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Posts Tagged ‘communion’

Jo 17I wonder if you have ever been in some busy place at 11.00am on 11th November when that moment came for a minute’s silence to commemorate the ending of World War One and remember all those who gave their lives in what was to be the war to end all wars. That happened to me in a busy shopping centre on one occasion—and I can still remember what a sombre, moving experience it was.

Recently, I discovered some Armistice Day activities are held on the weekend prior to 11th November. Last Sunday week, soon after arriving to speak at a nearby church, I was warned that a brass band involved in a commemorative event would march past outside during the service.

‘You might need to be quiet when that happens,’ one helpful lady told me, ‘because no one will hear you anyway!’

As the service proceeded, I forgot about her warning. But midway through my message, just as I was about to share a key illustration, I heard music in the distance. It soon became louder, so I decided to encourage everyone to sit quietly and remember those who lost their lives in war.

As the music eventually grew softer again, a gentle and reverent hush enveloped us all. One or two of the older folk surreptitiously wiped their eyes—and I too felt moved, as I remembered those in my father’s generation who had fought in World War Two. I felt reluctant to break the silence but knew I needed to continue our service.

‘We are so blessed to live in Australia—so very blessed,’ I found myself saying then, to my surprise. ‘We need to be so grateful to those who fought on our behalf, don’t you think?’

Many present nodded in agreement—especially those who had come to our shores as migrants, some fleeing from war in their own countries. It was a sober moment, as they too remembered those there who had given their lives while trying to protect them.

I finished my message and went onto lead the congregation in a time of communion. Then it dawned on me how well our shared experience had prepared us for this moment. Through that music the band played, we had been reminded to be thankful for those who had given their lives for their country. Now here we were invited to remember the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf—the sacrifice of the Son of God himself.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

John puts it even more simply in his first letter:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16a

For those of us who take part in communion on a regular basis, its impact may well be lessened, unless we take care to stop and appreciate what it truly represents. That Sunday, I know that band was God’s gift to me, almost forcing me to remember not only the price paid to ensure my safety and freedom in this life but the enormous price paid by God to offer us all eternal freedom.

May we all remember well—and be so thankful.

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Jo 17A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a restful break away. I had plenty of opportunities to walk on the nearby beach and to explore further afield. But I also had time to indulge myself in a feast of reading. In the process, I discovered all over again how amazing it is to become so absorbed in a novel that the real world recedes and time seems to stand still.

First, I re-read a Maeve Binchy novel, Circle of Friends, and was soon immersed in the lives of Benny and Eve and those other interesting Irish characters from Knockglen, relishing their successes and grieving for them in their failures and disappointments. From there, I gravitated to another favourite author, Kate Morton. I had not read The Distant Hours and was delighted to find it in a second hand store for all of four dollars! This story transported me far away from my beachside surroundings and deep into the English countryside, leaving me to wander around creepy Milderhurst Castle, on edge as to what scary event would happen next.

It was a relief to leave this dark, foreboding environment and return to Ireland via another Maeve Binchy novel, Firefly Summer. I wandered beside that brook near Ryan’s pub, as the young people gathered to swim and jump off the bridge and grow up. I felt Kate’s pain and fear for her family and loathed the cad Kerry. It was another great read, although I was a tad annoyed to be left wondering what happened to some of those characters after the story ended. And it was a long time before I was able to return fully to the real world again.

In the midst of all this holiday reading, however, I did not forget the best book of all. I continued my current project of journeying through parts of the Gospels. What a privilege to sit and reflect on these events, as I gazed out at God’s creation of ocean and sky and clouds and listened to those waves crashing on the nearby beach! I was well and truly grounded in reality as I read. Yet I was also far away again, this time watching as Jesus walked on water, talked with Moses and Elijah, raised the dead, rode into Jerusalem and celebrated the Passover with his disciples.

How moving to stand in the midst of two large crowds converging on the road into Nain and hear Jesus say gently to the grieving widow, ‘Don’t cry!’—then to see her son sit up (Luke 7:11-17). How heartbreaking to hear another crowd shout ‘Hosanna!’ and to see them spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road as they welcomed Jesus (Matthew 21:1-11), yet to know they would shout ‘Crucify!’ not long after. How humbling to be at that Passover meal, to hear Judas ask, ‘Surely not I?’ and to witness Jesus, in return, talk of giving his body and blood for him—and for us all (Matthew 26:17-30).

Our imaginations are a wonderful, God-given gift, don’t you think? I love using mine not only to create stories of my own but also to enter into and fully appreciate those worlds others write about—especially the world of the Gospels. After all, that’s where I meet Jesus all over again, face to face.

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Now how could I as an author ever agree with that? Words are so important and …well, so necessary. Besides, a thousand words aren’t very many when all is said and done. Even ten thousand, which I’ve also heard used in this saying, would be only around a tenth of the number in one of my novels. No big deal.

Yet even I can’t deny a picture has the power to hold one spellbound in a moment. In fact, I experienced it myself only this past Sunday at our church. As I went to sit down and turn my mind to the service about to begin, I noticed a beautiful scene at the front of the chapel. It was very simple—but oh so powerful.

What I saw was a large, wooden cross, with one end of some heavy, deep red material draped around it and the rest left to flow down from the arms of the cross towards a wooden bench below. On the bench was a large, earthenware pot, glowing warmly in the sunlight that filtered down from a skylight above. But this pot was broken, with only half of it remaining upright on its base. The shattered pieces were still there, some half in place, others lying at crazy angles nearby. And behind one of these pieces, at the centre of that broken pot, I could see a lighted candle.

My gaze travelled down from the broken piece of pottery then to the communion table below. In the centre of the table was a shiny, silver goblet filled with red juice and beside it, a round loaf of bread.

No words were needed. Already, with Easter approaching, I had been feeling that familiar, gentle melancholy that seems to creep over me each time Good Friday approaches. Yes, the celebration of the resurrection would come, I knew—but until then, I wanted to remain in that place of remembering Jesus, the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

So I sat and reflected and became aware of great thankfulness rising up in me. Humbly, I identified with that broken pot at the base of the cross. Painfully, I remembered how Jesus’ blood flowed down from that cross straight into my heart, cleansing me and setting me free. And I rejoiced too that, like the candle flame flickering behind that shard of pottery, God’s Spirit is now alive in me, comforting, encouraging, illuminating my way.

We were invited to celebrate communion—to walk up to that table, tear off a piece of that perfect loaf and dip it in the goblet. I watched as, one by one, people came forward reverently, reached out and remembered yet again with gratitude that most amazing sacrifice of all. I soon joined them, Jesus’ own words ringing in my ears:

This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. …

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:19–20)

This Easter, may you too see the cross with fresh eyes and be amazed, humbled and renewed all over again. Yes, the picture I saw was worth a thousand words–more than a thousand words.

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