Tag: communion

That God plans the end of a story, especially that He planned the eternal life of the sheep, does not mean that He did not plan to use means to get the sheep eternal life. As an author, just because He knows the last page, that does not require Him to write only the last page.

God did not only plan that the sheep would never perish, He planned that they would never perish by the death and resurrection of the Shepherd in place of the sheep. God did not only plan that the sheep would follow the Shepherd, He planned when and where He would call them and open their ears to believe and follow. God ordains the destination and the route, the vehicle, the weather conditions, and who will ride shotgun.

As He planned our eternal life He ordained our time at the Lord’s Table. Why this ordinance? It is a meal to the end. He does not plan for us to work without giving us food. He does not plan for us to be brave without increasing our confidence that we have peace with Him. He does not plan for our witness without giving us a platform: “as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

We shouldn’t play with communion because it is too powerful. God feeds us, unites us, and secures our steps as certainly as He knows our end.

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A couple weeks ago we took my mom back to the airport, which is about an hour from our house. I had finished almost an entire pot of coffee before we left, so I really needed to use a bathroom. On our way home we stopped in north Seattle at a gas station, and as I entered, I realized that someone was behind me. I turned around and there was a man four or five steps from the door, who seemed to be uncertain about where he was going. The door hadn’t closed entirely, so I stepped back to push it open, which is something I do on a regular basis.

I didn’t pay close attention to what he looked like, and his staggering made me wonder if he was all there, but he did eventually come up to the door, prop it open with his foot, and then he said, “It doesn’t matter.”

I took a few steps into the store, when I realized that this guy was not out of it, he was upset. I turned toward the aisle he was in and said, “So, did you mean it didn’t matter that I held the door for you because our skin is different?” And he said, “There’s nothing you can do to deal with your white guilt.” He was teaching me a lesson.

I tell that story to say a couple things. First, we ought to be grateful for God’s Word that tells us what to be guilty about. It’s not good that we sin against His standard, but at least we know what it is. Likewise, we know what is gift, which includes our ethnicity, gender, height, hair color, and more.

Second, we ought to be grateful, again, that salvation is by faith not works. How many doors would you have to hold open to deal with guilt? How many knees to you have to take, how many self-flagellating social media posts? How long would you need to stay at a white repentance ceremony? That is an horrific liturgy, that offers no grace, no security, no fellowship.

Instead, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), there is communion. Communion with God is a privilege only given to some, a special honor God grants entirely by His grace.

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We do not come to the Lord’s Table to forget anything, we come in faith, for fellowship, in remembrance of Him.

Not everyone drinks to see more clearly, many drink because they see enough and want some kind of escape.

In his poem, “Misery,” George Hebert described this knowledgable forgetfulness.

Man is a foolish thing, a foolish thing,
Folly and Sin play all his game.
His house still burns, and yet he doth sing,
Man is but grass,
He knows it, fill the glass.

“Man is but grass” is inspired truth, it is “the word of the Lord.” So wrote Isaiah (40:6), which the Spirit moved Peter to quote (1 Peter 1:24). The man in Herbert’s focus knew his condition, but wanted the wine to make him forget it.

Depending on which media outlet you’re plugged into, you see that the house around us is on fire. We see it, we do not say that it is fine. And yet, we do sing. We even sing, and know, that “man is but grass.” But, we know more than that!

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:9-11)

Drink this cup in remembrance of your good Shepherd, who laid down His life for you. Drink of this cup, not to forget the fact that all flesh is grass, but that your flesh will be resurrected just like Jesus’. Remember that, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Remember all you have in Christ, and sing.

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There are at least three levels of crisis in the world currently: physical crisis, cultural crisis, and eternal crisis.

The first two levels are hand in glove, or like soap and water. The physical sicknesses and deaths of COVID-19 are real, though they have been made worse by the lathering of cultural selfishness. The coronavirus attacks blood and internal body parts, and coronapocrisy hoards toilet paper and tattles on non-social distancers in the name of neighbor-love. Thankfully, not every hospital bed has been filled so far like was predicted, but unfortunately most of the political seats are still full of greed.

We can pray that God’s providential shake-up is being used by God to wake-up sinners to the eternal crisis. Because of sin they are separated from God, and whether they die from a virus, or they die from hunger, or they die from violence, God’s vengeance is still on them for their own unbelief and ingratitude before Him.

