Eucharist Presentation One, January 10, 2009

EUCHARIST: The Mess Around the Table
Today I began the Eucharist series by looking at four unifying themes that emerge from the Lord’s Supper that express how Canton Adventist seeks to be church.  The hope is that as we look at why Christ instituted this ceremony, it will focus our church in on what our most important priorities are.  If you missed the presentation or would like to listen to it again, go to and download the mp3 file.  Here are the key points that I shared.
  • Definition of Eucharist: "good favor, grace."  In verb form, it means, "to give thanks."
  • Theme One: Jesus, the Center 
    • The person, passion and promise of Jesus is the center of the Eucharist
    • The person, passion and promise of Jesus is the center of Canton Adventist
  • Theme Two: The Community Gathered Inextricably Linked to Jesus, the Center
    • The Eucharist can only be experienced when encircled by the faith community
    • For Canton Adventist, Jesus is most tangibly present when this faith community is gathered together 
  • Theme Three: The Faith Community the Visible Manifestation of Jesus
    • The Eucharist is the visible and tangible manifestation of Jesus’ death until he returns 
    • Canton Adventist is to be a visible and tangible manifestation of Jesus to the citizens of Canton until he returns 

I will look more in-depth at these three themes in the remaining presentations in this teaching series.  I then shared theme four and drew some implications for that theme:

  • Theme Four: Messy People Not an Invalidation of the First Three Themes
    • The people who were gathered with Jesus for the Eucharist were a mess of behavior and belief.  This theme did not undermine the first three themes of the Eucharist  
    • The people of Canton Adventist are a messy group of various behaviors and beliefs.  This fact does not undermine the first three themes of the church  

The first implication of this theme is that we must stop looking for and expecting for everybody to behaving the same way or even as they are "supposed" to.  In a society that is increasingly moving away from Judeo-Christian traditional values, the church has to be a place that is comfortable with a wider variety of behaviors if we expect to be an influencer for God’s kingdom and a place that people can seek Jesus as they are. 

The second implication is that we have to stop expecting that each person within the faith community will be in uniformity with the expressed belief system of that church.  Everyone’s belief system is constantly shifting, adjusting, evolving as they continue their journey with Jesus.  While my faith community is part of the larger Seventh-day Adventist denomination and its belief system, it is made up of people who come from a broad variety of experiences and who are at different stages of that journey with Jesus.  These individual viewpoints are not just necessarily because someone hasn’t yet come to believe the "truths" of the Adventist doctrinal system, but may reflect a deep study and reflection on a specific point of doctrine which leads to a disagreement with it.  The Adventist beliefs must always be highly respected and receive a hearing at Canton Adventist.  But other "non-Adventist" viewpoints should be highly respected and given a hearing as well.  And everything should be continually questioned and challenged.  The Bible says, "Iron sharpens iron," (Proverbs 27.17, NIV). 

And an addendum to the second implication is that a true community of faith must desire everyone’s growth, not belief conformity for the sake of "keeping the peace" or "keeping the faith."  Learning and growth happen when questions are allowed to be asked and when the standard viewpoint can be challenged.  In doing this, faith is not undermined, but is rather tested, tried and refined.  This is what God has always done with his people:  shake them out of the status quo to help them wrestle with and come to a better understanding of who he is and what he is calling his people to do. 

And the third implication is that the bonds formed in community go much deeper when honesty and authenticity reign.  Community can only go so deep when everyone expects everyone to be happy, behaving well, and completely convinced of their beliefs.  This naive view of community inhibits true fellowship.  When a community desires that each person is growing in Jesus and receiving the love and support of fellow sojourners, it can handle behavioral and belief differences in its midst.

6 thoughts on “Eucharist Presentation One, January 10, 2009

  1. Texts from John Pruett during teaching:–"We are Jesus to this community"–that is great imagery. I believe the way [we] care for others glorifies God and shows Jesus\’ spirit–"Where the mess can reside around Jesus"–awesome!–"Kinda Adventists"–that is a great line. Message seems to be about being an inclusive vs. an exclusive church–Beliefs about God are in flux"–always. That is so true…learning to be less defensive can lead to growth…so can learning things about ourselves [that] we don\’t like–"Getting Naked"–thanks for not literally doing that :)–"The table is about more than just beliefs"–cool. Great message Todd. This message is why we love this church!

  2. I\’m so glad to be a part of a church where honesty and community are preached so openly and passionately. We live in a broken world and we all need a place where we can go to experience healing.I like the concept of "messy" people. I believe that people are messy, but are also inherently beautiful and wonderful. Beauty and mess combine in humans in such a way that the only concept we have to describe the beautiful mess is a fractal. A fractal is broken and fractured but has an overall order and beauty to it. The best parallel of all is that fractals (like humans) are infinitely complex.I also like how you are using the concept of Eucharist to describe what our church is all about. It reminds of a Rob Bell quote from his book "Jesus Wants to Save Christians." He talks about how the Eucharist is ultimately what we do outside of church. He says, "Church is people. People who live a certain way in the world. People who have authority in the world, but authority that comes from breaking themselves open and pouring themselves out so that the world will be healed." Another thought along the same lines, later in the book… "Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn\’t believe the world can be made better, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen \’someday.\’"Todd, if you haven\’t read the book, I would highly recommend it.

  3. Harold Concepcion, via e-mail:Here is the way I took the Four Themes:Theme One – Jesus should be the center of not only our church but also our Lives! (Josh 24:15) if we have one focus “Jesus” than we can be one church. The bible was put together from different individuals each having their own issues but God had one goal for them. Theme Two – Jesus did say that when 2 or more are gathered he will be there as well! (Matt 18:20). If our “belief” system was not changing then we are not growing. In order for us to grow in the Lord we need to be changing.Theme Three – We are called to be his representatives to this world, and the individuals that we meet along the way should notice a difference in us. We are the light of the world! (Matt 5: 13-16)Theme Four – Jesus accepted the individuals as they were when they came to him (a mess) he didn’t ask them to get cleaned up before that, (John 8:11) This should be our example. We need to accept the individuals as they are and understand that God is consistently working on us. I know this to be true in my life.

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