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Lord's Day Liturgy

Six Presets for Only Two Stations

The thread of thought in Romans 2:17-3:8 is about how the Jews had God-given good things for sake of their worship and their lives that they either sanctimoniously or hypocritically misunderstood or misused. At least in the New Testament, is there any better example of a similar problems with professing Christians than the Lord’s Supper?

First century believers didn’t have their own copies of God’s Word to get stuck at the checkbox level of Bible reading plans (or daily streak in their Bible app) or special posing for Instagram devotions like us. They didn’t have clever Christian t-shirts and bumper stickers for branding purposes, even as the driver curses out someone who cuts him off. They couldn’t make sure all six radio presets were set to the only two Christian stations to impress their mechanic. But for the Corinthians, they religiously bombed communion.

The Lord Himself on the night He was betrayed initiated this sacrament. Unlike the Jews, we only have two ordinances in the church, and generally baptism isn’t repeated. Coming to the Table, though, is to be regular, if not weekly.

The gospel writers don’t actually include much about the bread the wine or the process. Paul, though, corrected the misuse and gives additional warnings.

The Corinthians were having outward communion but not inward, not spiritual. They were remembering the Lord’s death by having the meal but they weren’t really reflecting the significance of His death in their meal. They were posturing, and at least those of means had turned it into a big party. For them, the love-feast was a self-love feast. Others weren’t good enough to eat with them.

Many of us today know that it’s a meal of remembrance, but too often we miss what’s to be remembered, that Christ died for us that we might fellowship with the God. We instead focus on remembering our sin, and treat the Table like God thinks we’re not good enough to eat with Him. And on one hand we’re not, but, we believe in Christ. We come with Him together to the Table. It is the gospel that announces the unworthy are welcome by faith.

So love the Lord, love the bread and wine, love your brother and the body of Christ. Examine yourself that it may not be about yourself.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

What Did Bathsheba Think?

There are multiple benefits of our weekly confession of sin as part of our worship as an assembly. One advantage is that it should remind us that the time we should confess our sin is not only when we worship as an assembly.

In Psalm 51 David sang:

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
(Psalm 51:3–4a)

The psalm’s heading tells us that Psalm 51 was given to the choirmaster for him to set to melody and to teach to the assembly. David’s confession, inspired by the Spirit, was for public meditation and use.

What did Bathsheba think about the line “Against You, You only, have I sinned?” She would have thought David a sanctimonious hypocrite for promoting a “spiritual” pretense of repentance if it did not have horizontal implications. Imagine how grating this song would have been in Bathsheba’s ears if David hadn’t also made it right with her.

God is the lawgiver. He is the only lawgiver. We do not, and we must not, confess as sin whatever another man makes up as sin. Our corporate context reminds us that we live before God and we are accountable to Him for the revelation He’s given us. We only ever sin against one lawgiver.

But the lawgiver commands us to seek forgiveness and make things right with fellow law-breakers. That should happen whenever it’s needed; no schedule necessary.

Likewise in verse 6, when David sings, “You delight in truth in the inward being,” he wasn’t teaching us to be quiet, he’s teaching us not to cover up our sin and lie from and to our own soul.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Distributed Glory

Paul contrasted the “letter” and the “Spirit” a number of times in his letters. The letter represented the law, an external standard, and the Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, not subjective but still working in subjects, in persons, internally. The Spirit works among us as we worship and in us even as we come to the Lord’s Table.

After saying that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life, Paul continued the contrast.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, must more will what is permanent have glory. (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

Too many times the Lord’s Supper is observed as if it belonged with the ministry of condemnation. Rather than signs of righteousness given, shared, and received by faith, the bread and wine are offered as signs of righteousness demanded. You probably should feel worse about yourself than you do.

God does demand righteousness, but the bread and the wine remind us of the Son He sent to fulfill all righteousness for us, the unrighteous and the self-righteous. This is a Table of greater glory, of permanent glory, and of distributed glory. This is good news! Let believers in Jesus come to the feast.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Chunks of Rancid Meat

The trellis and the vine is a great metaphor. I referenced it earlier this week when thinking about some of the intangibles for ECS. It’s also connected to our upcoming seminar where the pastors will be talking about some of the things that make TEC unique, none of which are program related.

A trellis is not for praise. There are no trellis competitions at the county fair. Trellis, if it is doing its job, should not be the focus. It can be depended on but it ought not be the culmination.

When we assemble on the Lord’s Day we follow a mid-level liturgy, not the highest or lowest. It’s more than songs and sermon (low liturgy), but it’s less than swinging thuribles with their burning incense (high liturgy). Most of us value the order and flow of the service, but the liturgy is just trellis. The Israelites had precise instructions given directly by God Himself for their offerings and worship, and God hated the things He prescribed when they weren’t done from the heart.

this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, (Isaiah 29:13 ESV)

Switch the illustration. There are some really good stew recipes, making stew that almost fills you up smelling it simmer. But it doesn’t matter how amazing your recipe is if you add chunks of rancid meat to the pot.

So follow the Cs—or don’t, kneel—or don’t, take sermon notes—or don’t, have wine—or don’t, but where is your heart inclined? What is in your heart? The Lord looks on the heart. Let your praise be from a whole heart. Lift up your soul with a pure heart.