Open Communion, Closed Membership

We love celebrating weekly communion at our church, and it is having multiple desired effects. It proclaims the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26). It unites the body as we participate in the blood and body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). It encourages us to keep short accounts (1 Corinthians 11:28). And it makes people ask questions, including our kids, who wonder when they will get to share in communion.

This is a feature, it doesn’t have to be a frustration. Just as the liturgy of various offerings in the Old Testament provided opportunities for parents to tell their kids about God’s redeeming work, so we want our liturgy to cause others to want it, especially our kids. If we had to choose between abusing the Table by making them dread it due to our anxiousness, or abusing the Table by making them desire it due to our joyfulness, is that hard to answer?

One question that is a bit harder, at least on a personal level, is, Who is welcome at the Table? We practice what has historically been called “open” communion. That means that you do not need to be a member of our local body to be invited to eat and drink. You do need to believe in Christ, and, in most cases, you should already be baptized in public identification with Christ. We typically discourage parents from having their young people partake until they’ve been baptized.

One additional challenge for us involves those who sincerely believe that infant baptism is a valid expression of the ordinance. As a church we do not believe that, and so we have what is called “closed” membership. We believe (in brief) that “disciples obey the Lord in baptism” and so, as a credo-baptist church, we do not affirm paedo-baptized members.

But, desiring to be charitable to those who profess with both lips and lives their belief in and love for Christ, we will encourage them to partake at the open Table though we won’t affirm them as official members. This is a compromise we are comfortable with. Currently, the most significant limitation is that such a person could not hold a church office (that is, be an elder or deacon), though in every other way they would receive the care of the shepherds.

We gladly welcome the Lord’s disciples to the Lord’s Table, even when we believe there is more to teach them to observe that He’s commanded, which is, of course, true for all of us in some way or another this side of glorification.

Our Father Who Judges

When we come to our time of confession as part of our worship we come to confess our sins to our Father. God is holy, God is righteous, God is just, God is the judge of the world. But to all who believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). We confess our sins to God, but He is our “God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).

Peter gave more explanation about what we should do because of the Father we have.

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:17-19)

There are a couple things to notice about this imperative and this information. We are to pay attention to what our Father says to do. He has given instruction, and He intends for us to walk in His ways.

We are also to remember what our Father has done for us. He sent His Son to pay the price for our deliverance. He set us free from ignorance and unholiness. There were a lot of false gods and a lot of nasty behavior and a lot of gloomy moral blindness like the darkest cave, and the Lamb covers and cleanses us.

Leave the empty ways behind and call on the Father through His Son.

On Carrying My Own (Digital) Man-purse

I am not a perfect minimalist, but I am drawn to it in certain contexts like iPad writers are to Starbucks. In my time as a more severe dualist I thought it very sanctimonious to carry the least amount of things with me as possible. My wife can not only bear witness, she has often had to bear my load.

When we would travel together, I would let her bring a bar of soap, and I would borrow. When we would go out to eat, I would let her carry my money-clip in her purse. I mean, she had all that available space doing nothing else, right? I needed to keep my pockets free for my hands. And when she would need to bring superfluous things, like more than one extra diaper for a kid, or her hair-dryer, or whatever it seemed like I might have to carry if she got injured, I often expressed my passive-but-perfervid disgust. Why couldn’t she make do with less, like me?

I’ve done the same thing to friends at conferences or other trips. They wanted to bring their backpack with them, so surely they wouldn’t mind carrying around my booklet or free books either. I’m sure that I always asked nicely, and said thank you, too.

Hopefully you can see that I’m trying to poke fun at my selfish self here. It’s not to say that we must always carry our own burden, but , actually, there is a verse about it (Galatians 6:5).

My main point, however, is about why I joined, and still have an account with, the Facebook. I resisted for a long time, not because I dislike technology or the Internet or social networks per se. I resisted because most everyone else was doing it. I resisted because the most that anyone can waste my time on Twitter is 140 characters (it’s now twice that, and yuck, but they didn’t ask me). I resisted because I already know enough ways to waste my time. I resisted because I had seen MySpace pages. I resisted because I had Googled some articles about how Facebook uses your data to target you for ads….

That’s all high-road sounding, and I fancifully suppose people in L’Abri communities would say similar things. But, and this is big, I mostly got away with my resistance because my wife had Facebook. That meant she could tell me about all the banality. She could tell me about who was pregnant. She could pass on prayer requests that others posted, or even prayer requests from our family. She could keep in contact with my sister’s friends when my sister was dying of cancer and was stuck in hospital beds and nursing home beds two-thousand miles away. She could carry my digital social media purse.

I realized that my precious digital minimalism was just no good. I still don’t like Facebook. BLECGH! I don’t have the app on a pocketable device, but I do open it up once or twice a day on my computer. After clicking through the notifications (so I don’t have to keep looking at the red circle of how many things I’m behind on), I scrim (that’s scroll-skim) through the timeline. About that time I question the meaning/vanity of life. But a bunch of people I care about communicate, even seem to hang out, there. Lots of people at our church use it to announce opportunities, ask for prayer, and/or encourage others to persevere. Lots of parents at our school use it for the same reasons, and also to share what’s happening with their friends, which spreads the word about how God is blessing. And amen!

