And it came about that when Christ had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

Luke 24: 30, 31

This is an amazing scene where Jesus has joined with His followers after they saw Him crucifiedand buried, and He has walked with a couple of them while teaching them. Now, Christ has joined them for an eveningmeal. Still they don’t realize who they are with. Although I don’t believe that anything actually happens to the bread or the wine that we use in our memorial celebrations of Jesus’ sacrificial offering of Himself, there should be something rather mystical about it. Whenever we participate in this event that many in the church call Communion, the Holy Spirit is present with and among us, and we should be taking the time and opening our hearts to reflect on who Christ is and on what He means to me at this time.

Like the bread and the wine, Christ sustains my body and He satisfies my thirst. He does this by providing the most basic of things that I need and by inviting me to join Him in the daily banquet feast of His Spirit. His Word shows me who He is and how that has been true from the beginning of time, and Christ shows me who I truly am and what that reality means. He opens my heart to the love that He has for me, and Christ breaks down my defenses and takes away my fears so that I can open my arms in love to embrace the people that are in my world. The Lord continually reminds me of the person that I have become due to the redemptive work of His grace and the transformativework of His Spirit. This new person is free to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin with all who would join in and worship the God who saves.

As I taste this simple bread and pour the contents of the cup into my mouth, there is truly something wonderful happening, for this is a time when Christ’s presence is profound. He is at the center of the room and in the depths of my heart. So, the Lord speaks the healing breath of His peace, joy, and understanding into me. Christ tells me to open my eyes and see, and He says to open my ears and hear; for, He is always with me to fill me with everything that I need and to sustain my soul throughout the day. Thus, with eyes open and Christ fully present with me, He leads forth into the day ahead, and I am strengthened and encouraged to seek out the Lord’s will and to confidently live it out. 

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

1 Corinthians 12: 24, 25

People tend to operate differently than does God. I know that this thought is probably not all that surprising to most of us, for if we have spent any amount of time in a relationship with God and have also traveled through life in human company, we have observed this fact in many ways as it has played out in others and in ourselves. We look toward honor or position achieved as a sign that we should give respect and even deference to a person. Thus, when someone has achieved success or has been granted authority or power, we will grant that individual even more of the same. Although we may grumble, complain, and even struggle against the rule of others, in the end, generally we want to let someone take the responsibility for leading so that we can place blame on them when things go poorly and we can benefit from what goes well. God does things in another way, and He desires to see His people live out our relationships in a manner that is similar to His approach to relating with us.

The Lord seeks to elevate the weak, the disenfranchised, and the outcasts of our world. He desires to bring people who are cast off to the fringes of society into close proximity and engagement with those who are at its center. In Christ, God has provided to the world the common ground upon which we can all stand in an ingathering of races, genders, cultures, and even of belief systems or faiths. Christ calls upon all of us to see more deeply so that we look through the exteriors of others and into their hearts and souls. I think that this is something that we do firstly with those who we should be closest to in the course of our days. That would be our families, neighbors, co-workers, and others who we engage in fellowship with on a regular basis. We can ask the Spirit to show us that deeper worth and greater value that resides within every person created by God in His image. We can begin to see the giftedness that flows out of Christ within each person that we encounter as we consider them from the perspective of our best understanding of how Jesus, Himself, would have viewed that beloved individual.

Seeing the people who are closest to us in the light of Christ’s presence in them and with their giftedness on view may sound like an easy thing to do, but it is much more challenging to live out than it might seem. People are all complex and relating to them is never simple. When we look more deeply into those inner places in a person’s life we are taken into the pain, fears, hopes, dreams, and aspirations that are a part of how we are all constructed by our Creator. Yet, these are the places where we need to go if we are to follow the Lord’s desired plan for the way that His body would exist and flourish in this world. As we care about and then for those who are closest to us, we are trained and empowered to do the same for people who are more distant from us. When the portion of the body of Christ that we are associated with in fellowship is healthy, nurturing, and all-embracing, we have a compelling story to tell and to demonstrate to others who do not know Christ, for it is in Christ that we have learned to truly love, and it is through Christ’s love that we have begun to live in a society that values all people equally and that seeks what is best for everyone without regard to relative strength or weakness or human perceived value and worth. 