In the COVID-19 world is sickness, selfishness, and separation. In Christ is healing, love, and fellowship.

By faith in Christ we overcome the world. “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:4-5). We are a communion of conquerors, and our communion is conquering.

Though we are not under the same roof today, our faith is in the same resurrected Lord. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Though we don’t see each other, be believe in the Son who gives us eternal life.

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I watched a recent interview with a pastor I appreciate who gave some explanation for why he didn’t think it was appropriate for a church to partake of the Lord’s Supper during our digital, distance assembling. His primary concern was that people wouldn’t take the Table seriously enough, which he clarified to mean that people wouldn’t take their sin seriously enough.

It may border on uncharitable of me to restate his argument thus: only pastors can make the people feel bad enough in order to make them worthy enough to take communion. That is not much of an exaggeration, if any.

Are you worthy to eat and drink at the Lord’s Table? Do you know how dangerous it is to eat and drink unworthily? Paul did say that those who don’t discern eat and drink judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29).

We don’t think we are worthy because we’ve done enough good. We also don’t think we’re worthy because we felt really, seriously bad about our sin. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), but in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday there were many who took sin seriously who didn’t have anything like a broken heart.

What I miss most about having communion in the same room is not that I don’t have a sense of control over the wretched vibe, I miss trying to make eye contact with as many of you as possible while we eat and drink together in joy.

He gave His body for all who believe. He calls us to remember Him as we drink the cup. May His Spirit fill us with serious thanks and seriously unite us as one.

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Hebrews 10:25 urges Christians not to neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some. I’ve seen various arguments that churches who are not meeting in their usual locations in their usual ways are disobeying this exhortation. But not meeting together is not our habit. And, as a church we are still considering how to stir one another up to love and good works, encouraging one another albeit through different channels.

The word “church” refers to a collection, a group of gatherers. A church, like some Christmas toys, means that some assembly is required. But we are not reinventing church, we are not trying to replace anything, we are in a season that causes us to remember why being the church is so important.

When Solomon dedicated the temple he had built, he prayed that even those who couldn’t be at the temple could turn toward it, wherever they may be, from however far away they may be, and trust that the LORD would hear their prayers (1 Kings 8:30 ,35, 38, 44, 48).

As Christians we do not have a temple, we are the temple. You do not turn toward a particular direction, but you do turn toward the rest of your people. That is our habit.

So we celebrate our communion again in an imperfect way, but we celebrate because we believe that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We celebrate because Christ will build His church; we are His body, and He is our head, wherever we may be.

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I said last Lord’s Day that I have enjoyed thinking about how to lead and serve our flock in these days. I have continued to do a lot of different reading, the elders have continued to have a lot of different discussions and make a variety of decisions in uncharted waters. We don’t want to put any of the flock in unnecessary harm, though we don’t have complete data, both about the virus and about the government’s handling of the virus.

Last Sunday we fit under the WA State restriction of 250 people. The following day that number was lowered to 50, and the CDC’s recommendation is currently for no groups larger than 10. We have asked ourselves, as churches all over the world have asked, “What should we do?”

We are not unique as a local church, but we are in a unique context. Never have so many nations, through such ubiquitous (and unrelenting) media coverage, given so much focus to one thing. Likewise, no generation of believers has had such technology for sake of recording, and even livestreaming, their services.

As if the previous parts of today’s service haven’t been awkward, gathering around the Lord’s Table has been a specific question. If we thought this ordinance was better remembered once a quarter, during an evening service, well, it’d be easy to wait. Even some of the churches who celebrate weekly communion have chosen against including that part of the liturgy until the church can be together again (here’s one example, here’s another).

I get that. Perhaps some of you who are listening believe that a non-geographically gathered gathering isn’t an official gathering, and so a non-communing communion is false.

If we had a larger congregation, and if consequently the shepherds had less of an idea of the spiritual condition, or if we were a church that regularly had a lot of visitors, or if we had a church that seemed to take for granted gathering together, these would be arguments against.

But the elders have called the assembly to assemble, during exceptional circumstances in an exceptional way. This is not normal. If you are participating at this moment, then we are participating together in a less than ideal way, but it is not a fictional way either. I can’t see all of you, but I am thinking about you.

