Sunday, February 22, 2009

What is the Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

1st in the series:
Putting the Pieces Together: a Journey toward mature discipleship*


In 1950, Bob Pierce founded what has become World Vision, the world’s largest Christian relief and development agency. Today that organization serves more than fifty million people a year in 103 countries. Bob Pierce was passionate for Jesus and for stamping out hunger and disease. His friends said, "He is restless to win souls." "I have never met a person with greater compassion." "He is a true Christian Samaritan who literally laid down his life for the needy ‘little’ people of the world." Bob’s passion led him around the world, marked by his desire to meet spiritual and physical needs wherever he saw them.

Bob was a picture of mature Christianity, but the tragic reality is that his work was done at the expense of his family. A family friend said of Bob’s wife, "she knew a deprivation of a different kind than those to whom her husband was ministering." Bob Pierce’s marriage was so strained and unhealthy, that at one point, years passed when they didn’t even speak. Bob’s children were disillusioned with God and the abandonment by their dad. Although God gave the family one night of reconciliation before Bob’s death, he spent most of the last years of us his life alienated from his entire family.

How can it be that someone so faithful in serving God and admired by so many for his deep spiritual maturity could be missing out on the joy of healthy, loving relationships with those closest to him? To bring the question closer to home, how can so many passionate followers of Jesus have broken, unhealthy, failed relationships with friends and family? Why is the divorce rate among born again Christians is equal to (or as one research group suggests) higher than those who aren’t Christians? Why do 7 of 10 of lay leaders in the American Church admitted to visiting adult Web sites at least once a week? Why do so many followers of Jesus have a hard time saying "NO"? Why don’t Christians deal with conflict any better than our non-Christian co-workers?

Pastor Peter Scazerro answers these questions in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church. The heart of the problem is that many Christians have separated the issues of emotional health and spiritual maturity. This book shows that the two cannot be separated. Family problems like Bob Pierce and our high divorce rate stem from a faulty model of Christian discipleship.

He writes, "It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature." Emotional Health is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to Christian discipleship. Many of us pray, read the Bible, teach classes, participate in a cell group, serve those in need, and much more, but are not fully mature in Christ because they have never dealt with the issue of becoming emotionally healthy. How can someone be:

  • Dynamic speaker: unloving parent/spouse;
  • Board member: unteachable, insecure, defensive;
  • Memorize entire books of the Bible: unaware of depression & anger;
  • Pray and fast: still critical of others, justifying it as discernment;
  • Lead 100s: driven by a need to compensate for nagging sense of failure;
  • Pray for deliverance: from demonic realm, really just avoiding conflict.
  • Outwardly cooperative @ church: unconsciously undercutting supervisor (passive-aggressive)

A healthy discipleship model must include emotional growth as well as spiritual growth. This book on emotional health is providing the roadmap for our next 6 weeks of exploring what it means to put all the pieces together as followers of Jesus Christ. We’ll dig into God’s Word and invite the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out.

Why would we dedicate 7 weeks to a study of emotional health? First of all, because we are more than simple spiritual beings. We are also physical, social, intellectual, and emotional beings. One thing that affirms our humanity is our ability to feel emotions. Perhaps the songs we sang this morning even evoked an emotional response in you, and that’s not unintentional. We recognize that worship music ministers not only to us spiritually, but also emotionally. God created us to be emotional beings. We can try to suppress our emotions, but that ends disastrously; the sooner we accept that we are emotional beings, the better off we’ll be.

Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality; listening to our
emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God. Emotions are
the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice.
However, we often turn a deaf ear through emotional denial, distortion, or
disengagement. We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous
control of our inner world. We are frightened and ashamed of what leaks into our
consciousness. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and
lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. (The Cry of the Soul, Dan B. Allender
and Tremper Longman)

I have talked a lot about discipleship and transformation, about growing more and more like Jesus. It can be easy to spiritualize Jesus, to think of him as aloof, not feeling the deep emotions that we feel. Last week Chad really brought home the truth: that Jesus was fully human. And being fully human, Jesus felt emotions, too!

