Jul 20

Jesus on Women: Actions Speak Louder than Words!

This morning I am posting an article I wrote four years ago upon returning from Israel.  I came across this this other day and decided to post it here.  Its a little long please stick with it to the end.

Mary of Bethany in light of Middle Eastern Customs

August 23, 2010

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Bedouin Woman at Market in Beer Sheva

As some of you know I was privileged to travel to Israel in July of 2010.  Along with the sightseeing and touring that I got to do I also had a wonderful cultural experience with the Bedouin people in the Negev Desert.  The Bedouin people are one of the groups of people who still maintain a large portion of the customs and life style that have been practiced in the Middle East for centuries.  I was shown and taught about customs that were practiced as far back as Abraham’s time and also during Jesus’ time.

The Bedouin, when entertaining guests in their homes have separate rooms for men and women, generally they do not socialize together.  They do at times all meet together in a meeting room or open porch area but even there they separate, the men on one side and the women on the other.  They do not eat together the women prepare the meal and serve the men.  When the men are finished eating the women and children eat in another room while the men are having their coffee.  In most Bedouin homes, as was the custom that we see throughout the Bible, they recline when entertaining and eating.  They have cushions that are about six inches thick which they sit on either cross legged or leaning on a stack of pillows with their legs stretched out to the side.  Women must keep their legs under them covered with their skirts.  You do not sit with your feet outstretched in front of you, to show the bottom of your feet to others while you are seated is an insult.

After I returned home I was reading an article about the story of Jesus going to Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s home.  The statement was made, in the article, that Mary was breaking Middle Eastern customs by being in the room socializing with the men.  I has excited because I had seen that very custom in Israel.  However, there is more in this passage to look at than Mary just being in the “men’s section.”   An object lesson I saw in Israel and a comparison of Luke 10:38 – 42 has given me new light on the story of Mary of Bethany.  The scripture says;

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Bedouin Woman totally covered – Just a slit for her eyes

Now as they were traveling along, He (Jesus) entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, ” Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”   Luke 10:38 – 42 In this passage there are several things of significance, foremost we see Mary sitting at Jesus feet.  When we look at this from an American perspective the way I have heard this taught and even taught it myself we paint a picture of Jesus sitting in a chair and Mary sitting on the floor at his feet.  We put Mary in the position of a small child listening to her daddy tell stories, or that of an attentive pupil listening to the teacher or even a little puppy adoring its master.  At any rate in our minds we have placed Mary in a very stereotypical subservient position.  However, when we look at this from the Middle Eastern perspective, which is the correct way to look at it, we see something completely different.

One of the afternoons we were in Israel we were invited to the Bedouin Village of Laqya (Lik-key- ah) to the home of a family whose daughter had been one of our interpreters for the week.  Her older brother “B” (I have been asked not to give names due to persecution from the Muslims), was the host, as the father had passed away.  “B” invited us into the front porch area of the home where cushions and some lawn chairs (for the Americans who have a hard time sitting on the floor) were spread around the perimeter of the porch.   “B” as the host took his place on the cushion at the front which was in kind of a head table type set up.  “B” sat cross legged and “held court” asking and answering questions of the guests, making introductions of the family and meeting all of us.  When the ladies brought out the first of several rounds of refreshments, “B” reclined leaning on a stack of pillows to his left and stretching his feet out to the right side of his body.  He then invited the leader of our group “D” to come and sit with him at the head cushion.  He patted the place on the couch where he wanted “D” to sit and said, “this is the place of honor.”  This is where the most honored guest sits.  It was the position right at “B’s” feet.

Reclining at meals

Reclining at meals

The Middle Eastern custom remains today as it was in Jesus day that the host gives the guests their places to sit and those places are decided based on the honor the host wishes to bestow on the guests.

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.”  Luke 14:8

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom. Matthew 20:19 – 21

Let’s look again at the story of Mary sitting at Jesus feet based on the Middle Eastern Custom.  She was not sitting like a child at her daddy’s feet but as an honored guest in the most honored position at the feast.  The conclusions to be drawn from Mary sitting at Jesus feet are pretty astonishing.  First, she was in the area that was designated as the men’s area instead of assisting the women with the food preparation.  This was a huge breach of etiquette and custom and Martha’s outrage at this situation had as much to do with Mary being an embarrassment to the family as it did to Martha needing more help in the kitchen.  Mary was breaking the rules and everyone there knew it.  Why hadn’t someone else already sent Mary back to the women’s quarters? Lazarus her brother who was apparently the head of the house was there, he didn’t say anything.  The disciples who were never afraid to point out things that were unfair didn’t say anything.  Why not, why didn’t any of the men send Mary back to her proper place with the women?  The answer is simple and also very astonishing it’s because Jesus had invited her to sit there at his feet.

