The Risen Jesus in Our Midst: Holy Communion





We are reflecting on the five Christian practices that are always successful—always honored by God:

  1. Anointing the sick,
  2. Serving of Holy Communion,
  3. Reading from the Bible,
  4. Laying hands on those who are set apart for a task, and

Last week we talked about anointing the sick as part of the gospel message. Let’s focus our discussion today on the serving of Holy Communion.

Holy Communion was instituted by our Lord during the last supper he had with his disciples. This is why Holy Communion is also called the Lord’s Supper/the Last Supper, or the Eucharist (from the Greek word for thanksgiving). Jesus said to his disciples:  “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer!” (Lk 22:15 Good News Translation).

Paul conveys the words of the Lord so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The early Christians took these words of the Lord seriously. Acts 2:42 states that the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV). When the early church ate together, they also celebrated communion. The New Living Translation says it so well: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”

Jesus promised that in the elements of bread and wine he would be in the midst of his followers. That is why the early church celebrated holy communion every time they met! Although Calvin supported this practice, many churches of the reformation celebrate the Lord’s Supper much less—some only four times a year, but many monthly. The reason is that they want to treat Holy Communion with the reverence it deserves.

I believe that we should rediscover the wonder of the Lord’s presence as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Let’s do it more often! Let’s celebrate the Lord’s Supper even in our homes as families! Let’s take the elements to those who are bedridden and infirm, and let’s expect the Lord’s real presence in our midst!

Have you experienced the Lord’s presence in a special way as you celebrated the Lord’s Supper? Please share with us!

Anoint the Sick with Oil

In my June posting, “Do These and You’ll Always be Successful!” Dr. Cletus Hull shared with us that there are five practices in ministry that are always successful:

  1. Anoint the sick with healing oil,
  2. Serve holy communion,
  3. Read from the Bible,
  4. Lay hands on those who are ill, and those who are set apart for a task; and
  5. Pray always!

In the weeks that follow, I’ll discuss each of these holy practices and I invite you to join our conversation.

Let’s start by reading James 5:14-15 (NLT):

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

Healing the sick is part of the Christian message. It is not an optional aspect of the gospel message.  Anointing with oil was an act of dedicating a person to the Lord. Jesus came so that his followers “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus’ healing ministry clearly shows that “life to the full” includes healing from the pain and suffering brought about by illness.

Sickness was a huge part of the world in the time of Jesus, and it remains a large part of our world today. It is estimated, for example, that health care comprises a sixth of the US economy. Advancements in medicine have brought much relief, and I believe that God in his grace has given this knowledge to humanity. God remains, however, the healer—as the motto of St. Paul’s hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, says so well: “We dress the wound, but God heals.” Despite all the developments in the medical field, millions of people are still suffering and are desperately in need of healing.

My mother had been involved in a serious car accident just a few months before she and my father were married. Her sister, as well as the driver of the vehicle, were killed and my mother was the sole survivor. She experienced fractures all over her body and suffered much pain until her death at the age of 56. We often prayed for her healing, we fasted and took her to healing services. She was a sincere believer and found the joy of the Lord in the midst of her suffering. My dad, Head of the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Pretoria and a devout believer, assisted her with great care. Medicine could not do anything more and our eyes were on the Lord, who brought her safely through many surgeries, including the removal of a brain tumor. It was indeed a miracle that she was able to raise two boys and we are so thankful that she attended both my brother’s graduation ceremony as well as mine.  But she was not healed in the way we were praying, and now we look forward to the new heaven and the new earth where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev 21: 4).

I still have vivid memories of the times when we earnestly prayed for my mother’s healing. The prayers of our trusted friends were a source of great comfort and encouragement. My mom and dad had a close relationship with a group of missionaries who shared the gospel in South African schools. Joseph Chauke, Samuel and Johanna Theron, as well as Danie and Marie Blom met every Tuesday evening for a few weeks to pray for my mother’s healing. Shadrach Maloko, a devout pastor of a church in neighboring Soshanguve, also came to pray for my mother one evening. As we ate together, he observed that he could not eat much, since he had been fasting for my mother the whole day!

Healing remains a mystery because not everyone is healed. Even Paul mentions that he left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4: 20). Yet I firmly believe that we should pray for the sick. When praying steadfastly and in faith, the Lord will answer—sometimes with miraculous healing, sometimes with a gradual improvement of the condition, and sometimes with healing in the new heaven and the new earth. God always answers steadfast, believing prayer and grants those who earnestly pray for the sick the experience of his intimate presence. Our Lord reveals himself in a unique way to those who pray for the sick.

 Please share with us your experience of praying for the sick and anointing them with oil in the discussion box below!




The Incredible Greatness of God’s Power

A couple of years ago, Jonathan Aitken, former Conservative Member of Parliament in the UK spoke at “Socrates in the City” in New York City. He became Minister of State for Defence Procurement under Prime Minister John Major, but was unfortunately convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months in the Belmarsh prison.

Before entering prison a well-wisher slipped a small book, Praying the Psalms, into his pocket. The first evening, in severe agony he opened the book on June 8 (the date of his imprisonment) and read the Psalm of the day, Ps. 130. With the Psalmist he exclaimed:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
     O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (verses 1-2)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. (verses 5-6)

He read the psalm over and over and allowed verses 7 and 8 to restore his hope:

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities. (ESV Translation)

The Psalm made such an impression on Jonathan that he often talked about it in prison. The months passed and as the date of his release drew closer, the prison chaplain invited him to give a talk on his last Sunday evening in prison. Notice boards were put up all over the prison, leading to quite an enlarged congregation. Suddenly, total silence fell on the noisy congregation, as “big face” entered. He was the most dangerous and feared inmate, the executioner of his gang before he was captured.

Jonathan read Psalm 130 and talked about God’s unfailing love and full redemption. Big Face was visibly moved as tears filled his eyes. After the service, he walked up to Jonathan and mentioned to him that the passage he read spoke to him hard. He invited Jonathan to come to his cell. He would invite his best mates, because they needed this message. He added that Jonathan could also bring his best mates, so that they all could feel at home.

Jonathan went to Big Face’s cell and spoke to the roughest inmates of Belmarsh prison. He talked about full redemption, God’s gift of mercy, peace, and grace. Nobody is beneath the reach of God’s grace; nobody can earn it, but people can put themselves in a position to receive it. These hardened criminals accepted the gospel message.

As I listened to Jonathan Aitken’s experience, I thought of Paul’s description of the gospel as the dynamis, power, of God. In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul prayed that the believers would understand “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him.” Paul then observed that this power “is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.”

Have you experienced this “incredible greatness of God’s power”? Please share with us your experience!