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Ben Fleming: Cruciform Community, 1 Corinthians 11:17-26

March 13, 2023

Audio Recording

Living out of a cruciformity to the cross of Christ challenges America’s individualism and judgementalism toward others. It informs how we live in community, our commitment to the weak and marginalized, and our response to enemies.

The Beauty of the Cross
The Beauty of the Cross
Ben Fleming: Cruciform Community, 1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Good morning everybody. I'm Ben Fleming, one of the senior pastors here, and we are in part three of a series called Cruciform Life. As we talk about in this season of Lent, which has so much to do with the humility and the sacrifice of Jesus, we talk about what that means for us and how we can live our lives with that same humility and sacrifice that Christ led us with. lent is a part of the liturgical church calendar, and if you're anything like me, you didn't grow up with that. And really, this is the first year of my entire life that really been delving deeply into the church calendar. not just for the sake of routine, but there is a depth in the Christian tradition here that I haven't explored before that has provided a whole lot of insight into what's going on in my faith, and the faith of the world as far as Christianity is concerned.

00:55 It's really been a beautiful process for me to walk through with all this, and I hope you could say the same. would like to congratulate you. Similar to what Evan said on coming on spring forward today, we don't compare people that go to church, but those who come to church on spring forward day are more holy than others. And, it's, it's just, it's just a fact. And that's not true. The, my, the rest of my theology this morning will be better than that, but, just keep up with me. I have a little bit or a lot, bit of a toxic trait if you ask my wife, and that is, I like to feel like I belong in every environment that I'm in. So sometimes that manifests itself in the really classic thing of, I don't really like to ask for directions. and I don't wanna paint with too broad of a brush, but I feel like maybe some of the men can identify with me today. but really the biggest thing that, the biggest environment that I'm in sometimes with my wife is when we travel and we're in a restaurant or we're on a street or whatever, I don't wanna ask for help. I don't wanna look vulnerable. I want everyone to view me like I am a local .

02:08 And so the, one of the most horrific moments of my entire life was my wife and I got to stay for a few days in Brooklyn, New York. And we were hanging out and going to the coffee shops, went to a knit game, like it was really cool, really, really fun experience. And then the last day when we were supposed to leave, we discovered that our flight was leaving a little bit earlier than we had thought. And so we do the really quick, get everything going in the Airbnb, do the change of sheets real quick, pack up all the bags, and then I find myself outside with my wife, who is very urgently trying to get me to move. She's running down the sidewalks of Brooklyn, New York with a big pink roller bag and I'm behind her with my own roller bag going, I won't do this.

02:46 I have, everyone will know that I don't belong here. You know, cuz nothing says local, like all the way down the sidewalk, you know? No, I'm, I'm from, from here. It's for sure I'm not lost or wait trying to get home to Oregon . And this is actually translated into other areas of my life. At one time I got a job and in the interview process, it was for a newspaper, the Harold News newspaper in Klamath Falls, Oregon. I was becoming a sports reporter, sports writer. In the interview, my boss said, and you I'm sure are familiar with AP style writing, we subscribe to AP style here at this newspaper, which informs how you abbreviate, how you mention different locations. Sometimes it even is a reference to how you spell, where you put semicolons, all this stuff. AP style is a big important thing.

03:38 And he said, you're familiar with AP style? And I said, well, of, of course . I'm familiar . So I go out and I write my first article. I go out to the game, I come back, I write my first article, and there's this woman in the newsroom as one of our main editors name's Anna Baxtrum. She's has become a huge deal. She's one of the, the primary editors at USA Today now. And like Anna was that person where when she's in the room, you know who the boss is. She's really fun, really, really funny. We're really good friends now. but when she was in the room, you just knew who the authority was. And so I write my first article and she brings it over to me on this large sheet of paper that's the size of, of a, of a newspaper page. And she holds it like she's holding a dead mouse.