Culturally there is no way that Mary would have been sitting in the men’s section at Jesus feet without being invited by Jesus to sit there.  Jesus was the leader of the meeting that is clear from the fact that Martha addressed him to have Mary return to the women’s section.  Why didn’t Martha go to Lazarus or one of the disciples to get Mary back in the kitchen?  Jesus was in charge and Jesus was the one who was allowing Mary’s breach of etiquette and custom to take place.

Now the scripture says that Jesus said to Martha that Mary has chosen the good part.  From this it has always been assumed that it was Mary’s decision to go and sit at Jesus feet.  She obviously had made a choice in this matter; if she would have stayed in the kitchen with the ladies the story would have been much different.  Mary took the risk to go into the men’s section maybe she had been sent in there with refreshments to serve the men and had lingered to hear the discussion or maybe she was excited and drawn to Jesus from her desire to worship.  Whatever it was that led her there doesn’t matter as much as what Jesus did.   Jesus saw her heart, he saw the choice that she had made, he saw the desire to learn and the desire to worship and he responded to her choice and told Martha “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

If you don’t buy the conclusion I have drawn that Jesus invited Mary to sit at his feet you still have to admit that she was sitting there in the place of honor. When Martha asked Jesus to make her leave Jesus refused.  The result is the same whether Jesus invited Mary to sit at his feet or if she just came and sat there and he allowed her to remain.  The result is that Jesus, either through his action or inaction gave Mary the place of honor.  Not only did Jesus allow Mary to sit in the place of honor at his feet He told everyone that this would not be taken away from her.

Later on shortly before Jesus was to be crucified Mary once again had an encounter with Jesus that raised eyebrows.  In John 12, we have the story of how Jesus was again in Bethany at Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s house.  Martha was once again serving and Mary came and anointed Jesus feet with very expensive perfume.  Judas was critical of the cost of the perfume and that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor

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The Golden Gate

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?”  Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.  For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” John 12: 1-8

Jesus again looks into Mary’s heart and sees not only the love that she has for him but the prophetic nature of her understanding.  Jesus said that Mary was anointing Him for his burial.  This is very similar to the prophetic nature of the actions of Agabus in Acts.

And when he was come unto us, he (Agabus) took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Acts 21:11

I also see another reason for Mary anointing Jesus feet; it was the overflow of thankfulness for what he had done for her personally.  Mary was so full of love and worship and thankfulness that she had to allow all of that to be expressed.  “JESUS SET MARY FREE”, He treated her like a person instead of property, and He allowed her the expression of her soul.  He took away the repression and allowed her to fulfill her gifting without criticism, denigration or cultural bias.

In conclusion;  I believe that in the single act of Jesus inviting Mary to sit at His feet liberated women. In a culture that didn’t allow women to socialize and have discussions with men Jesus asked Mary to sit at his feet.  In a culture where men said it would be better that the scripture were burned than to have it spoken by a woman Mary was learning from the Master along with the rest of the disciples.  In a culture that separated men and women in their worship services Mary was allowed to sit and fulfill her heart’s desire by worshipping Jesus right there amongst the men.  In a culture that only recognized men as leaders Mary’s prophetic gifting was recognized by Jesus.  Jesus told Mary that she had chosen the good part and that it would not be taken away from her.

It is sad to see that in Christianity, we continue to take away from Mary what Jesus gave her.  We profess to be set free from the curse but we continue to make rules and organize the structure of our associations so that the gifting of women are not recognized as equal with men.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28.

With love and sincere gratitude for the inspiring revelation of the Holy Spirit

Anita Schroeder

8-23-10

Jul 10

Walking in the Words of the Master – Part 7 – Love Your Enemy

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5: 43 – 48

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately especially in light of the political environment in our country right now. How do we as Christians love our enemies and still support our nation in defending itself from very real enemies who want to see our destruction?

Unfortunately, one of the methods used by governments to get their citizens to support war is to make the enemy so evil that they become very easy to hate. Now granted some villains do that all by themselves without any help from propaganda, but others take a little more work. And why are some enemies ignored while others are obsessed over? How can we be sure that the enemy we are told to go to war against is really the villain.

Actual WII Poster

Actual WII Poster

There is no way I have the answers, I suspect that very few of the citizens of any country ever really know what is happening behind the closed doors of even “open” governments. We only know what “THEY” tell us. We hate who “THEY” tell us to hate, we go to war when “THEY” tell us to go to war. Jesus said, “You have heard it said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Isn’t that exactly what governments dictate to their citizens? They decide who our neighbors are and who our enemies are and they tell us who to love and who to hate.

