Lord's Day Liturgy

Failing to Breathe

One of the ways we know if we’ve been born again is our attitude those who sit around the Lord’s table with us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)

This meal of communion is only for Christians, those who are born again, and Christians are those with a particular affirmation and with personal affection. We’re united by spiritual birth to the Head and His Body.

Those who are born of God believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” Any claim of new life apart from confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is a bogus claim. The lyrics sung by the born again are clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised and anointed one, the substitutionary sacrifice who died on the cross for sins, was buried in a tomb for three days, and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection.

The harmony of the born again song is loving other born againers; this is not a solo. We who are born of God confess Christ and care for one another. Diluted affections for, resistance to forgive, and reluctance to fellowship with other believers calls into question one’s spiritual life just as failing to breathe calls into question one’s physical life.

If you’re harboring resentment or anger toward a brother, whether the size of a cruise ship or kayak, you should repent and make that right before you celebrate the symbol of our uniting love. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and we who are born again must love all the others who share our living hope.

Come, eat, and celebrate your born again life in Jesus the Christ. Come, eat, and commune with your born again family.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Talking with Our Mouths Full

We are witnesses of the Light. We see Him by faith, not by eye-sight, but that’s okay because we call men to spiritual sight in the Light.

As witnesses we proclaim the Logos, the Light, the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

How is it that we are proclaiming? We usually think about proclaiming in verbal terms, with words and stuff. Paul says we are proclaiming while at this table, so are we talking with our mouths full? Didn’t mom tell us not to do that?

Right, and that’s not what Paul is talking about. He’s saying that our participation is a proclamation. Eating and drinking is saying something even if we don’t say anything at that moment.

I’m emphasizing this because salvation isn’t something only in our heads, it has to be there, but it isn’t only there. God is spirit and Person, in Jesus a person with flesh and bones. The world is His, not just our words. Eternal life is lived, not merely thought about. So proclaim the gospel of grace by fellowshipping around His table.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Right Banquet Hall

God has prepared a banquet table and all who eat at the Lord’s table share not only His gifts, but also His very life. The bread at this banquet is unlike any other bread. The Father “gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32b-33).

The bread is heavenly but it’s not manna, it’s a Man. Jesus went on to teach, “I am the bread of life.” (v.35). “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (v.41), and “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51).

In the Logos was life (John 1:4), and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, You have no life in you” (v.53). Note: being in the right banquet hall or reading the menu accurately isn’t enough.

Communing with Him at this table and eating this bread doesn’t prepare us for life, it is life. Eating and drinking is abiding in Him (v.56). The fellowship here doesn’t lead somewhere else. “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me also will live because of me” (v.59). Believe, eat, and live.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not an After-Creation Thought

When the Word created grain and grapes on day three, was He thinking about the glorious purpose that He would give bread and wine around a table some 4000 years later? When the Logos created man on day six, breathing life into his flesh and blood, did the He consider then how He would soon (in light of eternity) take on flesh Himself and spill His own blood for sinful men?

The apostle John not only wrote about the Logos and creation (John 1:1-4), he also wrote about the “book of life” that was “written before the foundation of the world” concerning “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8). That means that the cross, and our remembrance of it at communion, was not an after-creation thought for the Logos-Lamb. As good as God declared creation was before the Fall, as much as the Logos and the Spirit and Father enjoyed what they had made, the Trinity knew what was coming.

While we chew over the eternal place of the cross and even the communion elements, let us remember that the Logos was with God, and by His body and blood, we who believe can also be with God. Jesus prayed that we may be with Him, to see the Son’s glory given to Him by the Father because the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). The glory that He had with His Father before creation is the glory He shares with those who share in the communion meal by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Faith Increasing Ordinance

Communion is a faith increasing ordinance, not a doubt increasing one.

When we come to the Lord’s table, if we are thinking correctly, we remember our sin. But staring at our sin nourishes doubt. When we look at the bread, we are encouraged that the debt our sin incurred is no longer outstanding. There would be no bread unless another’s body had taken our judgment. We eat because Christ paid the penalty in full and we are forgiven. When we look at the cup, faith is strengthened as we remember that a sacrifice has already occurred. The cup means God is not waiting to satisfy righteousness with our blood. We drink because Christ freed us from guilt.

Do you have faith? If no, repent and believe. If you do have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you are forgiven and free. Participation in this meal is a feast for faith, not a fast to prove we have it.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Soul-sucking Mastery

The cross causes offense. It scandalizes the heart and, in particular, it scandalizes religious hearts. It displeases “good” people who thought they could please God by their good works. It also angers unrighteous people who don’t like that their Maker is holy and that He judges creatures according to His standard. It disturbs civilized people who don’t want to be troubled with blood and death.

The cross offends because our sin offends God. Unless we sense the outrageous, awkward, woe-inducing elements of the cross we probably won’t see the outrageous, humiliating, woe-inducing elements of our sin. And unless we see our sin and mourn it, we won’t be happy.

