Summary: Communion meditation for Sunday, August 3, 2008
(Slide 1) I begin this morning with gratitude because I am grateful for the Bible and how it has helps us find faith and life and the power to do what is right even in the face of overwhelming opposition. The truth and power of which it teaches is sometimes, though, expressed in some unusual ways.
(Slide 2) The story is told of a street preacher who was preaching to anyone who would listen. As he did so one day, a man approached him who looked like he had lived on the street forever.
"Can I help you?" asked the preacher asked the man. "I think you can," said the unkempt and street smart person.
"Would you like me to tell you about Jesus?" ask the preacher. "No."
"Would you like me to pray for you?" he queried. "No."
"If you don’t want me to tell you about Jesus, and you don’t want me to pray with you, how can I help you?" "You can give me your Bible," replied the growingly impatient man.
"Why would you want my Bible if you have no interest in knowing more about Jesus?" asked the bewildered preacher. "I noticed that the pages of your Bible are very thin and I can use the pages to wrap a joint."
Wisdom came suddenly to the shocked preacher, who said, "I’ll give you the Bible, if you will agree to read a page before you smoke it." The man agreed, took his new Bible, and left.
The story goes on to say that the preacher thought that he would never see the man (or Bible) again. But,… one day about three months later a man in a business suit approached the preacher who was out preaching on the street and asked the preacher if he knew who he was.
"No. I’ve never seen you in my life,” replied the preacher. "Yes, you have,” said the well dressed man. I’m the man you gave a Bible to (about four months ago)."
The preacher couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. "What happened? Tell me what happened." "Well, I smoked Matthew, and then I smoked Mark, and then I smoked Luke--and then John smoked me."
The power and truth of scripture finally got to this man as he got to the fourth gospel.
For centuries, many people have tried to squelch the Bible and its wonderful message of forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ. And while they thought they had succeeded in doing so, they had not.
(Slide 3) Pastor Jeff Simms tells the story of a man who found out that the power of God will eventually triumph over the power of political oppression no matter how long it goes on. It seems, according the Pastor Jeff, that “in the 1920’s Stalin ordered a purge of all Bibles and believers. [In the city of] Stavropol, this order was carried out completely.
Thousands of Bibles were taken and believers were sent to the gulags, where so many died for being enemies of the state. [Then in 1994, a group of Christians] went to Stavropol. They didn’t know about the history of the city at that time. But when the team had difficulty getting Bibles shipped from Moscow, someone mentioned that they knew a warehouse existed outside of the city, where these Bibles had been stored since Stalin’s time.
“The team prayed together and one member had the courage to go to the warehouse and ask the officials if the Bibles could be removed and distributed again to the people in Stavropol. The answer was “yes”.
The next day the [group] returned with a truck and several Russians to help load the Bibles. One helper was a young man- a skeptical, hostile, agnostic university student who came only for the day’s wages. As they loaded the Bibles, one man noticed that the student had disappeared. [They] found him in a corner of the warehouse weeping. He had slipped away, hoping to take quietly a Bible for himself.
What he found pierced him deeply. The inside page of the Bible he picked up had the handwritten signature of his own grandmother. It was her personal Bible. Out of the thousands of Bibles still left in that warehouse, he stole the one that belonged to his grandmother- a woman persecuted for her faith all her life.
(Slide 4) The Bible is essential for us as we seek to follow the Lord throughout our lives. In preparation for communion, I want to share some thoughts that have come as I have reflected on a simple phrase that I found as I read Psalm 37 last week. It was a phrase that I needed to read and, in a sense, ‘hear,’ from the Lord but I want to read the entire Psalm as I believe that they are words that we all need to hear today and I think that some of us (and I believe this quite strongly) need to hear today. Let us hear the word of God as I read Psalm 37.