What is Communion?

A comment over at A Bit of Smoke got me thinking about what communion is. The dictionary says that communion is:
  • the celebration of the Eucharist
  • a group of persons having a common religious faith
  • interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; intimate communication
I wonder if we religious types have bought into the first two and left out the last one? It reminds me of this verse in 1Corinthians 10:16
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (NKJV)
The Greek word translated “communion” in this verse is koinōnia. In other New Testament verses koinōnia is translated fellowship or sharing. I like those words but unfortunately, in religious circles today, the word fellowship is an overused word - the church I go to has it in it's name ... it has become a catch-all word for a religious group of people that get together. Because of this, and our discomfort with revealing our true selves, we have lost the meaning of what it means to commune or fellowship with another.

The essence of fellowship and communion is intimate communication where you bare the deepest part of your heart. This is the heart of prayer - communing with God in a way that bares our fears, our insecurities, our challenges, our questions and our deepest wounds to a loving Father. When we get to that place with the Father then we can begin to take steps to commune with each other.

In my last post I shared about the cost of friendship. In a sense communion is a somewhat scary part of intimate friendship. It is scary because we don't bare our hearts very often and have all sorts of anxieties around being transparent with another. We don't understand that to love and be loved requires risk. Sometimes people won't understand when we open our hearts to them - it may scare them because they will experience heart feelings that have been long suppressed.

Communion is what we were created for ... intimacy with God and with each other is what life is all about. We deceive ourselves when we acquiese to a superficial communion that demands nothing of our heart. We lull ourselves into a spiritual stupor when we think that communion is all about the bread and the wine and not about the sharing - the sharing of the life of Christ in each of us.

The Cost of Friendship

Missy said something that got me thinking this morning about what it is to have and to be a true friend. She said:
"I miss the pain of true friendship."
How many times I have run away when I hurt someone or they hurt me? Maybe the measure of friendship is how fast you come back to that friend when pain is inflicted or received. The scripture is not silent on this one. It says:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
This scripture says that one aspect of being faithful to a friend is to tell them something even though it hurts them. I guess the measure of a friend is how real you can be with them ... how deep you can go ... how honest you can be. This I think is the essence of fellowship and love ... but to be able to love like this takes much time and energy ... sometimes years of investment ... after all faithfulness is not something you do in a day.

I think that God values this kind of friendship more than we think He does. Jesus spoke these two things about how to be a close friend:
"Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (Matthew 18:15)
These verses tell us that we are without excuse ... whether we have hurt a friend or they have hurt us ... we are to go to them with reconciliation in our hearts. Maybe reconciliation is what it is all about ... maybe true friends are just people who passionately want to walk out genuine reconciliation ... even when it hurts.

Unity and Diversity

Matt, over at From the Morning, has a thoughtful conversation going about diversity and unity. Therese blew me away when she commented:
"What unified them and should unify us is worship, not fellowship."
I don't think that I have ever thought about fellowship in the light of diversity. We are all very different and it makes sense that our fellowship with each other will reflect that diversity. Conversely, we bring this diversity with us and somehow find unity when we worship.

It reminded me of a time four years ago during a Sunday morning worship service at church. Ann and I had been attending a few months and liked the church okay. Then, on that one Sunday morning, as I was pouring my heart out in worship ... my eyes closed ... His presence seemed so rich and present ... I opened my eyes and saw people all around me entered into worship. I am not sure that I can communicate how much I identified with those folks at that moment ... it was transcendent ... even though they were so different than me ... that identification in worship was so strong ... it changed me.

A strong message of the kingdom is that we are so different and yet so similar. We are diverse in ethnicity, in language, in intelligence, and in callings ... even our worship expressions are different. Yet, we are so similar. We all experience pain and joy. We all need friends. We all need encouragement. We all need to be loved. This is where worship can make a difference. Worship can unite diverse people because it gives us access into His presence. In His presence those things that separate us fall away and we experience unity.

Seeking the Kingdom

Pearlie asks "What is: The Kingdom of God"? I started to post a reply then decided to answer here instead.

I think that the Sermon on the Mount gives us a unique look at the kingdom through the heart of Jesus. In The Sermon Jesus presents a magnificent delineation of what the kingdom looks like and how it is contrasted to the worldly kingdom.

To seek the kingdom is not so much about finding something "out there" ... although that aspect certainly has its place in our salvation experience ... but to seek the kingdom is in a very real sense to connect with the Spirit within us.