Apart from additional arguments, we believe that it is a better service to the flock to celebrate “distance” communion, but this is not the same as “private” communion. You are not doing it on your own, though you are doing it in your home. If you enjoy it better this way, then that would be bad.

Let us pray that this is a short season. Let us pray for Christ to unify His people. Let us pray for Him to bring us together in every way.

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Note: this post was for our church’s communion mediation two Sunday’s ago when we were still able to meet.

I cannot say that this last week has been fun. That would be the wrong word, for sure. But I would say that I have enjoyed the opportunity to consider how to best serve you all and proclaim that Jesus is Lord through our conduct.

As elders, when we get together, we spend the majority of our time talking about shepherding work as opposed to administrative things. Admittedly, much of those reports are due to sin among the sheep and, while the conversations are good, they are not a delight. This past week has been somewhat hectic, but it has been a pleasure to give ourselves toward you in a unique situation.

You all have demonstrated that, as a church, we have communion. I mean that we have communion relationally, not just liturgically. We will be modifying our corporate practice around the Lord’s Table in a couple ways, but our coming together in communion has been successful in preventing the spread of bitterness and division between one another.

You all have made it a joy for us as overseers to make decisions. The Hebrews 13:17 passage is often used to require submission. Let me use it to give affirmation. By the grace of God, not one person has complained or criticized. Every question asked has been constructive, and many prayers and explicit encouragements given.

I am thankful to the Lord that I have no symptoms of sickness, not because I am nervous about contracting COVID-19, but because I’d be disappointed to miss today’s communion with the body.

As you may have read, we’re going to have Dave and Jim handle the elements, and they will hand you what you prefer, with or without gluten and alcohol, hopefully all without germs. Let them put it into your hand, and then less touching of their gloves will take place. Perhaps it will take a bit longer, but shepherds serving the flock will be worth it.

Whether or not this becomes standard practice, or “winter season” rules, remains to be decided. But for now, we enjoy our fellowship with each other in Christ.

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Though understandable that men want to hide from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, it is ultimately impossible to get away from His face. Let us also not forget that apart from His sovereign grace, we would all be in that position.

There is a veil that covers men from being able to know the good news that a way has been made both to fear and love God. This is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” as Paul put it. He also wrote that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” So the good news is obscured to them. They are perishing and so they can’t see, and they can’t see that they are perishing. When it comes time for the end, they will understand who they’ve hated, but too late.

How did we get out of our blindness? Why do we pray for the end to come and for the wrath of the Lamb to come without fear that His wrath will fall on us? It is not because we weren’t blind, it is because God chose to show us His glory.

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit elected to reveal God’s glory to us. It is a comfort to us, it is good news, it is a message of life and freedom. Those who cannot commune with God because they are outside of Christ still have a veil, and will wish they could keep that veil when the Lamb comes to judge. For us, we know He took our judgment, and so we do not lose heart.

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The Lord keeps books of various kinds. He is a numbers God, Three in One. He does not go with partial percentages. His eye test matches specific totals in His mind.

He told Abram that Abram’s descendants would come back to the land of promise when “the iniquity of the Amorites is … complete” (Genesis 15:16). The Amorites would be judged according to a full list of sins.

He has statistics on the number of hairs on every head (Matthew 10:30), and the days of our lives (Job 14:5, see also Psalm 90:12).

There is a complete roll of nations, as the Lord counts people groups, and the gospel will be preached to all of them before the end (Matthew 24:14).

There is a full of amount of Gentiles who not only will hear the good news, but who will come to Christ. Then the Lord will re-graft all Israel back in (Romans 11:25-26).

There is a total number of martyrs to be killed for the Word of God and the testimony borne for Christ. I believe this is true for all the martyrs of all time (A-Z, Matthew 23:35), but especially said of those under the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11).

The Lord is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases. He does all the fulness of His pleasure. It is not just generalizations, it is not guesswork or good enough for government work.

Be encouraged that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He knew how many sins He was paying for, including how many you would commit. They are all accounted for. This does not give you permission to choose sin, it gives you a reason to reckon yourself dead to sin and completely forgiven. Jesus paid it all. Your advocate with the Father knows His case.

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