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

Luke 1: 45

Mary believed what the angel told her. It might seem natural to say something along the lines of, “Certainly, of course. Why wouldn’t she accept and embrace this great thing that she was singularly selected to do?” Yet, think about this for a moment. How might any of us respond to being told that our world was about to be completely interrupted and turned upside down by an event of this magnitude? This might not be the sort of thing that would even seem plausible or possible to comprehend. Still, Mary’s acceptance and belief are portrayed as complete, absolute, and without hesitation or doubt. In looking at her story, it strikes me that this little line of scripture that is buried in the flow of the narrative is very significant to others of us, as well. Her faith in God’s goodness and love is so complete that she is ready in body, heart, and mind to follow the Lord’s leading and to serve His will with all of her being and in every aspect of her life.

The Lord makes promises to all people. He did not start or stop in this sort of engagement with us with Mary, with the Apostles, or at any other point in history. From the beginning of time until the very end of it, God is a covenant making and keeping being. His word is given with great care and consideration of the purpose behind the promise that is made, and He does not waiver of recant on follow through and completion of His word. Creation was promised that God would provide a Savior for us when we rebelled and grabbed ahold of death as our new destiny. Then, in due time, Mary gave birth to the One who is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus the Christ was miraculously born to this young woman, and our lives are redeemed from the state of separation from God and the living and eternal death that was the natural result of that estrangement. This is the greatest of all of God’s promises, and He has made it available to everyone who will respond to Christ’s appeal, “Come to me!”

There are many other ways that God has made promises to me and to others who follow Him. The Lord is generous beyond my ability to count or to measure; yet, I do not fully appreciate the breadth, depth, and scope of God’s commitment to me and to His kingdom on earth. Although I do not doubt God’s presence or the reality of what Christ means to and in my life, I admit that I do not think and act in a manner that fully and continually reflects a state of existence that is absolutely infused by the love, grace, mercy, justice, and righteousness that is the outworking of Christ’s presence in my life. I do not operate out of the simple, direct, and unwavering faith that are so apparent in this description of Mary’s response to the Lord. This lack of such a faith is something that demands repentance on my part and submission to Christ in any and all areas of my life where I continue to hold onto my flawed and much weaker form of control. So, I pray, “Lord, my faith is incomplete. I hold onto parts of my life when You have asked that I give it all to You. I repent of my sin, and seek to follow Your will and way in all that I think, say, and do. Lord, please grant to me the full and absolute faith that Mary knew. This is my prayer and my plea. Amen.”  

You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Deuteronomy 5: 32

 

There is an old popular usage expression “wandering eyes”. It almost never has anything to do with a person’s ability to direct the eyes by use of muscle control. It has everything to do with the orientation of the heart and the exercise of control over the mind. Although this expression mostly refers to men and to times when our interest in women heads off into the realm of sin, it can actually be applied to both men and women and it can relate to many situations and circumstances. Likewise, I am certain that Moses was not talking about political orientation in the text; yet, this concept applies completely to the way that we engage in our political systems and processes.

 

We humans are a wandering-eyed lot. We have a very hard time staying satisfied with where we are, with the path we are traveling along, and with the life that we are living. That isn’t all bad. In fact, I think that God has designed into us a certain amount of a restless spirit. It is this desire for something more that often prompts us to seek Christ. It is also a desire to bring Christ into more of our world that causes people to abandon comfort and safety in order to answer God’s call to service. So, there must be righteous wandering as well as the sinful form of the same.

 

I think that the context of Moses’ words is helpful. He was in the midst of a great journey. He was leading people in their answer to God’s calling for them. He was living out his own righteous mission. The spiritual risk that they encountered along the way came in many forms, but, whatever that form, it always involved turning away from the face of God and His proclaimed truth in order to pursue the world’s glittering image of security or pleasure. Here are a few facts about the journey that is this life. We all travel the road that lies before us. In Christ, He is the one who opens the map for our journey. God has established the truth of His holiness; so, He commands us to keep our eyes fixed upon and our hearts oriented toward Him. Christ’s glorious presence will lead His people through the land that is before us so that we can live well and prosper as we dwell in the center of God’s will.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1: 13, 14

 

Secret codes, signs, sayings, and even handshakes are fairly common in our world. Clubs, organizations, fraternal orders, and the military use them as a means of determining who has the right or the authorization to do certain things or to be in a specified place. People who know the code are granted admittance, and those who don’t are excluded, or in the case of soldiers in times of war, they might be shot on sight. In Christ and in our journey through life as His followers, we too have a form of secret code or identifier that indicates the fact that we are claimed and inhabited by God, Himself. This is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. This third yet equal person of God was given to His followers by Jesus the Christ as the close by and intimately indwelling presence of God who travels through life with us and who provides direct connection to the totality of God’s nature and character for each of us who know Christ.

