Archive for July, 2014

I Am Afraid of Gardening

July 31, 2014

Or what gardening produces.  Imperfection.  Oddity.  Reality.  

We have a very modest garden this year.  I don’t think I can legally call it a garden, but as long as my neighbors don’t overhear me calling it that and report it, I think everything will be all right.  A couple of rather exuberant tomato plants, an eggplant staunchly holding off an overrun attempt by one of the tomato plants, a zucchini plant that has motivational issues.  That’s it.  Rather pathetic, actually.  Or real.

The vegetables we’ve gleaned from these plants are not like what we find in the supermarket.  The eggplants are thin and small.  So are the zucchini.  The tomatoes look normal enough, although they’re mini-tomatoes.  The things I see in the supermarket are polished and huge, poster-children for all that a vegetable might hope to be when it grows up.  Those are the only vegetables I’ve seen most of my life, growing up as more or less a city kid.  Those supermarket vegetable Goliaths are my understanding of what vegetables are really like.  Or should be like.

But what if they aren’t?  

Gardening exposes this fact.  Besides the scrawniness, which I can live with rather easily being more of a carnivore, they sometimes are misshapen.  Is it OK to eat a Siamese-twin carrot? Could that be a small nest of maggots in that oddly lumpy potato?  Is it OK to eat a lemon with odd lumps on it?  Might those be carcinogenic lumps?    Should I just throw it away and wait for the lemon tree out front to produce a more conventional looking lemon?

It might sound kind of silly, but this is what happens on a large scale all the time.  What ends up in the supermarket is not necessarily representative of your average vegetable.  It is a very narrow spectrum of vegetable reality.  Everything else gets thrown out for not making the cut.  For not living up.  For being different in one respect or another.

I’m trying to overcome my fear of abnormal vegetables.  Or to broaden my horizons of what I find acceptable in a vegetable.  I suspect there is probably a niche market for them.  Or perhaps just a practical, mainstream market.  I applaud grocers like this one for committing to expanding our ideas about vegetable normality.  I certainly have a lot of room to grow in this respect.  Perhaps I should venture into creating a line of kitchen gadgets that accommodate these unconventional fruits and veggies.  Maybe a double-carrot peeler, something along the lines of Jimmy Page’s famous double neck guitar.  

Maybe I should just focus on not being afraid of gardening.  

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Wet Bar Wednesday – PCH

July 30, 2014

While perusing my roomie’s copy of Los Angeles Magazine last week in Vegas, I came across this drink recipe that sounds amazing.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan on doing so soon!

Mezcal is a cousin to tequila.  More specifically, tequila is a very specific sub-species of mezcal, made from a very specific agave plant. Mezcal is not traditionally part of cocktails (not in Mexico, at least), but rather is consumed straight.  If you’ve heard the stories about tequila bottles with a worm in the bottom, what they more correctly refer to is mezcal.  

The PCH (Pacific Coast Highway)

  • 1 part (1.5 oz) vodka
  • 1/2 part (3/4 oz) pineapple juice
  • 1/3 part (1/2 oz) lemon juice
  • 1/3 part (1/2 oz) mezcal
  • 1/3 part (1/2 oz) elderflower liqueur  (like St.-Germain)
  • 1/6 part (1/4 oz) simple syrup

Combine all ingredients & shake with ice.  Pour into a glass over ice and add a few drops of Angostura bitters to the top.  Enjoy!

Health Care Sharing Ministry Update

July 29, 2014

Long-time readers know that about a year ago my family opted out of the traditional health insurance model in favor of a Christian-based health care sharing program, Samaritan Ministries.   A year into it, we have no complaints.  We haven’t had any claims yet, so I can’t judge their service in that respect.  But I certainly appreciate knowing that our monthly share goes directly to another human being to cover specific medical bills.  

The existence of such organizations is beginning to gain attention.  Our local paper carried a syndicated article on the matter.  Here is the article – though it’s from a different paper.  

Overall the article takes a cautious and skeptical tone.  Such programs are viewed as a means of opting out of Obamacare, even though these programs (and Samaritan Ministries in particular) predate Obamacare by roughly 20 years.  There is suspicion that such programs expose participants to greater risk because there is no state regulation in many instances.  Readers are warned of the possibility of their claim being denied or the company going out of business.