  • Jesus shed tears (Luke 19:41; John 11:35)
  • Jesus was filled with joy (Luke 10:21)
  • Jesus was grieved (Luke 14:34)
  • Jesus was angry (Mark 3:5)
  • Jesus was overcome by sadness (Matthew 26:37)
  • Jesus felt sorrow (Luke 7:13)
  • Jesus showed astonishment and wonder (Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9)
  • Jesus felt distress (Mark 3:5; Luke 12:50)

If we are created in the image of God, and God in the flesh experienced all of these emotions, then it must be okay for us to be emotional beings as well!

Furthermore, our emotions are the language of our souls. They can "explain" how we’re really feeling and what’s really happening to us and within us. Quite frankly, we have often allowed our external behavior to remain unconnected to our inner worlds. Though most of us would never act out on what’s going on inside (never road rage or shake a baby), often there’s a disconnect between the two, and it takes a lot of work not to act out on what’s inside. Friends, when we put on a good face and simply behave ourselves when there’s something else going on inside, we’re playacting. The word the Bible uses for this kind of playacting is "hypocrite." I’m not suggesting that we begin acting out on every sinful desire that’s in our hearts; I am suggesting that we need some emotional healing if we want true wholeness. In Luke 8, Jesus encounters a suffering woman; for twelve years she has been bleeding. Believing that Jesus had power to heal her, she touched his robe and was immediately healed. Jesus confronted her, and she told him why she had done that. When she told him, he responded this way: Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!

Notice that there were two separate healings: she was immediately healed of her bleeding just by touching Jesus. But she wasn’t fully whole yet. Why not? She had suffered through twelve years of being ostracized. Every day for 12 years she was reminded that she wasn’t part of society. When Jesus pronounced that blessing upon her, he was doing more than just physically healing her; scripture says she had already been healed before he blessed her. But now she is whole. I believe that our emotional health is part of this wholeness that Jesus wants for us.

The second reason we’re looking at emotional health is because loving well requires emotional health. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he responded in Matthew 22:37-40 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. If I’ve got lots of emotional baggage, it’s hard (or impossible) to love God, myself, and others.

It can be hard to love yourself; I know this full well. I tend toward being a perfectionist, always aware of how short I’ve fallen. Some of us hear Jesus’ words of self-denial and sacrificial love and have a hard time loving ourselves without feeling guilty. It can be easy to feel guilty about saying "no" when someone asks you to do something. I wonder if our lack of boundaries or self-care is linked to our inability to love ourselves. I’m not talking about being narcissistic or self-centered, but we can’t love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. And God made us in His image, so we are worthy of love.

For some, our greatest challenge is to love others. We’ve been betrayed, abandoned, neglected, or wounded in so many ways that loving others seems too risky. So, we don’t let other people get to know us too closely, or we put up walls when someone offers constructive criticism, or we find ourselves criticizing when we really want to encourage, but we don’t understand why.

So often when people talk about relational problems or complex emotions, our "Christian" response is something like, "Let’s pray about it." And then we wait for God to wave a magic wand. The reality is that many of us should be in counseling of some kind to unearth the deeper emotional issues that are sabotaging our efforts to love God, ourselves, and others. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to lead a life of love. And if we want to love well, we need to become healthier emotionally.

Why don’t more Christians pursue greater emotional health? Quite honestly, we’re afraid to. Afraid of what we might discover about ourselves. Afraid of the pain. Afraid of being rejected by God or others if they knew the real me. Afraid God can’t or won’t really help us. Afraid that others will think we are unspiritual. Afraid that we will get depressed. Afraid of feeling powerless or vulnerable. But the truth is this: Fear cannot control Jesus’ Followers.

God’s position on allowing fear to control our lives is pretty straight-forward. He’s against it; it’s all about the power of His love. 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Because of God’s love, we can courageously face the darkest parts of ourselves and be transformed from the inside out. Next week, we are going to pick up this theme again and talk about how God’s grace allows us to search deep within without any fear.

