10 May Breaking Bread
Breaking Bread – May 7th, 2017
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Familiar words…comforting words, but in many ways, they are completely unrelatable for me. I’m am neither a shepherd nor a sheep…I love the language, but I have to think hard on it if I am to hear it.
Bulletin insert – Take some time this week and rewrite the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is my:
- Commanding Officer
This passage was personal for the psalmist…make it personal for you as well. Hear the shepherd’s voice.
Easter needs to be personal as well…the truth of the resurrection coming to you and then moving through you. This is a season for discovering what Easter means – if death loses and life wins, what does it mean for our daily lives?
Just as Lent is a journey from life to death and from death to resurrection, Easter is a movement from resurrection to birth of the church at Pentecost. We begin to see this in today’s New Testament passage.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – for many, it’s the Bible of the business world. There are several helpful suggestions:
- Be Proactive
- Begin with End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win-Win
- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
- Continuous Improvement
- Sharpen the Saw
All of these are good thoughts for business and for life. It spawned a series of publications. The seven effective habits for children, family, the church, etc… Self-help is a 10 billion dollar industry in the United States (that’s billion with a “b”.)
“There’s gold in them thar hills,” and a lot of people are making a fortune. It’s important to improve one’s life, but the starting point isn’t in an ordinary book or a “Successories” poster championing teamwork while showing a crew team rowing their boats down a sunset reflecting stream.
As followers of Christ, we must always start outside of ourselves – looking to Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith. We acknowledge we cannot do it on our own and surrender to the open arms of our Heavenly Father. The church is in the “transformation” business.
It’s tempting to want to take a “paint by numbers” path…
One of the greatest dis-ease in the church is “use-to-itis” – we used to do this, we used to have that, we used to be… remember when… It’s important to remember, and that’s a gift from God…however, it can quickly metastasize into a debilitating condition…paralyzing a congregation – beholden to the past and catatonic to the future.
Symptoms (Illness) – if you treat these – you never get at the root cause of anything…
Effects (Cause) – if we stuck in the effect, we never see the cause
We want more people…everyone does…but that’s not the point, and it’s never been the point of the Biblical witness. Take a look at today’s passage – It’s a wonderful (and seemingly unrealistic) vision of a church growing leaps and bounds… “Let’s do that…” J
Pastor’s mailboxes are filled with mailers promising “you too can grow quickly” by following these “seven easy steps.” I normally recycle these “boiler plate” “one size fits all” solicitations.
The growth of the early church was an effect…it wasn’t a cause. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. It was the result of being faithful.
John Calvin talks about the marks of the true church, “The Word rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered.”
4 things. Just 4 things.
- Breaking of Bread
Aristotle believed humans were “political animals” because we are social creatures with the power of speech and moral reasoning. I am always careful about how I discuss politics from the pulpit. Some say the church should not be political and others wish I would speak more. To be human is to be political, and let us remember Jesus died a political death – sentenced to the cross by the Roman authorities.
This is a long lead in for me to make a political point. Washington is trying to do away with the Johnson Amendment – a little known law for many – prohibiting non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Many church leaders championed the new direction and claim it adds to religious freedom.
I don’t like it, and I think it will hurt the church’s witness in deep ways. Too many people already view the church as arm of this political party or that one…and the idea that a pastor should tell congregants how to vote is anathema to me.
God alone is Lord of the Conscience.
The church never multiplies by division.
Graduating seniors – Over half of these students don’t go back to church…. Why? What’s the answer? Many say they see the church as too judgmental…too political…too closed minded. Of course, the church needs to stand for something, but we will never be truly faithful when we reduce the “Good News of Jesus Christ” to self-help feel-goodery or a religious political action committee.
Breaking of Bread. (Communion)
I have one desire for our graduates as they move forward into an uncertain world (it’s the same thing I have for all of you.) When you think of First Presbyterian Church, I want you to remember, “I’m loved there.” They won’t always remember what they are taught, but they’ll remember they are loved. They’ll remember they are home.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil; for you are with me…you love me…you’ll lead me home.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.