Ignoring sin, redefining it, denying it, hiding it, just adds to it even if we postpone the full misery of it. There is only one way to deal with sin: cut off it’s soul-sucking mastery. The only way to do that is to see our sin on Jesus on the cross. We believe that He bore the wrath of our offenses and rose again so that we could be delivered from the condemnation and control of sin. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The bread and the cup represent His body and blood, which means we eat and drink Him at His table. That’s offensive, but, according to Jesus, unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we have no life. Whoever feeds on His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life, and He will raise us up on the last day. His flesh is true food, and His blood is true drink (see John 6:53-56). In Christ, our offenses against God are forgiven. By faith, the offense of the cross becomes our freedom.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Right on Track

Our regular time around the Lord’s table supports and buttresses the gospel (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). As a church, our celebration of this ordinance declares and defends the truth.

When we eat here we make a statement that sin is our problem and that the wages of sin is death. We recall a crucified body and shed blood, the cost of our rebellion. Examination of our hearts and confession of our sin brings us to the cross, confronted by the gospel.

When we eat here we also remember that by one man’s sacrifice all those who believe are saved. That’s the good news! By His death and resurrection we—and whosoever believes—have eternal life. We can be brought to God, restored to communion with Him. The cross brings us to God, saved by the gospel.

And, when we eat here we remember that this supper is a shared one, that we come as a family, as the household of God to share this meal. We are united with each other, and our diversity with unity says to the world that the gospel is right on track. The truth of the cross brings us together, united by the gospel.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Trinitarian Table

The Lord’s table is a communal meal. At His table we commune with Christ: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). At this table we commune with each other: “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (v.17). At this meal we share Trinitarian fellowship, it’s a Trinitarian table.

We eat and drink with many who are different than us, significantly so. We are male and female, rich and less rich, those educated by books and those educated by life, employers, employees, and unemployed, old and young. But we are one one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). When we come together to eat, we wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33). At this table we look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Around this table we celebrate Trinitarian differences without division.

The Lord’s table has also been called a love feast (Jude 12). We sit down at this table and tell the story of the Father who sent His Son, the Son who laid down His life, and the Spirit who causes men to be born again to a living hope. We tell a Trinitarian story, a story where eternal love spills onto us and is shed abroad in our hearts. As we eat and drink these symbols of the cost of His love, we are strengthened to love the others around the table.

We who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, eat and drink with thanks.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Down the Hill of Grace

God commands His people to proclaim Christ’s death as they gather around the Lord’s table regularly. However frequently Christians do it, there is the danger that they would fall into the thinking that God is pleased that they’re doing it. Maybe. It depends.

The Lord is not pleased, in fact it is loathsome to Him, if we eat and drink because we think He needs us to. He rebukes those who think that the reenactment or the symbolism itself is powerful. We bring nothing to this table except empty hands and hopefully a hunger for righteousness.

Dependence makes the difference. Eating and drinking because we need to pleases Him. Giving thanks for our justification–depending on His payment of our debt–and trusting Him for our sanctification–crying out for His help and grace for deliverance from sin–pleases Him.

It is a real danger that our liturgy would become loathsome, and it will be loathsome anytime we do it by works and not by grace. But our Lord’s table liturgy is intended to prick our hearts towards more thanks and towards greater trust. Giving thanks leans us forward. Gratitude is like a step down the hill, making it easier to take the second step of trust, which pulls us like gravity down the hill of grace.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Weekly Refrain

Doing almost anything on a regular basis, especially religious anythings, can make it mechanical, stale, and/or hollow. There is no shortage of externally busy, highly liturgical, religious churches that dutifully go through many motions but do not do them the right way, with the right heart. A weekly observance of the Lord’s table is certainly not beyond this danger.

As the Israelites remembered God’s salvation repeatedly at their Passover feast[1], Christians remember the cross at communion. How did they, how do we, guard against a frequent act of worship becoming the futile kind of familiar? There is infused into this ordinance, by Jesus Himself, a life-giving element. In remembering His death and resurrection the proper way, we will be protected from the dangers of religiosity to the degree that we celebrate with thankfulness!

Thankfulness is a powerful force. It crowds up our hearts with the right kind of affections, keeping our hearts from empty, hollow remembrance. It’s hard to find a truly thankful hypocrite. Thankfulness also crowds out all sorts of self sins such as self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. Conviction of sin rings the doorbell to humility’s house, but thankfulness comes into the living room. Or, conviction cleans the gun but puts no bullet in the chamber.

Herein is another danger of leaving communion at the confession level: it leaves us weaponless. Confession is important, but not potent. Thankfulness, on the other hand, fights for us and honors Christ. This table says something, and we say something by how we come to it. If we come with thankfulness, we cannot come too often. We will find our hearts made strong in the steadfast love of the Lord, acknowledged and celebrated as a weekly refrain.

[1] Think perhaps of the repetitive, responsive reading in Psalm 136.