The final reason we’re talking about emotional health is that emotionally healthy people make better salt and light. It seems like there’s a serious shortage of emotionally healthy people in our world today. Most of us don’t have to look any farther than the mirror, but we can see it in others, too. When we meet an emotionally healthy person, we take notice. We don’t often find a supervisor or coworker willing to admit mistakes and humbly seek help from others. It’s unusual to see someone with an addictive personality who understands the roots of their behavior. We’re immediately intrigued by the married couple who seems to display deep love, respect, and intimacy in their relationship. We are surprised when we meet someone who lost a loved one to cancer and isn’t bitter or depressed. These are the kind of qualities we see in emotionally healthy people.

As we become more emotionally healthy, our influence as salt and light flows naturally from us. There’s no greater evangelism method than the power of a changed life. Maybe you’ve been praying for your spouse or grown child to be saved for years, but to no avail. I wonder what kind of impact it would have on them if they saw full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, the Fruit of the Spirit. How would they react if they saw you get control of your temper, tame your tongue, or say "no" to activities because you discovered the gift of limits? Transformation of our emotional health has a huge impact because the changes sink deep into who we are.

If we want to go to the next level as a church, we will have to each go to the next level in our emotional health. Who wants to go to the next level in our relationship with God? In your marriage? Your career? Your influence in others’ lives? Your ability to excel in school or sports? In the weeks ahead, we will explore the connections between emotional and spiritual health in six key areas that will help us all go to the next level in many areas of our lives.

  1. Looking beneath the surface
  2. Breaking the power of the past
  3. Living in brokenness and vulnerability
  4. Receiving the gift of limits
  5. Embracing grief and loss
  6. Following Jesus’ example of loving well

There is a list of resources in your bulletin this morning; please make use of this list to help you. There isn’t any reason why we should remain emotionally unhealthy when we have the resources to grow. My prayer for the weeks ahead is that we will open ourselves up to loving, healing, transforming power of God’s Spirit in our lives, and that we will never be the same.

NOTES:

1. This message series is being done in conjunction with Rev. Ryan Bash, Rev. Blaine Keene, Rev. Becky Piatt, and Rev. Rob Turner

2. Quotes are from "The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives" by Peter L. Scazzero, Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2003.

*this message, along with others in this series, has been adapted from Peter Scazzero's book The Emotionally Healthy Church.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Runt or Mighty Warrior?

I’ve been giving a lot of attention to our UMC mission statement: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, because it is important. It is important to remember that transformation is what God’s all about.

I want you to think about yourself for a moment. Could God use you for transformation? If you’re like me, you can probably find lots of excuses as to why God wouldn’t or couldn’t use you for radical transformation.

This morning, we’re going to look at a nobody. But first, some background. It was the days of the judges who led Israel. But Israel had stopped obeying God, and the Midianites had overrun Israel, so badly that the Israelites were hiding in caves in the mountains. Whenever they planted crops, the Midianites would invade, ruining the crops and fields. Finally Israel cried out to the Lord for help.

Judges 6:11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

This underscores how bad off Israel was. Normally they would thresh wheat in a large area so the chaff would blow away. But because of the Midianite oppression, they even had to hide to thresh their wheat, lest the Midianites find them. That’s where we find Gideon.

Judges 6:12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior."

Now, threshing wheat in a winepress is an interesting place to find a mighty warrior.

Judges 6:13 "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."

This is a typical response: not accepting any national responsibility for the calamity, which scripture attributes to the Israelites doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. Instead of accepting any responsibility, Gideon bemoans his perception that God has abandoned them.

I want to take a moment to discuss why bad things happen to good people. First of all, we have to understand that there are two distinct kind of bad things: natural evil and moral evil.

Natural evil is suffering that comes from natural causes, like diseases, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and so forth. Especially when we are dealing with natural evil, we have to remember that sometimes life just happens. Not everything happens for a reason. Some bad things just happen. Remember that at the fall, not only did things go wrong for Adam and Eve, but for the whole world. We are now in the grip of the law of entropy: things fall apart as they get old. In Romans 8, Paul writes about his hope that the creation itself will be liberated to its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:21-22).

We are fallen creatures prone to self-sufficiency, and our deepest need is to recognize our need for God’s grace. Given this need, perhaps the existence of bad things can be helpful; we thus see that we can’t rely upon ourselves. This is not to insinuate that God causes evil just so we know we need him. But when evil happens, it points us toward a God who is intimately involved and cares deeply about our suffering. Proof of God’s love for us is that He bore our sorrows – He became human in the person of Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross provides encouragement for us in times of suffering.