I just finished re-reading an old favorite book, Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes. It’s a story set during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. There was a section that hit home with me because it was in regard to this same topic. In the story Johnny was lamenting the fact that he had become friends with British soldiers who were in a few days going to be his enemy. During our Revolution, which was for all intents and purposes a civil war, the colonists were fighting against their own relatives and friends. The same thing happened in the Civil War, brothers and cousins fighting against each other. Even in the World Wars men who lived in the US went home to fight for Germany. This dilemma of having to make a choice to fight against those you love for a higher purpose is an old, sad story. How can someone you already love become your enemy because your government says they have to now be your enemy? That enemy is easy to love and to remember in your prayers.Johnny Tremain

The greater problem comes when we need to love those who hate us. Those who rage against us, those who kidnap and kill innocents and then brag over their dead bodies, are the ones that are impossible to love and yet we are told to love those very ones. This is the situation that got Jonah swallowed by the big fish. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach and he didn’t want to because the Ninevites were the most vicious enemy of the day. He was worried that if he preached to them they would repent and God would spare them from destruction. It’s easier to hate our enemies, kill them and let God sort it out.

loveyourenemy.inddThe problem with this scenario and the reason Jesus told us to love is that once we start hating it’s just too easy to continue hating. First we hate the foreign enemy, and then we hate the political opponent. Everything has become so divided in this country that if someone doesn’t think just like we do we put a label on them and the hate starts. The talk show hosts keep us stirred up and tell us what to believe. Oh well they’re a “Liberal” or a “Religious Right Winger” the label justifies the hate. We never again listen to anything they say because we are sure we know exactly what they believe because they are a _________, (fill in the blank). The same thing happened during the “Revolution” when our founding fathers, who have been held up to be righteous Christian men, were in the midst of their struggle. The colonists were divided between the two parties of Whig or Tory. It got so bad and so contentions that there are actually documented cases of harassment and beatings by BOTH parties on the other.

It’s time to start thinking for ourselves and applying Jesus Words to our thought processes and judgments instead of the words of the government or talk show hosts. Remember both have their own agenda and it’s not the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Once the hate starts it becomes easier and easier to hate everything and everyone that is not just like us, does not think, act, talk, look or believe just like us. The hate even spreads to those in our own circle of friends and family. Before long we are looking for excuses to turn someone into an enemy so we can justify our hate.

Why does Jesus tell us to Love?

  1. so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;
  2. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
  3. If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?
  4. Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In a nutshell, Jesus wants us to love because it’s the high road, it’s the high calling, and it’s to be like our Father in heaven. “God is Love” God doesn’t just love His creation HE IS LOVE and when we chose to love our enemies we become “God Like”

When Jesus told his Jewish followers to love their enemies He knew full well that those enemies were sitting at the door waiting for Israel to make a wrong move so they could swoop in and destroy and burn the temple. He also knew that in the future those enemies would be Hitler and Stalin and groups like the “PLO” and “Hamas”. But He still told them to love and to pray for their persecutors.Love your enemies

Love is what makes believers different from the world and yet Christians these days are of some of the best haters around. It’s time we put Jesus words in to action and chose to love our enemies.

Grace and Peace

Anita

May 11

Walking in the Words of the Master – Part 6 – An Eye for an Eye

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5: 38 – 42

That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

visit the site Martin Luther King, Jr.

In these verses Jesus was once again referring to the Old Testament Law and showing his audience that there is a better way to live. Jesus was taking relationships past the Law and into the realm of Grace. The Law said that every wrong deed would be repaid in kind, Jesus said don’t repay at all. This is a hard concept to grasp and an even harder concept to live. Our flesh cries out for revenge, when we have been wronged or mistreated we want to lash out we want the person who has wronged us to feel the same pain we have felt. But Jesus knew humanity and he knew that the Law of retribution was only causing more pain. Inflicting more pain never brings a solution to the problem. If you have been hit hitting back does not alleviate the pain of the slap on your face. But if you turn the other cheek, the cycle of pain stops.

Hatfields and McCoys

The Hatfields and the McCoys

Its like the story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s and their famous family feud. One family member killed a member of the other family and then the other family had to get revenge and kill someone from the other family. If this didn’t stop before long there wasn’t going to be anybody left from either family. Fortunately, they wised up and made peace but not until after there was so much devastation to both families and so many hurt feelings. It’s the same way with the struggle we have watched in the Middle East with Israel and her neighbors. People from both sides of that conflict have raised their children to hate the other side. So many years have passed and now there are completely new generations of people hating just because they have been raised to hate.

Practically speaking most of us have now grown up enough that we don’t get into physical altercations and go around slapping people on the cheek. But this concept still applies. It applies in our actions. How many times do we seek revenge on someone at home or at work that has done something to us? Is there a co-worker who does something to try and undermine us to the boss, or our spouse who has hurt our feelings? Do we let it go (Oh I’ve heard that song just too many times lately) or do we seek revenge either by outright actions or by silence?

November 1st, 2013 @ 20:49:52

Let It Go!!