I’ve participated in traditional insurance programs for all of my adult life.  You hear the stories about claims being denied, payouts being slow and complicated by red tape,.  I talk with physician friends of mine who lament the exponential increase in costs to run a private practice due to needing to hire staff simply to navigate the claims process.  I certainly don’t view the risks associated with health care sharing ministries to be any more frightening than traditional insurance plans.  

The article notes as well that things that Obamacare covers for “free” aren’t included in health care sharing programs.  This is true.  But it is also true that these services aren’t “free” in Obamacare or any other insurance program – they’re built into the cost of the coverage.  The fact that you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for a particular service doesn’t mean you aren’t paying for it.  Haven’t, in fact, paid for it many times over.  

Such programs aren’t for everyone.  You need to evaluate the coverage carefully to make sure it meets your current and anticipated needs.  But at least a year or so into it, I see no downsides to the program.  It requires a mindset switch, but I think that overall this is a good thing.  

For instance, yesterday our daughter was stung by a scorpion at the beach.  We were worried about her participating in a Junior Lifeguard training program, but none of our concerns included scorpions hiding in the sand.  Apparently, there are such critters.  When I got the phone call from one of her instructors, he asked if I wanted to call 9-1-1 or take her to the hospital.  As I drove to go get her, my mind raced.  What did I know about scorpion bites?  What is necessary?  What sort of danger is she in?

Of course, I considered 9-1-1 and the hospital.  I knew that there could be costs associated with those services, but my style of coverage didn’t preclude me from considering those options.  I would pay whatever was necessary to help my daughter.  That’s good to know.  If I had hesitated to consider all the options out of fear of whether or not the claim would be covered, it would be a good indication I had the wrong sort of coverage.  

She was fine at the beach when I got her, and we went home so I could do some research.  Turns out the vast majority of scorpions and their stings aren’t venomous enough to pose any real health threat, unless the person is particularly sensitive/allergic.  She doesn’t appear to be – not even any swelling around the sting – and she’s back at lifeguard training today.  She was apprehensive about going back, newly fearful about the beach.  I’m glad I am not newly fearful about our health coverage.

Not yet, at least.

 

The Holy Ghost in the Machine

July 29, 2014

For the time being, the continuing attempt to expunge any trace of religion (particularly Christianity) from the American public space has stalled.  The “Ground Zero Cross” has been ruled Constitutional, at least insofar as it is eligible for placement at the National September 11 Museum.

A group of atheists sued to ban the cross-shaped debris from inclusion, arguing that it was equivalent to state-sponsored religion and offensive to them.  A court ruled that such an argument was not plausible, and that history and governmental participation in history was more often than not unavoidably religious.  

It isn’t an ultimate victory, as it could still be (and undoubtedly will be) appealed.  

I don’t want my government endorsing a particular religion.  But it is not the duty of my government to perpetuate the myth that there is no religion, and that our population is not pervasively religious.  

Reading Ramblings – August 3, 2014

July 27, 2014

Date:  Narrative Preaching #6—Sinai: August 3, 2014

Texts: Exodus 20:1-21; Psalm 23; Matthew 5:17-20

Context: Thus far our narrative preaching cycle has covered Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham & Isaac, and the Exodus.  Having freed his people from oppression and from death, God the Father now outlines for his people the guidelines by which they will live as his people.  In the Hebrew, these are called the “Ten Words”, which might convey a different feel than “Ten Commandments”.  What God reveals here are not arbitrary rules, but rather a revelation of the very nature of creation, the way in which we were created to function properly in relationship to our creator and to one another. 

Exodus 20:1-21 — God has rescued his people from enslavement and certain death.  He has led them into the wilderness, forced them to rely on him for the basics of food and water, and in the process shown them his character.  He Is.  He is fully sufficient for their needs.

Having grown up in the polytheistic environment of Egypt, the people of God are well-acquainted with worship practices.  But God is different from the Egyptian idols, the imaginative half-animal, half-human gods and goddesses.  As such, worship of God is different.  Proper relationship to God means living the way we were created to live, in the midst of a fallen and broken world.  It means being able to clearly identify evil with confidence, in order to flee from it personally and confront it communally. 

