Children and Communion

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One characteristic of Churches of Christ that sometimes surprises people is that we partake of Communion weekly. It is one of the qualities of our heritage that I consider a great blessing.

It is easy, though, to create rules about how to go about things that are a regular part of our religious practices. There are a lot of rules of human origin that become so much a part of our thinking that we can mistake them for Divine. For example in some churches only those wearing a coat and tie can serve communion to the assembly. In many churches of Christ only males are allowed to serve communion. In some churches unbaptized youngsters are allowed to participate in serving the elements, as a means of training. In some churches this is not allowed. So we have a lot of rules such as these that have no origin in Scripture and yet seem to be entrenched in practice. In fact, as far as I know, we have no Biblical instructions on how to go about serving communion when we gather in the assembly. It is the oddest thing to me that passing trays is regarded by some as an activity that suggests leadership and authority.

One of the rules I grew up hearing has to do with children partaking of communion. If you’ve ever watched a mom or dad trying to keep the tray just out of reach of their youngster who has both arms outstretched, it’s quite comical. It is intended that the child learn that this activity is for baptized believers (in Churches of Christ we are adult immersionists and do not practice infant baptism).  Children taking communion is frowned upon because, as I have heard it said, “it won’t do them any good.” I don’t know where we learned that.  Perhaps we are afraid of eating and drinking damnation unto ourselves.

1 Corinthians 11:29 (KJV) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
As I do not think most of us have sunk to the lower levels of the Corinthian church, I feel assured that if we are focused on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, we can avoid the aforementioned warning.
A friend of mine, Kyle Parker, relates this:

During communion, I believe in the participatory aspect of children. I usually take a bit of the cracker and give a small piece to each of my boys. I try to explain to them why we do this. I talk to them about remembering Jesus. I talk about others around the world who are doing the same thing. Yesterday, the three-year-old took his bit o’ cracker, looked up to the sky and whispered, “I love you Jesus.” Heart. Melted.

I’m not going to dictate to any parent how they are to deal with children at communion time. It seems to me, though, that participation and explanation are far more in keeping with the spirit of the moment than slapping hands and telling them ‘No’ when the body and blood of Christ are being observed. I think my friend Kyle has it right.

Since we do not have a word from the Lord on the matter, follow your conscience and maintain the spirit of the Supper.

Thanks for reading. JD

 

Joe Dudney 1923 – 2014

It was a devastating disaster that led me to meet Joe Dudney. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of people. As director of the very successful Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort there were many people who knew Joe because they had suffered through tragic circumstances. Ours was Hurricane Katrina. And Joe was ready, with all of the resources available to him, to come to our aid.

Eighteen wheelers loaded with washers, driers, beds, cleaning materials, and food boxes were sent to the Mississippi Coast. This was all sent by the generous donations of Christians around the nation. The clearinghouse of this amazing ministry in Nashville was providing relief to people nationwide. It really is surprisingly efficient. Everyone would admit that Joe was a major part of that.

We were blessed to travel to Nashville ultimately and meet with the missions committee of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ, where Joe was an elder. He and  his dear wife took us to the COCDRE headquarters and we were amazed at the amount of volunteer work that was done in that place. There was a great responsibility to use the funds that were given with cautious stewardship. In addition he needed a savvy sense of operations, acquiring materials when they were available for the best price, and seeking donations from corporations and individuals. He was quite an amazing man, and very hospitable and kind.

But we weren’t expecting that.

In fact, we were dreading meeting him. Our introduction to Joe was on the phone. In our conversations on the telephone Joe was direct, unyielding, and very specific on how these donated materials would be used. The COCDRE is, first of all, a ministry. These donations are meant to be used as outreach into the community. Joe not only was very direct in the way that he spoke to us, he also followed up with calls to be sure things were going well.

Sometimes one of my partners in relief outreach would look at his phone and say, “It’s for you.” It was Joe! Of course we were smiling.  The truth is that Joe Dudney took his work seriously – and he should have. On the phone he was a tough businessman, in person he was a prince. I appreciate both of those perspectives.