This verse is about keeping accounts. Do we live our lives remembering everyone who has hurt us and whether or not we have gotten back at them or do we choose to turn the other cheek. Jesus words here are about not taking into account a wrong suffered – the same words we hear again in I Corinthians in the great passage about love. The only way to truly live our lives in the freedom that Jesus offers is to Let It Go!!! The only way to stop the cycle of hatred is to turn the other cheek? Let It Go!!

Grace and Peace

Anita

Apr 29

Can Muslims be Good American Citizens? -Thoughts on Christians and Politics


Just a little politics this morning but still from a Christian perspective.  This post is longer than I usually do so please bear with me as I share some thoughts.
I happened to see a post on the internet that was also repeated several times on Facebook that asks the question, “Can Muslims be Good American Citizens?”   I’ve been thinking about that post a lot and also about how politically radical some “Christians” have become.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Christians have every right to be just as political as anyone else.  What concerns me is how some of them co-mingle their rights as American citizens and their beliefs as Christians to come up with a “God loves us more than He loves you” kind of world view.  That is what I want to talk about today.
We have heard repeatedly that this Country was founded on Christian Principles or Biblical principles of Judeo-Christian Ethics.  However, the Judeo forms of government in the Old Testament were Judicial Monarchies and Kingly Monarchies. In the New Testament, the only human government ever even mentioned was a socialistic setup.  How did the idea that our form of government was founded on Christian principles come about when there is no example in scripture of the people ever having a say so in their own governing?  In addition, some of the foremost among the “Fathers” of our nation were not strictly “Christian” there were even deists in the mix (Franklin and Jefferson were deists, Washington harbored a pantheistic sense of providential destiny, John Adams began a Congregationalist and ended a Unitarian, Hamilton was a lukewarm Anglican).  There is no mention of God in our Constitution and vague mentions of “Nature’s God” and the “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (clearly Deist descriptions of God.)
The Constitution of the United States of America is an amazing document; however it is NOT a divinely inspired document as some have claimed in the recent years of political debate.  Our Constitutional form of Government is the culmination of the thought process of some truly genius men who took the best from historic human governments and philosophers and molded it into a hybrid system that had not been previously seen in human history.  Now did “providence,” as Benjamin Franklin claimed, have something to do with that? Absolutely.  But to claim that it is divinely inspired – or even Christian – is, in my opinion, taking it too far.  As to the point of Judeo-Christian Ethics, yes an argument can be made that our system of codified common law can be directly traced to the Ten Commandments and scriptural ethics of treating others as you would like to be treated.  As can the laws of most modern civilizations.
This country was founded in large part because people were fleeing religious persecution.  That is why our system of government and laws, exist the way they do.  The puritans were persecuted in England, as were the Quakers. They came here to be free from the church-run monarchy in England.   The reason our form of government came about was to allow people to govern themselves free from tyranny. 
 
The First Amendment to the Constitution directly relates back to the tyranny of a church run monarchy.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  In other words, a church run government was not to be set up and everyone was given the power to freely exercise their religion.  The First Amendment does not say that everyone is free to exercise Christianity; it says there shall be no law prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]. 
Indeed this Nation was founded by mostly Christian people, however that does not nor ever did make it an exclusively Christian Nation.  As is pointed out clearly by a letter that George Washington wrote to the Jewish congregation of the synagogue in Newport in 1790 in which he said, in part;
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. (“Letter to the Jews of Newport”, 18 August 1790, Washington Papers, 6:284-85)
To say that the Constitution of the United States favors one religion over another flies in the face of what the framers of that Constitution were trying to establish in this country.  This nation is supposed to be a nation that does not respect one person’s religion over another, a nation that does not allow believers of one religion to persecute believers of another religion.  Are we now going to turn back the clock and return to a church-run tyrannical form of government?
To my point: to say that Muslims cannot be good American Citizens because they answer to a higher power is to also say that Christians cannot be good American Citizens because they also answer to a higher power.  To say that Muslims cannot be good Americans because no other religion is accepted by Allah except Islam is to say that Christians cannot be good citizens because no other religion is accepted by God except Christianity.  To say that Muslims cannot be good American Citizens because their allegiance is to the five Pillars of Islam and the Quran is to say that Christians cannot be good American Citizens because their allegiance is to the Bible.Almost every point in the “Muslim can’t be a good citizen post” can be applied to any other religion as well.
And now to the Christian perspective that I said I was going to talk about.   As Christians, we need to live our lives according to the principles of the Kingdom and quit using God as a tool to whip others into submission.  God loves all of His creation and the only reason we become enemies is not because God loves one group of people more than He loves another group but because of our own worldly, carnal disagreements.  If we truly believe that our Muslim neighbors are our enemies then it is our responsibility to love them.  As Jesus said, 
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:44 – 48.)
My answer to the question, can Muslims be good American Citizens? Is a wholehearted, YES!
“It is not up to the Government of the United States to be “Christian” it’s up to the Christians to be “Christian.” 
If we can love our enemies and live our Christianity then the hatred, greed, fear and lawlessness will cease and we will no longer be enemies. 
Grace and Peace
Anita

