Saturday, February 16, 2008

L'Chaim -- To Life!

The last thing that Jesus gave us to remember Him by was that we are to have a glass of wine with friends to celebrate Him. Religion has managed to ritualize, mystify, and misapply this celebration of life that He died to give us.

We need to back up the bus a sec and think in Jesus terms and not religious gobbledy gook. Jesus came to bring an end of religion. Bruxy Cavey, “The End of Religion” is the inspiration for these thoughts on what Jesus came to do. Caution: don’t read his book if you’re happy with your weakly fix of religion. But if you do go out and buy his book remember that Bruxy thanks you for contributing to the Cavey family mortgage fund.

Bruxy retells the story of Jesus’ first miracle. You know the water into wine miracle. The hotly debated, “Was it fermented or just fantastic grape juice miracle.”

The key is understanding the significance of the pots of water that Jesus purposed to turn into wine.

John 2:6 (NIV) Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

The religious, constipated mindset of the day was all about not taking in or touching anything remotely sinful. But just in case you got contaminated it was necessary to ritually wash one’s hands with purifying water to ensure that nothing went into your mouth that might have been touched by some disgusting sinner.

Jesus took the purifying water that religion saw as keeping people and contamination out and turned it into a party with great friends. He took what was meant to be all about creating perfection and a means of measuring someone’s willingness to follow some religious rule and turned it into something that was to bring joy in relationships.

This was His first miracle and the last thing He pointed us to at the last supper to remember Him by. Coincidence? The first thing He did and the last thing He did. Sounds like a potential sermon that Jesus gave to us. The difference between Jesus and preachers is that He lived His words with friends instead of just speaking them from a pulpit to enchant a crowd.

How many communion services have you sat in that depicted the cup as a reminder of the joy of life and relationships that Jesus died to give us?

How many communion services have you sat in that felt smugly religious and ceremonial, centering on yourself, with no thought of Jesus' joy, no sense of celebration and no need for or connection to those around us?

How often is blood referred to as a sign of His death when in reality the Bible teaches that “life is in the blood”. Lev. 17:11.

The first tests a doctor will give you when checking your health is a battery of blood tests. Why? Because your blood reveals your state of health/life.

Jesus wasn’t instructing us to think about death and sin when we drink the cup but about our new life and restoration of relationships that He has imparted to us through his blood.

Jesus didn’t turn water into wine to wow the crowd. He turned water into wine to abolish religious observances and point us to the joy of relationships.

Communion isn’t a time of morbid reflection and introspection. It is a time of exuberant celebration of the life that we have in Jesus within His body.

The irony is in the fact that even though Jesus purposed to shatter the religious mindset of His day by turning ceremonial purifying water into delicious wine that was used to celebrate a marriage, the religious mindset of our day has handed Jesus' cup back to us in a nicely packaged religious ritual that focuses on me and my need to make sure I've confessed all of my sins. As if I need a ceremony to help me think of me, more!

What’s the first thing we are going to do when Jesus returns? Rev. 19:9 (NIV) Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

I have a hunch there’s gonna be some mighty fine wine at that wedding and we're going to raise a glass or two to toast the groom and His bride.

L'Chaim -- To Life!


Robin Cecile said...

After reading your blog today, I can't help but think of a couple of quotes from "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna.

"In the process of replacing the old religions, Christianity became a religion" - Alexander Schmemann.

"Christianity did not destroy Paganism, it adopted it" - Will Durant

Sad how we sit so comfortably numb in religion. What a glorious day it will be when He returns.

Leonard Terry said...

I was meditating on your former entry about interpreting the passage about "some are sickly and some have died" as not about God killing people but rather the natural consequences of not caring for the poor. It is interesting that you would almost exclusively interpret it in this way. I agree with you in most cases that judgment most often is manifests itself in very natural consequences. In the other cases I know that God does not "willingly afflict" people in some random, hateful way. But He will discipline even to the point of death in a very direct manner in cases such as He sees as meriting it. You cannot leave the scriptures like Ananias & Saphira or Paul's calling down blindness on Elymas and say that God never does such things. I believe both interpretations are consistent with the love and mercy of God. God can and does bring the discipline necessary to keep his sons and daughters from eternal destruction even if it is temporal destruction.... deliver such an one to satan that the body might be destroyed and the spirit saved was Paul's take on it. And that is biblical and I don't think is open to a more naturalistic interpretation.

However I want to point out one thing which I think you missed which I believe indicates a bit of a blind spot for you. The natural consequences of one group indulging themselves while neglecting a poorer group would potentially have a greater negative impact on the indulgent group. Far more people get sick and die from over indulgence than lack. In fact the choice of Daniel and his friends to live on the poorest of rations was no doubt met with health by God but also because it was a more healthy lifestyle. So the sick and dying of Corinthians may not have been just the poor..... it most likely was the indulgent.

David Grant said...

Hi Leonard,
Nice to hear from you. No question about your references regarding judgements from God. I simply don't see the need in this passage for that interpretation.

I have heard many people interpreting the passage as judgement from God and I don't understand why they wouldn't move towards the care of others.

No doubt the indulgent and/or careless face many consequences including loneliness as well.

You and I have been involved in lots of communion services where care for others was not at the forefront of those who were leading the service as well as those who were participating.

