“Here I must say emphatically: art must never be used to show the validity of Christianity. Rather the validity of art should be shown through Christianity” (H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, p. 228).
“Our doctrine always comes down to action, and that action reveals our true doctrine. We do not understand the relationship between fear, hunger and love. Our great problem is that we do not want enough from God. Ironically, we content ourselves with our discontents in the wilderness when before us a promised land awaits. Why do we not want milk and honey? Why do we not see the demands of the covenant as milk and honey? Why do we not want to teach our children when the promises of God stand patiently alongside us” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 225).
“Mimetic desire is always kindled in those whose social situations most closely approximate that of the one whom they envy” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 187).
“The nineteenth century made music into a kind of refined, cultural, almost pseudo-religious revelation of humanism, composed by the great heroes and prophets of mankind . . . Into this world burst jazz and blues” (H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, p. 186).
“Therefore, to understand the fear of the Lord rightly, learn to see that fear as love hungering for blessing” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 224).
“What is to be noted is not just the the prophetic mind is lucid, but that the prophetic personality is sufficiently grounded in something other than the shifting sands of the social order to withstand the contagious power of social consensus. The clearest proof that Micaiah has managed to stay outside that vortex is that when he looks at the Israelite gathering, it isn’t a nation firmly united for combat with its enemy that he sees. What he sees, and what Zedekiah and the raving prophets in his entourage cannot even imagine, is ‘Israel scattered like sheep without a shepherd..’ The ability to see that under those social circumstances is the prophet’s chief social distinction and what makes his existence so anthropologically extraordinary” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 176).
We live in a world filled with the glory and kindness of God. We also live in a world filled with sin, sin that can be defined as refusal to see the glory and kindness of God. Some Christians have so emphasized the presence and tenacity of sin that they have made themselves unable to see the glory and kindness of God. And of course this inability is just more sin. We cannot deal with sin by committing more of it. The way out is repentance, changing our minds, turning around. This Table is one of the central places where we are to repent—but not of our individual sins, faults and failings. That should already be done before you get here. You wash up at the sink, not at the table.
But at the same time, this Table is a wonderful place to see (and repent of) the various ways we slander God. He has set a Table for us. Perhaps He did it, we think, because He is trying to poison us. He sent His Son to die on the cross in order to save us. Perhaps, we think, He really wants to damn us. He invites us to sit down—there is a place card here, with your name on it. That name was written in blood before the world was created. He took off His outer cloak, and stooped down to wash our feet. Perhaps He is doing this, we think, to mock us.
No—put away all such sinful thoughts. This is the place to learn that God really does love you, really does want to save you, and He offers the nourishment of His covenant to you. Take it, and eat. Take it, and drink. What does it all mean? Among other things, it means that you are accepted, forgiven, justified, cleansed, put right, straightened out, and beloved of God. Faith can apprehend all things, even this. Take and eat. Take and drink.
We come before the Lord in trust. We have to do this because without it, nothing we do in worship will prevail with Him. We trust Him, we have faith in Him, because this is the only way that creatures can receive blessing from Him.
With His blessing, preaching against sin brings conviction and change. Without it, such preaching brings resentment and continued sinning. With His blessing, the singing is rich, and grateful, and overflowing. Without it, the singing is muttered and resentful. With His blessing, the prayers are urgent, anointed, honoring to Him. Without it, the prayers are wooden and stilted. With His blessing, the Supper of the Lord nourishes in Christ, and grows us up into Him. Without His blessing, this Supper is a winnowing fan that blows chaff away from His presence.
And so we are to come in faith. We assemble in faith, we hear the call to worship in faith, we confess our sins in faith, we sing in faith, we hear the Word read in faith, we hear the Word preached in faith, and we eat and drink in faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.
The only alternative to this faith is obviously a lack of it—unbelief. But this unbelief rarely parades itself in naked form. Unbelief always seeks various rags and scraps to clothe itself. These rags and scraps are often made of resentment, grievances, bitterness and more. Guard your hearts therefore. You are coming to worship the Lord. Do so in faith, from first to last.