Archive for the category “Lord’s Supper”

The World in a Wafer

There comes a time, every week, when upon my tongue rests…
the throne of the Almighty and the wheat fields of Texas
the manger of Bethlehem and the warming rays of the sun
the flesh of the Passover lamb and raindrops from heaven
a John Deere tractor and the God who says I Am Who I Am.

That quarter-sized circle of bread seems but a trifling nibble of a meal, but our eyes deceive us for there is a whole world squeezed into this featherweight food.

The wafer is an amphitheater in which a million actors play their part to get this bread into your mouth. From the factory workers at John Deere plants, to the truck drivers who deliver the diesel, to the farmers who sow and harvest the wheat, to the companies that grind it into flour and bake it into wafers, to the delivery drivers who bring it from factory to church, to the guild who prepares the altar, to the pastors and priests who hold between thumb and forefinger this body of God—they, and countless more, all have roles in this amphitheater of bread.

The wafer is a globe in which all of creation, visible and invisible, things of heaven and things of earth, are in service to the God who feeds the hungry. Here is the surface of the earth broken by the plow, the soil that welcomes the seed into its dark womb. Here are the orbs of the sun whose warm rays massage life and growth into the kernel of grain. Here are the droplets of rain that moisten the soil, that slake the thirst of this seed’s tongue. Here are the nutrients in the soil that enrich its vitality. Here are the angels who watch over the farmers and drivers and factory workers and priests. Here are the saints above who pray for those still saints below. Hidden in this wafer is the globe of all creation working in concert to bring the bread of life into our dying bodies.

The wafer is a halo that encircles the brow of the infant cooing at Mary’s breast in the little town of Bethlehem. It is the wreath upon the head of the athlete whose feet ran the race of salvation that took him from Israel to Egypt to Galilee to cross the finish line in Jerusalem. It is the crown of thorns hammered into his skull by Romans as he was enthroned at Calvary as King of the Jews. The wafer is halo and wreath and crown upon our Brother and Friend whose body was broken so that he might piece back together the shards of our sin-shattered lives.

The world is in this wafer. It is the icon of creation, a window into the good gift of the Maker who fashioned heaven and earth for you. It is the icon of your neighbor, for as a thousand grains are ground and kneaded together into one loaf, so you and your neighbor are baked together into the loaf that is one Christ and one church. It is the icon of the new creation in Christ by whom you are refashioned into the image of God. It is the icon of grace, for in this bread is the body of the Savior who welcomes sinners to his table. It is the icon of the resurrection, for if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live into eternity, for this bread is the flesh of Christ for the life of the world.

As you swallow this wafer, you swallow the world. And your sin is swallowed up by the devouring love of the God who has made you his own, redeemed you, and will raise you up at the last day.

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christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Foot-Washing God

Since God is most high, He can only look down. Nothing is above Him; no one more exalted than He, so His eyes have no need to look up, only down. His eyes bend downward, earthward, to behold those who are in the depths, those such as you.

And what does God see when He looks down on you? He sees those who only want to look up, above themselves. However, the things above to which we look are not the things of God, but the things of this world. We look for money, power, honor, a life of whatever-makes-me-happy. We don’t look down at the depths of our own poverty, helplessness, dishonor, or the needs of our neighbors. We are like madmen who make believe they live on a mountaintop paradise while they drag their feet through a city slum. The reality of our selfishness and nothingness is too painful to confess, so we pretend we are someone we are not. And to give muscle to the lie, we keep our eyes pointed upward, away from whatever might remind us that dust we are and to dust we shall return.

Repent. If dust you are and to dust you shall return, then dust confess yourself to be. Drop the make-believe and confess reality. If you must be a madman, then be mad about man, mad about the pit we have dug and dropped ourselves into, mad about the city slum which we call our heart of hearts. Don’t look up; look down, for in looking down you are, ironically, like God, who has eyes only for the lowly.

In looking down you will not only see who you really are; you will also behold who God really is. For who He really is, is not the distant deity who merely gazes on us from above as we wallow in our pit. He is the God who joins us and who joins Himself to us. He not only has eyes for the lowly; but He also shares the flesh-and-blood of the lowly. The most high is incarnate as the most low.

