak of God as Abba, Father (Daddy).   “{H}ow God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.- With that Jesus laid down the gauntlet.  He has made a declaration about himself and that going forward his ministry can be up for markers that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  With the word “today” Jesus marks himself in history.

So right here is a summary of what Jesus is in the gospel and meaning to do then and now:  be heaven sent, be the intimate answer to the unspoken questions of the heart, communicate a pardon to humanity,  illuminate hearts with grace and truth and heal the inner parts of the person.  From this he would draw them into being partakers of his divine nature in him being our fulfillment of all desire.

If one is open to God working outside of the box, that does not seem bad,   Otherwise, it could seem to be.

We see both here.

And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words.… They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph— Not the only time that a group would have mixed reviews of Jesus.  Thoughts like, “I like his words, but shouldn’t he be a bit of a surprise?  As we will see, Jesus loves them too much not to give them a surprise.  Just not always the one they are looking for.

TO BE CONTINUED

Re-Finding Antioch

Antioch_logo_and-tails

A week ago tonight I was at a John 17 event.  The John 17 Movement is a wonderful set of connections in the Phoenix area that has Christians of various faith traditions praying and worshipping together.  Some events are big and some are small.  Some are on Protestant ground and some are on Catholic ground.  It is a wonderful example of ecumenism.

What’s that? A sin?  Ecumenism is a sin?  One world heresy.  Indifferentism is what some people say in that the truth is watered down.

But does it have to be seen that way?  We hear from Paul in 1 Corinthians that the greatest gift is love.  Paul believed in truth but it is not the greatest thing.  In fact, the seemingly unanswered prayer of Jesus in the actual John Chapter 17 includes unity in the petition.  If we in our respective denominations lift up our experiences and faith community domains with walls to them, we should be careful to first discern that we are not throwing the baby with the bathwater— and Jesus’ prayer for unity of his people with it.

So one way to discern where some common ground could be on what makes a Christian people is looking at where the Christian term started.

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas [to go] to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,  and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:19-26).

and began to speak to the Greeks as well— The backdrop is that Peter had broke new ground with preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  Organically, these followers of Jesus were able to embrace this with the universality of the gospel to anyone who believes.

proclaiming the Lord Jesus—- If we blink we will miss it.  The simplicity of proclaiming the person of Jesus.  Christianity in its pure sense is meant to be a cult of personality and this personality is the risen Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.  They did not proclaim formulas but Jesus.  Everything else is secondary.

and they sent Barnabas [to go] to Antioch— Not just any apostle.  His real name was Joseph the Levite.  But they gave him the Aramaic nickname of Barnabas because it means “son of encouragement”.  He had a temperament to see the best in people.  He was even willing to stand up and sponsor a former mass persecutor named Saul of Tarsus who would later be so much more. He had a heart to see the individual through God’s eyes.

he arrived and saw the grace of God— What does it mean to see the grace of God?  What was covered above hits it right on point: Christocentricity with a “Here comes everybody” welcoming atmosphere.

he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart— He affirms them all to walk collectively in relationship with Jesus.  Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?  Great! But do not stop there.  Jesus is the head of the Body of Christ and we are called into such unity.

for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith— In his flesh Barnabas knew how to be a bigot of many kinds.  But in cooperation with the Holy Spirit he decided not to be one.  He did not arrive to this vision of a developing church through good moral training but through a formation of the Holy Spirit.

And a large number of people was added to the Lord-  Next step in going from personal conversion to corporate and communal living.  Reproduce in the formation of Christ.  That is the number that is added.

For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people— Above they were a scattering.  But the right person with the right calling comes in as a sent one under authority and now they are a church.  We see three chapters later that Barnabas was himself an apostle.  No matter how much that church grows they are in need of the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

…to look for Saul… he brought him to Antioch-  The logical conclusion is that ego not be the main trait but God’s election. Barnabas discerned before anything that Antioch is not meant to be his own show and discerned that it was time for the best of the old ways in the knowledge of Saul the former Old Covenant scholar to bring that perspective to be properly unveiled in the grace of God.

and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians— With all of the above behind them, they were first called Christians.  To be a Christian then meant something event to the skeptics of their day.  I pray it will be again so that they will glorify the Father in heaven.

