11.19.2006

Communion Exhortation

Once a policeman went to an elementary school to take a report on some vandalism there. While he stood in the hallway, a little girl came up to him and said, “My mother told me to call the police whenever I need help, is that right?” Policeman said, “That’s right.” She stuck her foot out and said, “In that case, would you tie my shoe?” When the policeman got back to his car, where his canine unit dog was in the back seat, a little boy ran up and said, is that a dog?” “It sure is,” said the policeman. The boy thought for a minute and asked, “What did he do wrong?”
How do you respond in God’s presence? It is appropriate early on, to ask, What did I do? And repent of it. But then later, in deeper communion, we can ask God for help.

Israel was not ready to receive the presence of the living God. Are you? We have already been in God’s presence in worship for the last hour, but we have been summoned, we have confessed, and we have been set apart, all in order to commune and then be commissioned. The consecration section is when we prepare and rearrange our lives to be in God’s presence. What good does it do to prepare and cook the meal, if you don’t eat it?

In the same way, dear people, we now enjoy full fellowship, as full as possible in this life, full fellowship with God in this meal, with all sin straightened out behind us. Perhaps something came up in the sermon that you need to take care of. But the main direction of this table is not lamentation and repentance; it is fellowship – partaking. Our sinful selves died with Christ on the cross. We live and abide with Christ now. We look forward to fuller fellowship when we drink of the fruit of the vine with Him in glory.

Be careful not to get stuck on repentance. It is quite rude to go to someone’s home for dinner, and continue to repeat throughout the night, “I don’t know why you would invite me. I don’t deserve to be here.” No. God gives you permission to revel in His grace. Enjoy God’s presence. We are not engaging in a weekly funeral service to remember Good Friday with somber long faces. This meal is a feast – a foretaste of a coming feast of fellowship.

Share your life with Christ and with His Body, as it is gathered with you – all around you - today. Fellowship not only with Christ in the inner portions of your soul, face scrunched up and eyes closed. Fellowship also with the body of Christ, smiling eyes wide open in wonder that you are included among this gathering of Christ’s people.

3 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I appreciate what you say here. There is a forward-looking aspect to the Lord's Table, though I have a hard time establishing this exegetically.

    IN fact, Paul seems at pains to remind Corinth that this is not so much a party as it is a solemn remembrance.

    It came in the place of passover --a solemn remembrance of a death, a meal at which bitter herbs were eaten: marked by gratitude, yes, but also cognizance of the cost of deliverance.


    But, where in the Scriptures is it established that there is not a solemnity to the meal?

    It was instituted on the eve of Christ's death.

    It is a proclamation of the Lord's death till he comes.

    Why do we run so quickly to celebration without first lingering awhile at the cross? Could it just be our contemporary discomfort with solemnity?

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  2. We must go through the cross and repentance to new life and joy.

    "There is a forward-looking aspect to the Lord's Table, though I have a hard time establishing this exegetically."

    How about Matt 26:29? "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Also in Mark and Luke. Other than 1 Cor 10-11, this forward looking piece is just as prevalent as the cup being the blood of the new covenant! Yet we routinely overlook it.

    I wasn't arguing against solemnity, but for solempne (CS Lewis' idea of joy and solemnity together, where modern folk believe them to be mutually exclusive). Proclaiming the Lord's death is not preaching His funeral sermon, it is preaching the full Gospel, with all the emotions that go with it - horror and disgust at the injustice, conviction of our sin, somber remembering all that took place for our salvation there at the cross, Easter joy at His rising again to new life, expectation of eating and drinking with Him in glory (Rev 19:9).

    The point I was making also referred to the order of worship. Repentance takes place early on in the service. Communion comes later, and we need to move beyond to repentance to a foretaste of glorified fellowship with the Lord.

    Realizing of course we can't do this perfectly. Sin remains. But we have an obligation to set before the congregation the joy to come, and Christ has given us 2 very clear ways to do that.

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  3. In response to Ken's comments, I would say that the joy of the original Passover would be hard to overstate. Yes, there was fear and solemnity (the angel of death prowling outside, the cries of the Egyptian families as they discover their dead sons) but think also of the redemption. There they were, after four hundred years of oppression and grinding slavery, with staff in hand and loins girded for travel, with wagon packed and the kids all ready--finally--to be free! To go to the promised land, led by the pillar of cloud! My kids get excited just in a prmised trip to Costco. But this was their redemption! Joy and celebration is very appropriate--especially considering the place of the Lord's Supper in the liturgy.

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