That’s my extent of knowing Joe Dudney. I’ll always be grateful to him. After Katrina I ate at a table he provided and my family slept in beds that came through his work. We washed our clothes – filthy from helping others – in a washer he gave us.  We dried them in a dryer he gave us (and we still do). When I say he gave it to us, I mean that the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort provided these indiscriminately to anyone in our community who had lost these items in Katrina. Hundreds of them.

Joe died this week.

If it just takes giving a cup of cold water to a stranger to please our Father, I imagine Joe had quite a reception. I’m thankful for the life he lived and the heart he had.

Christian Chronicle Coverage

Thanks for reading, John.

What Is Advent?

We are all familiar with the secular American traditions surrounding the celebration of Christmas. These days that begins sometime in mid-October, when we first see Christmas merchandise hit the shelves. Many Christian faiths follow a series of seasons that coincide with the life of Jesus through the year. In Churches of Christ we have officially paid little attention to the Christian calendar, although we recognize events such as the birth of Christ (the Christmas season) and the resurrection (Easter).

The value of the seasons to be found on the church calendar is that they follow the life of Jesus. Thus, Advent is the season of the time when there is an anticipation of the coming of Christ, and actually ends on Christmas Eve. “The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, which means ‘coming’ or ‘visit.’ In the season with this name, we keep in mind both ‘advents’ of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come” (Roberts, see link below). Some celebrate this by having five specifically colored candles in an arrangement and lighting one candle each week as the day of His birth nears.

The history of Advent is not as ancient as the first century Christians. It was the 6th century when the Roman church connected Advent to the coming of Christ. It was not his arrival, however, but the second coming. Some denominations ignore Advent because they associate it with Catholicism.

The first Sunday of Advent this year is December 1st. You might hear some of your friends talk about Advent. Our church does not particularly follow the Christian calendar as such. There is no command in Scripture, nor a prohibition, to observe Advent. There is an important story to tell, and a vital truth to proclaim. This seems like a great time to do that. We usually sing carols during December and have lessons from the incarnation texts. We will display wreaths and poinsettia. There will be a Christmas gathering.

Whether we call it ‘Advent’ or just celebrate the same news that had angels singing, I hope this will be a special time of year for both church and  family.

For Further Reading, See Mark Roberts’ post Introduction To Advent found HERE.

 

The Social Gospel?

north,ira08Ira North passed away in 1984. When he came to be the preacher for the Madison (TN) Church of Christ in 1952 they had 400 members. During his 30 years there they grew to more than 5,000, easily the largest Church of Christ in North America. With his trademark red coat and big smile, he not only preached to his local congregation but also to millions more through the Amazing Grace Bible Class that was televised across the nation.

The April, 1977 issue of Nashville! Magazine featured North on the cover and identified him as “Nashville’s Most Powerful Preacher.” What set Ira North apart from the crowd of his day – and thus the Madison Church of Christ – was their belief that by serving and loving their community they might have more opportunities to share the Gospel. The Madison church focused it’s attention on benevolent ministries such as summer camps, meals on wheels, ‘Saturday Samaritans’, a furniture warehouse, sewing and clothing rooms.

“Beautiful, mysterious, wonderful and glorious things happen to the church of Christ in our day and age that gets involved up to its neck in a great program for the poor, the lowly and the downtrodden … It seems the more we give ourselves and our money and our hearts to help the poor, the lowly, the homeless… the more the good Lord blesses us with new people, new resources, new financial strength and a depth of love for our Lord and for our fellow man.” ~Ira North

As you might guess, North was vilified by some as promoting a “Social Gospel”, with more emphasis on the social than the gospel. Even so, his immense influence among churches of Christ probably laid the path for today’s emphasis on social justice in our tribe.

When we talk about loving others, we often recognize that Jesus identified this as the second greatest commandment. It seems odd that some in the churches of Christ in the 1950s felt this was inappropriate activity for a church. Their idea was that a church was to be aimed at the spiritual needs of men and women. They also had an idea that the church treasury was to be used in only a few very specific and narrow ways. While I disagree with those conclusions, I do admire that there was a deep concern that money given to the church not be misused.

