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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Taste of a Father

This communion meditation is a little late for posting, but I was out of town for a while. It will probably be okay.

Father’s Day is not a biblical feast day, but honoring our fathers is biblical, and an easy way to not be conformed to this world which has fallen to the level of calling mothers the “birthing persons” and fathers, tongue-in-cheek, the “lawn-mowing persons.” Our meditation around the Lord’s Table has benefit for all of us, whether or not our earthly father was a good one, whether or not you are currently being a good father.

Our heavenly Father gives to the needy and welcomes the unlovely. Our heavenly Father loves us into holiness, He works in us for our maturity. We do not know, remember, obey, give thanks, like we ought. How does He respond? Like a father.

I am convinced that one of the reasons so many homes have angry, stingy fathers is because fathers have been taught, liturgically, that God is angry and stingy at the family meal, the Lord’s Supper.

This is far from lowering the standard. He sent His Son to win us, to conquer our disobedience, by love that we might love (1 John 4:10, 19). He is the God and Father of all grace (1 Peter 5:10). Christian, this is your heavenly Father. Christian father, this is your earthly example for fatherhood (Ephesians 3:15).

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him.
(Psalm 34:8)

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Temple Terminology

I don’t use the “already/not yet” terminology a lot, though I think it’s a valuable way to approach some parts of our faith. For example, we are already saved in some ways, but we are not yet saved in all the ways. There are certain promises that we taste today that will be fulfilled in someday.

It’s not just timing that gets juxtaposed, but types of fulfillment, this way or that way, this way and that way. For example, Jesus promised that God would dwell in us, and also that we would dwell in God. It’s both, and is profitably considered from both angles.

God reveals that He Himself will be the temple (Revelation 21:22), we will dwell in Him and with Him in our glorified state. He is our temple. It’s also true that right now we are His temple (Ephesians 2:19-22). And even this is true both corporately and individually. It didn’t bother Paul to make both claims.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 talks about not messing with the temple, the church considered corporately, because it is God’s.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)

1 Corinthians 6:19 talks about not messing with the temple, as a Christian considered individually, because it is God’s.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Christ’s temple (His body) was destroyed (and raised again in John 2:18-22) that we might dwell with Him and He in us. The bread and wine remind us of His temple spent for our fellowship already and what will be.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Mathematical Baby Step

John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote many books, including The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, or, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. It has also been published recently under the title, All Loves Excelling. The entire book is a forrest fire of goodness sparked by Ephesians 3:18-19.

[May he grant you] strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

In Greek, one article (precedes and) welds all four dimensions together in verse 18. Paul wasn’t thinking about four things, but the immensity, the vastness, the incalculability of one thing. But what is that something? I believe the one thing is Christ’s love, explicitly named in verse 19..

Breadth refers to area. Christ’s love covers the widest span. Length refers to distance, how far things are apart. Christ’s love reaches the farthest intervals. Depth refers to the bottom. Christ’s love descends to the lowest levels. It is unfathomable. Height refers to the top. Christ’s love soars at the summit.

His love is too large to frame, and even if it were, there isn’t a wall large enough to hold the frame. Imagine the most oversized, mega-gargantuan container you have at home; now double-it; now multiply by the next number higher than you can conceive. You’ve just taken a mathematical baby step toward comprehending Christ’s incalculable love.

I love Bunyan’s question:

Couldst thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better?

—Bunyan, The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, 37

In other words, if someone asked you to describe the kind of love you hoped for, could you have imagined it this good? His love fills us, and the bread and cup remind us of His body spent in loving sacrifice for us.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Better Than a Thousand Elsewhere

The sons of Korah wrote eleven songs that were recognized and included in the canon of Israel’s worship including Psalm 84.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
(Psalm 84:1–2)

The song celebrates God’s “dwelling place,” His “courts.” The Psalm expresses delight over God welcoming His people into His presence. For Israel, God’s house was the temple in Jerusalem. So this song exalts how great it is to be with God, to meet the “living God” as “heart and flesh sing for joy” to Him.

Later in the song, the sons of Korah put their desires into perspective.

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(Psalm 84:10)

This is extreme by both chronological and occupational standards. There is no better way to spend time than appearing before God. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how lowly a position one takes as long as he can be in the presence of God.

We sing a simple version of this Psalm today and it applies in a brand new way. In His Son, Jesus Christ, we are invited into the place His glory dwells. We are satisfied and our souls are made wet by the Spirit as we see and taste His beauty. And around the Lord’s table, He invites His people for a meal of communion, a meal of blessing, and He holds nothing back.

O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
(Psalm 84:12)

This promise is certain because He has already given us His Son. One meal of peace with the King is better than a thousand elsewhere.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Don’t Make Them Pay

One of the reasons we can share the bread and the cup with one another around the Lord’s Table in joy is because He is the Lord; we are not the lords and lordesses of one another. This is not to say that we don’t make judgments or have issues to work out between us, but it is to say that we all only have one ultimate, final Judge. Christ is Lord. This is His Table.

This reality enables us to hold things of great value to us, even our very lives, loosely because we cling to Christ tightly. We’re with Him, He who is “Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:18). Have you been sinned against? Of course you have, and often it is very painful. And remember, every sin that has ever been (or will be committed) either has been paid for (Christ’s saving work) or it will be paid for (Christ’s judging work). It is also true that none of the payments are to us, though for Christians, one of the payments was for us.

Either Christ satisfied the Father’s demand for righteousness when He suffered in the place of transgressors or Christ will judge in righteousness those transgressors with great and eternal suffering. There is no mixing, there is no missing. Jesus paid it all for every sinner who believes, or, every sinner who won’t believe will be thrown into the lake of fire.

