To Live and Die as Christians

We gather at this Table weekly. As we do, we should remember that there are three elements to what we do. The first is invocation. We acknowledge God’s presence here with us, and indeed, we invite it. We call upon Him. Second, we rejoice before Him with thanksgiving. This is a Table of thanksgiving and gratitude. And third, there is an element of binding ourselves with an oath.

We are renewing covenant with God here, but not because our covenant with Him was set to expire, like a lease. Rather, we renew our vows before Him, acknowledging to Him, with solemn and deep joy, our intention to live and die as Christians. This is a deep oath, solemn and glad, and so we return to it weekly.

This is not because the oath is weak, and needs shoring up weekly. Rather, it is because we are weak, and we need to be reminded. This is our life. This is our song. This is our connection to all our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and throughout history, who have loved the name of Jesus. This is the body of Jesus, and this is the blood of Jesus. This is our creed, an edible creed. This is our oath, and in gladness we drink all of it.

Just One Sin

We come to the Table in order to be nourished. We need to be nourished and strengthened so that we might have grace in our spiritual limbs when we come to do battle. And when we come to do battle, it should be directed against sin. The author of Hebrews (Heb. 12:4) exhorts his readers to be willing to commit themselves to the point of bloodshed in their fight against sin.

And so our celebration of this Supper does have something important to do with sin, but not because it is a time for morbid introspection. We are to examine ourselves, we are to cultivate a tender conscience, but the time we have set apart for that is at the beginning of the service, when we first come into the presence of God. This Supper is about temptation and sin, but it is more about next week’s temptation than last week’s. The body and blood of Jesus does not just forgive past sin, it also equips us for our fight against future sin.

And you need to be strengthened against one sin, not against all of them. You will not be tempted to commit all of them. You will be tempted to be undone by just one. So put on the full armor of God. Noah, the most righteous man, was undone by one sin. Moses, the meekest of men, was shut out of the promised land by one sin. David, the best of kings, was taken down by one sin. Job, the most patient of men, was convicted of one sin, and repented in dust and ashes. Adam, the father of us all, plunged the world into the morass of sins by just one sin.

There is grace in this bread and in this wine. It is not grace that can be tasted with the tongue, but you all have a spiritual tongue that can taste and see that the Lord is good. That spiritual tongue is living faith, active faith, evangelical faith. When you believe in your heart, you are tasting with your tongue. And when you do that, you are being equipped for this coming Tuesday.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

See Your Neighbor in the Supper

We are here to discern the Lord’s body. We are not here to do metaphysical speculations about what might be happening to the bread and wine on the subatomic level—although we do confess that God ministers to us spiritually with these material elements. We are not here to go spelunking in the deep caverns of our mysterious lusts, although healthy self-examination should be a normal and healthy prelude to our enjoyment of the Supper. We are not here to fight with other Christians who understand this meal differently than we do, although it is important for us to understand it as biblically as we can.

Our central task is to discern the Lord’s body, and to see that this body is seated all around you. This means that the meal is given to us so that we might understand that we are the meal. There is one loaf, and you are that loaf. We partake of the body of Christ which means that we must be the body of Christ. But there is no way for you to be the body of Christ without coming to the conclusion that your neighbor is also part of that body.

You cannot partake of Him without also partaking of him, and him, and her, and them. This is why this meal knits us together. We are eating, drinking, meditating, listening and singing, and we are doing it all in love for God, and in love for one another.

Some of the things we have made the Lord’s Supper into are things which can exclude little children—just like the disciples did when they kept little children away from the Lord. The Lord didn’t like it at all and said that coming to the kingdom involved becoming more like them. It is not like insisting that they become more like us—which is to say, clueless. Children may not be good at metaphysics, or at morbid introspection, but they can see their neighbor as well as you can. So love God, and love your neighbor.

Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

And We Have Come

What we are doing here involves our minds, but it is not what we would call a mental exercise. It involves our mouths and throats, but it is not just ordinary eating. What we do here engages our hearts, but it is not meal of sentiment. So what are we doing then?

The apostle Paul describes this as a partaking of Christ, but this is not because this is a “special” supernatural meal in sharp contrast to a natural world. It is not as though we have the backdrop of the black night of nature, with a tiny spark of grace here.

