April 5, 2017 – Sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ- 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 31-33

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The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. …

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 31-33 (NRSV)

There is a saying that you can please some of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time. What was true in the early church is still true today.  Jesus followers come from all kinds of backgrounds and traditions, and sometimes we allow the non-essential traditions to separate us.

Even though there are many different Christian traditions, in Christ we are still one body. That’s a hard truth for us to take sometimes.

In the apostle Paul’s day there were Jesus followers who came from the Jewish tradition and largely followed Jewish law. There were also Jesus followers who were Roman or Greek, who came from traditions that had pantheons of gods and had never heard of the Jewish law.  This made it awkward for believers to agree on how to live and worship and even on how to share meals.

While ecumenism is becoming more of a reality today, unity among Jesus followers is still a difficult goal even within Christian traditions.  Christian believers still disagree on which traditions are essential, which ones aren’t, and in how we were meant to interpret Scripture.

One big caution here is that unity cannot be brought about by compromising or watering down the Gospel, (which turns ecumenism into syncretism, which is NOT about Christian unity, but about legitimizing and combining any old philosophical system or so called religion and calling it “Christian”) so there must be absolutes.  The statements in the Apostle’s Creed are based upon Scripture, and those statements define the essentials of Christian belief.

The Body and Blood of Christ, given for us, as Jesus followers, makes us one. But how do we live out that unity even when there is so much we cannot agree upon?

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NRSV)

We as Christians have many traditions that bring depth and meaning to our worship and to our life in Christ. Yet which of our traditions bring glory to God in all things, and which of our traditions put unnecessary burdens upon other Jesus followers?  How do we maintain both our own identity and traditions as well as promote unity among believers at the same time?

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March 27, 2017- Covered by the Blood- Ephesians 2:13-16

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But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.  Ephesians 2:13-16 (NRSV)

The idea of blood sacrifice is rather noxious and offensive to modern sensibilities.  We shy away from any notion that our meat comes from a slaughterhouse or even the realization that a living creature has to die so we can have leather shoes, or steaks, or fish.  Not that we should all become vegan (though some are called to do so) but we should be aware that everything has a cost, and that we are to be good stewards of God’s creation.

Last night one of my dogs had a run-in with a raccoon.  Raccoons can inflict serious damage on dogs (and the dog involved did incur a few minor scrapes and scratches) but in the end, the 20# raccoon didn’t make it in a fight with an 80# Catahoula Leopard Dog.  This particular dog breed is used in Texas and Louisiana as a “hog dog”- meaning they are bred to track down and flush out wild boar.  Some hunters also use them to flush out raccoons, (as well as for protection and tracking) as these dogs are agile and can climb trees.

It’s not a pleasant sight to encounter a bloody creature that was alive just minutes before- and that died in the jaws of an otherwise friendly family dog.  It’s not a thrilling activity to clean all the blood and gore off of the friendly family dog either.

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Blood sacrifice- or killing in general- is not pretty.  It is gory.  It has a smell.  It is costly.  It is painful to watch.

Yet our salvation was bought with the costliest sacrifice of all- not the blood of a woodland creature who wandered too close to a house in the city, but the blood of the Lord of Life Himself.

It is easy for us to look at each other with skepticism and derision- or even outright hate- and we would be hypocrites if we claim that we always love our fellow human beings with the sacrificial love of Christ.  It’s NOT easy to see others with the eyes of Jesus, especially when they are not treating us the way we should be treated.  It is almost impossible for mere humans to love people who have done unspeakably vile and horrible things.

Yet being covered by the blood of Jesus came at an immeasurable cost.  He didn’t look at how lovable or how good we might be, or at how terrible and evil we might be.  He simply laid down His life to save ours.  He covered us in His blood, so that our sin and shame and failure would no longer be visible to God.

He has made forgiveness and renewal and eternal life possible where it was once impossible. All because we are covered by His blood.