The Spiraling, Spiritual, Web Adventure

You know it and I know it. You have to have a web page. You want to have a good web page. It has to have content and style.

After spending a good part of this last week researching, budgeting, and designing, a new home page is now up for Nexus United Methodist Church.

Someone recently told me this story,
"The Father and the Son were having a conversation before the Incarnation. Jesus turned to the Father and said, "Dad, you can send me to Earth anytime but it has to be before they invent power point, sound systems, cell phones and the internet!"

Oh what a tangled web we've weaved...

May I Ask: How have you benefited from "web presence"? Would you say it has been worth the time?

May I Suggest: Visit websites from a variety of businesses, churches, and non-profits. What elements consistently appear in the best sites? Do they appear in yours?

Moving from Mission Statement to Missional Meaning

Do we ever buy lemonade from our neighbor kids because we expect it to be great lemonade? We buy it because we know them, we love them and we remember what it was like to do it ourselves.

Are you selling commodity or community?

Does your message have to do with something or substance?

In The Art of Creating a Community, Guy Kawasaki identifies 8 elements needed for the creation of a community. Much of this has been gleaned from his experience as "Chief Evangelist" for Apple Computers and the implications are definitely related to the ongoing discussion in the Church. After the recent slip-up by Apple (Steve Jobs’s Non-Apology), Guy's advice should be that much more relevant to Apple.

Apple and others have worked hard on selling not just a product, but a people, a community to belong to. More than this, it has been a people with a purpose, a people making meaning. Of course, everybody can lose sight of this from time to time.

In the authentic faith journey of a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, there comes times when sight is lost regarding the missional nature to which we've been called as well. It isn't that we need a pastor or speaker to remind us of this for it was Jesus who said,
"Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (John 20:21 NASB)

I like the way Kim Hammond @ John Mark Ministries puts it:
The missional church believes in "the priesthood of all believers" (1 Peter. 2: 9) and empowers people to fulfill their God given call. It's about empowering all people wherever they are.

The missional church says the schoolteacher working in the state system is the hero. The check out girl at Safeway, putting herself through TAFE part time, is the clergy. They are the pastors of the missional church. The congregations are small and unknown. They do not have a building or a business card but they are the emerging church.

The nature of the church is missional, we don't have to find one, create one or borrow one. We shouldn't be in need of a pastor or CEO to keep it up. The Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Spirit to lead the Church in its mission to be a sent people into the world.

Isn't it interesting, that as the Church has turned to the business world for the tools to manage and sell, the business world has turned to the Church for the example on how to connect and expand.

May I Ask: How do you answer the question: What is it you are "selling?"

May I Suggest: Examine your "commodity." How might it become a "community?"

Busted Myths: Problems with Processes

H/T to my good friend Whit Martin for the link to Benjamin Yosua-Davis' recent commentary Can United Methodists follow their call? It addresses some of those same issues in workplace and church that I blogged on in Busted Myths. It also got me thinking more about some of the myths we're facing (thanks Whit, for your help).

Here in Paulding County, things which used to take years to change, are now changing in moments. This group of young Methodists that got together, dealt with changes happening within our faith community but which are changes happening everywhere. They have some valid concerns but they also reflect the diversity which is found in society. We don't all look at the world the same way and we all carry myths. Here are some of the ones this article raised for me that I've either held or have observed or a bit of both.

1. The Consultant Myth.
When things don't go right or the way we want, we start looking for the new "silver bullet." 'Consultants,''Experts,' new books and the next conference on how to grow bigger and how to staff are where we turn. They have a place but not at the forefront. This one was busted for me a few weeks back.

In this instance, we're speaking of Tim Keel and Doug Pagitt, who are not Elders in the United Methodist Church. Though I don't begrudge their place in the conversation or their connections to their own mainline traditions, they aren't in ours and I'm not sure if they're the right ones to be speaking to this issue in our denomination. Sounds to me like Ben and others were and are wrestling with this.