04:25 And she goes, do you know what style we use here at the Herald and News? And I remembered for my interview and I said, well, of course AP style. And she said, that's good. I'm glad that you believe that. I would love to see it in your writing. And she turned it around and all this red marks all over my article and she drops it in front of me and she goes, you have 10 minutes, or we're gonna find somebody else to do this job that can do it the right way. And I was like, but I know what I'm doing clearly. And so she said that it's good that you believe that. I would love to see it in your writing. Did you know that in our faith you can believe something and not allow it to transform your life? Do you know that we can believe in the cruciform sacrificial way of living that Jesus emulated for us and we cannot allow it to actually change our lives?

05:26 When we do this, we can very quickly and easily bastardize the gospel into something beautiful and available and full of grace into something that looks like whatever we would like it to be. For instance, in an extreme case, the Ku Klux Klan, while in a lynch mob with torches lit to hunt people of other skin colors to hang from trees would often march beneath the banner of Jesus saves many nations in the history of the world have waged, unjust and violent wars in the name of the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the cruciform Christ, a sacrifice made for all to come and experience. The gospel of grace can be used if we allow it to for just about any cause we desire. So how do we avoid such an end? Well, we have to understand the cruciform life and then we have to actually practice it as a community.

06:28 And so today I wanna discuss what it looks like to be a cru formed church. What it looks like for us as a collective to experience Christ and become a cruciform living people. In order to do that, we're gonna start in Matthew chapter 26. In verse 26, I'm gonna show you a story from scripture that happens before the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And then one that happens as the church is developing after the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. Under Matthew 26, Jesus is inviting the disciples to participate in the Passover Passover feast with him. Now, if you're not familiar with the Passover, Passover is a yearly celebration of God's sparing of the Israelites. While in Egypt's enslavement, Pharaoh wouldn't liberate the Israelites and so the angel of death comes. But for those who have a feast, slay a lamb, eat the lamb, and take that lamb's blood and spread it on the exterior of their doorposts, those people will be passed over by the angel of death.

07:35 And so Moses, at the end of this incredible miracle for the people of Israel writes down, he says, we should do this every single year we'll have a feast that will include this lamb so that we remember what God has done for our people at that time of the Passover. Moses says this in Exodus chapter 12. And so Jesus is about to partake in this same tradition with these Jewish followers, these disciples that he has. But he begins to make some changes. Here's what he says In, in Matthew chapter 26, verse 26 says, as they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces, gave it to the disciples saying, take this and eat it for this is my body. He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it and he gave it to them and said, each of you drink from it.

08:19 For this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. So what Jesus does at this time is he tries to paint the clearest picture to date of exactly what the gospel is and why he has come to earth with skin on in order to be this sacrifice that they don't really completely fully understand. Yet, Jesus communicates this gospel in such a stark way that probably would've been alarming to these little Jewish boys who had participated in this tradition their entire life. Cuz they would've shown up at, at this table, everybody would've been gathered around. They would've asked the question, why is this moment and this ignite significant more significant than all the other ones of the year? And then they would've eaten a lamb and they would've spent time together, they would've had wine and they would've remembered that day for the people of Israel.

09:11 What Jesus does is that the bread is there and the wine is there, but suspiciously for these disciples, there's no lamb at the table. Now, because this is a command of Moses, this is a huge deal. You thought mom was unhappy because the Turkey didn't turn out right at one Thanksgiving. This is multiplied by a million for these kids. Well, where's the land? We have to do this. It's part of not just part of our custom, but it's part of the law. We have to participate in this tradition. And Jesus says, we are participating in this tradition, but unlike this one lamb, at this one moment in time for the people of Israel who are saved simply for one night, I am now becoming the lamb myself. A sacrifice not just for your people, but for the entire world and for all eternity. And I'm not just saving you for one moment or one night, but instead I'm eradicating the power of sin and death over your lives forever for the history of the world.

10:13 I'm not just addressing a symptom or a moment. Instead I'm addressing the entire thing. The whole system of sin is now under my dominion as the new lamb and the new sacrifice. Jesus presents them this gospel of grace that is so crazy and so radical. It would've been extremely difficult for the disciples to understand. And actually the scripture says they don't fully understand until much later what Jesus himself was talking about. When not only does he present this clear picture of the gospel, but then he picture, he paints a clear picture of what community can look like around this gospel. So not, not only are they having a a, a meal at this time, the Passover meal, Jesus decides to take it one step further. And this comes from John in chapter 13. It says it was time for supper. And the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon as scar itt to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist and poured water into a basin. And then he began to wash the disciples feet, drying them with the towel that he had around them. I dunno if you've ever seen someone get their feet washed in person.