My life began to change when I stopped seeking to bring God into my life but rather tried to let Him out of my life. The kingdom, in a sense, is all about that spiritual anointing that each of us has deep inside of us - 1John says it this way:
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:20-21)
This verse says that we already have what we need and don't need to go out and get it. In a sense the kingdom is all about what we have ... what He has given us ... and not what we don't have. In the gospel of John, Jesus puts it this way:
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"(John 7:38)
He says that it is not about water flowing into us but it is all about living water flowing from the deepest part of us. To first seek the kingdom we must learn how to connect with Christ in Us. Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes:
Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)
Paul says that this inner life of Christ in us is a glorious mystery that has been revealed to us His saints. The kingdom is also presented to us as a mystery. Seeking this mysterious kingdom is all about connecting with and seeking to live from that deep part of us. This is the heart of seeking first His kingdom and also seeking His will.

Feeling With Others

As I watched Justine Henin win the French Tennis Open this morning I was reminded of this scene last year when Andre Agassi retired at the US Open. The ovation for Andre lasted for about 8 minutes and was a moving experience. So, this morning I got a chance to rejoice with Justine.

This past week in my home group we had a chance to mourn with one of the guys who taught Sunday school to Kelsey Smith, the teenager who recently passed away. It was a heartfelt time of sharing anothers pain. These things reminded me of this verse in Romans 12:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
I think that we are a bit like Jesus when we allow ourselves to feel anothers pain or joy. Entering in can really be hard for some who 'don't wear their emotions on their sleeve' - I hate that saying because it marginalizes the very thing that we should do when we gather together. Christianity, in some sense, is all about sharing joys and sorrows. It is all about loving each other enough to be open to feeling with each other. Consider what the book of Hebrews says about Jesus:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
When we are happy or when we hurt Jesus feels with us ... often through the Holy Spirit in each other. It is high and noble calling to feel with each other ... it is the heart of love and compassion ... it is what the church and the world desperately needs.

In Case You Missed Them

For those of you who only troll this blogsite I thought that I'd highlight a few of my other blogs post that deal with faith - or at least religiousness:

Essentials talks about consciously know the difference between essential and nonessential criteria.

CNN Faith Forum excerpts from the faith dialog with some candidates.

Missional Communion looks at both of those words from a theologians perspective.

Poetry of the Soul

From Julie Unplugged:
Prayer is the poetry of the soul. Unnecessary and utterly important. It's like the vial of perfume wasted over Jesus' feet. Always a luxury, always an extravagance, always a waste. It changes nothing and everything at the same time. We can't help but long for, hope, wish ... pray.
You can read Julie's entire article here.

Dark Night of the Soul

This post is dedicated to anyone who is experiencing a really long season of difficulty - I am thinking about one blogger friend in particular. Here is an excerpt from Dark Night of the Soul written by Saint John of the Cross.

These souls turn back at such a time if there is none who understands them; they abandon the road or lose courage; or, at the least, they are hindered from going farther by the great trouble which they take in advancing along the road of meditation and reasoning. Thus they fatigue and overwork their nature, imagining that they are failing through negligence or sin. But this trouble that they are taking is quite useless, for God is now leading them by another road, which is that of contemplation, and is very different from the first; for the one is of meditation and reasoning, and the other belongs neither to imagination nor yet to reasoning.

It is well for those who find themselves in this condition to take comfort, to persevere in patience and to be in no wise afflicted. Let them trust in God, Who abandons not those that seek Him with a simple and right heart, and will not fail to give them what is needful for the road, until He bring them into the clear and pure light of love. This last He will give them by means of that other dark night, that of the spirit, if they merit His bringing them thereto.

The way in which they are to conduct themselves in this night of sense is to devote themselves not at all to reasoning and meditation, since this is not the time for it, but to allow the soul to remain in peace and quietness, although it may seem clear to them that they are doing nothing and are wasting their time, and although it may appear to them that it is because of their weakness that they have no desire in that state to think of anything. The truth is that they will be doing quite sufficient if they have patience and persevere in prayer without making any effort.

It is difficult to persevere in patience when we are disappointed, sad, depressed and hurt so much for so long. In times like these I take the advice of this song and press on in Jesus name. Sometimes I have to listen to it several times to really get the message.

Via Dolorosa

A bit of inspiration to start my Sunday. Hard to watch and not be moved.