Moral evil is evil caused by some moral agent (i.e., human cruelty, injustice, or oppression).

There are two types of moral evil: active, which is sinful behaviors, and passive, which is suffering resulting from active moral evil. Moral evil says that Sometimes things happen as direct consequences of our actions. We have the freedom to make our own choices, and sometimes we make bad choices. And those bad choices have consequences not only for us, but for our children and our grandchildren. I’ll be getting to that more in our next series when we being working to put the pieces of the puzzle together and become a more emotionally healthy church.

The freedom we have to make bad choices is absolutely necessary for us to be able to freely make good choices. For to love God is to choose to love God; we cannot truly love Him if we cannot choose not to love Him.

The Israelites were reaping the consequences for their bad choices, but they were also reaping the consequences of previous generations’ choices; it went all the way back to Abraham, as his attempt to make his own progeny backfired not only on him, but also on his descendants. The Israelites descended from Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, while the Midianites descended from Abraham and his second wife, Keturah, and their son Midian.

Now, back to Gideon. Before I bash him, I don’t blame anyone for asking the "why do bad things happen" question. It is a fundamental question that needs to be solved for Christian belief to make sense.

Instead of answering Gideon’s question, the Lord gives him an instruction:
Judges 6:14: The Lord turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?"

This is hugely significant. Instead of answering Gideon’s objection regarding the problem of evil, God tells him, "You are part of the solution to the problem of evil." I believe that God is saying the same thing to each one of us right now and to all of us as His Church. Do you see something that isn’t right? Do you see suffering, oppression, and injustice? If so, God is calling you to do something about it.

Judges 6:15"But Lord," Gideon asked, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manassah, and I am the least in my family."

Gideon says, I’m the runt of my family, which is the weakest clan in the smallest tribe of Israel. I can’t save Israel! I can barely tie my own shoes! We use this kind of excuse a lot. I could never do ____ because ____. All you’re doing when you do that is saying, I doubt that God is really powerful. Do you remember learning the song "Jesus Loves Me" as a child? We sing that "Little ones to Him belong/They are weak, but He is strong." It may be a simple song, but it’s true. Reminding God of our limitations implies that God doesn’t know all about us or that he has made a mistake in evaluating us.

Judges 6:16 The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

Here is a word from God that we can hold on to, no matter how tough things seem. God told Gideon, "I’m calling you, I’m commissioning you, I’m sending you, and I’ll be with you." It reminds me of a couple of other scriptures: When Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, there was a huge crisis involving a golden calf and a plague. Moses went to the tent of meeting and begged God. Exodus 33:12:"You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me,’

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Exodus 33:13-14

God promised that he would go with them. Much later, God came to earth in human form, in the Person of Jesus Christ. What were his last words to his disciples, as recorded by Matthew? "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b)

This is the promise that God makes to each of us. It’s a promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. But God has a sense of humor in all of it as well. Remember how I said that God sometimes uses natural evils to remind us of how much we need him? Well, He also uses miracles for the same purpose. After he told Gideon that he would go with him and complete his purpose, Gideon got the fighting men together. And here is God’s response:

Judges 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’"

He ends up winnowing the number of fighting men down to 300, and utterly routes the Midianites.

This is the way God works if we let him. He comes to us, even in the midst of all of our troubles and difficulties. He announces a new identity for us, an identity that is rooted in Him, an identity that (Philippians 4:13) can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Then He goes with us and never leaves us.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Communion - More than Food

It’s easy to rush through Communion without giving much of a thought to what we are doing. For many of us, this has been a regular part of our church life for years, and because of that, it can be easy to forget how radical it really is.

Today I want to try to remind us what we are doing when we take Communion. We often look at when Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, which is logical, because it is when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Instead, today, we are going to look at John 6:25-69. This chapter starts with the remarkable account of Jesus feeding five thousand people with five small barley loaves and two small fish.

Then the disciples left and went across the lake, and Jesus met them halfway, walking on the water. If that’s not enough to freak you out, I don’t know what is. You see, Jesus is always blowing away preconceived notions and doing things that we would think are impossible.