At Mt. Sinai God reveals the proper way to live with him and one another.  These are not new or arbitrary rules—they are woven into the fabric of creation.  Every major religion or philosophy more or less echoes these ideas, evidence of their universality.  Knowing right from wrong is not so difficult, it would seem.  But knowing right from wrong is ultimately anchored in knowing God—the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt.  While human behavior is important (2/3 of the Commandments deal with how we treat one another), human relationship to God the Father is even more important, evidenced by the Commandments regarding our relationship to God coming first. 

Psalm 23 — This beloved psalm has been a source of hope and comfort for thousands of years.  The shepherd is the one who guides the sheep.  The sheep must know what to do, where to go, when to rest, when to eat and drink.  More than anything else, they must know to cling to their shepherd and trust him more than anything else—including their own fear.  The duty of the sheep is to trust and obey, not to try and tell the shepherd how to do his job.  It is not the duty of the sheep to rewrite the rules to suit their own personal preferences or ideas.  Either the shepherd is the shepherd, fully in control, or the sheep will be lost to predators and their own stupidity and ignorance. 

Matthew 5:17-20— Many would set the Old Testament and the New Testament against one another.  The Old Testament is Law, the New Testament is grace.  The Old Testament is judgment, the New Testament is mercy.   But in these few verses Jesus makes it clear that the two Testaments are linked.  What God did with his people in history has not changed.  Expectations have not changed.  Failure to meet those expectations has not changed. 

The Law still plays a crucial role in the lives of all humanity as well as Christians.  It helps us identify evil and resist it.  It shows us our sinfulness and need for salvation.  And it acts as a light to guide us in the best ways of living.  Jesus does not eliminate the Law, but rather fulfills it. 

What is the purpose of the Law then?  Perhaps it has no purpose.  Rather, the Law is simply life.  Failure to live according to the Law results in death.  Lawlessness, rebellion, and the literal suffering and death of those who forsake God’s Law and therefore forsake him.  Living according to the Law—all of the Law (not just the ethical/moral laws governing human interactions) leads to life.  The Law is not something we have for now, but will one day be eliminated in the final and complete reconciliation of heaven and earth.  Rather, the Law will continue.  The nature of God and his creation will continue.  But when we are perfected in Christ, the Law will cease to be unattainable.  We will be able to fulfill it.  We will be able to be perfectly obedient, perfectly conforming with who we were created to be. 

Christians struggle with how to deal with the Law here and now.  We deal with it joyfully, not fearfully!  While the Law constantly shows us how we fail to obey it, we no longer live in fear of the consequences of such failure.  Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly.  His innocent death was offered for your sake and for mine, as payment not for his own sins but rather ours.  His resurrection from the dead is evidence that the sentence for sin has been served.  Jesus is raised from the dead having served fully in three days what would have taken you and I eternity.  The Law no longer condemns us to death, but points us to Christ wherein lies our hope and promise for eternity.

But we continue to seek to obey the Law.  It is not an obligation, it simply is the way of life.  We won’t fulfill it perfectly at this time, but we practice for that day and time when we can and will keep it perfectly.  Living according the Law becomes a matter of consistency.  If it represents the best way of life that we will one day live according to easily, it’s only appropriate that we practice towards that future obedience.  Our lives in Christ here and now should appear somewhat like our lives in Christ will be after his return. 

To do otherwise would be grossly inconsistent, an indication of some serious breakdown in our recognition and identification with what Jesus accomplished through his incarnation, death, and resurrection.  To reject the way of life leads us to reject life itself, both in terms of our relationship with the source of life, God, and the effects of life as they pertain to others.  We cannot proclaim ourselves free of the Law’s demands, as though the Law is arbitrary and pointless.  Rather, with God the Son we affirm the beauty and glory of the Law, the nature of reality as God the Father created it.  By the power of God the Holy Spirit we continue to strive for obedience, not fearful of our failures, but joyfully looking forward to that time when we will be re-created and able to fully obey.

 

De-Skunking

July 25, 2014

Our dogs have been skunked twice in the last three weeks, thanks to their new-found appreciation of diving through the front window screen when they hear critters rustling around.  We’ve had a variety of folks ask us if we’ve doused them with tomato juice to help remove the smell.

The Internet has pretty unanimously deemed tomato juice ineffective.  If you or someone you love (canine or otherwise) winds up on the business end of a skunk, the following is the pretty unanimous solution for minimizing the smell:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind you buy at the drug store)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp liquid dishwashing soap (not the stuff you put in the dishwasher – the hand washing soap)

Mix this together.  Put your dog (or loved one) in a tub and scrub ’em down with this.  It’s supposed to change the chemical composition of the skunk’s spray, minimizing or eliminating the smell.

