Thursday, January 31, 2008


Isaiah was not thinking about our use of candles on the communion table but something he said helps us understand their symbolic meaning: "Arise, sine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Isa 60:1). What might these candles be saying to us about the light that has dawned upon us?

A story that I came across recently about a little candle will help us see their significance. The little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of them much larger and more beautiful than she was. Some were ornate and some were rather simple, like her. Some were white, some were blue, some were pink, and some were green.

When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a man walking toward her with a match. She suddenly realized that the man was going to set her on fire. "No, no!" she cried, "Don't burn me, please!" but she knew that she could not be heard and she prepared for the pain that would surely follow.

To her surprise, the room filled with light. She wondered where it came from since the man had extinguished the match. To her delight, she realized that the light came from her. During the next few hours, she noticed that, slowly, her wax had begun to melt. She became aware that she would soon be gone. With this realization came a sense of why she had been created. She thought, "Perhaps my purpose on earth is to give out light until the end." And that's exactly what she did.

God gives each of us the opportunity to produce light in a world that needs brightening up. Like that little candle, we can produce the same amount of light, no matter how small we are or what color we might be. God has given us the source of our light in the greatest gift we will ever receive, Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world (Ruth Chavez Wallace, Pension Fund Bulletin).

Jesus, like that candle, gave out light to the very end -- in fact, it was at the end of his life that his light in a darkened world was at its brightest. It is not accidental that the churches in Revelation 1-3 are called "lampstands", holders of the light of Christ. The candles on our table remind us of our mission as well as of Him who is the light of the world. The Apostle Paul saw us actually participating in his mission, his light-giving life and death as we take communion. He put it this way: "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? ... the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:15-16). As Isaiah said, let us "arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I have heard it said that the church is like a chain, having many individuals linked together. I don't like this image of the church because of its implications. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What happens in the church when the weakest link breaks? Are the rest incapacitated, as a chain would be? I don't like this image because it negates the strength of the other links. Elton Trueblood suggested that a better image would be that of a cable, consisting of many wires. If one wire becomes frayed or weakened in some way, and even if it should snap, the other wires with their combined strength would still carry on their work.

Actually, each strand is weak in itself, just as individual members of the body have their weaknesses. But, as Ecclesiastes says, "two are better than one ... and a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (4:9-12). The cable, with many strands making it stronger than any one strand, is a more scriptural image of the church. It speaks of the unity of the church, of each member supporting the others, and of the church banding together to accomplish God's will.

An example of this can be seen in Galatians 6:1-2, "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ."

The Lord's Supper symbolizes this nature of the church as it pictures unity -- the oneness in which we support each other. The Apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

The very manner in which we observe the feast often speaks of this unity. In a few churches it is still the custom to use one cup for all. Occasionally, we have used one cup and individually dipped the bread. In other churches all hold the bread until all are served and they partake at the same time. When we say the confession of faith just before partaking, we say it together, as one body. All of this testifies to the strength of a united church.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ALL THINGS NEW Psalm 47:1-2; Revelation 22:8-9

Ancient Israel marked the new year with a procession up Mount Zion to the Temple. It was a time of festive celebration. "On New Year's Day, the first rays of the sun, rising over the Mount of Olives, shone in a straight line through the outer eastern gate of the temple, then on across the temple court and over the great altar inside, between the two pillars on either side and on down the long corridor into the holy of holies, the sacred recess at the western end. These first rays of New Year's Day were called "the radiance of God" and symbolized God's entrance into the sanctuary, ... Just at this moment, the shofar or ram's horn would be sounded, and the procession would begin ..." (Jeter, Joseph R.Jr. Re/Membering, 102). As they wound their way up the hill and into the temple area they probably sang the opening of Psalm 47:
Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of
joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the

"Shout to God with loud songs of joy," they sang. Why, we ask? And the Psalmist answers: For the Lord ... is awesome, a great king over all the earth." The crops may have failed, the housing market gone sour, the war still killing men, women and children, and we failed to be and do what we intended to be and do. All of this we can see when we look back, and it can drag us down if we don't leave it behind and focus on the God who still sits on his throne -- a great king over all the earth.

This may be why the book of Revelation ends like it does. The Revelation summarizes everything that has gone before: the fall of mankind, the strife and sinfulness that followed, and the death that came upon all. But it also includes the God who sits on the throne and says, "Behold, I make all things new" (21:5). What can we do that will help us look to the future with faith and hope for fulfillment of that promise?

Hear the answer in the last chapter of The Revelation:
Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I
fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these
things. Then he said to me, '"See that you do not do that. For I am
your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep
the words of this book. Worship God!"

Two words: worship God. "The key to hope for the future lies not in resolutions, but the worship of God" (Jeter, 103). In a sense, each Lord's Day is a new year, a new beginning, and the Lord's Table is the place where we can come to worship God and hear him say once again, "Behold, I make all things new."