Apr 17

More about Wine – Part 2 Juice vs. Wine for Communion

My conclusion from my last  blog is that drinking any alcoholic beverage is not a sin, Jesus didn’t sin when He drank and the only thing that makes drinking a sin is not in the alcohol itself but in the use or abuse of the substance.
So back to my original question about the substitution of grape juice for wine in communion.  If Jesus, his disciples, the Jews and Christians of Jesus day and the early church used fermented wine in communion why do most fundamental churches use grape juice these days?
The answer to that question is simply the fact that the American fundamental church movement went along with the temperance movement of the late 1800s.  There were problems with drunkenness among certain groups which led to poverty and other social problems.  The church dealt with the issue the same way they always deal with issues of abuse, they make rules.  Instead of teaching responsibility for ones actions, they took the easy road of saying its better to just abstain and then you won’t have to worry about becoming an alcoholic.  In their legalistic manner they turned drinking into a sin. During this same time of the temperance movement and then into prohibition the Welch family learned how to pasteurize their concord grapes and the Welch Grape juice company was born. 
Thomas Welch was a Methodist minister opposed to Christians drinking alcohol, which motivated his research into ways of preserving fermented grape juice. He was searching for a way to store nonalcoholic grape juice for use in the communion celebration, since until his invention, most churches had little choice but to use alcoholic wine in the Lord’s Supper observance.
 (http://www.versebyverseministry.org/bible-answers/may_a_christian_drink_alcohol)  (This is a cite to one article on this topic, but this is well documented through the church records of the Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal movement.)

Jesus instituted communion at the last passover meal he ate with his followers.  He took the cup  of wine, the cup of Redemption,  and said this is the new covenant in my blood:

 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”  Matthew 26: 27 – 28 
When Paul taught us about the observance of communion he said:  “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” I Corinthians 11: 24 – 26
Church leaders, I have discussed this with, even know that wine is the proper sacrament but still don’t serve it because they say they don’t want to be the cause of someone falling off the wagon because they had a sip of wine at church on Sunday.   The whole subject of alcoholism its causes and triggers is for someone else to blog, but I am so simple in my thought process that I believe if the Lord in his infinite wisdom said for everyone to take a drink of it then He probably knew what he was doing and had that issue in mind and under control.
Jesus used the fermented wine that was being served at the Passover meal as a symbol of his blood and the New Covenant He was making.   We know it was fermented wine because that is what they used for passover.  He didn’t stop and say, “oh wait, there might be a recovering alcoholic here so go get some juice.” No.  He told everyone to take a drink.  He didn’t say “oh wait lets get some juice for the kids,”  no again, he told everyone to take a drink.
Wine is the perfect symbol of Jesus blood because it is complete in and of itself.  It is the symbol He chose to represent the work He was about to accomplish.
Fr. Robert Capon, author of The Supper of the Lamb urges us simply to look at a grape.  “Yeast on the outside, and sugar on the inside is a divine idea, He maintains.  All we need to do is crush a grape and it goes its God-given course.”
There is nothing more that needs to be added to Jesus blood to bring about the redemption and salvation of all.  When Jesus body was broken and his blood shed there was nothing that needed to be added to that blood.  Even as the grape is complete and when crushed the wine flows.  Stopping that fermentation process to get grape juice to drink at communion is a violation of what Jesus was trying to represent to us by using wine in the first place.  It is just one more item on a list of items that the church has decided to add to the simplicity of the plan.  Somehow the modern church thinks it has more wisdom than Jesus did.
Communion has become so much more meaningful for me when I have taken the step to celebrate it with the symbols Jesus used when He instituted it.  In fact I don’t even feel like I’m taking communion unless I am served the emblems Jesus gave us.  Wine and unleavened bread otherwise its just  a snack.
Grace and Peace
Anita

Apr 16

More on Wine for Communion – Part 1

When I was a child in Sunday School I was taught that as a responsible christian you should always study out the Bible for yourself and not just take everything you hear without checking it out first.  Verses like “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15, and others were taught at an early age.  However the problem started when I really began to do what I was taught to do and not just unquestioningly believe what I was taught to believe.

One of these areas of question is in the use of grape juice vs. wine at communion.  My first exposure to anything other than grape juice at communion was visiting the catholic church with a friend in high school.  At Mass only the priest got to drink the wine; but of course my friend and her older brothers had all kinds of stories (exaggerated or made up I’m sure) of the priests drinking the wine and getting drunk after mass.  How could they get drunk on grape juice I asked, oh its not grape juice its real wine.  How shocking, but they were “Catholics” after all.  Then as a young adult I had the privilege of attending an International Women’s Aglow conference in Vancouver BC.  There when they served communion you had your choice of juice or wine.  I was pretty blown away, how could these spirit filled ladies believe that it was ok to drink real fermented wine at communion.  Drinking is a sin and therefore having fermented wine at communion of all places had to be a huge sin.  So the search and study of this accepted subject began for me.

