Tag: communion

Every Christian has been chosen by God to commune with Him. Because of the Third Person of the Trinity, no third person among men can get in the way of that. A minister can attempt to position himself in between, and a minister can muddle up his representative service, but a minister can’t stop the Father from feeding His elect.

Jesus taught about His flesh as bread and His blood as wine in John 6. Though Jesus wasn’t teaching about or instituting the Lord’s Supper at that point in His ministry, certainly the Holy Spirit connected the realities of feeding on Him with communion to the disciples later.

The people were hungry in John 6, and followed Jesus around the sea for more loaves. He identified Himself as “the bread of life,” and promised that “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (verse 36). But it wasn’t for everyone.

All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes I will never cast out. (verse 37)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (verse 44)
No one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father. (verse 64)

Some said that His teaching was hard (verse 60). Some who had been following him turned back and no longer walked with Him (verse 66).

But the reality is,

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (verse 56)

If you’ve been given by the Father to the Son, no man can stop you from feeding on Jesus. If the Father has drawn you, no man can interrupt Jesus abiding in you. Our liturgy celebrates that fact of our communion with God through Jesus, but our liturgy does not create it. He is yours, you are His. He gives you eternal life, and no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28).

liturgy

What would you say to someone who says that a Reformed church worship setting feels more like a funeral, with depressing music, and no real excitement?

I saw this question asked online, and I saw immediate answers such as feeling more like a funeral is good based on the blessed mourners in Matthew 5:4. Other answers were that church is not for entertainment, that music ought to be most concerned with lyrical accuracy, that excitement isn’t a valid gauge of what’s truly worshipful.

And, okay. The church meets to worship the holy God, through the Son who was slain for our sin, by the Spirit that convicts the world of unrighteousness. Even as God’s people we still sin and it is right to lament our sin. We lament the irreverence/unbelief/idolatry of our neighbors. We also lament the errors and unfaithfulness of the church.

But, if someone asked me if the worship services of those who claim to believe the gospel and to love the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace are often more like a funeral, with depressing music and no real excitement, I would tell them that they are too often right on. They’ve nailed it. It’s true. What is wrong is not the observation, though they may be wrongly critical.

A physical therapist doesn’t criticize the broken for failing to really think about why he’s broken. A teacher is not successful when getting the student to realize how ignorant he is, and that’s it. And worship, while requiring honesty and humility, should not be preachers urging the worshippers to attain higher levels of misery.

Worship is about exalting the Lamb who was slain, and celebrating that we are made to share His honor as we proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. We needed mercy, and how we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). That is just not depressing.

liturgy

Traditionally, we believe that Lucifer was an angel among the highest and most beautiful of the heavenly beings. Based on passages such as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 that seem to describe a creature greater than merely the king of Babylon (or the king of Tyre), we associate such proud behavior with Satan. He was puffed up in his glory. He knew he was great and rebelled against His maker, taking with him other angels who apparently also thought they could get glory a better way than by submitting to Yahweh (Revelation 12:9).

But, of course, there is no one greater than Yahweh, and Yahweh incarnate in the Son. The Son will rule per the Father’s plan. The Son will have the name above every other name (Philippians 2:9-11). The Son will be glorified, but remember how it happened.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

Glory and honor follow sacrifice. There is not just correlation, there is cause and effect. Jesus deserves worship because of His suffering of death. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and it was His humiliation, even taking on flesh and being “lower than the angels” for a while, that results in His universal lauding by the angels and all creation (Revelation 5:9-10).

liturgy

The Lord’s Table will be sweeter the last time we taste it than it was the first time.

We have celebrated communion 468 times as a church. We’ve finished nine years (so 52 x 9), minus the first day and two snow cancellations, but three years had 53 Sundays. It all works out.

Each week we discover fresh reasons to love. Each day brings hundreds of new graces to us, undeserved gifts. Counted among our little flock, or considered in the universal church, how could we calculate the new mercies of every morning for every Christian?

A thousand years ago in Britain they made a scarlet dye from whelks (small mollusks or sea snails), said not only not to fade as it aged in the sun and rain, but the dye became bolder and more beautiful in color. The gospel works the same. As we eat and drink today our rejoicing is more colorful than last week.

Think of how much fruit has grown since the first supper the night that Christ was betrayed. Think of how many haters/enemies have been won by His conquering love. Think of how much sin in your own heart He has loved out of you. It is more now than ever.

The (only?) problem with eternity is that it still won’t be long enough to develop every deep hue of Christ’s loving sacrifice. But weep no more, the Lion, who is the Lamb, has conquered.

liturgy

The difference between being a fruitful Christian and a frustrated Christian is how well you can translate liturgy into lifestyle.

The order of our service applies beyond Sunday. God does something when we assemble before Him, and part of what He’s doing is reminding and equipping us for when we go out from the assembly.

God calls us to worship Him. When does that call end? It doesn’t even end when we confess our sins; that is part of our worship. When you rise up, when you walk around, when you hammer the nail, when you enter the data, when you pack the lunch, God calls you to worship.

We confess our sins because He is faithful. If we say we don’t have sin, we make Him a liar. Confession happens for the church corporately only once a week, but confession and forgiveness for each Christian is a constant all week.

God is conforming us to the image of His beloved Son by His Word, as our minds are renewed. This is sanctification, consecration. But this isn’t only a sermon work. This is the Spirit’s work through the Word as we meditate on it day and night, Sunday and the other Sixdays.