 

We might think that the Spirit is an invisible expression of God and an unseen indicator of Christ’s presence within His people, and this is, in part, true. However, there is a form of visibility that goes far beyond what the eyes perceive as tangible flesh, and this is the realm wherein the Spirit dwells and by which He can be known and perceived by the entire world. The Spirit guides and directs us into knowing God by means of opening up the deep mysteries of His Word to us. This revealing comes about as we seek out God’s way in all matters of life and in each of the choices that we need to make throughout our days. The Lord’s ethical and moral guidance applies to each thought we have, every word that we speak, and to even the simplest of actions that we take in the course of those days. As we are in Christ, we are new beings, different in every way that matters from who we were before we surrendered our lives to His sovereign rule and entered into the loving grace that frees us from sin’s stranglehold on our hearts and minds.

 

Now, that freedom is the expression of the redemption from sin that Christ purchased for us with His blood and through the cross. We are granted the absolute right to live boldly and confidently in the secure knowledge that Christ will never abandon or disinherit us from that hope of eternity that is God’s promise to all who believe in Christ. The Spirit guards our hearts and protects our souls for that day of reunion with our Savior in heaven, and the Spirit also dwells within us so that we are living, breathing, flesh and blood examples of this great promised victory over death that Christ has won for us. As we live out the fullness of our promised hope in Christ, we bring the touch of God’s desired redemptive grace and love into the world around us. We can also demonstrate this eternal love by the way that we live out God’s mercy, justice, and peace in each and every interaction and aspect of our lives. For the way that we treat others and the selfless manner in which we conduct our own lives is one of the most tangible signs of that mysterious relationship with God that exists within us in Christ and through His Spirit’s presence.

 

I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.

Psalm 55: 8

 

The experience of a storm is something that is common to all people; however, there is a wide range of pleasure and discomfort in those experiences. In fact, each of us encounters times when the storm brings refreshing energy into our lives and others when it causes concern that can readily turn into panic. A lot of the difference is the result of how much we feel either in control or out of it and how much fear we have concerning the amount of damage that the storm might cause.

 

When we try to take on the swirling winds and the driving rain by ourselves, and the strength and the wisdom that we need to survive it all are coming from personal resources, there will always be a less than desirable result. We may make it through some days, and we may hold it all together for some period of time; but, in the end, the forces that are driving the winds will overcome us. Yet, there is a calm, safe, and available place to go where strength is more than restored and where the wisdom of eternity is provided to everyone who is humble enough to seek it.

 

The Lord does not tell us to stay safely inside our houses and to avoid those strong winds and the flying debris that are found out in our world. Rather, He wants us to find our footing, base our thinking, and plan the adventure that is daily life from the perspective of the calm of His word and with His Spirit to hold onto. The Lord is the refuge that we have to go into when life is too much to handle, and He is the One who will take us back out into the world’s tempest so that we can bring that settling grace that is found in Christ’s presence into it our world’s stormy nights.

 

Surly goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Ps 23:6

 

We already know that there will be trouble in our lives because of our desire to serve God. This is a fact of living in a world that sold out its birthright in order to go about living on its own. There is an antagonism that exists between people who know Christ and those who do not accept the deep and intimate relationship that He enters into with us. The fallen world does not get the desire to be so close to Christ, and in fact it hates it; more so, it hates the God that we serve. Yet, God promises us these simple truths from the Psalms.

 

I think that as we keep our eyes focused on Christ, we keep our hearts centered in His reality. Then the negative voices don’t seem so loud and clear to us, and we don’t allow them the same access to our minds. They can scream at us with all the angry vigor of before, but there is a greatly decreased impact. As we look upon God, He shows us the image of us that He sees; for, in and through Christ we are beautiful, capable, confident, loved and loving. We are now surrounded by His glory, and we are filled with His grace. The goodness and the mercy that are following us about are for our benefit, and these characteristics of God are also granted to us as our own so that we can bring them into our contact with the rest of humanity.

 

God takes us from our place as residents of the rubbish heap of ruin that sin has made out of creation, and He moves us to a place of honor at His side. Our new position in Christ creates a reality that makes the place where we are in our daily lives into God’s palace; thus, we are always living in the house of the Lord. We are continually seated at a banquet where the tables are filled to overflowing with Christ’s goodness, mercy, grace, peace, and love. So, we are equipped to be people who also grant the same blessings that we have received so abundantly and freely from Christ to the hungry, lonely, and desperately needy people of the world around us.