Foot-WashingAnd He washes our feet. The fingers that crafted the universe scrub the scum from between man’s toes. The hands that brilliantly painted the cosmos wash feet painted with the filth of dirt and sweat. The One before whom all angels bow gets on His knees to labor as a servant.

And in so doing, He gives us a humble epiphany, a revelation of who He is. He is the God who makes His glory visible in lowliness and servitude. He is the God who is so poor that He must borrow a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. He is the God who slaves away at washing the disciples’ feet. He is the God who gives His cheek to the betraying lips of Judas, to the slapping hand of the high priest, and to the spit of the Sanhedrin. He is the God who gives His head to the thorns, His feet to the spikes, His side to the spear. He is the God who embraces rejection, shame, torture, and death—all for you.

And here is why: because that’s simply who God is. He is the God who is love and therefore loves you by giving to you. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; what He gives you is nothing less than Himself.

He not only washes your feet; He washes you clean, body and soul, through the holy bath in His name. He fills the font with water from His side and kneels there to wash the dirt and sweat of your sin. He not only gives His body to the executioners and His blood to the dust beneath Him; but He also gives His body into your mouth and His blood into the dust of your flesh. And thereby you are transformed, changed from a lowly son of the dust to an adopted son of God most high. Every natural food we take into our bodies is transformed into our bodies. Only the supper of our Lord is different, for this food transforms you into that which it is. You, the Church, are the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. When you consume the Son, you assume the Son’s rightful place on the Father’s heavenly throne.

Come and eat. Come and drink. Come to the lowly God who has joined you in your lowliness that He might exalt you in Himself to the place of the most high.

**This reflection appears in Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, which you can read more about below.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Hollywood, Nashville, and the Lord’s Supper

Jubelnde Konzertbesucher auf Rock-KonzertThis past fall, Willie Nelson’s hair braids were sold at auction for $37,000. A tissue into which Scarlett Johansson blew her nose on the Tonight Show fetched $5,300 on eBay. And X-rays of Marilyn Monroe’s chest—just the X-rays, mind you—once brought in a whopping $45,000. If you’re lucky enough to be the proud owner of any item once worn or used by a celebrity—and the more intimate the better—then you’re sitting on a mountain of cash. People crave this stuff; and they’re certainly willing to open wide their wallets to add it to their collection.

I don’t know about you, but I like to think that I’m above all that celebrity worship nonsense. But I like to deceive myself about a whole host of other things, too. My home is right outside San Antonio, TX, not far from the stomping grounds of George Strait. I guarantee you that if I ran into George and he invited me over for a BBQ at his place, then I’d be a name-dropping, Facebook-boasting, Twitter-bragging fool for the next three months. Everybody I know—and probably total strangers—would get to hear all about how George and I drank a cold Shiner Bock together late one evening on his back porch in the Texas Hill Country.

What is that magnetism that pulls us toward celebrities? Why do people stand in mile-long lines, worm their way into throngs of people, or pay big money simply for the chance to rub shoulders with the famous? No doubt the motivations vary from individual to individual, but I would suggest that at the core of these motivations is the desire for intimacy with one we deem greater than ourselves. Such closeness, such confidentiality, one might even say such communion with a person exalted by fame or fortune makes us feel better about ourselves. It’s like we share a little in what they have. While we’re with them, we’re more “them” than “us.” Our identity, however briefly, migrates into the sphere of their identity. I am no longer just Chad; I am a guest, one might even say, a friend at George Strait’s table.

The Good Picture Behind the Warped Image

Many of the basic human desires that God formed within us have, like bent arrows, gone in directions the Creator never intended them to go. Hunger becomes gluttony, thirst becomes drunkenness, love becomes lust, worship becomes idolatry. Nevertheless, if we look behind the warped image that man has revised we find the good that God has devised. And that good is indicative of the gifts God gives, the people He has made us to be, and the image in us He wants to restore.

