Whosoever Will

"The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, 'Look! The Lamb of God!' The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, 'What are you looking for?' They said, 'Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?' He replied, 'Come and see. So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon." (John 1:35-39)

Scripture is filled with articulations of God’s invitation. The same Jesus who invited the two followers to “come and see” in the first chapter of John, also invited all who are weary and burdened to come to him in Matthew 11.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

The Psalmist invites us to “Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!” (Psalm 66:5) And in the book of Revelation "the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' Let anyone who hears this say, 'Come.' Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life." (Revelation 22:17)

The King James Version uses the words “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Those of us who grew up singing the old hymns of the church hear the phrase “whosoever will” and immediately begin humming an old tune. This hymn celebrates the feast God has prepared and beautifully articulates God’s lavish invitation.

“All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come,
And thou shalt be richly fed.

Hear the invitation,
Come, whosoever will;
Praise God for full salvation
For whosoever will.

“All things are ready,” come to the feast!
Come, for the door is open wide;
A place of honor is reserved
For you at the Master’s side.

Hear the invitation,
Come, whosoever will;
Praise God for full salvation
For whosoever will.

Throughout history the church has debated exactly who is invited to the table, but the witness of scripture shows that God’s invitation is extended to whosoever will come. Anyone, absolutely anyone, is invited to the table of the Lord. God asks for nothing more than the willingness to come.

As we surround this table every week, we remember, we celebrate, and we extend the Lord’s invitation. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

This communion meditation was shared by Amy Bost Henegar on August 16, 2016 at the Manhattan Church of Christ. 


For all their capacity to bring joy and fellowship, some meals are just . . . hard. My grandfather died in late February, and the first holiday meal we ate without him was like that. No one wanted to sit in his chair at first, and when it came time for the prayer it was finally my dad cleared his throat and took up the mantle.

Some meals are just hard, painful and difficult. Sometimes it is the empty chair at the table, when someone’s absence due to death, divorce, division or distraction, feels more poignant than their presence that you once took for granted. Sometimes it is the presence of clear tension between two who dine together, with the bitter taste of hateful sentiments flung under thinly veiled guises. Or maybe the disputes and disagreements are unacknowledged, but still manage to pull up a chair and elbow their way in. Perhaps those who gather are themselves intact, but nevertheless weighed down with events outside their control. At meals like these, we are reminded quite clearly that the bread is not the only thing that is broken.

Our Lord knew such a meal, the meal at which he instituted the communion we now celebrate. The tension-building events of the past week in Jerusalem were filled with predictions and warnings of what would take place. And at the table, Jesus’ claim that one of them would be betray him was met with a lie on Judas’s part, and unduly confident denials on the part of the others. Whatever the disciples knew, Christ was well aware of the heaviness of the moment and the significance of the meal.

The Lord, the traitor, the overzealous, the weak, and the confused gather to eat the Passover meal. “Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body.”

At the table, in this meal, Jesus promises what the cross accomplishes. The hour of darkness is still to come, and the road to Golgotha is paved with betrayals both small and large. But even for those who would fall asleep in his hour of trial, for those who would deny three times that they knew him, for those who would doubt even upon seeing his risen body --- even for such as these Jesus offers the blood of his covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

Here, even in the midst of the word of the cross, there is the kernel of promise that something, impossibly, lies beyond that. For he promises a day at which he will dine with his followers once again in the Father’s kingdom, a common meal that only something the magnitude of a resurrection could bring to pass. And at the banquet at the end of all things, all of the hard and painful things in our common meals here will come untrue.

Though some tables are difficult, other tables remain the site of holy moments and joyful reunions, laden with cherished relationships, special china, joyful love, and family recipes. But the best of every memorable meal we have ever known is still only a foretaste of what awaits us in the kingdom to come. This Easter, may the Resurrected Christ be present at your meal, with the promise of peace through brokenness and life beyond death.

Written by Amanda Pittman and shared at the Cole Mill Road Church of Christ, Durham, NC, in March of 2014.

