Lord's Day Liturgy

The Lord as Host

On the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper the disciples were not taking pictures to post later on Instagram. But even without that sort of missing-the-moment-distraction, there’s no way that they fully understood what was happening.

Jesus had prepared a table for them in the presence of an enemy, and enemies. Judas had already made plans to betray Jesus, and the soldiers were mustering to seize Jesus within a couple hours. In the midst of lies and schemes and envy and unjust arrest and murder, Jesus provided a feast to His men (who He knew would also scatter, Matthew 26:31).

David could not have known what that sort of supper would look like a thousand years before Christ came, but his description in Psalm 23 of the Lord as Host, the Lord as generous table-setter, can be connected.

We also don’t know the full extent of the Lord’s generosity toward us, or the fullness of animosity directed against us by enemies. Here is the Lord’s table, prepared for us in the presence of enemies. This isn’t about left or right, it’s not primarily a political party, but a spiritual reality.

Either the Lord will grant repentance and draw rebels to His table by grace, or He will keep filling our cups and protecting us from rebels. His cup of grace overflows to us. His goodness and mercy have followed us to the table. Because of Christ’s loving sacrifice we will dwell with the Lord, our Shepherd, all the days of our lives.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Sundays as the Start for Strength

During our church family meeting last Sunday evening I mentioned some of the new colors we’re planning for our trellis. By trellis I’m referring to our ministry programs, the scheduled and organized ways to serve the body, and by colors I mean the fresh plans for teachings and readings and discussions in the meetings we already have.

Lord willing, we’ll continue studying through Romans during our Lord’s Day worship. On Sunday evenings the pastors plan to preach through particular subjects in Proverbs. To complement that, the men will read Proverbs for our Men to Men discussions. The ladies for Titus 2 will start the year reading That Hideous Strength and follow that in the new year with How to Be Free from Bitterness. We’ll plan another parenting seminar in February.

One thread between all those is strength. Romans builds strength of faith, Proverbs teaches strength in wisdom, Lewis’ book is a riff off the wrong strength, a hideous strength, which is a poetic reproof over the Tower of Babel project which was intended to be a sign of man’s strength without the Lord (Genesis 11:4).

This is one of the reasons we assemble on the Lord’s Day. The first day of the week is Sunday, and the first thing we do is confess our glad dependence on the Lord. We fear Him, that is wisdom. We trust Him, that is faith. We look to His joy, that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

The truth is that He is Lord. Here is our opportunity to be reminded of it, to rejoice in it, and to get ourselves in line.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jumping on the Drums

Our Life to Life group had an edifying discussion about the different kinds of Psalms and the different blessings that they bring. There are Psalms for taunting enemies and Psalms for confessing sin. There are Psalms that remind us that God is near even when He feels far off, there are Psalms that remind us that He is for all those who fear Him. There are many human experiences, there are many works of the Lord, there are many songs in our arsenal for all those situations.

We ought to be able to sing any of the lyrics when appropriate. We can sing how blessed is the one who dashes the enemies little ones against the rock (Psalm 137:9), we can sing of our heart’s desperation for the Lord’s presence (Psalm 42:1-2). There is a way that both of them can be acceptable to the Lord, and also a way that both of those angles can be ruined. What makes either like playing the cymbals with swords is self-righteousness.

Singing triumphant lyrics with a smug heart is like jumping on the drums; the words may be right but the heart is out of rhythm. Singing lyrics of sadness with self-pity, with an attitude that isolates, with a “no one understands or feels my pain” perspective doesn’t fit. For that matter, listening to others praise the Lord for victory or pray to the Lord for help in trouble with the filter of self-righteousness is no better.

What would be of greatest dissonance is confessing our sins (like Psalm 51:1-2) with self-righteousness, as if we thought we were better than others because we thought we were more honest to God about our transgressions than others. May it never be.

Lord's Day Liturgy

In His Crosshairs

None can escape the wrath of the Lord, but some have an Advocate with Him (1 John 2:1). Men are either in His crosshairs, or they look to His Son’s work on the cross. God’s bow is strung and aimed at their faces (Psalm 21:12), or Christ’s blood is spilled and atoned for their sins (Revelation 1:5).

Our time at the Lord’s Table is a remembrance of Christ’s death, and also a proclamation of it (1 Corinthians 11:26). We remember the sacrifice and we rejoice in our salvation. We are not yet sitting on thrones, but we’ve been richly blessed by He who sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:23). He gives us life and length of days. Because He has made peace, we can be glad with joy in His presence.

His glory is great through our salvation, and so we will sing and eat and drink in praise of His strength.

A Shot of Encouragement

Light Doesn’t Need Handcuffs on Darkness

Great quote on the power of Truth in the public square from John Milton’s Areopagitica in 1644:

Who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? … [Truth] needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious; those are the shifts and the defenses that error uses against her power: give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps.

Lord's Day Liturgy

More Holy Glory

One of the things that stands out in the psalm we studied last Sunday morning (Psalm 21) is how nothing peculiar stands out. It’s not for lack of looking. There is a general context with some typical truths. God deserves praise for salvation. God’s enemies should beware His certain judgment. God is God and His people praise Him. While there are some meaty phrases worth meditating on, we don’t get anything exceptional.

