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Communion Meditations (2020)



Originally scheduled for November 29

Sitting innocently in the middle of the letters of the New Testament is a tiny book named Philemon. The book was well known to the ancient church, which accepted it unquestioningly as being inspired Scripture. Athanasius, who is generally credited with having formalized the canon of Scripture, accepted it because it met one of his criteria: the book was useful in the pastoral work of the church. It was not until the 19th century that the canonicity of this book was challenged. Scholars then viewed it as nothing more than a personal letter of St. Paul. Ultimately, however, the test of Athanasius stood the test of time. This book is useful to the church because it shows the power of Christ to change lives.

Now for those of you who are wondering if there’s going to be a quiz on Philemon, let me outline briefly what occurred. Paul was in Rome under house arrest. He met and brought to Christ a runaway slave named Onesimus. A runaway slave in those days was viewed as a terrible criminal, betraying a master who fed, clothed and housed him. Paul wrote to Philemon asking permission to have Onesimus with him. Onesimus was to carry the letter back to Philemon. This was extremely risky, in the world’s view, for a runaway slave who returned risked being branded, castrated and forced to fight a wild animal in the arena. But Paul was confident of Philemon’s faithfulness and persuaded Onesimus to go. Things turned out well; both Philemon and Onesimus became prominent in the early church; both were martyred under the Emperor Nero.

I don’t know about you, but I’d have serious reservations about going back if I were Onesimus. Castration? Branding? It shows us here that Onesimus is a marker, an example, of what Christ can do to change lives. Philemon, too, is such a marker. One can simply state that if Onesimus was changed so much as to be willing to go back, it is an example for the rest of us of what the power of Christ can be in changing lives.

This morning at communion we set forward another marker of Christ’s power to change lives. You think not?

·         In communion you proclaim the atonement — the death of Christ being sufficient for your sins. No longer do you have the burden of sin to bear yourself; rather, Christ is bearing it for you. That’s what you’re telling the world by taking communion.

·         In communion you proclaim the resurrection — that Christ has power over death and the grave. He has promised that at the end he will raise you from the dead as he was raised from the dead. You should not fear death. That’s what you’re telling the world by taking communion.

·         In communion you proclaim the ascension — the Christ is now at the right hand of the father, interceding for us. This also proclaims that someday he will return to judge the living and the dead. And that proclaims that you are ready for his return. That’s what you’re telling the world by taking communion.

That’s what you’re telling the world — this morning. May I suggest that you live your life in such a manner that you tell the world the same thing all week long. Examine yourself this morning and see if what you proclaim is what you believe.

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