I started with the question; Is drinking wine a sin.  I read every single verse in the Bible that contains the word, wine, strong drink, drunk or drunkenness. And although I’m not going to go through that study here, my conclusions are this.  Throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation there is NO prohibition against drinking wine, aged wine or strong drink.  Where wine or strong drink is handled in a joyful, responsible manner it is given a positive connotation and taken as a blessing.  Where wine or strong drink are abused and drunkenness follows it is given a negative connotation and in some cases considered sin.

Wine is a blessing:
Psalm 104:15

And wine which makes man’s heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man’s heart.

Psalm 104:14-16

Wine was part of the required Levitical Sacrifices:
Leviticus 23:13

Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the Lord for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine.

You could spend your tithe money on wine to have as part of the required pilgrimages to the Temple:

Deuteronomy 14:26

You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

Deuteronomy 14:25-27

The Lord himself is planning a lavish banquet in which He will served “aged wine”
Isaiah 25:6

The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine.

Isaiah 25:5-7

Jesus Drank Wine:
Luke 7:33-34

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Luke 7:32-34

Use wine for medicinal purposes (Modern Medicine has found much positive value in drinking wine)
1 Timothy 5:23

No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

1 Timothy 5:22-24

Getting Intoxicated is not wise:
Proverbs 20:1

  Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1-3

Do not get drunk:
Ephesians 5:18

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

Ephesians 5:17-19

Church leaders should not be addicted to much wine: (Note it does not say they should abstain from wine just not be addicted to much wine)
1 Timothy 3:8

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,

1 Timothy 3:7-9

My conclusion therefore is that drinking any alcoholic beverage is not a sin, Jesus didn’t sin when He drank and the only thing that makes drinking a sin is not in the alcohol itself but in the use or abuse of the substance.

Grace and Peace
Anita

Watch for Part 2 – So what about Juice and Communion

Interesting articles on the subject
http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/How-Evangelicals-Lost-Their-Way-on-Alcohol-Thomas-S-Kidd-01-12-2011.html

http://www.versebyverseministry.org/bible-answers/may_a_christian_drink_alcohol

Apr 15

Passover Wine

The traditional Passover Sedar includes the drinking of four cups of wine.  Actually this is taking four drinks of wine not drinking four glasses of wine as some people think.  Each of the four cups has specific representation and takes place throughout the ceremony, they are as follows:
THE FIRST CUP:     THE CUP OF SANCTIFICATION
The father lifts his cup and explains, “Sanctification means to be set apart. We are setting apart this ceremony as special to our Lord.”   
The Jews remember Exodus 6:6a, “I will bring you out (set you apart) from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” God performed miraculous deeds to free Israel from Egypt. As believers, we remember the death of Jesus to free us. (Everyone take first drink of wine)
THE SECOND CUP: THE CUP OF PLAGUES                             
God poured out 10 plagues on Egypt, the last of which, the slaying of the first born, convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave the land.   
             (After this explanation, the father invites the participants to recount these plagues. He reads each plague aloud; they repeat it and then dip a finger into the: wine, letting a drop fall onto the plate to symbolize the plagues.)  This is an especially fun part of the ceremony where the family works to remember the plagues in order.
THE THIRD CUP: THE CUP OF REDEMPTION
             The Father says, “I will redeem you,” which is from Exodus 6:6, everyone drinks. Redemption means to buy out of slavery. The lamb offered on Passover was the price to deliver the nation of Israel. This third cup is what Jesus drank with His disciples as a symbol of His blood. (Matt 26:26 -28) This is the cup that instituted the sacrament of communion for the church.

“While they were eating, Jesus took somebread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you;for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