2. The Process Myth
All institutions have processes. Over the past week I've spent time with two families who were fighting the "process" in universities. I see numerous doctors following the process and meeting the expectations on them. We've still got plenty of law students sitting down for their Board. CPAs keep surviving their process of examinations.

At the same time, there are items not right with our ordination process. It needs some serious reform across the board and bring standards to an equal expectation. I've experienced being deferred and it felt unfair BUT it was the right thing to do.

3. The Degree Myth
No college degree, master's degree or doctoral degree makes one an expert on anything. It gives a measure of authority and validation of one's work. There are excellent business leaders with only a High School diploma behind them. In the same way, there are great lay speakers and local pastors serving the church.

4. The "Rights" Myth
More consideration ought to be given for gifts and calling but this does not mean it is a right to get the position you want. I don't think there are any more lazy members of Gen X/Y than there are Boomers, but we all still have to be faithful and demonstrate with the little we're given, we're worthy of more responsibility.

5. The "New" Myth
People who start their own business know it is hard work and the ones I've meet, credit and cut their teeth in other people's businesses before they started their own. And sometimes, these new businesses fail.

There is a saying, "every pastor is not a church planter but every church planter is a pastor." Before starting a church, one can sure benefit from experiencing the lead pastor role. You are going to be called on for funerals. You are going to be called on in times of tragedy in grief. Being called to start a new church isn't everyone's calling.

6. The Age Myth
When most of us over our lifetime are going to have something like 10-14 different jobs by the age of 38, you'd think more folks would pay attention (If Shift Happens Does Anyone Care?).

And maybe that is just it. Maybe we're looking at it all wrong to start - what if it isn't a bad thing ministers are coming in a bit later? If people need time to explore a few other careers, is that really bad? Could that not be part of God's working? I'd rather have someone give 20-30 years later than 5-10 and switch to another career...(at least I think so. Or I did at the moment I wrote that. I might change my mind so don't hold me to that...)

7. The Seminary Myth
Different from "The Degree Myth" but similar. The group in Arkansas at the gathering was right, most seminaries aren't equipping students for ministry but for academia. Even those which are doing the better jobs at it, aren't offering many classes in finance or real estate or networking, etc. (this is a hint to those interested in starting new churches).

8. The Institution Myth
Why would we ever wait on an institution to encourage young leaders? Anyone in leadership in an organization has the ability and opportunity to encourage and help young people to go for it! If you see young people with potential, don't discourage but encourage! By all means be honest but help them overcome the obstacles you already know are there. They've got to do the work but teachers come in all forms.

9. The Post-modern Myth
I'm glad the conversation is happening. It needs to happen more and it needs to happen now in more places and face-to-face. It also needs to be done from the view of our Wesleyan heritage. Post-modernism, seems to me, to degrade quickly into narcissism.

10. The End Myth
If you were thinking this was the end of my blog, sorry, that is a myth too. An article or paper used to have endings, now it is more a beginning or a continuation or a...

May I Ask: When was the last time someone from another generation encouraged you? How did impact your actions?

May I Suggest: Find young people and invest in them. Ask questions and get their insights.

What myths are you finding? Post them here!

Talk Like A Pirate Day is September 19th!

If ye be missin' the news...the pirates are upon ye!

Talk Like a Pirate Day Home Page

Heard from God lately?

What would you do if God really did talk back to you?

When you're a pastor, you hear people's confessions about why they're not in church or why their church is the best church. You can learn about their relatives who are in ministry too. Sometimes you really get to know people. But it seems, from time to time, someone will want to go deeper. They really want to know about knowing God. They want to talk with God. Fact is, we've all got something to say but...

What would you do if God really did talk back to you?

It was about this time last year (Chris Bryant can back this up), that my daily habit of reading, reflection and prayer was...well...let's just say it wasn't cutting it. I wasn't growing, I wasn't connecting with God. At all. More to the point, I didn't feel like I knew Jesus. Sure, I knew ABOUT Him. But know Him? Nope, we weren't connecting. So I prayed about that, I told God I wanted to get to know Jesus. What was the question again...

What would you do if God really did talk back to you?