No, God created the world to function in covenantal categories. So the thing that happens here at this Table is the same thing that happened in the Old Testament when priests partook of the altar. More than that, it is the same thing that happened when pagans partook of the altars they had erected to their demons. The world functions covenantally. This is not just something that happens in the spiritual world; it is how the whole world runs. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we are partakers.

So it is quite true that we partake of Christ in this meal, and that we do so spiritually. But take care what you mean by that word spiritually. When you give your physical body over to the control of God, it is, the apostle says, your spiritual worship. A spiritual man is not an ethereal man. A spiritual man is an obedient man.

As you present yourselves here to be fed, to be strengthened, to be built up, to be nourished, to be given wisdom, you are doing so because you have been summoned. There has been a call to worship, has there not? You have been invited, have you not? This bread and this wine is being offered to you, is it not? Jesus said that His crucified body would draw all men to Himself. This is the divine order—He has died, and we have come.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

Little Plastic Cups

The bread and wine here represent and embody the most precious gift that has ever been given to anyone. You were redeemed, Peter says, not with gold or with silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). This is a precious gift indeed. What kind of vessel should this be put in then? The biblical answer is that you are that vessel.

Just as the bread and wine have a representative meaning, so do the trays and cups here. They contain the sacrament, and learn a lesson from it. They are clean, they are prepared with care beforehand, they are set apart for this use . . . and they are humble. These vessels didn’t cost very much, but nevertheless they represent us, the vessels about to receive the elements of the sacrament.

God does not mind putting His precious things into humble vessels, but He does mind putting them into foul, putrid, unclean, and proud vessels. Remember what the apostle said—we have this treasure in earthen vessels. That is fine, that is a design feature (2 Cor. 4:6-7). But a humble vessel can be clean and prepared, just as a rich, ornamented vessel can be full of blasphemies, abominations, and the filthiness of fornication (Rev. 17:4).

As you prepare yourself to be a fit vessel of the gift you are about to receive, do not think that God requires spiritual ostentation. He actually requires the opposite. He requires care, thoughtfulness, and love. That is what it means to come to Him in a worthy fashion. Don’t try to encrust your cup with diamonds—as though He needed anything decorated with self-righteousness. He doesn’t mind that you are a little plastic cup. Just be a clean one.

We have this treasure in a little plastic vessel, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. You don’t have to earn what you contain—but you do have to contain what you contain.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

The Backdrop of Resurrection

This meal commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. This bread represents His body, and this wine represents His blood. This Table is all about the crucifixion. The cross is what we are talking about. The affliction He went through on our behalf is the message.

But we have to presuppose the resurrection in order to be able to do this. If Jesus had not come back from the dead, then His death would have been just one more obscure execution, wherein a prophet was swallowed up by the system—devoured by the cruel machinery of death. We have the privilege of proclaiming the Lord’s death two thousand years later because we are proclaiming the death of one who rose.

This dark world was utterly transformed by the resurrection. In the very middle of history—necessarily transforming the very meaning of history—Jesus came out of the tomb. This world is now a world in which the first man rose from the dead.

What We Are In For

This is a meal, and so one of the things we do here is taste. “O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8). As we see in this passage, to taste the Lord is to trust Him. It is to believe Him. This is another way of saying that tasting is sola fide, by faith alone.

There are two levels here. We either taste or we do not. If we taste, we taste by faith. If we do not taste Christ here, if the ordinances are to us like the white of an egg, then we are gaining no profit. Without Christ, all the churchy things in the world are as nothing.

But suppose we taste Christ, as I am sure you are doing. This is the next truth, the next level, the next lesson. We taste but little. We taste little compared to what we should taste. We taste little compared to what others have tasted. We taste little compared to what we desire to taste. We taste little compared to what we shall taste.

Thanks In, and Thanks For

This is a Eucharistic meal, and that word comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. This is our weekly thanksgiving meal.

Because this meal is offered us by the sovereign Lord over all things, we must not think of it as an oasis of thanksgiving in the midst of a wilderness of grumbles. It is not an island of thanks in the middle of an ocean of trials and complaints.