Broken Body

Sometimes when our sacraments speak to our cancer and depression and dementia, we weep with disbelief that God can know our aching bodies. But then we look up at the cross, and we hear the words from the Table, and we remember Him who touched our hands to his wounds.

Jesus broke this bread, and said to his friends, "My body broken for you." His broken body is especially poignant for those of us who have broken bodies. For those of us who can't see, who can't remember, who can't walk, who can't carry a child. When we take this bread, we grab it for dear life, this brokenness made whole, because we need to believe in a resurrecting God. We need to believe in someone who takes bodies that are falling apart and restores their dignity. A God who gives life back to death and decay. A God who dies broken and then rises to say our name.

Jesus poured this wine, and said to his friends, "My blood spilled out for you." His blood speaks to us whose bodies have spilled blood when they weren't supposed to. For those of us who lay bleeding on the side of the road, whose blood comes out too fast for the doctors to replace, whose "sorrow and love flow mingled down" as another baby is lost, whose blood is drawn for others in a tragedy. When we drink this wine, we gulp it down like a magic potion, this spilled sorrow and love, because we need to believe in a bleeding God. We need to believe in someone who takes our cold bodies and hearts and warms them back to life. A God whose flowing blood will make our blood flow once again. A God who bleeds out and then rises to touch our face.

Shared by Ashley Dargai at the University Avenue Church of Christ, Austin, Texas, on May 1, 2016.

Roller Coaster

As we begin this Holy Week and try to share the experience of the disciples in the first century, we face a roller coaster of emotions and striking contrasts:

We begin today with Palm Sunday as Jesus orchestrates and accepts the mantle of King in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  But Jesus – a master in using symbols – makes his triumph on the colt of a donkey (rather than in a gold-plated chariot) accompanied – not by his legions of soldiers and his captured wealth – but by crowds of common people and children.  They understand the allusion to Zechariah 9:9 – this King Jesus is different:  “He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, …”  An amazing high point for all.

Then we come to the Passover Feast of Unleavened Bread on Thursday evening – a wonderful celebration that abruptly goes into a downward spiral.  When Jesus starts talking about His death (usually a downer at a dinner party!), He reveals that His betrayer is right there in the room with them.  The disciples start trying to figure out who it is … then they start arguing about who is considered the greatest of them.  Jesus – who always sees things from an eternal perspective – assures them that in His Kingdom, the greatest person is the one who is most like a child, and the leader is the one who is most a servant.  So this feast to celebrate God’s delivering His people from slavery has become a dispute about the pecking order of the group:  Who is the worst and who is the best?  An emotional roller-coaster …

And then the lowest moment of the week comes about noon the next day as Jesus is brutally crucified.  How can their lives have plunged so low in these few days since Jesus the King rode in triumph into Jerusalem?

But, of course, God sees it differently.  That demeaning, humiliating, and vicious crucifixion is the “glorification of Jesus” in God’s eyes.  And then comes Easter and Jesus is resurrected, having defeated death – for all of us.

So we ride the roller coaster of Holy Week and try to understand how to live our lives with the reality of a “just, saving, and humble” King on the colt of a donkey who wants us to become like children and serve others as we prepare to live eternally with God, because Jesus – through his death and resurrection – freed us from our sins and spiritual death.

And it’s not just during Holy Week that we experience this kind of roller-coaster!  Our lives can change from the high of spiritual and material blessings to a low of spiritual doubt and confusion and of material needs in a moment – and then back to a high again – and on and on.

But Jesus has given us a simple ritual to anchor us in God’s reality no matter where we are on our roller coaster.  We take His body – the bread – and His blood – the fruit of the vine – and remember the cruel cross and the empty tomb of his resurrection.  And we accept our salvation!

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your grace and love that allowed your Son to suffer and die on the cross for our sins.  And we praise and thank you for His Resurrection that gives us life. Help us to live for your glory as Jesus did on the cross.  Give us life.  Amen.

Communion meditation shared by Mary Delle Stelzer at the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York City on March 20, 2016.

Who Sits at Our Table?

