Exhortation: It was G.K. Chesterton who once wrote that “One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time.” There are clear places where the Scriptures invite us to do our task speedily. The task of worship, however, is not a grab and hurry and eat sort of invitation, it’s an invitation to stop and savor the salvation God offers us in call, confession, consecration, communion and commission. So, don’t expect a roller coaster experience in worship, but an intentional tour guide through the heavenly city.
There was once a father who believed in boundaries. He clearly defined them for his family. Sometimes the children thought the boundaries were too much. Since the father was gracious and kind, the children would ask the father about the nature of these boundaries. The father would carefully explain why they were necessary. The children did not necessarily like the boundaries, but they trusted their father. As they grew, the boundaries became fewer and fewer. The children were becoming accustomed to the boundaries and the routine they produce. They liked the fact that they knew what to do and what not to do. So, they assembled and formed a committee called CCPB—children concerned for the permanence of boundaries.
They approached their father and said: “Father, we don’t like that you are giving us more freedoms. We don’t think we are ready to live without these boundaries. We are surely going to perish.” The father hugged that lovely committee and said: “My children, it is time for you to take my boundaries and apply it to your new communities. You need to embrace your new freedoms and create your boundaries based on what I have taught you.”
The committee quickly disbanded and went their way eager to apply order to their new-found freedoms.
Beloved, our freedoms are never devoid of boundaries. Order is always on the table; without it, the table comes crashing down. Our Lord gave us this orderly institution. We are not to follow it mechanically, but joyfully. The same God who gives us order is the God who gives us abundant joy.
The time was nearing the confession of sins in church. The young lady filled with pride said to herself: “I don’t need to confess anything, so I will just mumble through these words.” After the confession, the people arose, and the minister said: “Your sins are forgiven!” The young lady said to herself: “I don’t need any sins forgiven, I am just fine.” Then the Lord’s Supper came, and the minister repeating Christ’s words said: “This is my body which is given for you.” Again, the young lady said: “Given! I don’t need anything given. I take what I want.” Later that afternoon the young lady was going for a run with her wireless headset cherishing her favorite tune and undistracted enough to not see a car running through the stop sign and coming rapidly in her direction. Just then a good Samaritan grabbed her by the hand and drew her back just in time to avoid the certain tragedy. She took a second to recompose herself after realizing what happened. The good Samaritan looked at her and said: “You could have died.” “Yes,” she said. Thank you for saving my life.” At that moment the young lady realized that life is not about possessing, but receiving with a grateful heart the gift of a life-giver.
Indeed we come to this table having our sins forgiven and lives rescued in Jesus Christ. We now taste of his sacrifice. Let us come not proud, but with humble hearts for God has delivered us from sure death.
As we come to this supper, let us remember that we are a body of believers who belong to one another in a biblical sense. This belonging means we don’t assume the worst of one another but seek to esteem others better than ourselves.
One day a child came to her mother and said, “Mom, I simply don’t love my brother.” The mother—who generally knows all things and heard the two arguing earlier–looked at her daughter and said, “Sweetheart, you are confusing your lack of love with one behavior you didn’t like from your brother. But love is long-suffering. It is patient. What you meant to say is that you are frustrated with your brother.” The daughter went away pensive and thought long and hard about what her mom said. She later came to her mother and said: “Mom, if love suffers long, how long must love suffer?”
Our Lord Jesus daily shows his longsuffering toward us. Were it not for long patience, we would never come to his table. But today, he gives us the same answer. His love is longsuffering. Thanks be to God.
There was once a man who was very proud. “I have no need for church,” he said. “I have earned all the respect I will ever need from my scientific community. Look at my awards displayed so beautifully in my office!” That night the man died. As he was ushered into the presence of God, the Lord said: “Depart from me, worker of iniquity.” “But, but,” the man stuttered, “I tried to find you in nature and you weren’t there, I tried to find you in philosophy and you weren’t there; why should I be sent away from paradise when I honestly searched for you?” God responded: “When you were a child you knew me, you were baptized into my name, but as you grew you despised my name when you left the church, you despised my community when you left my people, and you despised my food when you chose to dine with false gods. Now, depart from me!” It is no trivial thing to despise the true God and his true bride, the church. The moral as we come to this table is: “Don’t despise the body. Don’t forsake your Lord. This table is yours.
Robert Frost once wrote that “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” He is quite right. But part of that laughter theme only makes sense in light of the resurrection. The promise that Yahweh will laugh at the nations (Ps. 2) is a promise that begins at the resurrection. We could say that the resurrection was Yahweh’s great laughter over evil. And as we approach this Easter table, Yahweh still laughs over evil, and we participate in this glorious laughter when we eat and drink together, for we no longer stand with Mary weeping at the empty tomb, but we stand with Mary as she rejoices in the New Adam who rules over the world.
The Resurrection of Jesus created this newly gathered body, called the Church. Of course, the Church had existed since the Garden but never has the Church possessed such glory, such overflowing joy, and such unity than when she was bathed in the Resurrection waters. The Old Church needed a thorough cleansing, and from the empty tomb flowed these rivers of life that begin this washing and cleansing of Christ’s Bride. Christ was raised for the sake of His Bride and World.
This meal is a continual celebration of the empty tomb. This is why this is a table of joy. The last Supper is now replaced with a new Supper each time we meet. And because this is a new meal it never becomes bitter to our taste. His mercies are new each time we gather as Resurrected people. Come and eat.
This morning though we recapitulate the Advent story, we do not live this Advent story as those in the first century. In that time, their expectation was filled with the sorrow of an old world and covenant. Today, we expect in this season with new eyes; the eyes of a people who have seen the glory of God and have tasted of his goodness. Advent is glorified for us! We expect this morning fully aware that history is moving forward to the eternal consummation when Christ will resurrect his Bride and make her perfect for the feast.
We eat with our Lord already having tasted of His Advent, but longing for more advents. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus and refresh us as we eat by faith!
This should be an ever increasing list:
- Jesus says, “Do this.” We desire to do all that Jesus tells us.
- Paul says that to partake is to participate (I Corinthians 10:16). We desire to participate in Jesus’ life.
- The Table builds fellowship (Acts 2:42). It is our desire to be ever increasing in fellowship with one another.
- The table builds glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:46). We desire more gladness in our hearts.
- The pattern of worship demands what Augustine called the “visible word.” We need word spoken and word tasted.
- We are all members of one body and drink of one Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13). Therefore, we should taste of that oneness weekly when we gather.
- Jesus says, Do this “as often” as you drink of it (I Corinthians 11:25). Therefore, when we meet, which is weekly (often) we should Do This.
- The Supper is a gift and we should never refuse a gift.
- We pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). If the Lord gives us bread each week and we refuse, are we then refusing his answer to our prayer?
- We need grace. If the Supper is a means of grace, why would we simply desire it monthly or quarterly?
We are typically placed in scenarios where we have to decide between false choices. Either theology or missions? But this is not a question we have to answer, because in Jesus we have the greatest theological fact of history: the fact that he embraced our humanity and became like us. Jesus’ arrival on planet earth through a virgin birth was a missional arrival. He came to be for us a theology to be embraced and to set a mission to follow. Jesus came as a missionary from heaven’s mission agency and now calls us to participate in his mission of making earth like heaven. Theology is mission and mission is theology. These are inseparable.
This is why when we eat bread and drink wine we are not communing based on an abstract theology of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but on a theology that actually moves us to enter into his missionary story. Jesus comes as bread from heaven to heal broken humanity. He comes as the new wine to give humanity hope. We are not bound by false choices. Our choice is to follow Jesus and to commune with He and his people.