Breaking Bread – The Early Church (Part 2)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A devoted church, is a church who eats together.  In this series, we’ll explore what Jesus said, what the early church did, and how we, the church, can become more devoted.

The idea of breaking bread has two implications: partaking in communion and eating together.  For the early Church, these usually occurred together.

What JESUS said about eating together…

Jesus did a lot of socializing.  Much like our culture, this included eating together.  We can see an example of this in Luke 19, when Jesus ended up becoming the guest of Zacchaeus:

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through.  And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”[i]

Let’s briefly look at this.  First, Zacchaeus was a chief tax-collector[ii].  As a result, he wasn’t well liked by the general public and quite rich.  It’s safe to say that’s probably why Zacchaeus had a hard time seeing among a crowd.

Secondly, Jesus made the first move.  Jesus didn’t pass Zacchaeus waiting for him to speak, “he looked up”[iii] and asked to be a guest at his house.  Jesus associated himself with someone who was rejected by most people.

Thirdly, salvation was brought to a household because of their generosity.   That generosity, however, was sparked because Jesus choose to spent time with them.  He socialized and ate with a “sinner” and as a result, Zacchaeus’ whole mindset was transformed.

Jesus also taught his disciples to remember Him by sharing in bread and wine.  Shortly after the Zacchaeus story, Luke records:

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.  And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat ituntil it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”[iv]

Jesus “reclined” with his disciples for a meal before he continued with the symbolic portion of their last supper together.  While Jesus socialized with those he associated himself with, they both shared in a meal and prepared for the coming significance of the cross.  They broke bread together.

What the EARLY CHURCH did…

The early Church devoted themselves to breaking bread on a regular basis.[v]  That said, Paul had to do some correcting on the matter while writing to the church in Corinth:

When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?[vi]

Unity was the issue.  Instead of eating together, they ate on their own terms.  As a result, some were hungry while others had more than enough.   If there was unity, the church would have honored God by eating and sharing together.

It seems as though the early Church understood the last supper to be a Passover meal.  In remembrance of Christ, they too were “coming together”[vii] to break bread.  This also seems to be closely related to hospitality – an Old Testament principle with integral teachings in the New Testament.[viii]  The key here was inviting people into their homes to share in a meal which often included remembering Christ.  A mixture of Zacchaeus hospitality and scared communion; creating unity and remembering Christ.

What EARLY PENTECOSTALS did…

Pentecostalism started from a desire to leave organized religions.  Their goal was to spread the “good news” because they believed the fresh outpour of the Spirit was a true reminder of the imminent return of Christ.  How did they do that? Through friendships, social gatherings and divine participation.  Early Pentecostals participated together in unity during their services while often sharing the slogan “all are welcome”.

Eating together often meant three things: (1) celebrating with God; (2) celebrating with the faithful; and (3) celebrating the invitation.[ix]  For Pentecostals, partaking in communion and sharing in a meal helped them to be thankful for what Christ did, socialize with other believers, and present an invitation for others to experience salvation.  They were devoted to this process.

What the CHURCH TODAY needs to do…

I think we have a lot to learn from history.  Breaking bread should be seen as an activity which encourages unity.  Perhaps the best thing we could do is work on integrating hospitality and sacred time with God.  We need to make sure we are an inviting people who enjoy spending time with fellow believers, while remembering what Christ did for us.

So where does this leave us?  Perhaps we can start by thinking of ways we can make social times more sacred, and sacred times more social.  If we work towards integrating unity, our relationship with God and hospitality, we’ll start to experience what it actually means to break bread together.

Our assembly meets for a social and Bible Study Sunday nights, shares in communion once a month, gathers for socials throughout the year, and hosts campfires during the summer.  The challenge always remains – to make social times more sacred, and sacred times more social.

Will we be as devoted as the early Church was and break bread together?


[i] Luke 19:1-10, ESV.

[ii] Chief Tax Collectors – Would have collected from the extra taken from the tax collectors under them.

[iii] Luke 19:5.

[iv] Luke 22:14-16, 19-20.

[v] Acts 2:42; 20:7.

[vi] 1 Cor 11:17-22.

[vii] I Cor 11:18, 33.

[viii] James I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, William White, Jr., eds., Daily Life in Bible Times (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982), 109.

[ix] Wolfgang Vondey, “Pentecostal ecclesiology and Eucharistic hospitality: toward a systematic and ecumenical account of the church,” Pneuma 32, no. 1 (January 1, 2010), 49.