In my house the dining room table is both my favorite piece of furniture and my greatest domestic irritation. This is where we eat breakfasts and dinners as a family. But it also where papers are piled and lunch boxes are dropped. This is where my 5-year-old is learning to write and my 2-year-old is learning to sit in a chair to eat. This is where my husband and I grade assignments and sort through mail. Macaroni and glitter and laptops. Clutter and meals and talk. At our table life, unfolds.

As Christians we might also think of another table— a table where we break bread and engage in communion. In communion, those who are otherwise strangers will take from the same piece of bread, drink from tiny plastic cups that sit alongside each other. In all of our differences, at the communion table we are the same: broken but made whole; sinners but made clean. Isaiah 25:6 describes it as “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine.”

In communion, often we are reminded that Jesus dined with Judas even after Judas had betrayed Jesus. The table is often where Jesus intersected with the best and worst of humanity. Jesus dined with people who sat on the fringe of religion and society: women, tax collectors, the poor. He reclined at tables and shared food with people ignored by religion and government and wealth. And when the temple was defiled by money changers, Jesus flipped those tables (Matthew 21:12). Tables.

Now we find ourselves at the table. Who will join us?

In Acts 11, God reveals to Peter that Jesus’ love extended far beyond the Jewish people. The good news was good for the Jews and Gentiles. Simple and revolutionary.

In Acts 11:18-21we read, “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life. Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyrpus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of the, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

Social and religious boundaries were, and are, no match for grace. The table is prepared and endless. We are all welcome to the table.

So, If you are poor, we can’t promise that you will be rich but we will show you the richness of God’s love.

If you are broken, we wrap our arms around you and help hold you together with the redemption found in Christ.

If you are a person who feels lost, you are loved and we sit beside you at the table.

If you have left religion but still feel a longing for God you are loved and we sit beside you at the table.

If you are young, or old, or middle-aged you are loved and we sit beside you at the table.

If you are unsure about your next paycheck, your next job or your next meal, you are loved and we sit beside you at the table.

God loves you. You are welcome to the table.

Elizabeth Smith - Culver Palms Church of Christ, Los Angeles, CA


Those who are practicing Lent can perhaps especially see Easter coming soon. I did not grow up practicing Lent because it wasn’t a part of my church tradition, but in recent years I’ve noticed that more and more Christians from all denominations seem to be taking part in it. Lent is a special time of prayer, repentance, and good works in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection. With each day of Lent, Christians get ready for Easter.

One of the stories Christians all over the world are read during Lent is the story of the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4, when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days. And after those days, he was tempted by Satan, the adversary.

40 days of wandering in the wilderness. 40 days of Lent. There’s a connection. 40 is one of those important numbers in the Bible.

It rained on Noah’s ark for 40 days. On Mount Sanai, Moses fasted 40 days. When they got married, Isaac and Jacob were both 40 years old. The Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years. Ezekiel bore the burden of the sin of Judah for 40 days. After women gave birth, they entered a entered purification ritual that lasted 40 days. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared for 40 days.

In the Bible, one of the things that usually happens after the number 40 – 40 days or 40 years, is something new, or something good, or a gift.

After wandering in the desert, the Israelites entered a land flowing with milk and honey. After Ezekiel fasted for Judah, there was a gift – the forgiveness of sins. After women finished their time of purification, they introduced their babies to the world. After Isaac and Jacob got married, they experienced being one with another human being in marriage. After Jesus wandered in the wilderness, he defeated Satan in what I like to think of as the first-ever Bible Bowl competition. After Jesus appeared for 40 days, he was lifted up to heaven.

If you look closely, the number 40 is followed by indisputably good things: milk, honey, weddings, rainbows, babies, and heaven!

Lent’s emphasis on 40 days gives us a hint about how we should face the same, very-real, adversary Jesus faced, the adversary to all that is good.

So, whether we observe Lent or not, we are people who repent, and confess our sins, and fast.
And we are serious about it. We are serious about our role in opposing the adversary to all that is good. But we do not fast or repent or confess sins like people without hope. We know that resurrection is coming. We know that Easter is coming on April 16th this year. And we know that God has promised to bring the ultimate Easter someday.