Fellowship does get broken and needs to be restored. We sin against each other, and we’re given instructions for how to handle that, but it’s not by denying that our brother’s name is written in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Jesus paid for them, it’s wrong for us to make them pay. As for those outside the church, we still don’t make them pay, though we warn them that apart from Christ they will, because He is the one with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

It Found Out Me

What flavor should season this meal? Because we know that God is a consuming fire, because our salvation from sin required the sacrifice of His only Son’s blood, because there are still enemies to be subdued as His kingdom comes, what should be our mood? The tone at the Table should be consistent with the tone during the rest of our worship.

The meal should be flavored by awe. It should blow us away that we gain from His reward. “Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shoulds’t die for me?” He humbles us, but not to hammer us. Awe increases our heart rate but not our anxiety.

The meal should be flavored by faith. We are receiving the kingdom, expecting that He who did not spare His own Son will also with Him give us all things. We may not be certain when, but we are certain that.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

The meal should also be flavored by gratitude. Full gratitude empties us. That is, selfishness and thankfulness exclude each other (see Ephesians 5:4-5). Gratitude corrects our vision and pulls us up to remember what is ours in Christ. God doesn’t force us to eat the bitter because He wants us to suffer. His Son already suffered so that we could enjoy the serious sweetness of salvation. “Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!”

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Fattened Up

When God told Israel what part of the animals He wanted for Himself, He said He wanted the fat.

the priest shall burn [the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them] on the altar as a food offering with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD’S. (Leviticus 3:16, see also the whole chapter, but especially the context in verses 14-15)

The sacrifices were not chosen because they were the most skinny, because they were made of more skin. The animals were bred and fed to be big and fat, and that pleased the Lord.

His people are also called sheep (Psalm 100:3), we are called sacrifices (Romans 12:1). God desires that we be without blemish, He also desires that we be fat. I am talking about spiritual weight, about holiness that’s heavy when you try to push it around and joy that sizzles when the fire is put to it.

He is fattening us up for slaughter. He loves us so much that even when we are sheep led to the slaughter (Psalm 44:22, quoted in Romans 8:36), we can’t be separated from His love, which is Paul’s point in Romans 8. The Lord may not require our martyrdom, but He most certainly requires us to be living sacrifices.

May the bread and wine at this Table fatten up your faith, for sake of pulling the plow, for sake of a being a pleasing aroma to Him when things heat up. This is part of our witness, part of being “the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Safe But Sane

As many of the men keep reading through Live Not by Lies there is more and more emphasis on how small groups kept many believers living under totalitarian regimes not safe but sane. Though everything was crazy outside, there was some normal, some reality, and even some freedom inside. The friendships and fellowship and the freedom to live were crucial not just so that The Faith, as in Christianity, could continue but so that Christians themselves could continue.

Our church is too large to be called a small group, and we have not been driven underground. But in many ways it is still crazy “outside,” and our fellowship is in faith and for our faith. We re-member (that is, all the members meet as one body) each week to remember the eternal work of God in time, His loving power and righteous kindness and the good news of Christ’s death for sinners. We are reminded of our unity with Christ and our unity with His Body.

If “modern liberalism’s goal” is “to free the individual from any unchosen obligations” (Dreher, Location 548), the goal of this Supper is to point us to the Savior who frees us from the burden of guilt and the anguish of separation.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16–17)

This Supper is a sharing of lives, a present participation that is a life-sustaining good.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Beginning and the End

Which is the most important meal of the day? Is it more important to give your body fuel before going out to work, or to replenish your body after a hard day of work? Is eating what you do first or last? Does breakfast commence or does dinner consummate?

This is a meditation exercise, not a push for the only answer. In addition to the reality that people’s bodies are different, and people have different preferences, the general question is not either/or. We do both.

Our communion at the Lord’s Table also works both ways, even as it reminds us to look both ways, back to Christ’s first coming and forward to His second coming. In our corporate worship, communion is toward the end in the liturgy, a crowning point. And though Sunday is the first day of the week, it is the end of the weekend, and we often come before Him spent, empty. We have not been working in order to earn our salvation, but we’ve been working because we love Christ and desire to please Him. The meal He provides satisfies and refills. He provides “the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27).

But also in our liturgy communion precedes the commission, as we are charged and blessed back toward our responsibilities. The supper is faith-fuel.

Are you weary? Come to Christ. Are you eager? Start with Christ. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13), He is life and bread, He has accomplished our salvation and He is the author of our faith that hasn’t finished its course yet, and He will raise us up on the last day (John 6:54).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Our Marveling Mechanisms

There is a simple way to avoid becoming bird food (Revelation 19:17, 21). There is a clear way to avoid being thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The way is the way of faith in the Lamb. He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). Those who love the Lamb more than their own lives will conquer (Revelation 12:11), and cannot be captured or condemned.

This is not primarily a word of warning to fear the eternal torments of fire, though the threat is real. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the day

when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10)

What I am calling us as Christians to do is to be preparing our marveling mechanisms. We will marvel at the Rider. We will marvel at the Lamb. We will marvel at His wrath. We will marvel at the banquet table of His love for His Bride, for us.

At that table there will be redeemed kings, captains, mighty men, free and slave, small and great. There will be Jew and Greek, male and female (Galatians 3:28). Who knows if we will recognize each other as old and young. What we hold onto in common is Christ. We are not merely fugitives from hell but sons of our Heavenly Father (Galatians 3:26). As many as of who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). We will all be in His presence and astonished by the glory of His might.