In Memory

During the summer, Ann and I took a walk along a footpath beside Boston Harbour. The views across the water towards the city were quite stunning as various craft weaved their way in and out of the islands. As we walked we noticed several benches had been installed with an inscription ‘In memory of….’ along with a person’s dates of birth and death. No doubt many people use those benches and enjoy the departed person’s favourite view without a moment’s thought for them. For family members, sitting on such a bench is altogether more poignant; perhaps they had walked together there, held hands, kissed, even argued! For them, sitting there is less about the view and more about their connection with a loved one.

Jesus gave his disciples an instruction about what to do in his memory: to share in the simple act of eating some bread and drinking some wine. In some ways this memorial seems as humble and mundane as a park bench, yet actually it is altogether more profound. What goes through your mind as you share communion? Are you like a stranger who barely notices the inscription on the bench; you simply park your bottom to rest your legs and survey the landscape? Or are you a family member who tastes the bittersweet blend of sadness and joy as you reflect on the death of Christ, ‘the friend who is closer than a brother’ (Proverbs 18:24)? Perhaps you experience sadness that your sin caused him such pain; joy that his pain has granted you pardon and forgiveness for all your sin.

In John 6:53-59 Jesus tells his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood long before his Last Supper with them. How strange these words must have seemed to them until after Jesus’ resurrection. It is far easier for us to fit those words together with the words Jesus then spoke in the upper room and thirdly the truth of his resurrection. In our churches we tend to emphasise the memorial component of the ‘breaking of bread’. If you read Jesus’ words in John 6 carefully, you will notice that Jesus links eating his flesh and drinking his blood as being fundamental to having life and to remaining in Christ. I believe that in these verses we are being invited to understand that what we call communion is not merely an act of remembrance but is part of God’s provision for us to draw closer to Jesus. If that is true then communion should be the highlight of our Christian walk, the climax of our worship and the place of deepest intimacy with our Saviour. Next time you have the opportunity to share communion, come with great expectancy to meet with Jesus.

This blog post featured in the October 2014 edition of Lifelines

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Indescribable

I wonder which is your favourite season of the year? I have been enjoying the warm sunny days this September as we have enjoyed an extended summer.  However winter is on the way and as I write I can see that the trees are just beginning to lose their green lustre as their leaves turn to yellow, orange and red. There are few sights as splendid as an English hillside covered in russet trees glowing in the fading warmth of the autumn sun.

Whenever I see a sight like this the words of the song “Indescribable,” composed by Chris Tomlin, come to mind which has a line that mentions the ’colours of fall’. The rest of the song attempts to capture other breathtakingly beautiful features of the natural world: massive mountain peaks, vast ocean seas, white glistening snow, distant burning stars, and the diversity of the animal kingdom. The climax of the song comes in the refrain where, having absorbed the magnificent splendour of the universe, we are drawn to worship God as creator. Having struggled to use poetry to express the beauty of creation, how much more difficult it is to accurately convey the majesty of God – hence the line ‘indescribable, uncontainable’.

In the book of Job we read how this powerful and wealthy man systematically loses everything, his children, his flocks, even his health until he is left destitute and alone. Even his friends prove fickle as they accuse him of sinning against God. Naturally Job wants answers, and he wants vindication and he cries out to God in his anguish.

God’s answer? To ask Job where he was when the world was being made.

In his response, God catalogues the wonders of creation. Gradually Job begins to comprehend the awesome, indescribable majesty of creator God and his own insignificance. Job recognises the futility of seeking explanation and instead responds in worship.

Living in the 21st century we know more about the mystery of the universe, and the natural world than at any earlier time in history. Yet if anything the wonders of creation seem more magnificent than ever. When you next look out and see breathtaking beauty in the natural world, allow yourself to gasp in wonder at the indescribable, uncontainable, awesome creator God who made it.

This blog post featured in the October 2014 edition of Hook Focus