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The Importance of Gluten

Many who were in worship on May 1st of this year were witness to a unique comedy during Communion.  Diane Daly and I stood on either side of the Communion Table serving bread to those who came forward for the Lord’s Supper.  As each person stepped up, we said, “The Body of Christ broken for you” and then proceeded to tear a piece of bread from a shared loaf.  The symbolism of this moment can be powerful- each person invited to an intimate moment with their Lord.  Unfortunately, the bread selected for that day was crumbling in our hands even as we tried to tear off a piece large enough for the person to take.  I usually avoid offering pieces of crust in Communion- crust is seldom the best part of the bread.  But that Sunday, Diane and I were offering crust again and again because it was the only part of the loaf that wasn’t falling apart.  By the end of Communion, a rather large pile of crumbs lay at our feet as testament to the struggle.

You might be wondering why the bread was so crumbly.  The answer- it was “gluten free.”  As many of you know, gluten free bread is often not very good.  Even the best bakers, like Happy Mixer in Chalfont, do not succeed in making good gluten free bread.  The end result is always dry and crumbly.  You might then wonder why we would use gluten free bread if it is not very good.  The answer- we want to offer a Table that is open to all.  At Lenape Valley, we serve grape juice instead of wine, and for years we have served gluten free bread, to create a Table where all can come to receive.  But after the May 1st fiasco, we decided to use gluten-full bread on June 5th, with a tray of gluten free bread cubes for those who are gluten intolerant.  I have to admit, tearing pieces of challah bread was much easier than the gluten free crumble challenge.  It is amazing how that one ingredient- gluten- makes such a difference.

I think our experience with communion bread offers a parable for our fellowship at Lenape Valley.  Like bread, there are many distinct ingredients that make up the fellowship of Lenape Valley Church.  Just like bread… the non-crumbling kind… there is an important ingredient that holds the bread of our fellowship together.  Even our littlest children know what that ingredient is: Jesus the Christ.  Paul reminds the churches again and again of that essential ingredient.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,  for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   Galatians 3:28

There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope  when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism;   one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.   Ephesians 4:4-6
Our relationship with and identity in Christ bonds our fellowship together.  We saw the beauty of that union in worship on Sunday.  Our Genesis class stood together to accept Jesus’ invitation into a relationship with Him.  They are such a varied group of teens… so different in their interests and talents.  And they came into Genesis from such different faith experiences- Roman Catholic, Baptist, a few born and bred LVC kids, and a child of an atheist.  This year, they shared a journey of faith… they heard Jesus’ invitation to walk with Him… and on Sunday they responded, each in their own unique way.  Yet, with all their differences, they are bonded together in Christ.  “One Lord… one faith… one baptism…” How beautiful to see them standing together on Sunday!

Our unity in Christ is what Jesus prayed for: “that they may be one as I and the Father are one.” (John 17:22)  Jesus said that our unity would be the sign of God’s love to the world.  In a world of division and hate, our unity-that points to God’s love- should be welcome.  Yet, the world pulls at our fellowship again and again.  We feel those tugs at the fabric of our fellowship over our politics and COVID protocols, our terminology and perspective on racism, and most recently over guns.  The world tries to further our divide by giving us titles: democrat-republican, progressive-conservative.  In contrast, look at the titles the Bible gives to us: children of God, brothers and sisters, peacemakers, and members of one body with Christ as the Head.  We don’t choose these Biblical descriptions; they are given to us as an act of grace.  These descriptions bind us together in fellowship… a fellowship the world tries again and again to break.

How do we, the children of God, called to unity, navigate the tugs, and pulls of our modern world?  Some of us choose to ignore the controversies around us.  We are conflict adverse, not wanting to ruffle any feathers.  But ignoring leaves us with shallow relationships at best.  Others choose to debate the issues.  Debate, by definition, involves a level of antagonism even when played by the rules of polite discourse.  There is an arrogance to debate- I’m right and I am sure you are wrong (unless of course you agree with me).  Debate finds us ready for battle to prove our point.  But is it possible that those of us, called to unity in Christ, can model another way?  Can we choose to share with one another… to listen… to speak our mind and heart in love… seeking a way forward together?  Can we remember that our calling as Christians is not to put forth our own sensibilities, but to seek God’s will and purpose together?  In such a dialogue, the only one who is ‘right’ is the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the gluten that holds our bread together.  May we navigate the rough waters of these days together, trusting the One who can calm the seas.

With you, my brothers and sisters,  
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