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Welcome One Another   Leave a comment

Being a parent is an amazing thing! Nothing I have ever done has given me more joy and rewards than being a parent. Do good to my children and you have my undying gratitude. Hurt one of my children and … mama grizzly. This is true even though they are now adults. My kids never really fought against one another. They were six years apart and a boy and a girl, so there just weren’t a lot of territorial issues. But I’ve observed friends’ kids who fight among themselves all the time. My cousins used to actually leave bruises on each other. I could never manage how I would feel if one of my kids hurt the other. Who would I be mama grizzly to? I suspect I would have taken Kiernan’s side because he was so much younger than his sister. How dare the big person pick on the little person.

Image result for image of christian fellowshipDid you know that God the Father feels the same way I do? He absolutely loves being a parent. He cares about each of His children in the deepest way imaginable. What grieves Him is when one of His children hurts another one of His children. Worse yet, He is deeply grieved when one of His children who has been given much dishonors one who has little.

God will not tolerate divisions and distinctions within His body—the church — because it is His body, the dwelling place of the Most High God and He is serious about defending it, even from itself. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul provided three exhortations for us to follow.

Include the Entire Body of Christ in Worship

Now in giving the following instruction I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For in the first placewhen you come together as a church I hear there are divisions among youand in part I believe it. For there must in fact be divisions among youso that those of you who are approved may be evident. Now when you come together at the same placeyou are not really eating the Lord’s Supper. For when it is time to eateveryone proceeds with his own supperOne is hungry and another becomes drunk. Do you not have houses so that you can eat and drink? Or are you trying to show contempt for the church of God by shaming those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I will not praise you for this! 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Let’s remember, that Paul has just concluded his remarks on the role of women in the church with praised mixed with some correction. Now, he rebuked the church at Corinth for being divided. The conjunction “but” (or “now” in the NET translation) serves to contrast the worship events of 11:17-34 with 11:2-16. The equality the Corinthians were misusing in 11:2-16 was resolutely denied when it came to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This is confirmed by the use of the verb “praise.”7 In 11:2, Paul praised the Corinthians because they remembered him in everything and maintained the teachings he passed on to them, while in in 11:17 he did not praise them on account of their class divisions. Instead, he declared that they gathered together not for the better but for the worse.

Image result for image of the lord's supperThe verb translated here “come together” (sunercomai) is used five times in this passage (11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34). Elsewhere, the verb referred to either coming or going with one or more persons — basically to travel together with someone). Additionally, sunercomai is used in sexual contexts to describe coming together to unite in an intimate relationship. There’s some irony when Paul repeatedly described the Corinthians as coming together in one location, knowing full well that their eating was anything but “together” as a unified body. The ritual that was intended to celebrate the gospel and symbolically act out their oneness in Christ had become an occasion for splitting the church on the basis of status.

What were they doing that Paul disapproved of? Instead of treating one another with brotherly love and acting as the family of God, there are divisions among them. Some had more than enough to eat and drink at the Lord’s Supper while others got insufficient quantities. The “have-nots,” were humiliated by the actions of their counterparts. A situation like that in the Body of Christ deeply grieves God.

“Factions” or “divisions” can have a positive side. They serve to clarify whom God approves as faithful and who He doesn’t. God’s approval (dokimoi) contrasts with what Paul had written earlier about being disapproved (adokimos; 9:27) by God. Mature Christians will become evident in times of crisis.

The Lord’s Supper was usually part of a meal the early Christians shared together—the “love feast.” In Corinth, instead of sharing their food and drinks, each family was bringing its own and eating what it had brought. The result was that the rich had plenty but the poor had little and suffered embarrassment. Not exactly a picture of Christian love and unity. They were eating their own private meals rather than sharing a meal consecrated to the Lord. Worse, some with plenty of wine to drink were getting drunk and we all know how drunk people act.

Instead of partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the Corinthians devour their food while the poor go hungry. It’s not really the eating that is the issue, so much as the refusing to share food and drink. The grammar suggests that the “devouring” took place during the meal itself. The wealthy members of the Corinthian church were guilty of gluttony and drunkenness while the poor went without. This notion can also be supported from the customary practice at Greco-Roman banquets where wealthy hosts—those with homes large enough to host the communal meal—would have assigned the biggest and best portions of food to the more privileged.