Operating words – supposed to.  

In reality, your dog got sprayed in the face, and you need to be careful about getting this solution in their eyes.  Which means that more than likely, while the rest of their body may be acceptable, their head is going to smell like skunk for  a few weeks.  Enjoy!

Religious Confusion

July 25, 2014

One friend on Facebook has linked to this article – I’m surprised more haven’t (I have a somewhat diverse group of Facebook friends!).  

It’s eye-catching, attention-grabbing, and completely misleading.  Particularly the little verbal asides (“look how widespread Islam is”) that further mislead everything.

Perspective?  73% of Americans identify themselves as Christian of one form or another (including movements that many Christians don’t consider Biblically-Christian, such as Mormons).  How about all those Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews?  Collectively they make up 4% of the adult US population (all of this according to Wikipedia).  There are three times more people who are not religious or undecided than there are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews – combined.  

What does this mean?  In the mainstream media you’d understandably assume that a good half of our population or more is non-Christian.  Yet the reality is far from it.  Mainstream media does a good job at making Christians feel as if they are the minority, as if they are isolated and vulnerable and there aren’t many like-minded folks out there.  While we can debate (easily and for a long time!) how like-minded Christians may or may not be in our country,the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of US adults consider themselves Christian.  

We aren’t alone.  You aren’t alone.  

Wet Bar Wednesday – Jameson & Ginger

July 23, 2014

From a small pool hall in Las Vegas, I was introduced to a Jameson and ginger.  This is basically a mixture of Jameson (or any other whiskey, frankly) and ginger beer.  Ginger beer is non-alcoholic, and has a nice bite to it (think about liquid ginger – sweet but with a spicy kick).  Irish whiskey is just whiskey that is distilled in Ireland.

 I’d guess that the basic mixture is:

 

  • 1 part Jameson’s Irish Whiskey (or any other whiskey you prefer)
  • 2 – 3 parts ginger beer

Pour over ice and stir.  It’s tasty, and mild, a little sweet and not too much of a bite.  Enjoy!

 

 

Anticipating Change?

July 21, 2014

An old friend sent me the link to this blog post.  He’s not a church-going person, so it’s interesting that it caught his eye enough to send to me.  A few thoughts on each of the author’s points.

1.  Live, simultaneous viewing has been waning for decades.  With the proliferation of cable networks as well as VCRs (remember those?) over 30 years ago, people haven’t been watching the same things at the same times.  Our cultural attention has been shattered for a long time.  Granted, the Internet has accelerated this to an almost unimaginable level, bolstered by the ability to constantly surround ourselves with only exactly what we like or agree with at all times.  

The author then draws two conclusions, or questions.  He implies that Sunday worship is no longer an adequate offering of “content” for generations accustomed to having everything on their schedule.  Secondly, he stresses the importance of relationship.  

Firstly, if we continue to view worship (whenever and however it occurs) as content, we’re missing the point.  It is’t about content, although content is part of what happens.  It’s about relationship.  But it’s not the relationship that the author is emphasizing – human-to-human interaction.  It’s first and foremost about the relationship between God and his people.  Not you.  Not me.  But his people.  Which we are a part of.  Worship is inherently a communal action, something that stresses that my personal preferences and ideas are secondary to the shared beliefs of the community.

For people used to church, once a week worship isn’t an issue.  They ought to have this pattern well-established (although I maintain that this is the easiest faith behavior to be disrupted, and once disrupted, it can be the hardest faith behavior to re-establish).  For people not used to church, once a week worship isn’t an issue either.  They likely have no idea what to expect.  Either they’re looking to understand better and will accommodate themselves to this – like we’re conditioned (more or less) to turn our cell phones off during a plane flight.  During this period of transition, accommodation, transformation, is the time when the proper reasons for worship need to be communicated.  Relationship, yes.  But not relationship as we’ve grown to define it – me-centered, but rather Christ-centered.  

If we treat worship as content, our main focus will be production (something we control) rather than transformation (something that stubbornly remains firmly and exclusively the job of the Holy Spirit).  The point of church is not to “gather a crowd”.  The point of worship is transformation and renewal through the continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and the Sacraments He has entrusted to his Church.  It’s a paradigm shift all right – but not the one that most church ‘experts’ are pushing.