David Grant said...

A further thought on this regarding interpretative models. Even though I don't think judgement from God is the point Paul is making doesn't mean that people shouldn't be allowed to know that many people interpret it that way. I simply haven't heard many people interpreting the passage in the way that I do.

I'm glad you want to bring the whole counsel of God to me on this matter. I hope you do the same with those who exclusively teach this passage as, "God may kill you if you partake with known sin in your life."

I was surprised a while back when someone was expressing their lack of knowing whether the father unconditionally loved him. The person leading the group used this passage to make sure the person knew that God does kill people when they mess up with taking communion. I have no idea how that interpretation was going to bring comfort to this person's anxiousness about being loved by God.

The point Paul was making wasn't to emphasize the negative side of lack of love but that we should be using communion in the same way that Jesus did. A time of warmth, joy, and intimacy with friends.

Robin Cecile said...

Another thought on this issue.

From what I see the biggest problem with interpretation of
1 Cor 11:29,30 is the fact it is very awkward to literally translate these verses into English.

The NU-Text omits "in an unworthy manner", as well as the word "Lord's" from 1 Cor 11:29.

Viewed in light of this we read,

"For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the body.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" NKJV

Let's then carry on futher in context and read verse 33

"Therefore my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another"

Many "were weak and sick" because there was not due care and concern for the body.

Not waiting for their poor brethren was an unworthy act.

I think viewed in this light these verses clearly speak about the dire consequences of the body not caring for itself. Reading into it that they speak of God's discipline is reading into it something that just isn't there.

David Grant said...

Hi Robin, I'm glad you pointed us to the key for this passage.

Let's then carry on further in context and read verse 33

"Therefore my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another"

This verse also reveals that the Lord's supper as practiced in the early church was not a ceremony but a meal. When the church moved out of homes and into sacred buildings it became a ceremony with a master of ceremonies.

Today, many people would be uncomfortable and some would even think it sacrereligious to have a communion supper with friends in their home.

Nevertheless, what a great way to really get to know each other, find out each other's needs and minister to one another. This might be what Paul means by "wait for one another."

Many pastors would forbid this. A few would not speak against people doing it and I don't know any who encourage it.

This is quite a mouthful (no pun intended) and really helps us understand how religious organized church has become.

Robin Cecile said...

Hi David, You might be right in that Paul had a deeper message in "wait for one another". That would be in keeping with the spirit of what he said.

I think the real issue is what was happening with this fellowship meal.

In the first century, the Lord's Supper was a full meal.

In his book "Pauls Idea Of Community", Robert Banks points out that "The most visible and profound way in which the community gives physical expression to it's fellowship is the common meal."

The NT word for "supper" literally means a dinner, a meal. or a banquet. And the Greek word for "table" indicates a table in which a full, square meal is spread.

To continue with Robert Banks, "The word 'deipnon' (1 Cor 11:20), meaning 'dinner,' tells us that it was not a token meal (as it has become since) or part of a meal (as it is sometimes envisaged), but an entire ordinary meal. This meal is vital, for as the members of the community eat and drink together their unity comes to visible expression. The meal is therefore a truly social event...the meal that they shared together reminded the members of their relationship with Christ and one another and deepened those relationships in the same way that participation in an ordinary meal cements and symbolizes the bond between a family or group"

G.H Lang argues along the same lines in his book "The Churches Of God"

"This was known as the 'Agape' or feast of love, and though it had led to abuses at Corinth the apostle does not repudiate the practise, but regulates it's observance...It is healthful that this picture rises before the mind. An ordinary house the place; a customary meal the occasion; the Supper quietly and easily conjoined therewith. No ecclesiastical building, no priest or functionary, no altar or sacrifice, no vestments or ornaments, as lights, incense, crucifixes. no formality. The supper observed in simplicity; the home dignified thereby, the ordinary meal sanctified and solemnized"

In "The Untold Story Of The New Testament Church", Frank Viola sheds some light on the why of Pauls writing in this regard, the abuses that were taking place at the time.

"The slaves work late and cannot make the church meetings on time. The well-to-do are not waiting for them, but are eating the Lord's Supper ahead of their poor brethren. Still worse, the well-to-do are treating the Lord's Supper as if it were a private dinner party. They are gorging themselves on the food and getting drunk on the wine"

As well the cultural customs of the day were penetrating the practices of the fellowship.

"Corinth was a Roman colony so Roman customs were observed. The common banquet etiquette of the first century was to seperate those who ate by social class. The wealthy merchants were fed with one kind of food in the dining room....the left overs and less superior foods were given to the poor and slaves in the courtyard."

When we read Paul's letter in correct historical context, I think it's pretty obvious that he was speaking against and correcting the abuses that were taking place.
When the self-indulgent higher class did not "wait for one another" in spirit and in practise, many of the poorer bretheren suffered the natural consequences of this abuse. They quite literally were "weak and sick and dying"

"The Lord's supper is not a morbid reminder of Christ's sufferings. Nor is it an occaison where we mourn over our sins. No! The Supper is a cheerful reminder of who Jesus Christ is. The Lord's Supper, therefore, is a celebration. It is a happy conversational meal. It is a banquet of joy marked by sharing and thanksgiving." (Frank Viola, "Rethinking the Wineskin".