Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Some words for Wednesday - The Lord's Meal (first course)

(I recently taught the church about the Lord's supper, and will be sharing what I taught over the next few weeks)

I took the above picture recently when, as a church, we met together in a local hall on a Sunday afternoon.  We were about halfway through sharing the Lord's supper together.  Mae (on the left) looks very sober as she examines the bread that we shared (and probably is trying to tear off a chunk!)  Malachi (on the right) is just excited and happy as he interacts with his mum.  I love the picture, because it captures something important about the Lord's supper.

Before I explain what I mean, you might be thinking: "This doesn't look like the kind of Lord's supper I'm used to!  Maybe this is what they call 'messy church'!  It's that kind of service where all the kids get involved - it's fun for the little ones, relaxing for their parents, and entertaining (but probably a little shallow) for everyone else."

Nope - this is not what they call messy church (although it does get a little messy - about as messy as you'd expect the average family get-together to be).  This is just the church doing what will be our regular practice when we meet on a Sunday afternoon.  We'll sit together around a few tables, break bread, eat a meal, and then share red grape juice.

I thought it would be appropriate to provide some of the reasons why we're practicing the Lord's supper in this way.  I'm anticipating I'll do this over three posts, which is why I'm calling this one the first course.  I've got six points to make, and here are the first two.

1.  The Lord's supper is a meal - so we'll eat a meal and sometimes refer to it as "The Lord's meal"

In Luke 22v19-20, we're told that after sharing the bread and before sharing the wine, Jesus and the disciples had supper.  This would have been a meal.  Similar to many of us today, the evening meal was usually the main meal of the day.

When the apostle Paul writes about the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11, he rebukes those who are eating their meal before everyone has arrived (verse 21-22).  By having a meal, in one sense they are continuing to adhere to the practice of Jesus (1 Cor.11v25).  But because they are not eating together, as one body, they are being disobedient to the Lord (1 Cor.11v20-22, 29).

Paul's instruction to remedy this is simple - "When you come together to eat, wait for one another." (1 Cor.11v33).

We will therefore eat a meal together as part of remembering the Lord's death for us, and sometimes refer to it as "the Lord's meal".      

2.  The Lord's meal reminds us of the death of Jesus Christ who now lives - so we will be both sober and joyful 

Here's a simple question: What are you doing when you eat birthday cake?

You're remembering and you're celebrating.  You're remembering that a particular person was born on that day, and celebrating that they're still alive and kicking.

When does this change?  Usually when someone dies.  You may still remember their birthday, but you won't celebrate to anywhere near the same degree that you used to.

So why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus, given that he died on the cross?  Because he lives!  He overcame death and rose again!  We celebrate his birth because he lives!

If that's true of the birth of Jesus, then it's also true of his death!  We must never remember the Lord's death as if he were still dead - there must be an element of celebration because he lives!

When we consider that final meal in the upper room, we probably imagine the atmosphere to be sober and sad.  But now consider the meals Jesus shared after his resurrection. When he appears to his disciples (Luke 24 v36+), and eats fish and honeycomb with them, we're told "they marveled and did not believe for joy".

In John 21, Jesus appears to his followers while they're fishing, and Peter is so happy he jumps for joy - out of the boat!  Imagine the meal that followed, shared around a warming fire on a beach.  What would the atmosphere have been as they had fellowship with the risen Christ?  Surely it isn't sadness or morbid gloom we imagine, but joy and hope and relief.

When we have the Lord's meal, our aim is not to recreate the atmosphere of that final meal before the cross, but of the meals after the resurrection. 

So we should be sober, because we're remembering the Lord's death.  But we should be joyful, because the Lord is alive!

We should be sober, because he isn't physically present with us at the table.  But we should be joyful, because one day he is going to return!

We should be sober, because on the cross he was the victim of agony and humiliation.  But we should be joyful, because on the cross he became the victor over sin and death.

We must strive for a balance between being sober and being joyful.  That's why I love that picture at the top.  Sober and joyful.

Or perhaps Paul phrases it better: "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Cor. 6v10)

Monday, 23 November 2015

Just another Melodic Monday - Seeds Family Worship

When we meet as a church family, adults are greatly outnumbered by the children!  We're seeking to reflect that mix in some of the songs that we sing, and one of the resources we'll be using is Seeds Family Worship.  Here is one of their memory verse songs:

Friday, 20 November 2015

Friday to the Father - 20/11/15

Jesus said: "This then is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven...' "
Matthew 6v9

On Fridays, we'll be encouraging you to pray for the church plant, as well as for other local and international churches.

Praise God for His continued provision for us, and for the encouragements we have received over the last week.  We've made contact with a family that have recently moved to the area, and are looking for a worshipping community in Welshpool.  Please pray that God will support and guide them as they settle into their new home.

I preached last Sunday at the local baptist church that we left several months ago.  The Lord gave us good fellowship together, and I felt at liberty to preach.  I'm so glad there has been no animosity between us - it is an important testimony of our unity in Christ.

I'm travelling to West Bromwich this evening with Luke and Ethan (my two eldest sons) to see Matt Redman and Kari Jobe in concert!  Please pray for our safety as we travel, and that God will speak to my sons through the testimonies and songs they hear tonight.

I'll be purchasing some of the equipment for church this weekend.  Getting a laptop solely for church use will be very helpful, as it can often be difficult to access the computer at home!  I'll be seeing the deacon at NEC on Sunday to arrange a meeting about the audio equipment we'll need.  We need to visit the hall we're hiring so that he's able to give the best advice.  Please pray that we'll be able to arrange a time to do that within the next week.

Please pray for the church family.  Each person involved in the church plant has pressures going on in the background.  Praise God for a good meeting last Sunday afternoon, where we were able to share some of those pressures and consider solutions.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Just another Melodic Monday - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Here is a beautiful version of a traditional Christmas hymn.  Thanks to Charlotte, a member of the church planting team, for this recommendation.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Friday to the Father - 6/11/15

Jesus said: "This then is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven...' "
Matthew 6v9

On Fridays, we'll be encouraging you to pray for the church plant, as well as for other local and international churches.

Last Sunday, we had our third (and probably final) practice meeting in the hall we're renting.  I taught about the Lord's Supper, and we then shared the bread and grape juice together as part of a meal.  It was the first time we had done this, and it will be something we will be doing every Sunday as a church.  

Praise God for a wonderful atmosphere and a sense that we were being obedient to the simple instructions of the Bible.  It was also a blessing to see the children sat at the table, considering whether or not they really believed Jesus was their saviour, and asking questions about what it really means.  

We've received a quote for the majority of the equipment we need (laptop, projector etc.) so pray that we'll have wisdom to make the right decision.  We'll be applying to the FIEC for a church plant start-up loan to cover the initial costs.  Please pray that I'll find time to do that in the next few days.

Please pray also for the publicity that we'll be doing for the church.  This involves the blog, other social media, and the local newspaper.

Thank you for your prayers.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Just another Melodic Monday - Psalm 62

Here's a song we'll be singing in the near future when we meet together as a church.

This song, written by Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend, is based on Psalm 62.  The psalm reminds us that refuge and safety are found in God.  When we trust in Jesus Christ, the saviour that God provides, we are able to find rest in God.  We are able to pour our hearts out to him, and trust in his power and his love.