Paul refused to tolerate what was socially acceptable in ancient Corinth. He felt grieved at the behavior of the church and the only appropriate response of the Corinthians was repentance. A meal designed to express unity was being abused in a way that highlighted  the disunity of this church. The cliquish behavior of the Corinthians reflected significant social and economic differences. What should have been an inclusive community meal had become an occasion for simultaneously private meals. This was an affront to Christ and His gospel.

Guess what? The 21st century churches are no more immune to divisions than Corinth was. Take a look around your congregation when you attend church. Does everybody pretty much look like you? Because of American zoning regulations, we often go to churches that are very homogenous. We all make about the same amount of money and often work in very similar industries. Because of our history of doing ethnic ministries as church starts, most congregations speak the same language and have a similar skin color. We struggle to reach out to those who are different from us. Maybe if we go to a “white” church, we feel guilty that there are only Caucasians in the congregation, but many ethnic congregations see absolutely nothing wrong with their ethnic insularity. Paul would have and I can assure you that God does.

Recapture the Significance of the Lord’s Supper

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to youthat the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said“This is my bodywhich is for youDo this in remembrance of me.” In the same wayhe also took the cup after suppersaying“This cup is the new covenant in my bloodDo thisevery time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cupyou proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul gave a brief theology of the Lord’s Supper, reminding the Corinthians and us to remember the Lord’s Supper symbolizes Christ’s self-sacrifice on behalf of His people. Twice, Paul urged the Corinthians to remember the death of Christ. By partaking of the bread and the cup, we remember that Jesus Christ took our hell that we might have His heaven. It is His “body on our behalf.” The Lord’s Supper is God’s way of getting us to keep the cross of Christ central in the life of the church. We use the Lord’s Supper to draw close to Jesus in gratitude for what He has done for the entire church through His cross. As we draw near to Him through His Supper, He will draw near to us.

Image result for image of a multicultural church

The new covenant represents God’s declaration of His devotion and commitment, even though the other covenant partner, His people, had not remained faithful. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember what Jesus has done for us in spite of ourselves. The proclamation of the Lord’s Supper is to show forth the Lord’s death until He comes. The Corinthians were to use the Lord’s Supper as an illustration of the death of Jesus and what it accomplished for their salvation and corporate fellowship. The Corinthians shouldn’t overindulge themselves, despise and shame others, or allow brothers and sisters to go hungry, for all those behaviors are selfish.

Judge Yourselves to Avoid God’s Judgment

For this reasonwhoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sickand quite a few are dead. But if we examined ourselveswe would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lordwe are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.  1 Corinthians 11:27

The opening word “therefore” (also seen in. 10:12; 11:33) indicates that Paul was resuming his main discussion from 11:22. He was drawing a conclusion from what he had said and giving an explanation to his teaching. Since the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of Christ’s death (11:23-26), eating and drinking “unworthily” is unconscionable. The word rendered “unworthy manner” is not an adjective describing the condition of the one partaking of communion, but an adverb, describing the manner in which one partakes of the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians themselves are not unworthy. They’re God’s children. The sin of the Corinthians was that they were observing the Lord Supper in a way that was unworthy of it.

Paul didn’t command the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether or not they are Christians, or even to see if they have sin in their lives, but to see if they are properly discerning the body of Christ. One who treats fellow believers poorly fails to discern that they are members of Christ’s church, His body. One may also fail to discern the significance of Christ’s death since by His death He created a people; and therefore one who mistreats fellow believers at the Lord’s Supper reveals that he or she has little understanding of why Christ died. If you are not in fellowship with another believer, you should strive to resolve the schism in your relationship before you partake of the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus told His disciples not to worship God until you have first reconciled with your brother. Fortunately, Paul provided a supplementary note … “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). It’s not always possible to attain this, but God’s goal is that there not be any outstanding balance in your fellowship bank account. Instead, we are to pursue peace.