The same might be said at the end of the day about any given Lord’s Day. We are not a people given to chasing novelty and extraordinary feelings anyway. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know enough to know what to do.

The liturgy of steadfastness is its own lesson. In these mortal bodies we will not grow out of the need to eat, nor will we mature past the point of praying to God for help and praising Him after He helps. Nor will the discipline of confessing our sins be useless, futile, superfluous.

Christian, the Lord requires your obedience, not because obedience earns salvation, but salvation effects obedience. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus “our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

Confess your sins to Him. He is not bored of hearing us nor bored in cleansing and iterating us into sharing more of His holy glory week by week. He is the one with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). He is the one for whom we do what we do.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Renewing amidst Ruining

For every Christian the inner man is being “renewed” day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The wearing down and out of the outer man can’t stop the renewal and, actually, to the degree we can see by faith what’s happening and where we’re headed, a part of the inner renewing occurs through the outer ruining. This renewal is partly a direct work by the indwelling Spirit (Titus 3:5), and it is partly a mediated work as the Spirit applies the truth of our testimony.

We are “transformed by the renewal of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2), “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). The Spirit takes the truth and works it into us.

The Lord’s Supper also renews our inner man. This shared meal, an ordinance instituted by the Lord for His body, is a regular and repeated part of our renewal. It is a kick in the joy pants by the Spirit through faith as we’re reminded of the new covenant purchased and on its way to being perfected.

A taste of honey renews hunger. A jolt of adrenaline renews energy. A bite of bread renews thankfulness and unity as we partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). A sip from the cup of blessing renews peace and our sense of freedom as those who participate in the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is all good news for those who confess Jesus is Lord, so eat and drink.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Ordered Affections

Knowing which mental shelf something belongs on is more than mere convenience. Groupings and hierarchies work for our good.

Two categories of affections are life-shapers. Affections can be aimed toward good or bad, they can be weak or strong, but they can also be comparative or integrated. The comparative and integrated categories are something I first read about in The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney. In order to please God we must have both and they must be in the right order.

By comparative affections we mean that we love nothing more than God by comparison. We love Him with all our heart (Matthew 22:37). We love Him more than mother or son or daughter (Matthew 10:37). We desire Him more than anything on earth (Psalm 73:25). Nothing compares. Even though He is unseen, the things of earth seem dim in His light (2 Corinthians 4:18).

As necessary and orienting as they are, they are regularly used to guilt others into sacrifices, and guilt is greater if they’re treated like the only category of affections. We could be made to feel bad that we’re hungry at all since, I mean, isn’t man supposed to live by the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)?

Of course bodies and bread, and hunger and baking, are all God’s ideas, ideas which are explained in that Word we live by. He is Lord of the seen things, even if they are temporary, and He requires that we receive them with thanks, that we steward and invest and share with others following His generous example. We are commanded to love our neighbors, our wives, our enemies.

These affections are integrated affections. Because we love God we don’t try to make every day Sunday. Because we love God most we know how to keep money as a servant not an idol. In order to love God, some of our minutes are spent examining if He is the preeminent love, and most of our minutes are spent putting that into practice.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Nothing Can Stop Him

What can you do with a whole group of people who know that they will be raised with Jesus and brought into His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14)? Believers, these are truths for you:

God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:14)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is true for each Christian, but it is also true for all Christians, that is, for the church. He will “present the church to himself in splendor” (Ephesians 5:27), He will present the whole body “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22), He is able to keep us from stumbling and present us “before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

What can the world do with that sort of people? What can threaten them? What can be taken from them? What affliction is not able to be a reason for grace to extend that thanksgiving would spread to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15)?

We are those with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe, and so we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). We believe, and so we eat and drink with thanks, knowing that Jesus will bring us into His presence, and nothing can stop Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Even the Boring

I got to bat clean up at our youth retreat last week and my assignment was to give the “So what?” I worked through this sentence:

That every one of you would walk worthy of the Lord in wisdom by the Word for your work and witness in the world.

It took a whole sermon to address each of the Ws, but for this exhortation, let me drill down on walking worthy of the Lord.

Walking is a metaphor used a few times in Colossians. Paul prays that the believers would walk worthy of the Lord (1:10), exhorts them to walk in Christ (2:6), and reminds them again to walk in wisdom toward outsiders (4:5).

Walking is the most mundane yet intentional thing we do each day. We breath, but we do that even without conscious decision. We eat and drink, which is daily, but that satisfies an internal hunger mechanism. Walking is the most feet on the ground, attention-requiring, all-embracing analogy for our deliberate conduct.

The walking metaphor isn’t just about behavior, but about even the boring behavior.

We are to walk worthy of the Lord. This sort of worthy is not about deserving to represent Him, but about sharing a similar weightiness to Him. The word for “worthy” applied to measurement by scales where balance was required between the weights and the object. The Lord is on one side, our walk is to match His. This is pleasing to Him (Colossians 1:10).

we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12, ESV)

As necessary, repent and turn around from walking in the wrong direction, as well as from any false equivalence; do not be moldy oranges to Christ’s golden apples.