2.  Yes, continued shifts from communal to individual.  However unlike the author, I would argue that this is a strength of the Church, not a liability.  In an era where nobody needs to be connected to anyone live, in-person, Church stands as a very visible and anachronistic organism calling us back to community.  This is our strength, not a liability.  The content is best received in this context.  

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek to augment the material that we give to parishioners, making it available online and in a variety of formats.  But we need to understand that this is always secondary to our purpose.  Our main purpose is not to present the Church, but to be the Church.  That doesn’t require a crowd, it just requires two or three gathered in the name of Christ.  A crowd is only necessary if what you’re really trying to do (for whatever reasons, good or misguided) is to begin or continue a specific ministry model that demands crowd economics.

In terms of calling people to something greater, this is dead-on.  But it isn’t “mission-driven”.  It is first and foremost a matter of repentance and forgiveness, confession and absolution.  It is oriented around transformation.  Mission is something we control.  Transformation is something the Holy Spirit controls.  Transformation will, inevitably, lead to mission in one form or another.  But it isn’t necessarily something as neatly organized as a mission trip.

3.  Again, beyond my earlier caveats about the role of content, this is fine.  But this also requires a level of discernment.  Not every congregation may be equipped to produce quality content.  A congregation needs to clearly understand what they are equipped to provide and why they are providing it.  This can be helpful for members, but remember that what goes online has a habit of showing up in unexpected places and ways.  I have a colleague who posted some of his Bible studies on YouTube.  He got into a theological discussion with a Roman Catholic in South America.  It was a fantastic opportunity for the body of Christ to act in a beautiful way.  But I’m not sure that his YouTube videos have resulted in dozens of new members.  To avoid frustration and irritation (particularly as budget resources are allocated), there must be very frank and deliberate discussion and consensus about why this content is being created, how it is being provided, and what the goals are.  

4.  I agree with this completely, though I think it needs to be focused further.  Don’t just tell a story.  Tell the story, and that fundamentally is not a story about us or me, but about God.  The story is essentially disruptive in that it short-circuits the dominant cultural story that is being told (at least in America), which is that everything is about my story.  Christianity posits that my story, insofar as it even exists, only has meaning (and possibility) within the story of God.  

I recently attended a great preaching seminar focused on story-telling in the form of narrative preaching.  Telling the story is important because it is not a story being told anywhere else in our culture.  The Church is the only one telling her story now, the story of God’s creative, redemptive, and sanctifying work.  Don’t assume your congregation knows the stories.  Don’t assume that they know how the stories function to link their personal stories into God’s meta-narrative.

5.  Money shouldn’t be an issue.  Money is an issue when a group of people insist on a particular model of ministry that requires economic resources.  This isn’t bad or wrong.  But look at the New Testament – the major exhortations regarding money come in regards to charitable giving to alleviate the suffering of Christians and Jews in other places in the midst of crisis and great need.  But this is rarely the focus of our congregational emphases on finances.  Missions are usually tacked on at the end, in the category of if-we-have-enough-left-over (regardless of whether this is a budgeted line item or not.  When funds are tight, watch how quickly missions get cut before staff salaries or facility maintenance line-items).  

People//members/congregations are not paying for something they use.  At least they shouldn’t be.  People are responding to the grace and gifts of God by offering back for his use part of what He has given them.  I’ve met with parishioners who had pastors decades ago liken tithing to paying membership dues.  This is faulty (regardless of how well-intentioned) information.  Giving in the Church is always first and foremost a response to the goodness of God.  

Failure to understand this properly will lead to financial issues (it’s one reason that financial issues might arise – certainly not the only reason!).  This doesn’t exempt “Mission-centered, mission-focused” churches either, unfortunately.  Why?  Because there are so many ways and places for people to direct their financial resources now.  Many of these are excellent.  The advent of micro-funding and crowd-funding has made it possible to raise money quickly and across a broad spectrum of givers, fueled by the ability to communicate the need and message quickly and inexpensively.

If Christians are conditioned to view tithing primarily as a means of directing their personal resources to worthy causes that they believe in, we’re missing the point.  Giving money to a needy family on the other side of the street or the other side of the world is not the same thing as tithing, according to Scripture.  Both are important and Biblical, mind you, but they are not interchangeable.  