It always amazes me that people still believe God doesn’t judge us and doesn’t want us to judge ourselves. What Bible are they reading? Not the same one I read. Here in 1 Corinthians the judgement is physical and progressive: weakness, sickness, death. The word “weak” refers to illness of any kind (depression, anxiety could be included) while the term “sick” refers to weakness and on-going poor health. The verb “sleep” refers to the death of a believer. Paul was dealing with illness as a physical divine judgment; but not all illness is a judgment. These verses apply only if and when the problems of weakness, sickness, and death are problems resulting from divine discipline because of unconfessed sin.

Paul clearly stated that the Corinthians would not be judged if they judge themselves. Our goal must be to judge the sin in our own lives before God must expose it. We must humble ourselves before we are humbled or humiliated. I don’t know about you, but I have enough issues in my life to keep me busy.

But we humans are so good at judging others. Some of us look down on people who listen to worldly music, watch R-rated movies, drink alcohol, dance, play cards, spend money on things we wouldn’t buy. The ability to see sin in others and ignore it in your own heart is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a Pharisee, and being a Pharisee is so easy. It’s great to make rules to guide our own behavior, but when we extend those rules to everyone around us, we’re in danger of becoming pharisaical.

The verbs “judged” and “disciplined” are both present tense verbs indicating on-going activity. This suggests that the goal of God’s discipline is remedial. It’s not a punishment. It’s meant for our good, not for a pound of flesh. God disciplines us because He is a loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-11) Who desperately wants our good.

Scripture speaks of three levels of God’s chastening, or discipline:

  • Internal Chastening. God deals with us in our hearts and nobody knows it is happening except us. If God is disciplining you at this moment, that is the best way to have your problem solved. If you and I can come to the place that God puts His finger on something, and we say, “Thank you, Lord, for loving me this much,” then we are judging yourself. If this level of discipline is not effective, God moves to…
  • External Chastening. The consequences of our sin become obvious because God’s discipline goes public. This is where Jonah ran from the Lord, and God chastened him. He was not weak or sick. He was swallowed by the fish. Had Jonah not surrendered to God’s will the second time, God had another plan. If this second level of discipline fails, God will up the ante.
  • Terminal Chastening. In this level, God calls the believer home prematurely.


Welcome One Another

So thenmy brothers and sisters, when you come together to eatwait for one another. If anyone is hungrylet him eat at homeso that when you assemble it does not lead to judgmentI will give directions about other matters when I come. 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

Instead of some gorging themselves while others go hungry, each should share what they have, and all should eat together. In this way the Corinthians would have reflected the unity of the body (“they judge rightly,” 11:29), and averted the judgment of God.

The phrase (ekdechomai) translated “wait for one another” really means something more like “welcome one another.” When used in relation to people, it usually means “to take or receive from another” or “to entertain”. And this makes logical sense. Taking your turn would not solve the problem in the Corinthian church of that poor being without food. The rich “waiting” for the poor to arrive and then partaking together will not remedy this difficulty. Paul was saying “care for one another by showing hospitality to one another! Receive each other as equal members of the body of Christ.” If the Corinthians are just there to indulge their appetites, Paul advised them to stay home. If the church’s gathering is to be meaningful it has to be an expression of real fellowship, which includes sharing.


Looking Forward to 2016   Leave a comment

So it’s January 1, 2016 and that seems like a good time to glance back at the past and forward to the future.

There were any number of topics I could have choose, but I decided to look at racism in the United States and something I learned this year.

Racism exists. Preference is a part of human nature that is actually a positive. It helps to keep us alive. We tend to not want to eat things that taste bad because that preference helps us to distinguish foods that are good to eat and those that are poisonous. Like so many positive human characteristics, our sin nature twists preference to something unhealthy and evil … racism. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we all have some racially based preferences.

A former Sunday School student of mine whose father is black and mother Korean married a Hmong woman and almost all of his male friends are black. He goes to a multicultural church (similar to the one where I was his Sunday School teacher). About two years ago, he invited a white church member to join the basketball team he plays on. After a few weeks, the friend had the bravery to jokingly call himself the “token white guy” on the team. Ken said the scales dropped from his eyes. “I’m a racist. I’m not an evil racist. I’m just exercising my preferences. I would never assault a white person because they were white. But I distinctly prefer black and Asian people over white people.” Ken has been trying to correct that imbalance in his life because he doesn’t like knowing that about himself, but he’s finding it difficult because he really does prefer black and Asian people over white people.