I got an answer. It wasn't some audible thing. I didn't see Morgan Freeman or George Burns. It was more a thought. A thought that made a WHOLE LOT OF SENSE.

It went something like this...
"You want to know Jesus? You see that book there? The one you read every day called a Bible (God has great sarcasm in my thoughts). Yeah, there are four histories of Jesus' life in there. So read one. The same one. Everyday. For a year. Live with Jesus. Think on Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Hang with Jesus. At the end of the year. Start another. Wash. Rinse. Repeat."
Remember the question: What would you do if God really did talk back to you?

Me? I started doing what God said. And it has made A WHOLE LOT OF SENSE (which confirms for me the thought must of come from God).

I've been reading things in the Gospel of Luke I've read countless times before. But I'm not reading for knowledge, I'm reading for relationship. I'm not trying to memorize anything or become an expert. I'm reading for relationship. I'm reading because I want talk with God and have a conversation.

Like today for instance. I read these words from Luke. The "He" speaking here is Jesus...
And He said to them, "When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" They said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. "For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." (Luke 22:35-38 NASB)
What is enough, you ask? The number of swords? The amount of money? The number of coats? Nah.

What I hear in this is Jesus saying, "You just don't get it! Three years and you still don't get it! Enough of this, I need some air!" And it seems, that today, as I worry about not doing enough, as I grow anxious over the work of starting a new church, being a good dad, trying to be a caring husband, as I wish this and that...Jesus says, "it is enough! After all this time, don't you get it? Ken, let's get some air!"

What would you do if God really did talk back to you?

Would God speak English or Spanish? Would it be in a thought or a feeling? Would it be a cloud or a car horn on the interstate? Would it be in a blog or newspaper? A baby crying or a YouTube video? Would you even know it was God's voice?

May I Ask: So...what would you do?

May I Suggest: Practice hearing God by reading from God's words. Visit our new church's website section on Authentic Faith Nexus for some help.

Making Sanctuaries Safe

The Insurance Journal reported in June that there are close to 260 reported instances of abuse in churches (the article is copyrighted so you'll have to click on the link). The full article also highlights the issues of the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Church.

The article states this is a relatively small number which may explain why it hasn't received more coverage. But as some have said else where, "any case of abuse is one case too many." As an ordained elder who is in the process of starting a new church, the issue is very relevant. Thanks to the folks again at Squidoo, for making highlighting issues real easy.

Safe Sanctuaries / Safe Churches / Safe Kids is a lens to help connect folks to the need and resources available for reducing the risk of abuse. We're concerned about it in our schools, our teams, our civic groups, but I think it is imperative the Church begin to lead the way.

Jesus was pretty clear when he said, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16 NASB)" Creating a safe sanctuary in our faith community is one of the best ways for children and their families to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

May I Ask: When was the last time you heard about a case of abuse? How did it make you feel?

May I Suggest: Visit Safe Sanctuaries / Safe Churches / Safe Kids and ask questions about how your church or faith community is providing a safe place. If nothing, make it happen! If so, get involved!

Busted Myths: The Next Generations

I love the show Myth Busters but this myth busting is a bit more practical. My daily dose of Fast Company arrived in my box today with the headline: Retaining Younger Workers. A bit of deja-vu for us clergy folks in the UMC. But this is nothing new, business has been watching this trend for a while. Yet both in the church and the business world, we're often slow to catch up to what is going on.

Fast Company's article busts four myths. They are consistent with the myths I've read and observed in When Generations Collide and Generations at Work.

The Myths:
Myth: Younger generations have no work ethic.
Myth: They don't want to put in the hours to get ahead.
Myth: They have no respect for authority.
Myth: They don't want to grow up.

I was talking with a dad whose son is new to scouting last night. I was telling him about how much Scouts had changed. I've been worried about that the last few years but it occurred to me as I read this article, the Boy Scouts of America has been ahead of the trend. They recognized the generations had changed, and they've been doing it for a hundred years. I'm doing things with the Scouts in my den we'd never have done 20 years ago - and that is great!