11:35 It's awkward . I do a lot of weddings and one of the things that has started coming up at weddings, this is really cool and it's beautiful. You don't have to add it to your wedding, but it is, you know, that's you neither hear nor there. Congratulations to all of those of you who are engaged . But some people have started to wash their new spouse's feet at the front and it takes time. It feels very intimate. And you have a hundred people at your wedding and you start washing each other's feet. And most people are like, now's a good time to look at my phone. They told us not to pull him out, but I'm doing it right now. Here we go.

12:17 It is. It's such a beautiful thing, which is why it's almost natural for all of us to kind of look away at what's happening in Jesus decides to do this for all of the disciples. Now, when I say all, I mean he decides to do it for Judas who is in the room, who it even indicates that he knows that Judas will betray him. He decides to wash Peter's feet, who will exclaim to the entire world as Jesus is being crucified. I did not know that man and I did not follow him for the last several years of my life. He'll wash Thomas' feet, who later on after hearing the story from the women in the crowd will say, all of you are liars. And he is not resurrected. I will not believe you.

13:04 He washes all of their feet, which tells us at this moment where the gospel is presented in its clearest form, the new and perfect lamb submitted for the sins of the entire world. Who does he allow at the table? He allows the blasphemers and the liars and the angry and the insecure, the betrayers, the one that will literally put him to the government to be put on the cross. He washes his feet to, this is ridiculous. I don't know about you, but when I hear that somebody is talking poorly about me behind my back, I am more than happy to immediately cut them outta my life. I don't respond to texts. I will ghost you. I'll never call you back. I'll delete you on Instagram. I'll do the full bit. And Jesus who knows this person who he has been eating with and sleeping with and walking with and spending all of this time with, he invites him to the table and then washes his feet.

14:08 Why? Because this community that belongs to the gospel is all inclusive and there is no, well, you understand what they're gonna do. They're gonna hurt you, they're gonna bite you. Jesus says, I know they're gonna hurt me. They're gonna bite me back and they're, they're gonna cause me to actually experience this intense, incredible pain of sacrifice. And yet they still belong at the table. So Jesus paints this picture for us, the church that who belongs at the table, everyone, the ones that hate us, the ones that don't believe exactly like us, the ones that have stumbled and fallen and ruined their own lives, they themselves belong at the table where the gospel is preached.

14:57 Judas at the table during this declaration of the gospel, Jesus doesn't modify his speech or make exceptions because of who sits in these chairs. The betrayer himself is at the table and still Jesus offers his service to him. When we take communion together, which is what the last supper that's representative of the Last Supper, the Eucharist communion common union. When we take communion, it's a recognition of Jesus' full work. So Jesus sets this standard for community around the gospel as they take communion together. And now here's the Apostle Paul addressing a church in Corinth. And so if you don't know who Paul is, Paul had, he wasn't a disciple of Jesus Christ who followed him up to his death. He had this conversion experience on a road where he met God and God changed his life. And then he, instead of killing Christians, became someone that was planting churches and encouraging those who were spreading the gospel as he was.

15:57 And so he writes the majority of the New Testament. He writes one book that's called Philippians in your Bible. And I dunno if you read Philippians, it's pretty short. It's a handful of chapters and almost all of it is Paul saying, I'm in prison and my body hurts. But I love you guys so much and you're, you're encouraging me and I think about you all the time. And whenever I think about you, I smile and it's this love letter to this group of the church in Philippi. The the letter to the church in Corinth is long and almost every single line is some kind of earnest instruction that he's really trying to get this church to understand. And there's not just one letter to the church in Corinth. There's another one that we calls first and second Corinthians.

