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Communion Meditations (2018)

 

Crosses in the Desert

1st Corinthians 10:1-6

Originally scheduled for January 21

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

(1 Corinthians 10:1-6)

 

 

The locals call it Dead Man’s Curve. It’s out in the Mojave desert. It doesn’t look much like a dangerous railroad crossing. The road runs along the south side of the railroad track for many miles and then quickly crosses the tracks and runs along the north side for many miles. The authorities have recently installed modern railroad crossing lights — and in the process removed the plain white crosses that used to grace the intersection. Each cross had a name on it of someone who was loved, and was killed at this crossing. It was not uncommon to see fresh flowers at the foot of a cross.

Every one of those crosses was a painful reminder of the death of someone who was loved. Was it someone who was trying to race the train to the intersection? Was it someone who just wasn’t paying attention? The toll eventually grew so high that official warning signs and lights have been installed. Until they were installed, the crosses served as an unofficial warning: this place is deceptive — beware.

Paul gives us a similar warning in First Corinthians. He makes an interesting pair of parallels. The ancient Israelites were “baptized into Moses” and they also consumed spiritual food and drink. These two are parallels to the Christian faith in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, the ceremonial celebration of Passover is a forerunner of communion. So we see here some parallels between them and us. So what happened? They started well, but soon went astray after foreign gods. One such God was a fertility goddess — which of course involves sex. There were other gods you went to for prosperity. Sex and prosperity, does that sound familiar today? That’s why Paul tells us this is an example to us. Most of them didn’t make it to the promised land because they went astray in the desert.

We bring this up because communion is a ritual of remembrance. It is spiritual food and drink to us. Its main purpose is to remind just of the love that Christ gave us on the cross. We are sinners; we are forgiven because of the blood of Christ. In that sense, communion is meant to be a positive, uplifting experience. But note that we are taught to examine ourselves before taking communion. That’s not an afterthought; it’s designed into communion. You don’t want to wind up with your bones bleaching in the desert of sin. Therefore, examine yourself. Do you worship at the altar of sex? The altar of money? Or worse yet, the altar of pride?

But be of good cheer — even the bones bleaching in the desert can be raised to life. Ezekiel was sent to the dry bones to call them back to life. Christ was sent to you that you might have eternal life. Heed the warning signs, but remember that your Lord has conquered both sin and death.

 

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