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Communion Meditations (2012)


Originally scheduled for May 13

The modern theory of criminal justice is a relatively recent invention. Originally intended to provoke the repentance of the criminal, or "penitence," (from which we get our word penitentiary) we have since reduced our system to one of two objectives:

·         Reform. By various methods such as on-the-job training or 12 step programs we hope to produce reform in the individual prisoner. The idea is that the prisoner will leave the prison and become a productive member of society. This has proven to be expensive and not nearly as effective as we would desire.

·         Warehousing. If we can't reform them, we can at least keep them off the street for some length of time. This seems to be a relatively obvious solution; however, keeping people in prison costs money — and the taxpayers are not quite so willing to pay for it.

As you can see, there seems to be no universally accepted solution to the problem of crime and criminals. But one thing we can claim as being superior to the ancient methods: we prohibit "cruel and unusual" punishment. It's quite a contrast with the methods in use in the time of Christ.

The ancient theory of punishment worked quite differently.

·         Cruelty was not only useful but welcome. It was made as public as possible, so as to provide a deterrent effect upon others. The law-abiding citizen was encouraged to see this as being simply a case of "just desserts."

·         The system also encouraged as much public humiliation as possible. Should the criminals survive the process, this was supposed to make it memorable both to the criminal and those who might imitate him.

·         The death penalty was much more common and much more widely applied. Prison, you see, was expensive. Graves were cheap.

The crucifixion of Christ was carried out under the ancient theory. He was physically beaten within an inch of his life, being flogged by an instrument designed to produce long bleeding gashes in the back. The procession to the place of crucifixion was intended as humiliation. The striking point of this, however, is not the cruelty of the punishment but the fact that he did not deserve it. He took upon himself this cruelty on our behalf. He did not have to come to this Earth; he did not have to suffer crucifixion. He did this at the command of the Father, in obedience to the Father's great love for us.

It is by his bleeding wounds that our sins are healed. Remember this as you take communion today. This is not simply a reminder to you, but a memorial to the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In view of the price he paid, it is fitting and appropriate that we should examine ourselves before partaking. Therefore, look inside yourself, see if there is anything which needs repentance, and bring it to the Father for forgiveness. In the elements of communion you can see the body and blood of the Christ suffered for you. Do this in remembrance of him.

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