If you take these findings as somehow a critique on older generations, don't. This isn't the point. It is an opportunity to get to know my generation and the generations coming up. Myths need to be busted and generations need to be led. Are you up for the task?

May I Ask: Have you ever had a myth busted for you? How did it change your behavior?
May I Suggest: Read Fast Company's article. Spend some time observing the generations around you. Make notes and then make a difference! Share here what you observed!

Honesty: Why’s it so Complicated?

The person who does what is right and speaks the truth will live. He rejects getting rich by extortion and refuses to take bribes. He refuses to listen to those who are plotting murders. He doesn't look for evil things to do. This person will live on high. His stronghold will be a fortress made of rock. He will have plenty of food and a dependable supply of water. (Isaiah 33:15-16 GW)

How did honesty get so complicated? When I grew up it was real simple, it seemed like my parents believed anything any adult said about me. If the neighbors called…I did it. If the teacher called…I did it. When the principal called…I’d get it! I couldn’t get away with anything!

I remember the rules when I first got my license. I’d bug my parents about letting me drive by myself. They let me go to Southgate Superette. My mom was like, “If you drive the speed limit, that will take you 11 minutes to get there and 11 minutes back. Give or take a little time in the store, you’ve got 30 minutes to be back home.” Long before I said the Scout Law, the one that said: “A Scout is TRUSTWORTHY…” a little voice in my head sounded a bit like my mom and dad said, “yep, that’s right, you’d better be.” (BTW the '75 Mustang was my first car! Anyone remember that car?;) )

In this year of the Professional, the Preacher, the Politician, and the Performer, translated Michael Vick, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig and Lyndsay Lohan, dishonesty seems to be the issue at the forefront of character flaws. I think what makes us angry and what disturbes us, is the denial of the truth: I didn't do it! Only to come back an admit it and own the lie for what it is: DISHONESTY.
In recording the life of King Hezekiah, the writer of 2 Kings said, Hezekiah trusted the LORD God of Israel. No king among all the kings of Judah was like Hezekiah. (2Ki 18:5). This was a king who faced the onslaught of the Assyrian Army led by King Sennacherib. After the Assyrian Army laid waste to most of Judah, Sennacherib came to Jerusalem. In his journal Sennacherib wrote, “…Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage.., "

Sennacherib offered Hezekiah opportunity after opportunity even appealing to the people, always speaking degrading things about God. And in the midst of this comes the prophet Isaiah, the voice of God to the Jewish people: “The person who does what is right and speaks the truth will live.”

Sennacherib sent a message, "Tell King Hezekiah of Judah, 'Don't let the god whom you trust deceive you by saying that Jerusalem will not be put under the control of the king of Assyria. You heard what the kings of Assyria did to all countries, how they totally destroyed them. Will you be rescued? (2 Kings 19:10-11 GW)” To which Hezekiah responded by taking, “…the letters from the messengers, read them, and went to the LORD'S temple. He spread them out in front of the LORD and prayed to the LORD…(2 Kngs 19:14-15 GW).”

What happened? “It happened that night. The LORD'S angel went out and killed 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp. When the Judeans got up early in the morning, they saw all the corpses. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left. He went home to Nineveh and stayed there. 2 Kings 19:35-36 GW)”

To say that honesty is complicated is probably misleading. In the book of Proverbs, the writer says it is more like, dishonesty which is complicated. Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil. (Proverbs 4:24-27 GW). The warning is that honesty is one path but that dishonesty has more than one course and runs surprisingly close and parallel to honesty.

Do you consider yourself an honest person? How important is it to you that your friends be honest? So how many lies do you get to tell before you are a liar? Luke records how three time Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, lied about knowing Jesus. I know we say he “denied” Jesus but that seems to cover the real word: he lied. Peter was blatantly dishonest. Contrast Peter with Jesus who ignored the lies told at his trial but when asked, “are you the Christ? Are you God’s Son?” replied, “You got it.” Hezekiah had the opportunity to run with those “who plot murders and evil” but did what was right and spoke truth.

