Wake up to communion in the real world.

These past few weeks we have been reminded that the world has real evil in it.  The Tree of Life shooting and not a week later and the shooting in 1,000 Oaks California slap us in the face with the reality that this is one broken world we live in.  Add to this the daily reminders that we live in a world scarred by the terrible things people do and say to one another.  All of this brokenness and pain can to do something we wouldn’t normally expect – make us numb; is that ok? What are we supposed to feel? Are we supposed to take communion in the pew and ignore the pain and suffering that is banging on our church doors? Are we supposed to try and drown out the banging on the doors with praise and worship music - sing and fixing our thoughts on an escape from this world to heaven? What are we to do with our honest feelings of confusion, pain, anger and suffering?

There are 4 basic responses to the suffering around us, maybe you identify with 1 or more?  We can…

  1. Become complacent – There they go again. // No Hope // You’re becoming calloused.

  2. Become fearful – When is my number coming up // Anxiety // You’re bruised.

  3. Become vengeful – You’re taking it to them. Looking for pay back. //Hope is yourself // You’re raw.

  4. Cry out to God – You’re calling on God for help // Hope is in Him // You’re probably all the above.

 The wake up call this morning is to the pain and suffering around you – whether it’s in the war torn streets of Syria and Iraq or broken homes and families of our own neighborhoods. 

It’s way too easy to say it’s not my concern, grow accustomed to the suffering.  The thing is… we know it’s not right!  We can feel it.  Something within each of us knows this isn’t right.  I’m not living in the right world. 

Andrea Elizabeth in The Abnormal Rarity of Goodness writes, regarding falling into a type of thinking where we begin to see this world as all there is – the bad behavior somehow becomes acceptable – everyone is doing it.  She quotes a similar observation made by C.S. Lewis when he called them pockets of human society.  “Human society (as Lewis called it)… inside which minimum decency passes for heroic virtue and utter corruption for pardonable imperfection.”  It’s only when we get outside of the pocket and can see with perspective – we gain a wake up call – that life in the pocket may not be normal. 

Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in his Book Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be… writes about the Old Testament concept of Shalom – meaning the integrity and wholeness of life more than just peace (absence of conflict).  Shalom affects all areas of life and calls to mind God’s design in which all things work in harmony.  Because of the work of the Spirit in life and the fact that we are image bearers of God – we can sense things are not right.  It is an almost intuitive or instinctual feeling that makes some thing just not right in life.    

·       This isn’t what God had planned for mankind.  Jesus’ coming was all part of a plan to redeem mankind and bring us back home, back to God and back to wholeness.  Jesus came to heal what is broken in and around us.  Reconciliation with God is through His Son, Jesus.  Relationship is restored through faith and redemption’s powerful healing work begins in the individual life moving out from there to effect transformation in relationships and communities.

·       Shalom has been broken by the fall of mankind and sin.  Sin violently ruptures the sense of shalom around us.  Jesus came to give His life a ransom for many – in order to redeem people from their virtual enslavement to sin and it’s destructive affect. 

As Christians we need to do something with the sense things are not right or as they were intended to be.  We could withdraw and bury our heads in the sand; however, I believe God would have us do something entirely different.

First:  It hurts.  There is a pain that comes with the breaking of shalom at any level.  We have to live in the real world and acknowledge the pain; the pain around us and the pain in us.

Second:  Turn to God in your pain, anger and fear.  How?

The Bible gives us permission to call out to God in our pain and suffering.  The Old Testament has an entire book called Lamentations.  The lament is for grieving and mourning – what could have or should have been.

Where do you go with grief – you can hold it inside and it can eat you alive, steal your joy and even ruin your health.  The joy of the Lord is found in our expressing our faith (more than words and intellect) – walking in our faith, affirming what we believe (baptism, and communion today) and processing life together – we were never meant to be alone or carry burdens (Galatians 6) alone.

Psalms – written to express the thoughts of man to God.  Praise, celebration, worship and even lament.

 Psalm 10 – Structure of a lament carries more than just pain and suffering to God.  This gives us a good idea of how to structure our coming before God with our confusion, pain and suffering.  Read through Psalm 10 with this outline in mind.

·       Complaint vs. 1-2

·       Lamentation vs. 3-11

·       Call for vindication (imprecatory response) vs. 12-15

·       Vow of praise vs. 16-18

Today we affirmed our faith in Jesus Christ – His incredible work of redemption and reconciliation – done for us.  His actions move us toward the healing of shalom in our lives.  Like Job, we may not know why things happen to us and others – but that God is with us in the midst of our struggle – He sent His Son to rescue us from sin and all it’s affects.

It is with white knuckled faith we take hold of the elements of communion together and look forward to Jesus return. The communion elements of broken bread (symbolizing Christ’s broken body) and the juice (symbolizing Christ’s shed blood) serve to remind us of Jesus’ great atoning sacrifice for our sins. Communion can remind us that the great and sweeping work of redemption has begun in us and works its way out into the world from there - bringing shalom with it.

Yes, we can sit and wring our hands.  We can curse the darkness and with bitterness draw back from this world around us.  BUT – this world needs you.  This world needs Jesus and that’s who is living in and through you. 

Go and be Jesus to this broken world – bring shalom into your homes, schools, work places, markets, soccer fields and everywhere you go.

Vince Armfield