Encouragement From The Word

Doggie Bags

Last Sunday, our Pastoral Intern preached a message about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in which she illustrated with the concept of taking home leftovers after a scrumptious meal at a restaurant.  I want to think about that idea with you for a moment.

If you, like most Christians around the world, celebrated the Lord’s Supper last Sunday, you probably received a wafer or a morsel of bread, and just enough wine or grape juice to wet your whistle.  It doesn’t seem like enough to require a doggie bag!

But when you feast upon God’s grace in this sensory manner, you are invited to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to be filled – not with bread and wine, but with the Holy Spirit.  In this way, you have ‘leftovers’ to last you through the week…leftovers that you can share.

One of the realities that many of us church leaders have been talking about for the past several years is now becoming a reality, thanks to the accelerated change caused by the pandemic:  we need to take the church out into the neighbourhood.

Because the church is people – followers of Jesus and their children, gathered – it is possible to take the church away from the building.  Not to say that gathering together for corporate worship and fellowship are not important (they very much are!), but God’s people need to start thinking beyond the four walls, taking God’s love and truth, God’s justice and righteousness, into our neighbourhoods.

What can this look like?

It can mean hosting a Bible study (what we call a LifeConnect Group) in your home, and inviting your neighbours to join in.  (This is nothing new, by the way; my grandmother hosted a neighbourhood Bible study in our home in the 1970s!)

It can mean inviting neighbours to share a meal with you, in which part of the conversation opens a door to talking about your faith.

It can mean reaching out to a neighbour who has experienced some sort of illness, loss or life crisis with kindly deeds done in Jesus’ name.

It can mean sharing information by text or email among your neighbours and friends who are still fearful of stepping out their front door, inviting them to a watch party for a Sunday worship broadcast.

The list could go on and on, but the point is that if an invitation to cross the threshold of the church building doesn’t work, you can take the church to the neighbourhood.

This becomes the ‘doggie bag’ that you take away from a worship gathering, whether it involves the Lord’s Supper or not, because we can ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit anytime…and that infilling can overflow, and splash onto the people with whom you interact day by day.

God knows the difference you will make.

If you’re not sure you can do this, rest assured that you can’t do it on your own.  So ask the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised at his ascension:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

An important weekend

This is an important weekend.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, yes.

It’s my wife’s birthday weekend, yes.  (Happy birthday, dear!)

But it’s also the weekend the church celebrates one of the most important, yet under-the-radar, events of the Christian year:  yesterday having been Ascension Day, this Sunday is the day when the church marks the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In many churches – including my own – it will get but a passing nod.  In many more churches it gets less than that.  But the celebration of the ascension of Jesus deserves our attention.  After all, as Tim Perry and Aaron Perry say in He Ascended Into Heaven (Paraclete, 2010), “Resurrection is the beginning of ascension; ascension is resurrection completed” (6), and, “The Ascension marks both the completion of the Son’s mission and the beginning of the mission of his followers – to bear witness to his triumph” (49).

Any doubt as to the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus was settled when he ascended into heaven.  And this, with the great commission, began the work of making disciples, baptizing and teaching.

So Ascension Sunday is a bit like Launch Day: it signifies a new beginning for the church, a new opportunity to commit to the work of making disciples.  If you haven’t been doing all you can to draw people to the Lord – thinking like a missionary, as I said last Sunday in my message – then consider this Sunday, Ascension Sunday, a chance for a fresh start.  And as Luke’s telling of the ascension hints, we don’t have to undertake that fresh start alone!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8, NLT).