It was easy after the first lie for Peter to tell the second. The more we practice dishonesty, it gets easier to do, but the more complicated it gets. That perennial giver of deep wisdom, Homer Simpson said, “It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen.” And so what happens when the one who listens tells the lie to another? As lies and dishonesty spread, it gets more and more complicated.

The words of the song “Complicated,” express clearly, "When you fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get and you turn it into honesty..." Each time in our lives we find our dishonesty, our lack of integrity, our disingeniousness is busted and we fall, the opportunity for returning to the path of honesty is before us. I’m not talking about when you’re caught – I’m talking about the moment when our hearts are heavy. When our head drops and we fall to our knees.

"Two men went into the temple courtyard to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other people! I'm not a robber or a dishonest person. I haven't committed adultery. I'm not even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my entire income.' "But the tax collector was standing at a distance. He wouldn't even look up to heaven. Instead, he became very upset, and he said, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' [Jesus said] "I can guarantee that this tax collector went home with God's approval, but the Pharisee didn't." (Luke 18:10-14 GW)

That story turns religion on its head. Jesus isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be interested in what we did, do or will do. Jesus is interested in us coming to trust in what He has done. Coming to trust in Jesus who said He was the way, the truth and the life. Honesty, means there is “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). No one here gets to condemn anyone – there is no condemnation. But there is grace to fall and break.

Survey says: more personal work is being done on the internet at work than business. Are we honest in our dealings with customers? How about business clients and competition?

-Community. It may not be a cell phone but it could be car keys or a purse. It maybe a five dollar bill lying next to a car door. Did we get extra change back from the clerk? Did you give a fair tip?

-Home. Pulling out all the “skeletons” in your closet may not be the best thing (even though Halloween is near). Are we being honest with family time? How much time is spent in front of the TV during football season? What about where money is being spent?

-God. In our lives, when we respond by trusting in the One who said He was the way, the TRUTH and the life, in the little things, we receive grace. Grace to fall and to break. Grace to take what we get and turn it into honesty.

Around the Crossroads @ Vito's Cafe

I'm just finishing up my first lunch at Vito's Cafe here in Acworth/North Paulding. As our community grows, it is exciting to see new businesses open up especially ones that fix a mean roast beef sub (warmed a little, a dab of mayo and just a little onion for flavor).

This little Italian Cafe is actually quite spacious, warm and welcoming. After doing lunch today, I'm looking forward to coming back for breakfast and their coffee. Beyond great food, they offer a comfortable sitting area to kick back and free internet access (which I'm using right now!). On top of that I got my first sandwich card.

It isn't always the big things it is the little things. Vito's comes across as caring for the little things which adds up to one big thing: a great meal in a great environment. I sense a place which is trying to create community and it is off to a good start.

This Saturday, September 8th @ Mossy Creek Plaza, there is a Grand Opening Celebration for Vito's and all the businesses here. It starts @ 11am and goes to 3pm. It is located @ 10175 Dallas Acworth Hwy., just north of the Crossroads.

May I Ask: How often do you pass on great service?

May I Suggest: The next time you receive service you appreciate, pass it on!

Honestly, how honest are we?

Are you an Honest Person? (Take this self-evaluation and find out.)
True or False - I am truthful, sincere, and straightforward.
True or False - I don't lie, cheat, or steal.
True or False - I don't intentionally mislead others.

In this year of the Preacher (Ted Haggard), the Performer (Michael Vick) and the Politician (Larry Craig), honesty seems to be a real struggle for some. We're not talking about forgetting specifics of a conversation or the time you picked up laundry. The idea of intentionally misleading or covering or hiding behind plea deals is where I struggle with thoughts of leniency.

And as I prepare for talking this Sunday regarding honesty, I ran across this great post from Honesty Blog regarding a recent experiment done by Reader's Digest:

This test or you could also call it a “social experiment” was conducted in 32 cities around the world. Guess which city came out on top? Staffers left behind 30 cell phones in various locations throughout the city and waited to see how the finder reacted.