16:42 And so particularly at this moment in First Corinthians chapter 17, Paul is trying to get across a very, very important point to these people who are actually engaging the active communion, much like we will partake in today, says in first Corinthians 11, verse 17, he says, the following instructions, I can't praise you for it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. That's such a positive review for a church. Put that one on Yelp. When these people meet together, it's a mess. They're divisive and they hate each other. And he says in verse 18, first I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church. And to some extent I believe that. But of course there must be divisions among you so that you who have God's approval will be recognized. Now I've actually heard that line taught as, see when we come together, there actually must be some divisions in our church because we have to understand who is blessing who.

17:41 And I've, I've heard it preach this way, I want you to understand Westside Church today, this morning that is divine apostle sarcasm today. He's saying, yeah, for sure you guys have to create all these divisions so that you know who's in first place and who's in fifth place. I get it. And then it goes on. He says in verse 20, when you meet together, you're not actually interested in the Lord's supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. And as a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What don't you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really wanna disgrace God's church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Did you really want me to praise you? While I certainly won't praise you for this before I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself on the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, gave thanks to God for it, and then he broke it in pieces and said, this is my body which is given for you.

18:36 Do this in remembrance of me. And in the same way he took the cup of wine after suppers saying The cup is a new covenant between God and his people. An agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it for every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you're announcing the Lord's death until he comes again. So Jesus lines out this incredible radical love of the last supper and communion and the gospel together. And only a handful of years later, a church is using that same practice to actually affirm their social standing to each other so that the rich are separated from the poor so that the influential are separated from the quiet and they would actually meet in these houses. So they would be divided into rooms. And most scholars say that this church would've had the rich people in one room bringing all of the food and they would've left the poor people in a different section of the house so that they wouldn't have even had to talk together.

19:38 We can believe something about this gospel and have it have no influence or transformation on our practices or on our hearts. The church very easily can move away from the very real gospel of Jesus Christ and becomes something that really doesn't look any different from any club that you might find in central Oregon. It won't look any different from your kids' pol politics on their travel baseball team. It won't look any different than the club that you meet with and and play cards with. It won't look any different from the restaurant that you go to when Jesus comes and he brings us this blueprint of sacrifice and generosity and humility. The church can believe all of this and throw it away for the sake of practices that actually just simply affirm all of the power that we've re we've retained in our entire lives. They can just tell us the same stories that the world is telling us when God is saying, I've come to write a brand new story.

20:35 And that is that the broken might be mended again, that the blind might see again that those who the world has forgotten will be seen by my church. And may it be so with West Church in Central Oregon, that when the rest of our world looks beyond people that we feel like cannot help us in return, we create seats and space at a table specifically for those who cannot find them anywhere else. But pastor, those are the people that are gonna hurt us. They're gonna take advantage of us. Jesus would say, I think that's actually part of the idea. They belong in our table with us.

21:17 Now, the difference between something that is just simply a belief that we don't take to heart and something that we take to heart that becomes who we are is found itself in this scripture. Paul says, as he quotes Jesus, do this in remembrance of me. Now, this English word, remember doesn't do us a whole lot of good. It doesn't do us as much good as it could, I should say. Now if you're like me, you would assume that the opposite of remember in this case is what it's to forget, remember would be to recall. And the opposite would be to forget. But this word actually the opposite is not forget. The opposite of, remember in this case is to dismember.

22:03 Now, when I think of dismember, you know, I think of the movie Braveheart or something, you know, or we're losing limbs, some kind of a torture tool. Something is being ripped and taken apart. But to remember in this case is actually to sow or to reattach, to make, belong to your being is what this word is. And so when we gather together to take communion, when we gather together to eat food and to worship the Lord with each other, what we're not doing is just saying our beliefs out loud over and over and over again. Instead, we're trying to take these beliefs, what we believe about grace and about who God is and what his nature is. And we're trying to make them a part of our souls and our bodies sometimes for the first time. But again and again and again, we remember, we reattach the gospel to ourselves so that it begins to change how we speak of people. It begins to change how we think of our own lives and develop our own self-esteem. It begins to change how we believe about miracles. And at most of all, overarching in everything, it begins to change who we believe is deserving of our love and God's love and who is not.