Although there are a few congregations still hanging on to those principles, most have the freedom to utilize all of their talent, time, and money to reach out to the poor and hurting in the communities that surround them. Looking at our own lives today we ask an important question. Are we just acknowledging that serving others is good and right? Or are we loving our neighbor as Jesus commanded? Is this a really big part of our work as a church, or is this something we glance at now and again. There isn’t much justice in social justice if in their freedom to extend the love of Christ churches are looking the other way.

I’m thankful for pioneers like Ira North and others who would not look away.

Thanks for reading, John

Kindle book by Ira North

Paperback:

References:

Thoughts on the Passing of Ira North

Ira North

Circling the Wagons in Times of Need

I didn’t write the following, but I wanted to share it here. The church is so battered by so many today. In these few paragraphs from Leroy Garret, we are reminded how precious it is to be a part of a loving family. Thanks for reading.
~John

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Dan and Liz Skinner, 85 and 78, residents of Denton, sold their home about a year ago and moved here to The Vintage. He told me he was tired doing the yard. He was retired military, flew transport jets for the Navy, all over the world. They loved it here and made friends easily. They were members of Churches of Christ and were faithful Christians. At our Halloween party we elected them king and queen of the Vintage, and Dan was recently elected to serve as chair of our executive council. He had lots of energy, always lending a helping hand. He ran an errand or two for me during my recent bout with fatique. Then, unexpectedly, he had intestinal pain and went to ER for a checkup. He had cancer and it had spread extensively. They operated on him only enough to make him comfortable. In two weeks he was gone, conscious and in a “ready-to-go” mood all the way.

I tell you this to tell you the rest of the story, the most touching scene I’ve ever seen in church. About 15 of us piled into the Vintage van and made our way across Denton to the Singing Oaks Church of Christ for the memorial service. We were barely on time. Since I was a member there and knew my way around, I led our group to a row where we could all sit together. When the grieving widow saw us filing in, she left her place with the family, came to us and bestowed hugs of love and appreciation before returning to her family. It was a moving testimonial of what it means to have an extended family, a natural family and a spiritual family. As I reflect on that scene I feel compassion for so many who are not blessed with a church family. Many have to face the sorrows — and the joys — of life virtually alone. There is no one to circle the wagons in time of need.
~Leroy Garrett

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By Leroy Garrett For Your Kindle…

.99 – What Must the Church of Christ Do To Be Saved?

.99 – The Sense of Scripture: Studies in Interpretation

$9.99 – A Lover’s Quarrel: An Autobiography

.99 – Pilgrimage of Joy by W. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett

$29.99 – The Stone-Campbell Movement

.99 – Bible Talk

.99 – Alexander Campbell and Thomas Jefferson: A Comparative Study of Two Old Virginians

Simple.

Tonight I (along with wife and friends) went to a “gospel singing” and fish fry at a nearby church. It was simply delightful. We sang for an hour and we ate for an hour. We lifted up the praises of God with enthusiasm (only people who love to sing come to singings – so the singing was very good). Some of the songs I didn’t care for, but sang with vigor because it was someone’s favorite song. We enjoyed great conversation with food prepared by the hosting congregation.

I think people have a lot of expectations of ‘church’. And it seems like every generation has their own specific expectations. I read from a wide variety of sources and each one seems frantic to meet the needs of all the various people that can be reached. We should have an urgency in reaching out. But I’m just wondering if we aren’t so concerned about meeting all these expectations that we lose sight of the simple beauty of sharing life over a plate of mostly unhealthy food.

I really believe that most people want to be seen, loved, accepted, and heard. I love how Jesus just stops the whole production and no matter the noisy objections looks into the eyes of Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, laughing children, the woman with the issue of blood, the man dropped down through the roof, the woman weeping at the cross, the thief beside Him, fisherman Peter repeating his commitment to feed the sheep. Eye to eye. Nothing else in the entire world matters for that moment.

Can we remove some of the complications Churchianity has placed upon us …and get back to some simple basics?

Love.

Family.

Open Bibles.

Prayerful hearts.

Getting the message out.

That’s what I was reminded of tonight as we sang some songs and ate some food. And the presence of God brought peace into that place.

~John