Yes, the world is changing quickly.  The Church can and should adapt to a certain level.  But we also need to recognize that the Church is fundamentally different from culture.  Culture is transient, shifting, ebbing and flowing.  The Church is the Rock, the very Body of Christ in the world.  This should determine how the Church discusses change.  When we begin discussing change in terms of content and finances, we’ve missed the more fundamental issues that need to be not simply discussed, but affirmed and lived.  It’s a lot easier to talk about content than it is to talk about transformation.  Then again, being the Church has rarely been an easy thing.  

 

 

 

Reading Ramblings – July 27, 2014

July 20, 2014

Date:  Narrative Preaching #5—The Exodus, July 27, 2014

Texts: Exodus 12:21-40; Psalm 73; Luke 22:1-20

Context: Thus far our narrative preaching cycle has covered Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and Abraham & Isaac.  We fast forward roughly 400 years to God’s deliverance of Abraham’s descendants from slavery and death in Egypt. 

Exodus 12:21-40 — After decimating the nation and people and gods of Egypt through a series of divine-ordered disasters, God prepares for the final blow that will set his people free from slavery and the threat of annihilation.  God prepares his people, warning them about the destruction to come that night, and providing them with the means of seeking his protection.  The Exodus from Egypt is the single most important event of the Old Testament history of God’s people.  It is the defining moment for both God and Israel.  Who is Israel?  The people that God himself delivered from slavery and death.  Who is God?  The one who saved his people through his mighty power.  God demonstrates here that there is no power on earth—physical or spiritual—equal to him in power and might, as well as in love and care for his people.  As such, the Hebrews are commanded to remember this night for all generations, to retell what God did for them as a reminder of who they are and who He is yet today.

Psalm 73 — How easy it is to lose hope!  How easy it is to allow the circumstances of our individual and  corporate lives obscure the love and power of God.  After all, the wicked always seem to have a leg up on things, while God’s faithful seem more often than not to struggle.  Is it any wonder that we are tempted to envy those who follow their own hearts rather than the intentions of God?  Is it any wonder that we are tempted to abandon God’s way for the more expedient and profitable way? 

We are called to remain faithful against the temptation to abandon our God in favor of our appetites for power or riches or personal pleasure.  We are called to recognize that in God’s good timing, those who reject him and destroy others for their own gain will be called to account.  Their temporary victories and pleasures are only that—temporary.  Evil has been defeated in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and will one day face judgment and certain punishment. 

Our focus is to remain on our God and who He has created us to be in him.  This is to be our ultimate pleasure and the highest good we can hope for.  Nothing else will last.  But proper relationship to the God who saves us lasts forever.  We cannot remain faithful on our own strength, but must lean on the strength of our God to support us and hold us steadfast until the end. 

Luke 22:1-20— The Old Testament Exodus paved the way for the first covenant, the Mosaic covenant that was given by God at Mt. Sinai following the Hebrew departure from Egypt.  It was a covenant based on the performance of duty.  Those who followed the covenantal stipulations demonstrated their participation in the covenant, as further identified by their lineage as descendants of Abraham.  This covenant could not be kept.  Even before God had finished dictating it, his people were rejecting him, defying his commands, and worshiping an idol made of gold.  While they came to repentance, the remainder of the Old Testament would be a continual ebb and flow of obedience and disobedience (mainly disobedience). 

In Jesus Christ, the new covenant is established.  This covenant is not based on lineage or obedience.  It is based solely on the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God.  His willingness to go to death not for his own sins but for ours, and his subsequent resurrection from the dead, is the act by which all humanity is welcomed back into the good graces of God the Father.  Amnesty is offered to everyone who will simply recognize their state of rebellion (sinfulness) and accept the terms of amnesty in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return of Jesus the Son of God.  What we cannot do ourselves through force of will in terms of obedience, Jesus has done on our behalf. 

From the earliest days, the Church has recognized the Lords’ Supper as the pivotal embodiment of this arrangement.  The Lord who saves us is the Lord who continues to feed us with his presence.  As circumcision helped to incorporate individuals into the people of God in the Old Testament, Holy Communion is the special gift of God the Son to his faithful people.   It is the sign of the new covenant, a covenant not dependent on our behavior, but on the grace and mercy of God.  As the people of God’s first covenant continue to observe and remember God’s goodness in the Passover Seder, the New Testament people of God also share in a meal where God the Son himself is both presiding and the food.