THE FOURTH CUP: THE CUP OF PRAISE
            As everyone lifts this cup, the father quotes Exodus 6:7, “I will take you for My people.” The Jewish nation looks forward to a golden age where everyone will be at peace. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus, eagerly wait for His return when He takes us home to heaven. 
So, with the Passover ceremony finished, everyone drinks the fourth cup proclaiming, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.”  And “Next Year in Jerusalem”
            What I want to talk about this morning is the use of wine at Passover and by extension into the communion sacrament we celebrate in our churches.  In modern times since somewhere late in the 1800 most fundamental churches substituted fermented wine at communion for grape juice.  This can be directly linked to the temperance movement at the time and the fear that taking a sip of wine at church was going to make an alcoholic backslide into a binge of drunkenness. When in all actuality the move to unfermented juice instead of wine was a purely political cave in to the temperance movement and a financial boon to a Methodist Bishop by the name of Thomas Welch who owned Concord grape vineyards.
Since the use of grape juice in the place of wine for communion cannot be supported by scripture these churches began a campaign of re-interpreting the word “wine” in scripture to mean unfermented juice.  They began teaching their congregations that the wine Jesus drank was not fermented wine, but merely grape juice. This teaching on wine cannot, in anyway by honest scriptural exegesis, be supported and the honest church leaders know it.  
Jesus drank wine, Jesus made wine, and Jesus told us to drink wine as we do it in remembrance of Him.”
WHY DOES IT MATTER IF WE USE WINE OR GRAPE JUICE IN COMMUNION?
I believe that the symbolism of wine is important and when we change the symbols we change the meaning.  The reason wine is used to represent the blood of Jesus is because wine is complete in and of itself.  The grape contains everything it needs to become wine.  It has the liquid, the sugar and the yeast all in itself.  When you crush it – it turns to wine.  You have to kill the process in order to stop the fermentation.
Jesus’ Blood is complete in and of itself, we don’t need anything else, nothing has to be added to complete the process of redemption.  When Jesus was crushed and his blood shed for us the process began and there is no stopping the complete process.  We don’t have to add a thing it’s a complete work of redemption.

Using unfermented wine at communion is the same as using some other bread than unleavened bread, or not really getting someone wet when you baptize them.  The symbols that have been given to us to use as church sacraments are given to us because they have meaning and we should honor that meaning and not mess with it due to political or other legalistic issues.

Raise your glass of wine at passover and say with me “L’Chaim”  “To Life”

Grace and Peace
Anita

Apr 14

Preparing for the Passover – the week in review

Moses – From “The Prince of Egypt”

Today is actually the first night of Passover it is the 14th day of Nissan the day the Passover Lamb was to be killed and its blood sprinkled on the door posts of the people in Israel so the death angel would “Pass Over” their home.  If you haven’t heard or read the story of the Passover it is the amazing story of the miraculous escape by the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The Passover Sedar (dinner) that is eaten by Jewish and many christian believers on this night tells that story.   To get the whole story you should read from the Bible the book of Exodus chapters 1 through 15. Or you could watch the old movie with Charlton Heston, the Ten Commandments, or my favorite movie of the exodus, the animated “Prince of Egypt.” Anyway….We will have our dinner this year on Saturday night as we co-mingle the entire story of the Passover and Jesus death and resurrection which will be celebrated on Sunday April 20th.

This week I hope to post  something everyday to share my thoughts on the story.  Today I want to point out the events in the Life of Jesus that show the fulfillment of prophecy and that Jesus was the passover Lamb.

Grace and Peace
Anita

Here is a chart I put together to guide you through the week of events.  I encourage you to read the verses posted for each day to get the whole story.


PASSOVER OLD AND NEW
“…And when I see the blood I will pass over you and no plague will befall you to destroy you …”  Exodus 12:13
NISSEN   March – April                                                                                                                        
 
SUNDAY
MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
 FRIDAY
SATURDAY
10th   Sanctification
The Choosing of the Passover Lamb
(Exodus 12:3)
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (A.D.32 ) (Matthew 21:1-9 Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-38 John 12:12-18, Zech 9:9) fulfillment of Dan 9:26
Jesus Chosen as the Lamb of God
Mark 11:11
11th
Cursing the fig tree
Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:12)
Jesus drives the money changers from the temple (Matt 21:12-16, Mark 11: 15-19, Luke 19:45-47)
12th
Jesus Entered Jerusalem, taught in the Temple Mark 11:20- 12-44
Olivet Discourse Mark 13:1-37
Anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany
(Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9)
Judas agrees to betray Jesus ( Mark 14:10-11)
13th
Jesus Disciples prepared for the Passover
Matthew 26: 17
14th
First Passover
Exodus 12:1 -13
Leviticus 23:4-5
Jesus eats the Passover with His Disciples – The Last Supper
Matt 26:20-30, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:14-20, 24-30,
Birthday of John the Baptist 1BC (Coming of Elijah)
15th  
Deliverance from Egypt
Exodus 12:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Exodus 12:17
Leviticus 23:6-7,
10-11
Trial & Crucifixion of Jesus  
Matt 26:47-27:66
Jesus is the bread of Life John 6:35
16th
The Grave
17th
Feast of First Fruits
Exodus 23:19
Leviticus 23:10-14
Resurrection
Matt 28:1-10
I Corinthians 15:20,23
I Thes 4:13-18
 
REFERENCES
Exodus 12:1-51
Matt. 20:29 – 28:20
Mark 10:46 – 16:20
Luke 18:35 – 24:12
John 12:1 – 20:18

Apr 13

Preparing for the Passover – The Lamb is Chosen

Passover table

One day twenty years ago, in April, I got the mail and had two magazines,Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family magazine and a Food and Wine Magazine (a strange combination.)  I sat down to browse.  In the focus on the family magazine was an article about having a “christian” version of Passover.  I thought that sounds kind of interesting and set it aside.  I then turned to the Food and Wine Magazine and the featured story was a “Passover Sedar”  with all the recipes for Passover dinner.  “Its a sign!”  I thought.  I talked to my husband and we decided to give it a try.  Our kids were all teen-agers and we thought it would be a different meaningful way to celebrate Good Friday and the Resurrection other than “Easter eggs.”  So we had our first Passover in 1994. We haven’t missed a year since. Some years are just the immediate family, some years we have had as many as 35 guests. Every year it takes a little different focus but its always special to our family and meaningful. This year as we prepare for the passover I have a few thoughts.