The honesty gold medal went to city of Ljubljana, Slovenia (29 out of 30). The honesty silver medal went to Toronto, Canada (28 out of 30). The honesty bronze medal went to Seoul, South Korea (27 out of 30). The fourth position went to Stockholm, Sweden (26 out of 30). In a three-way tie for fifth place were the cities of New York, United States, Manila, Philippines and Mumbai, India (24 out of 30).

The blog is run by Joël A. Núñez who founded the site I'm Honest. This is such a great service and wonderful blog with stories to encourage. You should definitely check it out.

Coincidentally (or not), my son and I have been reading through Proverbs at night as he goes to sleep. Proverbs is one of my favorite books in the Bible (I need all the help with wisdom I can get). I'm reminded of the writer's comments
Riches will do you no good on the day you face death, but honesty can save your life. (Proverbs 11:4 GNB)

May I Ask: When have you been on the receiving end of an act of honesty? Think of a time you acted with honesty. How did it make you feel? How did others respond?
May I Suggest: Reflect on the actions in others you respect and then the actions you despise. Are there parallels in your own life? Spend a week reading from the Book of James, examine your own behaviors and make honest changes.

13 days...mateys!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19th!

Meeting Special Needs

I met Earl one summer at Camp Glisson in Dahlonega. Earl, his counselor, and I hung out at campfire one night. He laughed, sang and had a great time like we hope all campers experience. Earl asked for my e-mail which I was happy to give to him. I still get e-mails from Earl on a regular basis. It makes my day every time I see his name in my mailbox. Earl is in his early 40’s and a man with special needs. More than that, I feel so thankful to say Earl is my friend.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the diagnoses of people with special needs. This has been documented in many publications and publicized as well. Some of those with special needs appear more obvious than others, like my friend Earl. Some, however, are not. Some adults and children are termed “gifted,” which can be a confusing term. Gifted can be someone with special needs or someone with a high IQ. Some are even termed “twice gifted” because they have both a special need and a high IQ.

I have heard and read too from those who dismiss the conditions of many of these children and adults as a matter of poor parenting which has resulted in bad behavior in the kids. Diagnoses of special needs such as ADD, AD/HD, Aspergers, and Autism, have been brushed aside by some in the media and society.

However, I do not have the luxury of passing such judgments. Not when I know parents who live everyday and sleep little at night caring for a child or young adult who has special needs. Not when I know those who worry and stress regarding how their children will behave. Not when I have been privileged to work with young adults who were “odd,” “didn’t fit” or “problems.”

I'll never forget one young man, who was gifted, came to a church I served. A young woman who was also visiting, pointed to him and asked, “What is he doing here?” I looked back to her and asked, “Where else should he be?”

It was Jesus who called, …the children and said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16-17)
Inspired by Jesus’ call, we all can help these amazing children and their families; but where to start? Here are a few ideas:

Learn More. is one resource to get an introduction and find more links to the variety of special needs.

Support Special Needs.
Support Acworth’s Special Needs Field and “250 Campaign” (
Precious Jewels and Noah’s Ark are ministries for children and adults (
Sparrowwood is a unique summer camp for special needs children and adults (

Be Understanding.
You may not know when you’re entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2) and you may not know when a family has a special needs child.

May I Ask:What do you know about Special Needs?
May I Suggest:Start with Wikipedia and explore the many links regarding Special Needs. What did you learn? How will you use that knowledge? Let me know here!

The Mysterious Meal

Americans like to eat. For that matter the whole world likes to eat. There is no doubt we know more about foods than at any other time in history. There isn’t much mystery around food We know all about the types of food, the effects of food, amount of food consumed by an individual, flavoring of food, contents of food, preparation of food, dangers of food, digestion of food, the joy of food, the need for more food, and the competitions around food. You heard me right,eating is now recreational sport.

Just this summer Joey Chestnut ate 66 hotdogs and buns in 12 minutes to surpass the previous world record. "He's unbelievable - he just keeps on going," said Ryan Nerz, who works for Major League Eating, which he describes as "a world governing board for all stomach-centric sports." (click here for more info on Joey.) I imagine if our schedules keep going like they have been around the US, more of us will probably be able to keep pace with Joey.

