Monday, January 29, 2007

They devoted themselves to... (part 3)

Here is part 3 in our look at the key ingredients to the success and growth of the early church. Keep in mind as you read this post, most of this is not from history. Just a little Canadiology. Again I want to reiterate that I believe that we will see there, key ingredients that will work for us too. Let me know what you think, I value your comments. Jim

Acts 2:42-47 "42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

This brings us to the next basic area, the early church devoted themselves to "the breaking of bread." What we are talking about here is not sharing meals together, not only is that addressed in verse 46 but chances are, it would also fall under the category of "fellowship." What we are talking about here is communion. Perhaps you are taken a bit off guard at having such an emphasis on communion. I mean, what's the big deal here? Most churches today have communion once a month if that. How is it such a key to the success of the early church? Would you go on a little trip with me for a moment? Let's take a trip back in time. Watch your head as you step into my time machine. Now, have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Let's go back close to 2000 years. Now I need to warn you ahead of time, you are about to witness some pretty graphic scenes. This trip is not for the weak of stomach individual. Could you please pull the door shut behind you? Thanks, and turn that handle till it locks into place. My hand reaches for a knob or two, push a button. All of the sudden you feel the little time machine start to rumble, the lights flicker off and on. You watch the numbers on the display start to fly backwards as you hear it hum.

Then the humming slows down, the numbers slow down until suddenly everything stops. The little chamber fills with mist. I reach for the handle, turn it and open the door. You follow me as we step out into the sunlight. There is almost a deafening roar rising into the air; "Crucify Him!" came the angry cries. A voice to the right yells, "Give us Barabas!" To the left, "Yes and crucify Jesus!" The crowd roars in agreement. You look at the faces of the people shouting in utter disbelief. You move in anger to the man to the left, "No, you don't know what you're saying. This is Jesus, the Son of God!" Immediately those close by turn their anger on you. The man you just shouted at pushes you in anger. You fall back to the ground, look up and see faces filled with hatred. One man puts his foot on your chest pints his finger to the front of the crowd and says, "Would you like to join Him?" Your eyes move from the angry crowd to the one at the front. Face covered with blood and bruises, badly swollen from multiple blows, your stomach churns at the sight of the badly disfigured man. Somehow, you didn't picture this scene nearly as gruesome as it actually was. To the right of the One you now know as Jesus, stood a man in a regal robe. He steps to a basin, washes his hands and declared, "I am innocent of this man's blood, it is your responsibility!" The man whose foot was still firmly planted on your chest shouted, "Let His blood be on us and on our children!" While the shouts grew louder, the foot lifted from your chest as the crowd moved forward. You stood to your feet in disbelief at what was taking place. Taking everything in, you look at each face, then in absolute horror, you see something in their faces that sickens you. You fight back the vomit at what you see. In each and every face, you see a bit of yourself. Your eyes well up with tears as you realize, had you really been there that day, those shouts would have been yours. You turn and look at me, tears now flowing down your cheeks,
"Please take me away from this place."
"We have one more stop before we can return."
"I want to return now!"
"No, this is a stop we really need to make."


We step back into the time machine, pulling and latching the door behind us. I make a few adjustments, push a button. The machine whirs, then quickly stops. You watch as I open the door, then follow me into the sunlight. We find ourselves in the midst of a small crowd. A hush comes over the crowd as a man steps forward turns and faces the crowd, then begins to speak. "We come here today as a part of a sacred celebration. As you all know full well, I was with Jesus the night He was betrayed. That was a night I will never forget. It was a night I never want to forget. My heart grieves at the thought of my denial of Jesus that night. Yet at the same time, I rejoice because since that day, I have felt the touch of my Master's hand. He has lifted His cup of forgiveness to my lips and I have tasted its sweet juices. We have all come here today to celebrate and to remember. Take a minute and look around you." Your eyes began to move about the room. Everywhere you looked the tears flowed. Then, you saw him. Not 2 feet from you was the angry man from the mob. The one whose foot pushed heavily on your chest, who shouted "Let His blood be on us and our children." His body shook as he wept. At his side, stood 2 small boys. Here he was remembering the one whose blood he shouted for. Then, the man from the front began to speak again. He looked back in our directions and pointed to the man you had been watching. "Simeon, come here to me." With a broken and contrite spirit, Simeon walked to the man I figured to be Peter. "Why do you weep so, my friend?" Simeon's eyes never left the floor. "I called for His blood, not just upon me but my children as well." Peter reached under his chin, lifted his head and looked deep into his eyes. "And His blood you have received. It is the very blood you shouted for that we are here to remember today. It is that blood that enables me, the one who denied three times that – I even knew who He was, that blood enables me to stand before you today not broken but forgiven. Simeon, the difference between you and me on that day is this – you didn't fully understand what you were doing. I completely understand yet still denied Him. I find it hard to believe that He could ever forgive me, but I am not so foolish as to deny the blood you called for, and today, I echo your words. 'May His blood be upon us and our children.'"

With that, his eyes left Simeon and looked out over the crowd. Then he lifted a piece of unleavened bread above his head. "My brothers and sisters, this bread represents the body of Jesus." At that, he broke the bread in two. "His body that was broken for us, take and eat this bread, remembering His body broken for us." With that, the crowd made its way to the front and one by one took a piece of the broken bread and ate it. It was very clear to me that everyone's minds were drawn to the broken body of Jesus as He hung on the cross that day. When everyone was finished, Peter lifted a cup of wine above his head. "My brothers and sisters, the wine in this cup represents the blood of Jesus." His hand touched the shoulder of Simeon, the blood that many of us called for. "No, let me change that, it is the blood that the sins of all of us shouted for that day." He smiled softly as he looked up at the cup, "May His blood be on us and our children! May we never ever forget that blood, and my we joyously taste the sweet cleansing power of that blood until the day we see Him face to face." After he said those words, the disciples that were with him passed their cups among the crowd. Each mind was drawn to the bleeding Messiah as they sipped from the cup. As sweeter taste never graced their tongues before. When the last person drank from the cup, we made our way back to the time machine. Soon we are back to the present.

I don't know about you, but for me, communion will never again be the same. It was your sin and mine that loudly shouted that day "May His blood be on us and on our children." Remembering the broken body of Jesus, and the cleansing power of His blood will always be major keys to the success of the church in every age. "May His blood be on us and on our children."

Desperately in need of the blood,

Jim

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