People Who Pray – The Early Church (Part 1)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A devoted church, is a praying church.  In this series, we’ll explore what Jesus said, what the early church did, and how we, the church, can become more devoted

What JESUS said about prayer…

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.  Before giving them a prayer model, he made two comments.  First, there is no need to pray in public places to be heard by those around them.  God hears our prayers in the secret of our hearts.  Second, make sure you don’t use “empty phrases”.  In other words, simple and short is always better than wordy and long.  After all, the “Father knows what you need before you ask him.”[i]  Jesus continued His teaching by giving his disciples a prayer model.  The model we all know well:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.”[ii]

This model is all about praying for God’s will to be accomplished while his followers are taken care of.  The key here is “[God’s] will be done.”  Something else to note is that there are no singular pronouns in the prayer.  The prayer doesn’t start with “My Father” or “His Father”, it starts with “Our Father”.  The model includes God’s will for all of us together as one Church body.  Jesus was teaching how the Church needs to be devoted to prayer.

What the EARLY CHURCH did…

The early Church was devoted to prayer.[iii]  This is not only seen in scripture, but also in other early documents like The Didache – a document referring to the teaching of the twelve Apostles.  This first/second century document states that a Christian should say the Lord’s prayer three times daily.[iv]

By the fourth century, tradition called for a Christian to pray seven times daily.  This seemed to differ based on whether a Christian was home or not.  Without question, however, a Christian should pray at rising, during the lighting of the evening candle, at bed time, and midnight.[v]

As Christianity developed, scripted prayers became a common way to help a Christians engage in prayer.  Many main-line denominations continue to use prayer books and scripted prayers today.

What EARLY PENTECOSTALS did…

For early Pentecostals, prayer was one of the most significant activities.  To pray, meant to open themselves to what the Spirit is doing among them.  Being a denomination that was built on the activity of the Spirit, prayer became a major aspect of Pentecostal spirituality.

As a part of their spiritual life, early Pentecostals prayed in the Spirit.  Steven Jack Land[vi] suggests that there are three ways early Pentecostals did this:

1) With words known to others – letting the Spirit guide their words as they prayed

2) With no words – groaning, crying and laughing in response to what the Spirit was doing.

3) With words unknown to others – praying in tongues.  Using a prayer language to speak to God.

Praying in the Spirit was also a part of the believer’s daily walk with God.  Alice Garrigus[vii], the Pentecostal pioneer of Newfoundland, was praying when she read The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.[viii]  She wrote,  “…often on my knees, eyes blinded with tears praying fervently, ‘O God, if there be such an experience, won’t you bring me into it?'”[ix]

It’s safe to say early Pentecostals relied on prayer.  It wasn’t only a significant part of the church service, but also the heart of the believer.  They were devoted to it!

What the CHURCH TODAY needs to do…

As we explore what those before us did, it’s important for us to ask: “are we devoted to prayer in this generation? Do we use the Lord’s prayer as our prayer model? Is prayer the center of our lives?”  If we want to see God move, then we must first pray for God’s will to be accomplished; and second, pray for God to supply our needs and the needs of others along the way.

Let’s commit to a private prayer life and to a praying Church – a Church who prioritizes prayer, meets regularly to pray, and realizes that prayer always precedes something beautiful.  If your church holds weekly prayer meetings or pre-service prayer times, attending these, might be a great way to start placing prayer as a priority.

Will we be devoted people who pray?

 


[i] Matthew 6:5-8, ESV.

[ii] Matthew 6:9-13, ESV.

[iii] Acts 2:42, ESV.

[iv] Maxwell Standiforth, trans., Early Christian Writings: the Apostolic Fathers (penguin Classics) (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1968), 231.

[v] Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967), 272.

[vi] Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2010), 166-172.

[vii] About Garrigus (http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/pentecostal.html), Writings by Garrigus (http://www.mun.ca/rels/pent/).

[viii] Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 2010)

[ix]Alice B. Garrigus, “Walking In The King’s Highway” Chapter 4, Memorial University, http://www.mun.ca/rels/pent/texts/king/king4.html (accessed January 4, 2013).

New Year Resolutions (Part 3)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As we look forward to another wonderful year, many of us make new year resolutions.  Maybe this year we can set goals that help us grow spirituality over the next twelve months.  As Christians, we should be growing together in terms of three concepts: worshiping God, loving others, and serving.  Perhaps this year we can challenge ourselves with building stronger relationships within these three areas.

In part one, we looked at our relationship with God.  In part two, we looked at our relationship with others.  In this post, we’ll look at our relationship within the Body of Christ.

Our relationship within the Body of Christ

The body of Christ is the Church.  If you’re a Christian, you’re a part of the body.   As the body, we work together to serve those around us as Christ has instructed us to do.  Within Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts and unity, Paul explained it this way:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.[i]

All of us have something unique to offer.  When we all serve together, we become the hands and feet of Christ and are able to fulfill His purposes.  We can look at it like this:

1)      There is one overall purpose – God’s will

2)      There is one body – the Church

3)      There are many parts – there is a place for everyone to serve

4)      There are many functions – everyone serves and contributes in their own way

5)      A hand cannot be a foot – one person cannot do every job and no one can replace someone else

6)      The body working together – God’s will accomplished

There are many different ways we can serve within the body.  The key is finding how God has gifted you, realize you’ve been gifted in that area to serve God, and go for it!  One area is not better than the other, they are just different.  For example, a musical gifting is no better than someone who serves as an usher.