Forget just meal times, we love eating anytime. 9 out of 10 of us Americans consider ourselves snackers (USA Today). Granted, we do have the British to thank in part for that, that old “tea time” and all. I’ll never forget the young boy who came up to me after his first time taking communion. His family hadn’t been involved in church before and he came running up to me, gave me a hug, and said, “Pastor Ken! I loved the snack in church today!” While some may feel uncomfortable with his words, this is the faith of a child, one who met God mysteriously in “the snack.”

But that “snack” was set aside by Jesus and honored by the Church as a Sacrament, a mystery. The first Eucharist or communion took place before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus used elements of the Passover meal, a meal of remembrance for the Jewish people. It was a chance to re-tell how God had intervened on behalf of the Jews and rescued them from slavery.

Jesus took two items from that meal, two items common around the world, in different forms, bread and juice or wine, for a new meal of remembrance, a mysterious meal. A meal open to all people. Luke tells us…
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I tell you, I will never eat it until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God." Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks to God, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. I tell you that from now on I will not drink this wine until the Kingdom of God comes." Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me." In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, "This cup is God's new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:14-20 GNB)

The Church, universally, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches included, have agreed on at least two sacraments: baptism and communion. They were the two Jesus’ clearly indicated the church should do. The early church used the Greek word “mysterion” meaning, not surprisingly, mystery, for describing baptism and communion.

It is a mystery because in eating and drinking together, the Church is united. This was a large part of Paul's concern with Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 11). We know how gathering at the table to eat as a family, unites us and gives us time to share, and laugh and listen to one another. For centuries, the table has been a sacred place for many cultures. So too, gathering at this table brings unity to the Church. The sharing of the cup for “intinction,” as we dip the bread in a shared cup of juice, reflects this unity.

Another reason it is mystery is because we truly don’t know how God can use these simple elements for our spiritual good. There are those who hold that the bread and wine, are transformed, commonly referred to as transubstantiation. Outside of a few, the majority of Churches, including the United Methodist Church, have rejected that belief. Instead, it maybe Jesus is present with the elements or that we eat and drink as only a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and new life He offers to us. We don’t know just how God meets us here in these elements but we know that he does.

It is also mystery because through the eating and drinking, we see the work of God’s grace in our lives. John Wesley, leader of the Methodist Revival, encouraged all wanderers, followers and disciples to take in communion. He preached, "As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our souls by these tokens of the body and blood of Christ. This is the food of our souls..." (The Duty of Constant Communion). What he saw and experienced in his life and ministry and what I too have experienced is when those who come to eat and drink, those who are eager to turn from their sins, find strength, hope and new life. Does it happen right away? Not always. But in time, there comes benefits for the faith journey from this mysterious meal.

It is mysterious because in this meal, Jesus says a new covenant is established. A new contract has been made between God and humanity, one which God shoulders the burden for. It is a one sided meal with God covering the cost and we come and give thanks, we celebrate the Eucharist: the word which means thanks.

Now you maybe unsure of your connection with God. You don’t need to listen to someone else or that voice inside your head, the one to tell you “they” know! “You, take communion? Shoot! Don’t you remember what you did this week? Remember what you said to…”

Are we unworthy to receive God’s mercy, His gift? Of course we are. And God is offering mercy anyway. We’re deserving of death. But God is offering us life anyway. We don’t deserve strength to our soul. But God is offering us strength anyway. We certainly don’t deserve to be forgiven and pardoned. But God is offering it anyway.

Holy Communion always offers grace. We are reminded of what God has done for us in the past, experience what God is doing now as we partake, and anticipate what God will do in the future work of salvation." (This Holy Mystery)

The snack has been prepared. The mysterious meal is before us. And God offers to us all new life in Jesus Christ, a meal of mercy and mystery for those who would chose to come and follow.

May I Ask: In your heart, do you prefer to have some mysteries in your world or to have all the answers?

May I Suggest: Seek out a new mystery. Honestly reflect on what seems mysterious to you. Enjoy the wonder. Make time and find a church to take communion if you haven't done so.

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