Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 for a brief meditation on the meaning of the Lord’s supper before we partake in the same. Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper on the night of the Passover meal . Just as Passover celebrated the deliverance of from slavery from Egypt, the Lord’s supper celebrates deliverance from sin by Christ’s death. Our Lord said, “this is the new covenant, in my blood”. The old covenant allowed people to approach God only through the sacrificial system. Jesus’ death on the cross ushered in the new covenant or agreement between God and us. Now all people can approach God in a very personal way. Eating the bread and drinking the cup shows that we are remembering Christ’s death for us, and renewing our commitment to serve to Him. Lord asks us to do this in remembrance of Him. If the Lord’s supper becomes just a ritual, it loses it’s significance. Let us understand Paul’s instructions before we partake in this celebration today.
1. We should take the Lord’s supper thoughtfully, because we are proclaiming that Christ died for our sins (11:26)
2. We should take it worthily, with due reverence and respect (11:27)
3. We should examine ourselves for any unconfessed sin or resentful attitude. (11:28) We are to be properly prepared , based on our belief in, and love for Christ
So let us take a few moments in silence to examine ourselves, and to thank Him for what he has done for us , even as we remember Him through this celebration.
Lessons from a Slave girl
In 2 Kings 5:1-18, there is an interesting story. The soldiers of Aram had a good pastime, they used to invade Israel and take prisoners and make them their slaves. In one of such sorties they had taken a young girl captive and she was made the servant of Naaman’s wife. Naaman was the commander of the army of Aram, but he had leprosy. The servant girl , whose name is not recorded in the Bible, saw this and recommended to the wife that if he could see the prophet Elisha, the decease would get cured. Naaman listens to his wife ( as I always do..) and seeks permission from the King of Aram to go and visit the prophet . Israel was enemy kingdom and you needed the approval from the King to go seeking miracle curing from an enemy prophet. The King of Aram even goes to the extent of writing a letter to the King of Israel to cure Naaman, and the King of Israel gets worried over it, that he does not have the powers to do so. However Elisha hears about this and asks the King to send Naaman to him. Naaman had gone to Israel with a lot of money with him ( about 340 Kilograms of Silver and 70 Kilograms of Gold apart from 10 sets of clothing) he sure went prepared for a long inpatient treatment, and that is what the modern hospitals like Columbia Asia would have offered him. Naaman goes to Elisha’s house, but Elisha does not come out to see him, but sends a message to Naaman asking him to go and wash himself in the Jordan. Naaman gets angry that Elisha did not come out and do something miraculous, and walks away at first, but is convinced by his servants later and he agrees to do what the Prophet asked him to do . Naaman gets cured of his leprosy and gets converted into a believer in the Yahweh, and accepts Him as the only true God. He asks Elisha to accept a gift but Elisha politely refuses. Naaman asks for some soil from Israel, so that he can offer burnt offerings to the God of Israel, and seeks forgiveness in advance for some thing he would continue to do after he returns to Aram,
As I went through this story I was struck by three things and that is what the Lord wants me to speak about today.
First let us focus on the slave girl for a minute. Vs 2-3. We do not even know her name. She was taken captive , and kept as a servant. She was taken away from her parents and was in bondage. She had all the reasons to be mad at Aram, and had every reason to rejoice that he had leprosy. If I was in her position, I would probably have said, “Good.. he deserves it for doing this to me..” She had all the reasons to wallow in self pity and just mind her own business. She had plenty of reasons not to make recommendations to the master’s wife. There was every chance that the Madam or Naaman would pay no attention to the slave girl’s suggestion , or even worse there was a risk of her being thrown out of her job if she overstepped her “boundaries”.. But we see a very different reaction from this slave girl. She decides to make an attempt to influence Naaman go to Israel’s prophet.
To me this is evangelism. This is adventurous evangelism. How many of get stopped at doing the Lord’s work thinking there is no opportunity. How may of us do not even make an attempt to share the good news with others worrying over the prospects of rejection? How many of us worry over our deficiencies and hence desist from sharing the gospel with others. How many of us think that we are not in the right position, or right neighborhood, or among right friends, to share about Lord Jesus Christ? I would like us to take a lesson from this servant girl, and believe that there are opportunities wherever God has placed us. If He has placed us some where, he has placed us for a reason. All that we are required to do is to spot that opportunity and speak out or act on it. We need to keep our eyes and ears open for such opportunities which come.
