Communion in Community 101

Today I served communion for the first time. It was a very interesting experience and I look forward to more pastoral responsibilities in the future. There are only 2 ordinances in the Baptist denomination- baptism and communion, so it is quite an honor to serve a memorial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Baptists believe that we are expected to do this in remembrance of Him. Communion is typically celebrated every quarter plus maybe a few other occasions.

“For this is what the Lord himself said, and I pass it on to you just as I received it. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]

We do not believe transubstantiation occurs, but that the elements- bread or cracker and wine or grape juice lead us to remembering the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made. He gave of Himself as our sacrifice for all time so that all people who receive His free gift of grace can live in peaceful communion with God now and will have eternal life when we physically die. There are Old Testament references to a lamb being sacrificed so that people may be saved such as in the Passover. Jesus is our absolution lamb. We do not receive communion for salvation or to seal the deal, but to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, He is Peace, and He is Savior.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29]

“And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole, so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God. Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” [John 3:14-19]

The last time we celebrated communion I was only on the receiving end and something amazing happened. For the first time I literally heard my name from the server: “Erica, His body broken for you. Erica, His blood shed for you.” What a special way of receiving communion in community. Can you hear Him now? Listen carefully for the spiritual whisper… ______, My body broken for you… ______, My blood shed for you…


Sin, Providence, Evil, Suffering, Oh My!

I want to share a paper I wrote for my theology class this past week in response to an article by Mary VandenBerg. The original article can be found here: 

Feedback is welcome.

Mary VandenBerg discusses the role of suffering in today’s culture and by Jesus Christ. She responds to the concern, especially from feminists, that by considering human suffering as redemption leads to abusive patterns. “Redemptive suffering is unique to Christ. Human suffering is not redemptive and should not be spoken of in those terms” (394). VandenBerg’s article is mostly a response to Brown and Parker’s article, in which they argue that “the church is a responsible agent… in the oppression and abuse of women…” (394). In no uncertain terms, Brown and Parker reject the common Christian understanding of orthodox atonement. They refer to Jesus’ sacrifice as “divine child abuse” and describe God as “bloodthirsty” (395). Unfortunately, the inclusion of Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice Himself seems to be missing. Mark 10:45, Luke 22:42, Romans 5, Romans 8:31-34, Philippians 2:5-11, and other passages and verses come to mind. VandenBerg cites a study that found 1 in 4 pastors “surveyed agreed that a wife should submit to her abusive husband” (396). Unfortunately abused verses have led to justifying abuse, but as budding ministers, seminarians can consider these issues and come to an accurate conclusion that will help reduce this false teaching and belief.

VandenBerg discusses Old Testament and New Testament usage of redemption. In reference to the Exodus, go’el, Hebrew for redemption, is only used with God as the redeemer. Similarly, padah, also Hebrew for redemption, is used as a legal release or pardon especially throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. (398) Even so, God is the redeemer. In the New Testament, the Greek signals that God does the redeeming through Jesus Christ, not people. “It is clear in the New Testament that the redemption of persons is always accomplished by God, usually in the second person of the Trinity… it is clear that to speak soteriologically of redemption is to assume the Redeemer is God” (401). She points to many verses including Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, I Corinthians 1:30, and others that lead to the conclusion that Christ’s death & [leads to] our redemption & forgiveness of sins. Unfortunately, VandenBerg quotes Brown suggesting that “Jesus’ example glorifies suffering” (405). In reality, the opposite seems to be true. The Gospels and especially Paul’s epistles explicitly outline the pain and torture of Jesus’ suffering. When the Word speaks of following Jesus’ example, the orthodox response it not to literally hang oneself on a cross or proceed to the nearest tree and curse it. Instead, there is a calling of holy living free of the abuse of sin and threat of damnation.

Perhaps Christianity does not glorify suffering, but gives hope to the inevitable suffering as a result of the human sin condition. Nowhere does Jesus promote mistreatment or abuse of anyone- adulterer, tax collector, Samaritan, the infirmed, the poor, or otherwise. To make the argument that the Bible, and by result God, supports or possibly requires abuse of the self or other people requires taking isolated verses way out of context. Canonically, especially in relation to Old Testament stories such as Abraham and Isaac or Passover, there are images of physical blood sacrifice that have been passed on to show God’s faithfulness in redeeming and saving His people. However, in the New Testament Christian context, a one time perfect sacrifice leads to complete atonement- Jesus Christ, Messiah. Any abuse called sacrifice or redemption is done in vain. The very fact that abuse is attempted to be justified Biblically speaks to the very fallen human sin nature that people need saving from. “While suffering may be part of the Christian life and may produce good results in us or others, it is not redemptive and should not be spoken of in those terms” (396).

Let it Rain, Let it Snow

The miraculous snowfall last night and today felt like a spiritual experience. You see, I’m a native Texan. I’m from a sub-tropical climate. This is my 4th time to ever see real life touchable-snow angel-snowman-buildable snow. A few observations as I rolled balls of snow to make Susie the Snow-woman:

In order to build a solid snowman that can handle wind, pressure, and resist melting quickly, the core and base must be solid.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.” [Matthew 7:24-27]

“Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” [Psalm 28:6-7]

“Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed out the mountains and the hills?… He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” [Isaiah 40:12, 29-31]

Building a snowman is more fun and less exhausting with other people.

“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12]

“Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” [1 Corinthians 12:4-7]

When ‘life happens’ like a frozen or burst pipe, we are reminded that God will provide and He is sovereign.

“O Sovereign LORD! You have made the heavens and earth by your great power. Nothing is too hard for you!” [Jeremiah 32:17]

“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.” [Matthew 6:25-27]

“The stormy wind comes from its chamber, and the driving winds bring the cold. God’s breath sends the ice, freezing wide expanses of water. He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning. The clouds turn around and around under his direction. They do whatever he commands throughout the earth. He causes things to happen on earth, either as a punishment or as a sign of his unfailing love.” [Job 37:9-13]