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Communion Meditations (2023)


Cowboy and Horse

Originally scheduled for April 19, 2015

(Full Disclosure: your author once worked as a cowboy. It’s a hard and dirty job, and I found nothing romantic about it.)
It is a fact most of us have an idea of a cowboy as some sort of romantic Western hero. The truth is far from it. The job is lots of hard work, long hours and virtually none of the glamour that we are accustomed to see from the movies. There are some things, however, that the movies got right. For instance, there is the cowboy’s uniform. There are two essentials to it the first is a pair of jeans, preferably extremely strong. The second is a hat. The Stetson is preferred because it keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain off your nose. But the most important thing the movies got right is the simple fact that you have to be able to ride a horse. Not just sit on the back of the horse, but actually control its direction — that’s what’s required.
Of course, the cowboy has tools to motivate the horse by fear and pain. There are spurs, riding crops, and various assorted bits and reins. The truth is, however, that is much better to guide the horse in a relationship based on love, rather than fear or pain. Note, please, that love does not mean the horse gets to do whatever it wants. It means that the horse is guided correctly without the use of fear or pain. It’s a balancing act; the net result is that you get the horse to go where you want it to go by making sure the horse knows that he can do it and thus please you. For the practical among you, I suggest an apple in your back pocket as a very fine token of love for most horses. Only beware that some horses can in fact pick your back pocket of the apple.
Christ uses much the same method with us. It starts with the idea that if you love Him, you will keep his commandments (John 14:15). That’s the result he desires. How does he get that result? The Apostle John answers that question too:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
(1 John 4:18-19 NASB)
He first loved us. The proof of the fact that he first loved us is quite simple: it is found at the Cross. But just like the horse, we need to maintain that relationship. Once the apple is gone, the horse will look for another one. The human being is much the same, needing not so much to be taught as to be reminded of Christ’s great love for us. This he does in Communion. In the bread we share the memory of his body, given for us. In the cup we share the memory of his blood, shed for us. It is not something we just do for the routine of it; we do it so that we may remember his great love, and build our ongoing relationship with him around that core truth.

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