The next day, the crowd has realized that only the boat full of disciples had left (without Jesus), but that somehow Jesus made it across the lake, and they took off across the lake to find him.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.


Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

This could be called “adventures in missing the point.” First Jesus calls them out for following him just for the free food. I find this extremely interesting; Jesus is saying that there’s something bigger than feeding the hungry!

The crowd was witness to something miraculous, but they didn’t acknowledge it. All they acknowledged was that their bellies were full. They quickly realized that if they just followed Jesus around, he would feed them. Sounds pretty good! But they didn’t evaluate what happened any further than their taste buds or their stomachs. In his commentary on John, Leon Morris says this: Faith that rests on miracles is not the highest kind of faith, but it is better than no faith at all. But these people were crass materialists. They had not reflected on the spiritual significance of the sign they had just seen.

I wonder how good we are at reflecting upon and evaluating what God does for us. I know too many people to whom God gives an abundance and instead of using it for God’s purposes, they hoard it, thinking, I might need this for a rainy day! So Jesus points out what is more important: food that endures to eternal life. And He Himself would give it.

Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."


This sounds really simple, doesn’t it? Just believe. You don’t have to do anything. But what is true belief? I submit that if you’re not willing to do something about your belief, it’s no belief at all. If believing in Jesus doesn’t transform you, then you don’t really believe in Him. If that belief isn’t bringing about the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control), then you don’t really believe.

This is borne out by the next question from the crowd: So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Don’t you love this? Jesus says, “You’re not interested in the miracle I did; you’re just interested in food.” So they say, “then show us a miracle!” Wow. Talk about missing the point completely! What do you think Jesus just did? He already did the miracle!

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

Still missing the point. Didn’t they just get what Jesus said? That he himself is the true bread of God? So Jesus goes ahead and tells them plainly.

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

That “I am” statement is important, because Jesus invokes God’s name there, saying not only is he the bread of life, but he is God. Period. The issue is that the crowds have seen him but they don’t believe.

God’s express intent is that everyone who looks to Jesus and believes in him shall have eternal life. Does that happen? Yes. Everyone who looks to Jesus and believes in him shall indeed have eternal life. That’s what everything is all about.

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

"Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Did you notice the defense that the Jews made? They pointed to their perception of Jesus. They “know” his mother and father. Or so they say. Did they really “know” Mary or Joseph? Did they ever ask, “Is there something, erm, different about Jesus?” This is something that drives me nuts; when someone comes in all riled up and they don’t have any evidence to back up their anger, so they claim inside information, even if it’s completely false.

We get to the heart of the matter here: did you notice in this passage that Jesus repeats himself a lot? Do you remember Rudy’s Hebrew lesson about the pit, the pit-pit, and the pit-pit-pit? That the emphasis is greater and deeper with repetition? Well, in this passage, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” three times. That means he really, really means it. If he means it that much, then there’s something to it. He’s saying that there is no life aside from him.

And did you notice that he says about giving his flesh for the life of the world? The Jews completely missed what he was saying there.

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Did you know that this teaching garnered Christianity the reputation of cannibalism during the Roman rule? But to a Jew of Jesus’ time, the meaning of these “eat and drink” sayings pointed toward a taking within one’s innermost being. In other words, Jesus is saying, “unless you take me into your innermost being, you have no life within you. If you take me into your innermost being, I will remain in you and you will have eternal life.” Do you get this? Jesus Christ himself is the only source of real life.

This is how Communion applies to us. When we take Communion, we’re not just doing a ritual to remember Jesus. We are reminded of what Jesus did, certainly, but Communion is more. Jesus says that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood, whoever takes Jesus into their innermost being, that person remains in Him and He in us. This isn’t just a temporary state, but a permanent one. This is what He wants from us.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?

What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe."

For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

The life of following Jesus Christ is not easy. Nobody ever said it was. But it is real life. It is life to the fullest. He asks you the same question today. Do you want to leave, too? Or do you know that Jesus is the one and only Holy One of God? Today as we celebrate Communion, we have a chance to take Jesus into our innermost being, to allow him to take control of who we are, and thus to allow him to transform us into who He wants us to be.