The following article is the first of a three-part series, written by a dear brother and friend of mine who is part of the fellowship of believers I gather with. Enjoy.
A MEETING OF THE CHURCH (by Andrew Wehrheim)
It is Sunday evening. The light of the day is beginning to wane. Dusk is gathering strength. The year is 60 AD. The place is Colosse in the Roman Empire. The work of the day is over (there is no such thing as a weekend to these people- nor do any of them hold the idea that Sunday is the Sabbath where everyone is supposed to rest). At the home of one Philemon a group of men and women gather together. Many of them are slaves who worked away another day all for the profit of another. Some are freemen who spent the day trying to get work because they were not able to compete with the low prices offered by the slaves and slavemasters. Some of them are a little more well off, and few of the brothers, such as Philemon, are doing well. But regardless of their social status or monetary worth they will all eat tonight. They will all have a place to rest their hearts and heads.
They met together early this morning, and it gave them strength to face another day of grueling, thankless work. And when the strength of the morning meeting began to subside because of the length of the work day and its physical burdens, the hope of meeting in the evening spurred them on to the finish line. And so the time has come. And they gather. There are a few Jews, but mostly gentiles. There are a few rich; but mostly the poor. There are both men and women; young and old. Some come from more noble refined backgrounds. Some come from the lowest degradation you can imagine. None of that matters now. They gather in the house of adelphos (brother) Philemon. He has opened his home to the meeting of what many call, “The Ecclesia”. It is the assembly. It is the Lord’s assembly. It is the assembly of the body of Christ. It is God’s called-out people. Called out from the world and it’s activiites to be the Lord’s treasured and greatly loved possession. And these are not just words. They are practically expressed as the Lord’s people gather- coming from the four corners of Colosse to meet as one in the home of Philemon.
They all wait until everyone is there and they begin with a much anticipated and much needed meal. There is no empty symbolism or whispy sentimentalism. These men and women come hungry. The rich supply most of the meal, as they are more financially able, and had more time to do the cooking and preparing. They gather in an atmosphere of celebration which is a miracle in itself. You see, as we have said before, most of these people are slaves and have no apparent reason to celebrate. Tomorrow they will go right hack to the daily grind with no mercy from the world. But tonight they celebrate. No one eats until all are present. And when the last brother and sister come in the feast begins. Bread and meat-and wine. No one over-indulges, but all take there fair share and partake liberally. This is not a solemn fast, this is a feast. They all share with one another about their day and their lives. They share all things together. Even their very lives and being. And as they share naturally and freely they begin to come to the center and purpose of there gathering. They speak of a Jew from Palestine. One who died and was raised to life again. One, they believed, who was the very expression and incarnation of God. One they believed was alive-not only in heaven-but in the midst of their very own being-and in the midst of their gathering together.
They call this man Jesus. And they believe him to be “Ho Christos”-the Christ. They boldly declare Him to be the Huios of “Ho Theos”, that is, the Son of God. And to their hearts he is the lover-the bridegroom-the Savior, and the Lord of love. On the outside these people look no different than anyone else. They are not religious people-nor do they reek of self-righteousness. They are ordinary people-but they carry within themselves an extraordininary Lord. And this extraordinary Lord boldly proclaims them to be extroadinary to Him.
As they feast on food they recognize that this is a real and beautiful picture provided by God that speaks of his Son. They know that their hungry hearts have come to feed on the Son of God as their ife and nourishment. They know that He is no bitter meal. He is flavorful and full of pleasure. He is sweet on the pallet and satisfying going down. He is the one that makes them full. As they speak of these things one of the leading brethren, in fact the one in whose house they are gathered, stands up from his seat with joy beaming from his face. You might call him an elder. He stands up with joy and takes a loaf of bread. And He speaks out to them all what they have been sharing and thinking about in their hearts. He says the loaf is Jesus Christ. The Bread of God sent from heaven to give us life. And then he breaks the loaf. And He says that the Lord Jesus was broken for us. Then He holds up a full cup of red wine. And he says that this is the blood of Jesus that was poured out to forgive our sins and give us life. And he breaks the loaf into pieces and passes them out. The loaf is Christ. And each piece broken off is a portion of Christ. And that is each of us gathered here. Each of us holds within us a portion of the Lord’s life. And all fullness is in each portion. In fact, each of us is a portion, or member, of our Lord.
“And do you know why that is?” Philemon asked.
A younger brother stood to his feet and declared, “Because we are what we eat!!!!”. Philemon laughed as a chorus of “amens” erupts from around the room. “Exactly. We are what we eat . Each of us has received the Lord within us. We have done this simply by faith. And now we are one loaf-one with Jesus-and one with each other. We have taken the Lord within us and we are now bound together by his common life. His life is our life. His nature is our nature. His sonship is our sonship. His Father is our Father. His Abba, our Abba. So brothers and sisters, feast on your Lord!”
At that point amens erupt as the Lord’s people take in the portion given to them and drink of the one cup of the Lord’s blood. It is the cup of the Lord’s fellowship. As they eat and drink other brothers and sisters share on the meaning of communion! One brother reminds them that this meal is an ancient meal. It is a symbol of the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that has gone on since forever. And a sister stands up and reminds them that this speaks of a future meal where the bridegroom comes to receive what the Father has prepared for him-a beaming, beautiful bride! This speaks of the great marriage supper of the Lamb. Now, if you thought women were subjugated spectators at these meetings you are mistaken. I think you may have misheard or misread something somewhere. Men and women are equals in the Lamb and are both free to share the portion of Christ entrusted to them with the rest of the brothers and sisters. In fact, if you look now another sister is standing up declaring that this meal speaks of the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross where he took into Himself the sin of the world and eradicated it!
As time goes on the food is cleared away, opening the way for the second part of the meeting where everyone exercises the spiritual gift given to them by grace to edify and build up the rest of the body. No, this is no charismatic romp. It is a Christ-centered, Christ-exalting expression of the Lord Jesus and His body. But we will get to that in time…