Today is what the Church calls Palm Sunday, it is the day that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the crowd thought he was there to establish an earthly kingdom.  What he was really there for was to be chosen as the Passover Lamb.  That day which was the 10th day of the Jewish month Nissen was the day the passover lambs were chosen. In Exodus 12 we have the story of the passover, on the 10th day of Nissen they were to pick a lamb from the flock that had no bruises or blemishes and set it aside for 4 days and then on the 14th day of Nissen they were to kill it, sprinkle its blood on the door and roast it and eat the dinner.  In Mark 11:11 we see that on this day the 10th of Nissen Jesus after the parade into Jerusalem, with people laying palm branches at His feet and crying “Hosanna, blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord,” went into the Temple and just stood there and looked around, didn’t say anything and then left.  Jesus – instead of setting up an earthly kingdom was being chosen as the lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world.

The choosing of the lamb is always a moving aspect of the passover for me.  They had to chose that lamb and keep it separate from the flock so that it didn’t get banged or bruised up in those 4 days before it was sacrificed.  You know what they did with that lamb – they brought it home, took it in the house, watched over it, made sure noting happened to it.  I can just hear the dad telling his kids, “now don’t you name that lamb, don’t get so attached, don’t let it sleep on your bed.”  But you know those kids got attached to that lamb and then when it had to be killed and eaten they were all heart broken.

Just like Jesus mother, and disciples were all heart broken when Jesus was sacrificed and his blood was spilled for the sins of the world.  Praise God for Jesus the Passover Lamb who took away the sins of the World.

This week as we prepare for the Passover, and Resurrection Sunday we can all be reminded of the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for each and every one of us.

Grace and Peace
Anita

For more reading on the Passover go to Exodus Chapter 12, Matthew 21: 1-9  and Mark 11: 1- 11

Apr 05

Time Slips Away – thoughts at a wedding


Its been awhile since I posted a blog, I’ve been so busy with work and my daughter’s wedding last week that its been difficult to find time to sit down and write all the thoughts swirling in my head.  This week I’m deviating from my current series to share some thoughts that I shared at the wedding and that I’ve been pondering a lot lately.
Here is what I shared at the wedding:
They Are Not Long – Ernest Dowson

Daddy Daughter Dance
Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

“Today as you stand here at the beginning at the rest of your lives its hard to fathom what that means and it seems like it’s all the time in the world.  But it will go faster than you can ever imagine.  Your dad and I will be married 40 years in December, your grand parents have been married almost 65 years.  For them and us it does seem only like a whisper.
The theme tonight is wine and roses and the more I think about that the more I realize what a fitting theme because it reminds us of how short life is.

Wine and Roses – centerpieces

Even the best bottle of wine turns to vinegar if it is not stored and aged correctly – then after it is opened it has to be consumed relatively quickly or the flavor fades and spoils.  These beautiful roses around this evening will begin to droop by tomorrow.  We need to enjoy the fragrance, color, texture and beauty tonight because tomorrow they will be fading.

Life is a gift that is here and gone.  Job said that life is a vapor – like steam from a tea kettle on the stove that blows its whistle and then dissipates. 
  
My advice to you tonight is to savor the moments.  Don’t wait till the time is right to begin enjoying the life together the Lord has given you.  Don’t waste time on petty grievances, grudges, hurt feelings or selfishness.  
Love, laugh, enjoy the moments, grieve, cry, hurt, work hard – take it all in – the good and the bad.   
Chose Life and Live!”
“The Shoes”
Just to elaborate on this a little – Older folks always say this kind of thing to younger folks, time goes so fast, stop and smell the roses and so on.  Younger people never listen. When we are younger we all think we have forever and can get to it later.  Well as we get older we realize that we haven’t gotten to most of the things we wanted to get to.  However, with most things its not too late to start.  No matter how old you are you can always start right now to stop and smell the roses, enjoy a glass of wine,  keep short accounts, love, laugh, live, stop holding grudges, stop being angry stop putting off what needs to be done, stop putting off what youwant to do.  Its time to get to that “Bucket List.”
 
I’m going to start today to take my own advice, I’m going to love more, live fuller, give and forgive deeper.
I’m going to choose life and live!
Grace and Peace
Anita

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