I had the opportunity of attending a friend’s thanksgiving function last Thursday. It was a combined function for their wedding anniversary, Son’s birthday and the house warming of their new home. This person was from a Hindu background and now is full of zeal for the Lord. There were a number of Hindu guests, and their own family members who were still Hindus. The couple used this occasion very well to convey the invitation of Jesus Christ, and used the occasion to invite others to accept Jesus Christ. I sure was impressed and I praise God for people like them.
The Bible is full of stories that tell us that the Lord is not concerned about what we do not have, but is interested in what we do with what we have. When Moses was standing in front of the red sea, with the Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit, he started complaining to the Lord, “Why Lord, Why did you take us out of Egypt? “, and the Lord just asked him “Moses, what do you have in your hand? Moses said, only a stupid staff my Lord, and the Lord said, just hold the staff in front of you. And the sea parts to make way for the Israelites to cross over. In 1 Kings 17:10-15 there is this story of a Widow being approached for food by Elisha’s mentor and predecessor Elijah. The widow reaction is true and sincere, “I have only a handful of flour, and little oil, and I was planning to have the last meal with it and die”. Elijah asks her, are you willing to make a small cake for me with it?” she agrees and her flour and oil never got exhausted after that. Let me repeat again. God is not concerned about what we do not have but is interested in what we do with what we have.
This Sunday morning , let us examine our hearts and ask ourselves, are we sensitive to the opportunities surrounding us to open up about the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we willing to step up and seize the opportunities that present themselves?
Secondly let us look at the reaction of Naaman to the “message”. Vs 10 tells us that Elisha asked Naaman to do very simple thing, go and wash in the Jordan. Let us look at the reaction of Naaman. He gets angry. And why do you think he got angry. He says, I expected Elisha to come out and do some jumping around me, pray powerfully over me like some of the TV evangelists do now days, call loudly upon the Yahweh, push me down with the power of the spirit, and make it look like you did some miracle and then cure me. Instead Elisha does an anticlimax and asks him to just go and wash. Go and wash? I don’t need to come to Israel to wash. We have better rivers in Aram where I can wash as much as I want to. Naaman got angry because he was asked to do a simple thing, and big, important, people do not get satisfied by doing simple things, do we? We expect big actions, we want miracles, we continuously look for signs and wonders, we are not satisfied or happy with the small simple things through which God reveals Himself.
The fact about God is, that he does not ask us to do Great and mighty things . He asks us to do very simple things. He asked Joshua and his men to just walk around the city walls for 6 days and he hands over the city of Jericho to Joshua. He told Gideon that he had too many men and gave victory to Gideon with just three hundred men. Jesus asks us to simply accept him and he promises us a seat at the utmost banqueting table. One reason why the Jews could not accept the message of Jesus is because they thought it was too simple. They thought ( and still think) the messiah would come and do great things, He will wage wars, He will dethrone Kings, He will lift mountains or whatever.. who wants a simple solution to a large problem like sin and separation from God? Not that Jesus did not do miraculous things, He healed, He made the dead walk.. yet people did not believe. But he did not ask you and me to do great and mighty things (sure we can, and are able to, by His grace.. as Paul says in Philippians 4:13 ), but he asks us to start with a very simple act of accepting Him and inviting Him into our hearts. He says in Revelation 3:20, “I stand at the door and knock, all you have to do is to open your door and I will come in and sup with you.”
Some times I get discouraged by the fact that I have not performed any miracles in Christ’s name. I might not have been able to heal any body of deadly decease by a single prayer, I might not have been able to solve some one’s financial problems at one stroke by my own prayers. I have never been able to make the blind see or the lame walk, or the dead come alive. But I realise that I am not alone. One of the things I love is the epitaph of John the Baptist. I am so delighted by it that I would like my epitaph to be just like his. John 10:41 puts it beautifully (Read John 10:40-42) . “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man (referring to Jesus) was true”. What an epitaph. I wish after my death people would come and say, this man never performed any miracles, but all that he said about Jesus was true.
This morning, shall we accept and believe that God does not ask us to do great and mighty things. He is asking us to do a simple thing in faith, accept Jesus, and live by what he advised us to. Are we willing to do this simple act and inherit eternal life, or are we still in the look out for great signs and wonders?