When we leave we are given a good word, a benediction. We’re reminded of what grace we have and what grace is promised to fulfill our calling.

And as now, we commune with God. Christ Himself instituted the Supper. We eat and drink as a picture of our reliance on Him, but it is not merely symbolic, and it is not a single event. Communion is how we bear fruit. Communion is how we laugh. Communion with God through Christ is our life, not just a piece of our liturgy.

liturgy

The worship of the angels in the heavenly throne room is astounding (Revelation 4). He who sits on the throne is there. From His throne all that has been and is and will be is set. The living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the myriad of the heavenly host praise God.

The angels are in God’s presence, they know and sing about and do His will. But, there was a time when they were curious about something that wasn’t obvious. They knew God was worthy to be praised for His glory, His honor, His power, but they didn’t get His grace, His suffering, and His salvation.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you by the Holy Spirit sent form heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12, ESV)

The heavenly beings will also praise God for His Redeemer, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 5). But grace is something they know from watching, not something they know from tasting. Jesus did not take on “angel flesh,” He took on a human body and blood so that we could be saved. He purchased our salvation. He will bring us to the throne at the appointed not only to be seen by the angels, but to judge them (1 Corinthians 6:3).

liturgy

Perhaps you’re curious what the fourth advent communion meditation is going to be. If you’ve been following for the previous three, you probably remember that we’ve talked about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in relation to Christmas. The gift of a Savior was the Father’s idea, the incarnation was the Son’s identification with us, and it was accomplished by the Spirit’s work. There are only three Persons in the Trinity, so what’s left?

Communion. Love would also be a good choice, so would life. But communion is what love wants and what life is.

Why is the Incarnation so glorious? It does reveal the Father’s generosity, and communicate the Son’s humility, and remind us of the Spirit’s interests. The Father sends, the Son was born, and the Spirit still says, Come. But why?

Christmas is not primarily a story of angels and stars and shepherds and a manger. The details are true, and the details point to the good news. Peace on earth! Here is good news to those who had offended God. The star led wise men to the King of Israel. Here is good news to those who were far off. There was no room in the inn. Here is good news that the Spirit makes room in our hearts for Him to dwell in us.

God was not merely making a point about His creative ability or His dramatic timing or His embrace of humble beginnings. All of those make a point about what He aimed to achieve through it all: reconciling God and man through the God-Man. We desire to be together with family because we are made in the image of the Triune God.

liturgy

It shouldn’t be that big of a surprise, but God’s Spirit has a lot to do with Christ’s coming. This is the third part of our advent meditations for communion, having considered the Father’s gifting of His Son, and the Son’s identifying with flesh and blood as His brothers. Consider the Spirit’s work.

The Spirit is responsible for the virgin birth, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). As the angel told Mary,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power fo the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God” (Luke 1:35)

The Spirit is responsible for believers recognizing that Jesus is God in flesh. The Spirit enabled God with us, and the Spirit enables us to recognize God with us.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

Again, the Spirit enabled the Son’s birth, the Spirit witnesses about the Son, and the Spirit works to open our eyes to know that God has come in the flesh.

And it is not the first Advent only that concerns the Spirit. The Spirit is given to us as a guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it in the fullness of time (Ephesians 1:10, 13-14), and in the final chapter of Revelation, it is not only the Bride who desires the second coming (Revelation 22:17).

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”

As we come by the Spirit to celebrate Immanuel’s sacrifice of flesh and blood, we look forward with the Spirit to Immanuel’s return.

liturgy

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first of four Sundays prior to Christmas. In the last few years I haven’t preached Advent sermons, but I have taken either the confession exhortation or the communion meditation for a little series in preparation to celebrate Christ’s birth. Last year during our confession you may remember #NoDiscontentDecember as a theme for our family that I shared with you all.

This year I’ll have four Advent meditations for communion, and the first three will follow a familiar pattern: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Christmas is not your mother’s bundle of joy, or ball of stress. Christmas is the Father’s idea of a world-altering gift.

Our Father in heaven came up with the idea of anticipation. That is His narrative invention. With every son born into every family among mankind, hints were given. As far back as Eden, a son would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). A Son would laugh at foolish kinds (Psalm 2:7-12). A son would take the throne (Revelation 3:21). A son would be GIVEN.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

(Isaiah 9:6–7)

The incarnation of the Son was the Father’s plan. Jesus did His Father’s will. The promises and prophecies, the time for waiting and hoping and anticipating, all belong with Advent, both the first and the second.

So watch how your Father in heaven did it. See His love and joy in gift-giving. See what it cost Him, and see how the world is remade by Christmas.

liturgy

The New Testament is full of things to do because Jesus is coming. Building bunkers to stay low and stay out of the fray is not one of them.

“Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). “The Lord is at and, do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:5-6). We ought to be people of holiness and godliness waiting for and hastening the day (2 Peter 3:11-12). With the end of all things at hand we should be self-controlled in order to pray, to love one another, to show hospitality, and to use our giftedness (1 Peter 4:7-11).

In short we ought to steward the minutes and talents He’s given us so that when he returns He we can given Him a return on His gifts to us (see Matthew 25:14-30). He is coming, so we just conquer.

Also, we commune. The regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper as His Body on the Lord’s Day is an act of eschatology. He will reign forever and we will reign with Him, because He rose from the dead. Our sharing of communion now is a witness to our sharing of the kingdom them.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 15:26)

Believer, fellowship with your people at this table, eat and drink in witness to His death, His resurrection, and His return.

liturgy