Today was my first Communion Sabbath at Stanborough Park Church.
During the foot-washing, after Dejan's sermon (from which I've included my notes at the bottom), I was helping Deana to sing some children's songs after her children's story, so I didn't participate in the foot-washing this time around, though I did partake of communion. After everyone had returned to the sanctuary, I sang Chris Rice's "Untitled Hymn/Come to Jesus" and the bread and juice were passed out.
I very much appreciated some of the little differences...
Deacons in black suits came to the platform and were given actual metal trays with wooden handles containing the bread/body of Christ - not wicker baskets with a paper towel inside to service as a lining of sorts. They were certainly divisible and small portions, but they didn't look like they'd encountered a cookie-cutter. When it was time for the juice/blood of Christ, similar trays with little holes for the cups were brought. I was absolutely stunned when I realized I was holding an itty bitty cup made of actual glass that would later be washed and dried - not disposable plastic. These nicely made, quality trays all stacked on top of each other beautifully and were pleasing to the eye, though not ornate. I didn't notice until we'd finished communion in what detail the communion items had been covered. Basic white cloth covered everything (there were even smaller wooden trays for the people on the platform, btw) and on top of the larger trays that stacked was a special white cloth that had stitching of a cross and what looked like lace on the edges. Afterwards, it was carefully and symmetrically placed once again over the trays - the most beautiful and obvious covering for what had held the symbolic body & blood of Christ for Communion...
I've been somewhat of a snob.
When I first came to Stanborough Park Church, I genuinely did go on about how wonderful the people were and that was a distraction from culture shock about the church itself. I grew up in Pioneer Memorial Church. Everything there is very shiny and modern-looking; parts of it are almost impersonal and sterile compared to Stanborough Park Church. I love PMC. I grew up there - it's home for me, and there's a great deal I love about it, but right now I'm talking about Stanborough Park Church and not one place in this world is 100% perfect. Stanborough Park Church isn't like PMC. The colors aren't the same and the furniture isn't as new. But you know what? I've gotten over myself. I love it here. This place is a blessing. I feel like I'm in a real, lived-in church where people throw themselves into what needs doing. It has edges and textures. It is very human, and for being so human (though no place is free of cliques or sinful nature) it's almost as if the Holy Spirit is more welcome. Aspects of PMC are very perfectionistic and make one feel as if one's happy face & shiny shoes must be worn to church or else don't come - stay at home.
And at the same time, you'd think that a big church like PMC could afford to invest in more quality instruments of delivery for Communion, considering what the ceremony and symbols are all about. And since PMC is such a big church, you'd think that there'd be more than enough people to pitch in and do the tad bit extra kitchen duty necessary to clean the small utensils so they're ready the next time we gather to remember with Jesus Christ the Son of God did for us out of love that we still had the option to spurn. I've been amazed, humbled, and inspired to keep growing at how willing people are to just pitch in and help until a job is done; I don't hear fussing about who did it last time or why one person's hard week makes them exempt of getting their hands dirty.
Every church has its own set of issues and shortcomings, but they appropriately pale when people come as they are, come together, commune - not just on Communion Sabbath - over getting closer to God and bringing the Good News of Him to the world ... when we contribute a little more (or a lot more) to times of spiritual ceremony even if it means other things come up a little short for a time - what we give to God and to each other is never short, but filled to overflowing. That's what God wants! We, the church, are supposed to be God's body. Sometimes it seems like church is a fabulous-looking, stylish made-up and manicured woman on the outside with unaddressed or even undiagnosed diseases on the inside. I know that seems harsh, but I don't feel I'm exaggerating, I really don't. Today, church was like being around a healthy, happy woman whose heart was in love with the One who loves her most and who had a spirit of peace and joy - church was beautiful and my heart was restored by being in it and part of it. She wouldn't have been asked to be on a magazine cover, but I'll bet Leonardo da Vinci would have wanted to paint her portrait and she would have been a runner-up to the Mona Lisa for the inexpressible and unforgettable expression on her face.
That was church today, for me.
(Notes from today's sermon)
"Not a Fan" by Dejan Stojkovic
October 9, 2010 - Stanborough Park Church
Luke 9:23: "Then he (Jesus) said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (NIV)
The time to define the relationship is a very awkward time; it's when most people run.
Defining the relationship is hard.
Selfish people like free relationships because you get everything you want from the other person, but not everything that person has to offer.
Jesus wasn't interested in fans, but in FOLLOWERS.
Dejan shared a story of someone who wanted to leave the church because he didn't like his preaching. Dejan called him about it (natural course of action) and the man said, "Every time you preach, I feel like you're trying to interfere with my life."
Dejan joked but was also serious about the part of Jesus that is "slightly Serbian" --
"He came to practically kill our lives so He could give us brand new ones."
There are very few material things that are comfortable about following Jesus.
Prosperity evangelism is wrong. Being poor doesn't mean something's wrong with you.
Is your relationship with Jesus because of convenience or commitment?
He mentioned a new group of people known as "Flexitarians" - they define themselves as vegetarians who occasionally eat meat. (?????) (For the record, I - Chloe - love my vegetables, but after today, I'm extra glad I've always called myself an omnivore!)
A mistake parents make: Bringing up your children in the church, but not in Jesus. (When it's the former, but not the latter, it sadly doesn't matter if you do everything possible for your child via church & Sabbath school. Children can't have salvation or heaven through their parents.)
We seem to want to make nice gentlemen and ladies of the church rather than rebels who will live and burn for Jesus Christ.
Is Jesus one of many to you? Or is He the One and Only?
Communion can be a time of change, a time of decisions, a time of commitment.
What about you make a small commitment today? (That one struck me - Chloe - as special: I think we've begun to strike down commitments as being of no value just because they're not big - the little bits add up - I liked the thought of making & keeping one small commitment at a time...)
Churches can change from a group of people who gather every Sabbath to a group of people who will do anything for their Savior.