In the case of celebrity worship, behind the almost idolatrous fascination that some fans have with a person of fame, we discover a desire that, in and of itself, is not sinful. It is the desire to connect with one who is greater than we are. We feel small but they make us feel big; we feel unimportant, but our connection with them makes us feel like we matter, we have purpose. To be singled out by them, to take a seat at their table, invests our lives with a sense of worth and transcendence.

That hunger to connect with one who is greater than we are will be satisfied only in the one who created that hunger within us in the first place. We may look for it in people of power or fame or fortune, but they will all fail us because, in truth, they are pilgrims traveling the same road we are. The stars of Hollywood and Nashville are searching for the same goal. Like we are, they too are restless until they rest in the one who finally and perfectly completes them.

A Down-Below-Divinity

The reason we so easily miss the God who is greater than we are is because that great God comes in such an unexpectedly tiny, humdrum package. We are staring up at the stars while the star is pointing down to the no-account town of Bethlehem, to a baby that looks like every other baby. We are looking up for a big and awesome God while the little and humble God is looking up as well—only He looking up at us from down below, wanting us to turn our eyes downward. None of us are really near-sighted or far-sighted, we are all up-sighted. Our eyes scan the heavens for the great one while we’re blind to the great one humbly hiding within arms reach.

But I’m not just talking about Christmas and how easy it is to miss God since He comes into our world as a baby. He remains in our world, He remains active in our lives, as a down-below-divinity. You won’t find Him in heaven’s version of Hollywood glitz and glamour. You won’t find Him riding in limos and hounded by paparazzi. If you’re searching for a God with razzle-dazzle, who’ll knock your socks off with His cool awesomeness, then you’re in for a lifetime of deceptive disappointments. In this world, God is hidden in His opposite. He is cloaked in the simple, the down-to-earth, the seemingly boring and unawesome stuff of this world.

The Old Rugged Table

One place we find not only God, but intimacy with this one greater than ourselves, is at a table. The thing is, the table is kind of like that manger in Bethlehem or the old rugged cross. To the eye, there’s nothing attractive or awe-inspiring about it. In fact, on the surface it’s downright disappointing. A little bread, a sip of wine. Why, even when you invite your friends over, you might have bread on the table and wine in glasses, but along with them you serve ribeyes and baked potatoes and steamed vegetables with pecan pie for dessert. Not God. The great and powerful king of all creation puts bread and wine on His table. That’s all you get.

No, that seems like it’s all you get, but it’s not. Like in that rough and simple manger lay God hidden as a common newborn; like on that bloody and gruesome cross hung God hidden as a common criminal; so in this inconspicuous and everyday meal is God hidden in common food. In that bread He has placed His Son, Jesus, so that when you eat that bread you take the body of Jesus into you. When you sip the wine, you take His blood into you. The Lord almighty is swaddled in bread and wine, the old rugged cross becomes a table. And here, while eating and drinking, you receive intimacy with God above and beyond anything imaginable. He and you merge as one. You take Him into you even as He takes you into Himself.

The Meal That Tells Me Who I Am

This is a closeness, a confidentiality, a communion that does infinitely more than a friendship with George Strait could do for me. It does more than make me feel better about myself. This meal of God, with God, consuming God, establishes my identity. Much as the act of marriage means that a man and woman are now one flesh, so this meal means that I am now one flesh with God. I am bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. My identity as Chad has been subsumed into His identity so that I can no longer understand myself except in connection with Him. I am a son of our Father. I am the brother of Jesus. I am part of the bride of Christ. And all these are not mere figures of speech but statements of reality. This is who I am, this is who you are, in God through Jesus Christ.

There’s no need to stand in mile-long lines, worm your way into throngs of people, or pay big money to achieve intimacy with one greater than you. Simply take and eat the body of Christ; take and drink the blood of Jesus. Here is the costliest treasure on earth given to you free of charge. It cost Jesus His life, but that life He gives to you gratis. And with that life, comes all that God is and all that you need.

Looking down at Jesus’ humble table, at His humdrum food, I see that as His guest I will be more than an admirer, closer than a friend. Since I will consume Him, it will be no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And that life in and of Christ gives me infinitely more than worth and transcendence; it gives me peace and wholeness and joy of such enduring quality that it spills over from this life into the life to come.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out my two books: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. They are both also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you!

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