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Communion Meditations (2006)

Leaves

Originally delivered January 8

There are sections of this nation which are noted for the dazzling display of autumn leaves.  The colors run riot, and people come to see the beauty of what nature has done.

These leaves might be a metaphor for the state of the church.  The leaves originally were on the tree just as the early church was united.  In that union there was great strength.  The early Christian martyrs—including all but one of the Apostles—feared not even the worst of death, for their Lord had conquered it.  As long as the leaves stuck to the tree, the leaves were green and strong.

But the time came when the leaves started to break away from the Branch.  They began to change colors, a sign of their intent to break from the tree.  They stuck to the tree for a while, but anyone who looked could tell you which were the ones that would soon be gone.

But the journey of the leaves was not over;  indeed, they would be gathered together again—by a man with a rake or a leaf blower.  United again—for their destruction.

That’s the church.  You will see it in the various denominations.  It is interesting to read through the histories of the American Civil War and see how much the various denominations have altered their views.  The changes in view preceded their departure, just like the leaves change color.  We now see many denominations dying—even while they make a bold display of their “new” theology.

This also applies to individual Christians.  The change is subtle at first, but eventually shows up brightly.  The individual changes his color—his doctrine—and leaves the true Branch.  There is a warning in the leaves:  these will be gathered together again, for their destruction at the return of our Lord, as he told us in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares in the King James). 

What can the individual Christian do about it?  Most of the time we can do nothing about the divisions and schisms—but we can maintain the unity of the church in the Holy Spirit.  In the Spirit we are one.  As others run away, we can run to the center—a deeper relationship with Christ.

When you take the Lord’s Supper, you proclaim the unity of the church.  The Lord’s Supper is inclusive, not exclusive.  Anyone who proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is brother or sister to me.  We may not worship in the same buildings; we may have different hymn books (or words on the screen); we may not speak the same language or even live in the same time—but we are one.  We are one in the Spirit.  We are one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father over all.  When you take the Lord’s Supper you proclaim the unity of His church—until He comes again.

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