23:16 It's so easy, especially for this day and age, for a church's beliefs to simply come down to something that you can write on a social media platform or you can put on the website of a church. Well, what do you believe about this group of people? What do you believe about the queer population? And what do you believe about public schools and what do you believe about this and that? And Jesus is saying, this is not the beginning place of the entire thing. We don't build churches on this. We don't build faith on this. We don't build our systems on this. Instead, it's not this measure of our theology and our belief, but instead our theology and our belief is transformed by this radical miraculous love. It never ends. And it means that everybody's got a spot at the table and there's no exceptions. That's where this entire thing begins.

24:05 And when we dip that truth into the wine, into the cup of Christ, and we consume those things, we believe that now it will come out in every form of our being and our doing and our loving in the world around us. We will not be a church that simply has beliefs, will be a church that is willing to be transformed by the truth and the grace of Christ. The gospel is not about your right standing in the world. Instead, it's about an incredible capacity to love radically as Jesus has. I'll finished with this and I'm gonna have the band up right now, and in a moment we're gonna worship together and we'll take communion together. This is the end of one Corinthians chapter 11, but this time we'll read it in the Message Translation from Eugene Peterson. He says this, he says, so my friends, when you come together to the Lord's table, be revent and courteous with one another. If you're so hungry that you can't wait to be served, just go home and get a sandwich. By no means returning this meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble, this is a spiritual meal.

25:27 It's a love feast. I know that Bend Oregon doesn't exactly have the reputation for being, the most diverse place any of us have ever been to. But we do have a lot of backgrounds, a lot of different understandings about faith. And otherwise, many of us, whether you believe it or know it or not, are probably sitting in a row with somebody that voted differently than you that grew up very differently than you might be even feeling some kind of way differently about how you're receiving this message right here and right now. But the beauty of church as a whole, but especially this time that we call communion, is that itself, it's a common union. As we take these moments here together, we get to be unified underneath this gospel of fresh and anew. And we get to remember what that means to us. I'm gonna have some, ushers come forward now and we're gonna do communion a little bit differently today. There's tables or stations located all over the worship center here. and there's gonna be a couple people at those actually serving the elements for you today. And so we have some actual unleavened bread. for those of you who haven't had unleavened bread before,

27:00 It's

27:00 Kind of gross,

27:02 Okay?

27:05 It sticks in your teeth and it might take you 30 minutes, you know, to really get it down. We're gonna come up and take the unleavened bread and dip it in the cup, and then you can take communion right there in that moment, or you can walk back to your seats. for those of you who are have a, a concern maybe about the germs of it, we do have a few, self-contained communion cups like we usually have located a lot of the stations as well, so you can partake and not feel excluded. Man, today, I hope, I hope we remember, not in a, in a thinking list making sense, but I hope we remember deep into our souls this extravagant night where Jesus shows himself to be the lamb and the sacrifice for our sins. And the gospel is made so clear and plain, and I hope we remember, we attach that moment to ourselves and remembering who sits at that table. It's everyone. I have so much faith that God can heal the ills that exist in my own heart and soul and behavior. Why? Because I like me a

28:22 Lot

28:24 And I look at God and I go, God, I know you can fix

28:27 This,

28:29 But man, when I look at the rest of the world, I go, I don't know how we're gonna fix all this. There's a level of arrogance that's involved in that way of thinking. Let's remove the comparison. Let's stop deciding who belongs and who doesn't in this moment. And let's come to a common union embracing the gospel that Jesus has lined out with a seat at the table for everyone. So Jesus, we come ready to participate in common union together. I pray that we would remember that we would reattach the gospel to our souls and to our bodies in a fresh, new way, that we would be reminded that there is a space for everyone. And for some of us in here, they go that seat. I don't even know if I belong at that table. That's for you, for some of us standing at judgment against the rest of the world and saying, I belong. But those don't. I gotta tell you, let's not just let our beliefs remain beliefs, but let them transform our way of living. So God, we do this in remembrance of you. In Jesus' name. Amen.