If Facebook went away in an hour, due to a meteor, or a Federal lawsuit, or other, I might sing and dance, and not in lamentation. But for now, though lots of people seem to be abandoning the service, for understandable reasons even, I will keep carrying my own purse.

NoDiscontentDecember Postmortem

It’s been a couple weeks since the official end of our family’s finishing hashtag of 2018. I posted about it a few times, and here is an autopsy report.

  • The focus, agreed upon by every member of the family, was fitting and helpful. December was “richly scheduled,” as Anese Cavenaugh likes to say, and it was good to take fussiness off the table as an acceptable response. That’s not to say no one was ever fussy, but it was nice to have the zero tolerance policy clearly in place.
  • Just like praying for patience, you don’t want to do it. Ha. Not only was December busy, there were some days and discussions which seemed extra providentially selected for testing the contentment commitment. By God’s grace I think my own capacity to see contentment as an appropriate response was increased, as well as my actual choice in the moment.
  • Encouraging the use of Grinch lyrics in the Open Season of confrontation added some laughter (at least for the persons whose souls were not greasy black peels), and encouraged us to remember that obedience, which itself is not a laughing matter, can be pursued with joy not just under burden.
  • If I remember next December, then we will do this again.

Since you’re certainly wondering, our new family hashtag for this month is #jerkJanuary. I’m joking. We haven’t chosen one, and I don’t think we will. Also, of course, contentment is required by God all the time, so we don’t get to return to grumpy-pants grumbling because we survived the gauntlet. Paul said that contentment should be learned for every circumstance; our pursuit of contentment isn’t dead, but we’ll pause our use of the pound sign.

The Telos of Jealousy

The Headmaster at our school recently wrote about Raising…and Being the Cool Kids. Here are a couple key paragraphs:

All of Paul’s ministry had a telos of jealousy. He was working hard (as a Jew!) to make Jews jealous of the glorious blessings the Gentiles were enjoying….and there were plenty of blessings to go around! All the Jews needed to do was repent and embrace their Savior, and they would share those glorious riches with their Gentile brothers. It would then complete the salvation of the full number of the elect, and usher in the end of the age.

Likewise, I make no apologies when I say that we wish to provoke the world around us to jealousy. We want them to want what we have, because what we have been given in Christ is absolutely glorious. We didn’t manufacture it, and we don’t deserve it.

This is part of our project at The Kuyperian Dispensationalist. Recognizing and rejoicing in our #blessed position in Christ has been a theme here at tohu va bohu, too. It’s more than a hashtag, it’s a worldview about the true and ultimate “riches for the world” (Romans 11:12).

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

3 of 5 stars to by Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet by Elaine Gottschall

I LOVE ALL THE CARBS IN THE WHOLE WORLD

I also have had (or have) some GERD and general gut problems, though not as extreme as the cases of Crohn’s and Celiac Disease that Gottschall addresses. 

So…that makes the Specific Carbohydrate Diet interesting, and/or frightening (#cauliflowerpizzaisnotrealpizza). Ha. I’m very glad I finally read the book, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll be implementing the diet.

All a Pitter-pattering

Is love more science or more story? Is love an historical fact or a philosophical idea? Is love a Platonic ideal, an abstract quality existing Up There, or is love an Aristotelian reality, expressed Down Here in hands and lips and bodies? Where do you learn about love best? Reading the dictionary? Reading the Bible? Hearing a story? Getting a timely hug from your dad?

As much as I love a good dictionary, dictionaries don’t inspire. Definitions are helpful and even necessary, but statements of meaning distinguish between things more than they activate affection for things.

The Greek word agape means “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as “intense feeling of affection and attachment.” I’m sure your heart is just all a pitter-pattering now.

Again, I like a good proposition and I think a well crafted sentence of explanation is like truth gold set in syntax silver. But what informs and impels our affections are not notions of love as much as narratives of love.

The gospel is the ultimate story. In our last Omnibus Tenebras class we talked about stories and “myths” and tales and legends. Whatever word you’re comfortable with, “in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

This is an eternal and true story that tells us who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. It is the ultimate, overarching story with chapters still being written by the Author of our salvation. We are not just fed our lines, we are fed bread and wine for living and participating in the saga together by God’s grace.

Perpetual Shortfall

There are a couple sure-fire ways to get almost any Christian to feel guilty. One way is to ask a believer about his prayer life. A recurring response is that, “It could be better.” Well of course it could. You don’t really need to sleep, right? Jesus spent whole nights in prayer…what is your excuse?

That’s an easy one, but the one exhortation to rule them all is not about Bible reading or prayer, it’s not about church attendance, it’s not about how many dates you’ve taken your wife on in the last year, it’s not if you’ve ever spoken to your kids in impatience or anger.

There is one law that none of us obey, not even one. If we had a week of only telling the truth, of only sacrificing for the good of others, of only faithful working and stewarding as image-bearers, of only being in a good mood and always giving thanks in every circumstance, we still can be tagged with not loving God with all our hearts.

It’s good to have goals that are measurable. The Great Commandment is absolutely measurable, and the measurement is repeated three times by Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5) and all three times when Jesus quoted Moses. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

What should we do about our perpetual shortfall to this command? How can we accept it without being buried in paralyzing shame? What we most certainly cannot do is ignore or even lower the law. What we can and most certainly must do is come to the Father who commands us to love, not because He needs it, but because He knows that we need it. Love Him, and love that He faithfully loves us in Christ even when our love is halfhearted.