Tag: communion

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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When Jesus instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper, He pointed to the cup that points to His covenant.

After telling His disciples to eat the bread representing His body, “he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:27-28). Luke recorded it also, “Likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20).

The “new covenant” is named as such in Jeremiah 31:31, and related descriptions are paralleled in Ezekiel 36. This new covenant is not like the Mosaic covenant given to Israel when they came out of Egypt. In this one, the Lord promised to put His law directly within them, to write it not on stone tablets but on their hearts. This covenant wouldn’t just point out why they needed forgiveness, it would purchase and apply it.

In its original setting the new covenant was for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The Lord compared the likelihood that He would fulfill this promise to the fixed order of the sun and moon. “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

And it is the Lord who has opened the door for us who were not Jews to enjoy the good news of forgiveness and new hearts. He has opened the way for us, He will finish His promise to save a coming generation of Israel by His Spirit (Romans 11:25-26), and His Word is as good as it has ever been.

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This is a meal of remembrance. We remember, and proclaim as we remember, the death of Jesus. Communion points us to the cross week after week.

It is also good to remember that Jesus remembers us. This truth could be used for selfish purposes, to puff up our esteem, as if God thought us important enough to get us on His side. But the good news is that He does choose us, and He does get us on His side, and He knows us by name.

Computing power and intelligent algorithms can collect and process a lot of data. The limits of digital databases are virtually non-existent, and columns can be matched, even with names. But it still isn’t personal.

The Father chose a people for His Son, and sent His Son as a Shepherd to lay down His life for His sheep. He calls them by name, and they recognize His voice (John 10:3-4). Their names are written in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 13:8). The names in the book, the names who are known by Jesus, are the names He took with Him to the cross.

Christian, you are not a number to God. You are a name. You will walk with Christ in white. Christ will confess Your name before our Father. Remember what you have received and been taught. Remember Jesus’ body and blood. Remember that He knows your name.

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Worldliness dulls our senses. It is harder to describe what it feels like to be wet when we are submerged in water, and it is harder to stand out from the world when we’re standing in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1). This is one of the reasons why worship sharpens our senses. Worship is a renewal of identity, of our distinct and named identity in Christ.

He names us and He gives us our essence. He makes our lives smelly.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

I trust its not pressing the analogy too far, but, how close do others need to get to you, and how much proactive sniffing effort do others need to make to smell your life? Some of you have a distinct gospel odor; your neighbors and co-workers and unbelieving family can tell when you’re coming. Likewise your brothers and sisters in the body catch a whiff of your life and give thanks to God. Your life is a savory fragrance of life to them.

Others perhaps need our communion to renew the aroma. May the Spirit douse you with faith and love and service and patient endurance for sake of the Son.

Verse 16 ends with the question: “Who is sufficient for these things?” The obvious answer is that none of us are, but the gospel is the gospel of grace.

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