I am proud of my Native American roots, but I was raised to be equally proud of the rest of my heritage. I live in Alaska, a long way away from my mother’s tribe (some of them live in Canada, some in Ohio, some in Kansas, some in Michigan,  and the majority in Oklahoma). I go to Oklahoma occasionally to visit “cousins” (we share an ancestor and our grandmothers called each other “cousin” in truth. I’ve related here before my experiences before. In July I went to the Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow, which has Alaska Natives and First Nations folks. As my dark-brown hair has grayed, I’ve chosen to dye it a dark auburn that I find very attractive with my blue eyes, but when I went to join the activities at the Pow Wow, I quickly felt the temperature drop. “They” did not want me there. As an experiment, I went home and dyed my hair black and went back the next day. Oddly, I felt welcome. I didn’t share that on the blog because I wanted some time to process it and, frankly, I felt guilty for violating my principles to feel included.

The fact is … racism is still alive in the United States because it is alive in the human heart.

Let’s be honest, though, things are a whole lot better since the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve never known anyone my age who has ever been denied housing or a job because of their skin color. I experienced perceived racism in a shop in the southwest, but that may have been a misinterpretation on my part. I’ve experienced overt racism in a shop in Fairbanks and that was not a misinterpretation, but I want to look at that because I learned something about it this year.

JP Jones was a community icon in the Fairbanks black community. He owned a corner store, he was head of the NAACP, he did a lot of good in that community. The community has honored his memory by naming a community center after him. My interactions with him were few, but memorable.

The first time, I was a teenager walking to a friend’s house in cold weather. It’s not uncommon here for pedestrians to walk from store to store to warm up along the way. I ducked into Jones’ corner store and learned about racism. JP clearly didn’t like me; he wanted me out of his shop; he treated me very rudely. When I met him again a year or so later, he was claiming a fight at the high school had been racially motivated because one of the participants was black. As a witness, I knew better and I heard the racism in his whole speech.

JP was a racist, but I’ve realized something — he earned it. I don’t know anything about his life, but I know his accent was southern and I expect he had been treated badly by white shop owners when he was a high school student. Maybe if I’d been buying something he would have treated me better. And, although the fight at Lathrop was definitely not racially motivated, in 1978 racially-oriented fights were not uncommon in high schools across America. JP’s racism was natural, but it falsely colored his perception of the world. Had he been pleasant with me, I would have been his greatest supporter, but because he was rude, I never had much use for him later.

So, this year, Black Lives Matter has been a huge media circus and I’ve been dismissive of it. It smacks of racism just as much as Wounded Knee seemed a racist venture to my mother. It’s is motivated by an understandable anger at cops killing people who haven’t done anything worthy of the death penalty. But by focusing on black deaths, the whole movement reveals its underpinning as racist. Most people shot and killed by cops are white. Yes, compared to their percentage in the population, there is a slightly higher percentage of blacks in that total number, but it is extremely divisive focus on that when the real issue is that cops shooting civilians ought to be a rare occurrence and it’s not.

By saying Black Lives Matter … or Indian Lives Matter … or Chinese Lives Matter … those using that term are saying that Other Lives Don’t Matter.

So, I don’t do resolutions for New Years, but I do state my hopes for the new year. In 2016, I hope we have an honest conversation about the true role of race in America and that we acknowledge that there is no institutional racism left. Those barriers have been kicked down a long time ago. The barriers that persist are individual barriers —

  • What are you going to do with the education that the taxpayers have provided for you?
  • Are you sure that your anger at the light-skinned other is not coming from you rather than engendered by something “they” are doing?
  • Do you see yourself as human or as some subcategory of human who thinks your subcategory is more deserving than the other subcategories?

Resolve to be a human rather than a race hyphen human. If you do that, you may be extremely surprised at how much less racist the world becomes.

Posted January 1, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in racism

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