Once there were two neighborhoods which had gardens.
One of the neighborhoods had a beautiful garden, full of flowers and vegetables. The residents could often be seen tending the garden. They put a great deal of time into the garden and took great delight in their work.
The other neighborhood’s residents were not so content with their garden. It always seemed to be full of weeds. The flowers were never bright or beautiful enough. The vegetables were always too dry or else insects had gotten to them. The residents of this neighborhood would often look at the other folk’s garden and say, “If only our garden could look like that.”
One day the folks who were unhappy with their garden had a neighborhood meeting. “Let’s do something about the garden,” said one person. “Yes,” said another, “Let’s fix that garden up.” A committee was formed to come up with methods to rehabilitate the garden. They produced several plans.
The first plan involved building a large podium next to the garden upon which was mounted a huge megaphone. The residents of the neighborhood took turns on the podium talking into the megaphone, saying things like, “Grow!” and “You’re a great garden!” and “Some day you will be a big, beautiful, and bountiful garden!” After eleven days of talking to the garden day and night, the people saw that this was ineffective and gave up.
The second plan called for the placement of billboards on each side of the garden with wonderful paintings of beautiful gardens. This also failed.
The final plan consisted of a compact disc player set up nearby the garden. A special recording was made of selections from the masters of classical music which included subliminal messages to encourage the growth of the garden. Subtlety proved no more effective than the megaphone.
The people were distraught. They had tried everything. Everything had failed. At long last their frustration overcame their pride and they elected a delegation to go to the neighborhood with the beautiful garden and ask them what their secret was.
“What is your secret?” they asked.
“Well,” came the reply, “I don’t know as it’s much of a secret. A little water, a little fertilizer, a little loving care. Pretty much just basic gardening stuff that anyone with a garden would do. And of course God provides the sunlight.”
There are no secrets to evangelism. As we read in the account of the earliest Christians, they simply go about the basics of ministry, listening to the teaching, caring for each other, praying, and breaking the bread. These are the basics. They don’t, in themselves, produce growth. God does this. We are called not to produce growth, but to remain faithful followers of Christ, reaching out to those in need, meeting the needs of those among us. Breaking the bread.
Let’s consider here the breaking of bread.
We have come a long way from the weekly Agape feasts (essentially a full-blown pot-luck) to the meager tiny square of bread and meager cup that doesn’t even hold a swallow. The early Christians gathered in homes for large feasts that included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Though we enact the celebration in much the same way, in many ways, we have replaced the feast with a sermon and we do it in the context of worship in our church home. I’m not sure how this evolved, but it must have been a preacher’s decision, because I can’t imagine a congregation that would want more preaching and less eating.
The breaking of the bread was a primary aspect of the faith of the early Church. Connected with the feast, the celebration not only brought to mind the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but the presence of the Christ’s Spirit in the believing community. We have come to refer to this celebration as “Communion.” In the breaking of the bread, the drinking of the fruit of the vine, we are in communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit. Likewise, as we share the cup and the loaf, we commune with each other as the body of Christ.
The fellowship of believers is closely connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. As we commune with one another, we become aware of needs to be met, of the pains, the joys, of those with whom we share. Meeting these needs, and sharing in the joys, physical and spiritual, is an act of evangelism. When we devote ourselves to fellowship with one another in the breaking of bread, sharing the cup, and experiencing the joy of communion with one another and with God, we are being who we are called to be, faithful followers of Christ.
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper, we are tending to the garden of faith. God provides the elements. God provides the meaning and the sacrifice which bring new life in Christ. We are not called to be more than we can be, to be something other than what we are that we might be more attractive to others. Instead, we are called to be faithful. To the teaching of the Scriptures. To fellowship with one another. To prayer individually and in community. To the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the fruit of the vine. In this, we are tending to the garden of faith. May God help us grow.