We all need to find a way to serve.  In fact, in order to truly be a part of the Church, we all need to find a place to serve.  If the body of Christ is the Church, and the body needs active members serving in their unique way in order to fulfill God’s will, then the entire Church needs to be a part of body in order for success.  That said, the will of God will be accomplished either way.  The question is: will we choose be a part of it or will we allow the few to do their job and ours?  Unfortunately, the latter eventually leads to burnout and ineffectiveness.

Where will you serve this year?  Will you try something new?  Will you continue to serve?  Will you continue to be a part of the body of Christ?  Be a part of the body of Christ and grow this year!

———

From our home to yours, have a blessed and wonderful year!

Check out part one and two of “New Year Resolutions”

 


[i] 1 Cor 12:12-14, NIV.

New Year Resolutions (Part 2)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As we look forward to another wonderful year, many of us make new year resolutions.  Maybe this year we can set goals that help us grow spirituality over the next twelve months.  As Christians, we should be growing together in terms of three concepts: worshiping God, loving others, and serving.  Perhaps this year we can challenge ourselves with building stronger relationships within these three areas.

In part one, we looked at our relationship with God.  In this post, we’ll look at our relationship with others.

Our relationship with Others

We’re around others every day.  In order to have successful relationships, we need to ensure we respect and love one another.  Let’s look at a couple of ways we can work on this during 2013.

Forgiveness

Because we’re human, we sometimes butt heads with one another.  Sometimes it results in pain, confusion, heartache or otherwise hurt.  Generally speaking, we have no idea we’ve hurt someone unless that person has told us.  In that case, we need to make sure we initiate forgiveness so a positive resolution can be made.  Paul told us:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.[i]

We need to bear with and forgive one another like Christ did for us.  If that’s true, we’ll need to forgive without expecting anything in return.

Jesus told us how to forgive.  In Matthew’s gospel[ii], Jesus lays out four steps to follow:

1)      Go to the person one-on-one – let them know what happened and work it out.  If that doesn’t work,

2)      Gather two or three people together as witnesses to help mediate the situation.  If that doesn’t work,

3)      Tell the church body and hopefully a positive resolution can be made.  If that doesn’t work,

4)      Disregard the person and situation.  In other words, take the high road.

Let’s not wait any longer – mend relationships in 2013.

Loving Others

The Bible is pretty clear that we need to love one another.  In fact, the gospel is built on LOVE.  When writing to the Church in Rome, Paul wrote:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honour one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.[iii]

We are called to have sincere and genuine love for others.  We need to love when society tells us there is no room for love.  We need to love even when love isn’t reciprocated.  How will you love others this year?

How will you challenge yourself to better your relationship with others?  This year, let’s love as Christ loves us.

———

From our home to yours, have a blessed and wonderful year!

Check out part one and three of “New Year Resolutions”

 


[i] Col 3:13, NIV.

[ii] Matt 18:15-20, NIV.

[iii] Romans 12:9-13, NIV.

New Year Resolutions (Part 1)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As we look forward to another wonderful year, many of us make new year resolutions.  Maybe this year we can set goals that help us grow spirituality over the next twelve months.  As Christians, we should be growing together in terms of three concepts: worshiping God, loving others, and serving.  Perhaps this year we can challenge ourselves with building stronger relationships within these three areas.

Over the next three posts, we’ll see how we can do this.  In this post, we’ll look at our relationship with God.

Our relationship with God

It’s no surprise, strengthening our relationship with God is important. Let’s look at two ways we can grow with God this year.

Time With God

If we want to know God’s will for us and wonder why we go through tough times, we have to know his voice.  The closer we are with God, the clearer we’ll see God’s will; the clearer we see God’s will, the more comfortable we’ll be with the circumstances in life.

Early in Mark’s gospel, Jesus removed himself from all distractions to pray:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.[i]

If we read the original Greek text, we see that the emphasis is put on how Jesus removed himself from his busy ministry to pray.  Let’s try to remove ourselves from our busy schedules this year, and take time to be with God.

Physical Well-Being

 Another way we can draw nearer to God this year, is by taking care of ourselves.  God has given us a body and He expects us to honour Him by taking care of it. Paul wrote,

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought for a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.[ii]

Too often, we read this passage with others in mind rather than ourselves.  I’m sure we can all improve the way we take care of ourselves.  For some, it might mean eating better, while others are looking to quit smoking.  For me, I’m going to try to drink less coffee and eat less fast food.  In any case, let’s search ourselves and ask how we can better honor God with our physical well-being.

We can grow our relationship in many other ways as well.  This question is, how will you challenge yourself to draw nearer and honor God this year?  Whatever you choose, I guarantee you will be richly blessed for it.

———

From our home to yours, have a blessed and wonderful year!

Check out part two and three of “New Year Resolutions”

 


[i] Mark 1:35, ESV.

[ii] 1 Cor 6:19-20, NIV.