This is a beautiful story and it can play out today.  Who is the Christian that can be a Barnabas for both valid expansion and unity in the kingdom of God?  Do you as a Christian have a dividing line between you and someone else that does not remotely have the fingerprints to Jesus?

Incidentally, if you are a non-Christian and reading this, I want to apologize to you.  We Christians are a work in progress.  I assure you, Antioch does exist if you take a step back and really look.  And for a Christian that has been off-course on this, you can specifically look back to Acts 11 with the Holy Spirit and find the Antioch point near you that rallies at the Cross of Christ.

Finally, back to John 17.  There were 120 of us.  After some wonderful praise and worship and a message from Joseph Tosini we counted off by 12 and were split into groups of ten.  We were given about six verses from John 17 and had a chance to share with each other.  There was good insight and my group, organically, did not share much about what kind of church any of us went to until the end.  It was good.  We were just Christians and together encounter Christ in grace.

So at the end of the day, I am a Christian.  More specifically I am a— nah.  I’m taking a break from that for one day.

Breaking More Than Bread

Eucharistic-Bread

Several years ago I remember hearing about someone switching churches for a reason that I could not connect to: a man that switched from being Baptist to Episcopalian in part because he found the liturgy to be so beautiful.  Liturgy?  Really?  You mean like formal presentation of that bread and wine with those fancy clothes?

That was my cultural bias in belittling it because I prided myself on my informal formation as a Christian. My parents did not identify themselves as Christian and I became a Christian without their guidance when I was 10 and became a church goer at 14.  I did not take into my life a habit to pray before meals and cussing was not a problem for me.  In fact, I rarely made it a point to dress nice for church because God knows my heart.  There was even a season of my life when I avoided “dry, organized church” of any kind choosing to be in a house church that was off the rails and not reverent to traditions of Christianity that had unity and history to it.  So on that liturgy anecdote “Really?” seemed to make sense.

But years later, my meandering journey in following Christ took me unexpectedly into the Catholic Church.  To stay.  I actually like it.  Another interesting point is that I wanted a Christianity to experience that was consistent with a matter of fact declaration on fresh, pristine form on how, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  In this setting I have found this verse to be fleshed out in the most fulness.

But this is not just a matter of just a ceremony for ceremony’s sake.  This is the full realization of what is to take the message of John 3:16, thank God for His sacrifice of His Son and infuse it relationally into ones soul and body.  In the Old Testament they had a bread sacrifice to God called the todah.  In the Greek translation from Hebrew they used the word eucharesteo.  This is where we get Eucharist where Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Did I still accept Jesus at 10 with a simple prayer? Yes.  But with The Eucharist it is blown into 3D and it draws me to a unified walk with Church in light of salvation history.

Late invention?  The accounts of having the Eucharist in the Early Church Fathers writings are numerous.  But one can see something profound with Jesus on the day of the resurrection.  Two disciples of Jesus come upon him on the road to Emmaus but do not recognize him right away.  He takes the fog away eventually like he does for anyone who seeks him honestly.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-35).

Safe to assume that they consumed the bread?  Almost.  Once Jesus gave thanks and consecrated, his presence is extended in the bread.  They knew him in the breaking of the bread.

Klasis is the Greek word for the actual breaking of bread.  In a solemn way this happens in a holy, fellowship time.  But there is another breaking of the bread can then be done in smaller settings that are not as formal.  There is room to build relationally with one another that does not take away from Jesus.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke (klasis) bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).  This is beautiful, compliments the pillar of above about fellowship and is a sanctified time because of the primary breaking of the bread in the sacrifice reflecting The Sacrifice on the cross.  It is in the institution of the Eucharist that Christ gives us the source and summit of our faith as we walk in God and together.

This is where Jesus expressed something that was to have meaning but must be apprehended (like getting the “jist” of something) and comprehending.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me (John 6: 54-57).

Here, all of the crowd save the 12 disciples walk away.  The twelve maybe apprehend and others will not soften to such an offensive mystery.  But the two men on the road to Emmasaus?  Many other Christians through the ages such as Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic?  Different story.  But now I can tell you it is my story as well.