Originally published Wednesday, 22 June 2016.
Welcome to our current Book Journey of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I publish posts weekly that summarize one of the five phases of the book, following the initial book review. You can find a schedule with more details at the end. Thank you for reading along - whether it's the actual book, these summary posts, the daily quotes on the facebook page, or at any level! I pray the Spirit can use the teachings in this book to deeply transform each of us to love and live more like Jesus.
Summary of Phase Two (part 1)
Teaching an old dog new tricks
In this section, Jen wrestled with the concept of "new," a theme found often in Scripture. (Matthew 9:17, Matthew 13:52, Mark 1:27, Romans 6:4, Romans 7:6, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 4:23)
The definition of new is given here as, "Other than the former or the old; different and better." What troubled Jen primarily was that her life didn't look particularly different than average.
Because, sure, parts of my life were different from your average Westerner's, but not really. I went to church way more than a normal human would or should, but I still had too much debt, too much pride, too much self-absorption, same as everyone. I lived for me and mine. Outside my spiritual titles - pastor's wife, Bible teacher, Christian author and speaker - there were no radical lifestyle distinctions that would cause anyone to say, 'Wow, you live a really different life.' I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most un-normal guy ever. And it was His un-normal ideas that made everything new.
Jen goes on to describe the countercultural aspects of Jesus and His actions. While the things He said, such as "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (John 6)," were a challenge - it was also the things He did and the people He associated with and didn't associate with.
But it wasn't just what He said; it was what He did. It was who He spent time with, who He talked to, who He argued with - to say nothing of His very unaffluent life. we took Jesus' famous teaching away and just focused on the way He lives, He would still be radical. Which, of course, I've heard, but somehow was content letting Jesus do the messy work. I would just talk about it.
Desiring, doing, and remembering
God continued to open Jen's eyes as she spent time in Scripture. Earlier in the chapter, she said, "God does His heaviest spiritual lifting with me in the Word." This time, she was reading about the account the Passover meal before Jesus' crucifixion.
He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:19-20)
As Jen puts it, Jesus was doing and saying something revolutionary here, "redefining a Jewish ritual with a 1,500-year history...Jesus was transforming the untransformable." Jesus wasn't simply serving a meal for the disciples, He was saying He was the meal, the sacrifice. While individuals like Judas and Pilate played roles in Jesus' crucifixion, they did not take His life. In truth, "Jesus had eluded death countless times before the cross," Jen says, therefore His was an offering in order to fulfill a greater purpose.
Jen's description of communion here is one of my favorite parts of this book. Please read this section, if nothing else. What follows is an explanation of communion that both challenged me and clarified the practice in my mind.
When Jesus says, "Do this in remembrance of Me" - what exactly does He mean?
Is this a simple matter of observing the Lord's Supper once a quarter? Was Jesus emphasizing the Jewish custom of ritual, just with new symbolism?
Jen explains that Jesus was using the present tense verb form that requires continuous, perpetual action - not just a one-time command. The part that stood out to me, though, was this: the word remembrance is from anamnesis, which means "to make real." Thus, communion is about more than just remembering Jesus' sacrifice. It's not just recalling the offering and being thankful for it.
Remembrance means honoring Jesus' mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice. In other words, "Constantly make this real"... Not only was Communion a symbolic ritual, it was a new prototype of discipleship. "Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing. Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Becoming a living offering, denying yourself for salvation and restoration of humanity...We don't simply remember the meal; we become the meal.
Jen finishes by explaining a concept the Lord had impressed on my heart over the years, something I wrote about here in Can't I just watch from my window and recently in a reflection about our recent adoption. Redemption has a cost, or, as Jen says it, "Mercy has a cost; someone must be broken for someone else to be fed."
I love Jen's concluding words:
That sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say 'That fed me, that nourished me,' someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment...self-sacrifice is hardwired into the mission of a believer... Death in me = life in you. Broken so someone else is fed. "Feed my lambs."
Given the content of this Phase Two, I've decided to cover it in two sections instead of just one; today's post is on part 1, and I will post part 2 on Wednesday, June 22.
Questions to Consider
- In what ways was Jesus "un-normal" for the culture of His time? Specifically, what set Him apart as different? And, how does that apply to those of us today who follow Him?
- In what ways does God do "His heaviest spiritual lifting with you personally?" For Jen, it has been in His Word. What is God showing you through His Word recently?
- What do you think Jen means when she says that she was "content letting Jesus do the messy work" and that she would just "talk about it?" Do you relate? What about the biblical call to preach and share truth (with words)?
- Jen says, in referring to avoiding the messy work (pg 51): "Or I made it fit, inventing a way to merge it with normal context. Sure, He hung out with lepers, but we don't really have a leprosy epidemic anymore, so I'll just be kind to customer service reps and telemarketers, which is about the same sacrifice ... am I right?" In what ways do we, as the Church, invent ways to merge Scripture with normal context, thus avoiding any direct application? In what ways do you find yourself doing this personally?
- What has been your understanding of the Lord's supper? Has this section affected your view on it? If so, how?
- What was Jesus saying when He said "Do this in remembrance of Me?"
- Jen says "Mercy as a cost." I've said similar phrases in recent posts, such as in Welcome Home, Little One: Reflections on our Adoption and Can't I just watch from my window? Read these posts and reflect on the concept of Jesus' example of self-sacrifice and what standard it sets for discipleship. What does discipleship look like for you and at your church?
- Consider the call to "feed my lambs." If nourishing others only comes through personal sacrifice and brokenness, how might it look to "feed lambs?" And, how does this relate to what Jesus was talking about in communion when he said, "do this in remembrance of Me?"
- Simply "Death in me = life in you. Broken so someone else is fed. 'Feed my lambs,'" Jen says. How has this been true in your life? Can you think of times when someone else was broken for your own nourishment? How have you been broken and poured out for another? Again, how does this relate to Jen's description of communion?
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