And so, as we come to communion during Lent, we receive bread, the body of Christ broken for us. And we receive fruit that comes from the vine, the blood of Christ poured out for us.

For as often as we do this, we proclaim the Lord’s death (and then there’s there hope part) until he comes.

So, in this communion, we proclaim the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the teachings of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ…. And with great hope, we proclaim that he is coming again.

Let’s pray. Gracious and loving Lord, we give you praise for this bread and for the body of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As we share this bread in community, strengthen us in our weaknesses and teach us what it means to live as forgiven people. We give you praise for this cup and for the blood of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As we share this cup in community, strengthen us in our weaknesses, and teach us what it means to live as forgiven people. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

This communion meditation was shared by Sara Barton at the University Church of Christ in Malibu, California, in February 2016.

Christmas Cradle, Christmas Cross

As we were reminded again this morning in the lighting of another advent candle, we are marking a time of waiting—a time in which we sing, “Come, O Come, Emanuel.” It marks the birth of the savior, the Lord Jesus.

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus we find a rich cast of characters: Zechariah, a lowly priest from the Hill Country of Judea, and his wife, Elizabeth, who is barren but suddenly finds herself pregnant with a child of promise who will prepare the way of the Lord; and Gabriel, the angel of God who makes these long-awaited announcements; and Mary, the young virgin from Nazareth upon whom the Holy Spirit will come and she will bear a holy child who will be called Son of God. And there are shepherds in the field tending their flocks to which an angel of the Lord announces glorious news of a savior from the City of David, who is the Messiah, the Lord; and the angel is joined by a multitude of the Heavenly host singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven.”

And in the temple there is an aged priest, Simeon, who has long waited to see the Lord’s salvation together with Anna, who praises God and speaks about the child to all those who were looking/waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Zachariah, Elizabeth, Mary, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna are all representative of expectant Israel—waiting for the coming of the messiah. And now they are bearers of the great news that God has come—he has visited his people and has come to give light to those who sit in darkness. The time of jubilee has come.

And these blessed events are wrapped in rejoicing, and glorifying God, and singing and prophesying. The time of waiting is over. Yet we hear the angel say to the shepherds that the child to be born is the savior. And that brings us to this table.

In other words, “the cradle is not only about the birth of the God who came to be with us (Emanuel); it is also about a cross and the God who came to save—who came to die: cradle and cross, womb and tomb, birth and rebirth.”

Advent serves as a reminder that the Christmas story is not complete—there is more to come. And so we are still waiting. So this supper that we share today with all those who are waiting for his return is a commemoration of his death and resurrection. It is a meal that is filled with great joy and hope and expectation as we anticipate the invitation of our Lord to “come,” the table now is spread.

So, as we wait, we sing our songs marking the birth of Jesus. We sing, “Come, O Come Emanuel,” and we pray “Come. Lord Jesus, Come.”

Today we have assembled as the expectant church, and as we gather at this table we are aware that we live between the times—the time that has come and the time that is to come. We have come, not as expectant Israel, but as the expectant church—waiting, in all the promise his resurrection affords, for his return. As we eat this simple meal of bread and wine we do so in anticipation of the feast for which we wait. Thus, we realize that every Sunday is Advent as we await his coming again.

Prayer: O Lord, our God, we give you thanks for sending your son that we might know the blessings of salvation. We give thanks for this meal that serves as a reminder of his death and as a marker of that which is yet to come. As we eat this bread, we ask that you bless it and make it holy. And bless us as we partake of it that we might eat and live.

Come, Lord Jesus, come, Amen

Prayer: O Lord, our God, we thank you for this cup of blessing that we share. We ask you to bless it and make it holy and bless us that we might drink and live.

Come, Lord Jesus, come, Amen

This communion meditation was given by D'Esta Love at the Montgomery Church of Christ, Albuquerque, NM during the Christmas season of 2016.