Thirdly let us look at what Naaman asks after his “conversion”. Let us focus on Vs 18. After Naaman affirms that he is not going to worship any other God other than Yahweh, the God of Israel, we see him pleading for forgiveness in advance for one activity. He asks Elisha to ask God to forgive him for doing his duty to his master , the King of Aram. The King of Aram is a worshipper of Rimmon, and being the close aide of the King, Naaman was expected to help the King to go to the temple of Rimmon and help him bow down. Now, if you have helped any one to bow down, you would know that when you help some one else to bow down, you have to bow down along with the person. Naaman knew that he has accepted Yahweh as the Lord, but that did not mean that the King of Aram would change his ways. And as a dutiful servant of the King, Naaman wanted to continue in the service of the King of Aram, while choosing to worship Yahweh.
For many of us who work in secular organisations there is a strong message in here. Many of us face this challenge of adjusting to the secular surroundings after we accept the Lord Jesus. Some of us worry if the adjustment is a compromise of our faith. The company where I and Raj work, is strong proponent of diversity and inclusive leadership. As part of the diversity agenda, almost a year back, the company celebrated what it called as the “ GLBT (Gay , Lesbian Bisexual and Trans Sexual) pride month. Many senior people in the organisation came out in the open with “proud” declaration of their gay and lesbian status. This was given wide coverage in the company intranet and also publicized using posters and special events etc. The company’s point was that it will not make any discrimination based on the sexual preference of the employees (in similar lines with the race , religion, gender, country of origin etc etc) , and every one had a right to follow what they thought right. Raj knows one of our Christian Colleagues who felt very disturbed about this and ultimately, last week he quit the organisation, citing this reason, and he has gone public with the reason for quitting ( not citing faith reasons, but citing moral and cultural reasons) in his internet blog. As Christians, the question before us is how should we react to such secular practices in the organisations that we work for.
One of the struggles which I am going through right now, is how will I deal with the Hindu religious rituals and ceremonies associated with death. My mother is old, almost 85, and I am not sure how much more time she will be here in this world. This thought has been going through my mind, ever since I have heard about Raj’s bereavement > I wish to discuss with Raj and understand how he coped with this, and draw some strength from him. There have been multiple options that I have been considering, one of them of course being, not to go to my place in the eventuality of this happening. But then I realise that by not going there for this event, when it occurs, I might be alienating all my other siblings and relatives, and I am sure that is not what our Lord wants from me. I struggle with this thought and I seek guidance from the Bible on this. This passage and Naaman’s reaction to his need to bow down to Rimmon along with the King of Aram is a great revelation to me.
The laws of the secular world are secular. I learned this from Anand Pillai. This is so beautifully brought out by the story of Daniel , (Daniel 1 :8-15) when he was captive in the alien land. Daniel and his friends refused to eat the food supplied to them, but they did not question the customs or the needs of the land. All that they wanted was to be given a chance to stick with their beliefs and still meet the objectives of the authorities of the alien land. (being that they should look healthy and well fed..) which the Lord helped them to achieve. The laws of the secular world are secular, and we are called to go by the laws and still stand by our faith. Naaman’s request and Elisha’s granting of that request, confirm what the Lord asks us to do in the new testament too. We are not asked to stay away from pagans, we are not asked to isolate ourselves from the Pagans, but we are asked to live such good lives among the pagans that they will see the good work done by us and glorify the father in heaven. (1 Peter 2:12) Jesus did not refrain himself from going to the tax collectors and sinner’s house to dine. (Matthew 9:10-13) Instead he used that occasion to clearly state why he was here on earth. He said, “It is not the healthy that needs doctors, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” I want to thank my Lord for giving us examples of how to live among the pagans and still hold on to our faith.
Let me summarise. We have looked at three aspects from this story of the slave girl
1. God is not concerned about what you do not have or what position you are in. he is interested in what you do what you have. He is interested in how you use the position/ situation that you are placed in.
2. God does not ask us to do high and mighty things to please him. He asks us to do very simple things like just accepting him and following his teachings.
3. God does not ask to live away from the pagans and sinners and non believers, God expects us to live among them and influence them by our lives.
Let us pray that the Lord will enable us to practice what we have heard today.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.