Lord's Supper Service - 1/7/18

Series: Special Occasions

January 07, 2018
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

I can think of no better way to start off a new year than by coming together and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, or communion as it’s also called. Now most likely we’d all go “Amen!” to that. But I’ve been pastoring for over 20 years and can’t recall anyone saying, “Oh, pastor, I can’t wait for communion!” And I’ve never observed anyone walk into the sanctuary, see the table set with the communion elements, and go, “Yes!” Maybe people do, I’ve just never observed it.

In those 20 plus years, I imagine I’ve led near a hundred Lord’s Supper services,  and if I were to guess what people were thinking or how they felt during that time based on their expressions, I’d have to assume they were uncomfortable, slightly afraid, or maybe needed a little more fiber in their diet.

What I’m saying is that for us Baptists at least, the Lord’s Supper sometimes comes off as uneventful and maybe a little awkward. 

Why is that? One reason may be familiarity. We’ve done it so many times over the years and become so familiar with it, it’s lost its significance. It’s not as meaningful as it is ritualistic.

[A] small-town Episcopal church in upstate New York… had [the same priest]… for over thirty-five years. He was loved by the church and the community. After he retired, he was replaced by a young [man]. It was his first church; he had a great desire to do well. He had been at the church several weeks when he perceived that the people were upset at him. He was troubled.

Eventually, he called aside one of the lay leaders of the church and said, "I don't know what's wrong, but I have a feeling that there's something wrong."

The man said, "Well, Father, that's true. I hate to say it, but it's the way you do the Communion service."

"The way I do the Communion service? What do you mean?"

"Well, it's not so much what you do as what you leave out."

"I don't think I leave out anything from the Communion service."

"Oh yes, you do. Just before our previous rector administered the chalice and wine to the people, he'd always go over and touch the radiator. And, then, he would--"

"Touch the radiator? I never heard of that… tradition."

So the younger man called the former priest. He said, "I haven't even been here a month, and I'm in trouble."

"In trouble? Why?"

"Well, it's something to do with touching the radiator. Could that be possible? Did you do that?"

"Oh yes, I did. Always before I administered the wine, I touched the radiator to discharge the static electricity so I wouldn't shock them."

For over thirty-five years, the untutored people of his congregation had thought that was a part of the holy tradition. That church has now gained the name, "The Church of the Holy Radiator."

That could just have easily been a Baptist church, minus the wine of course.

Another reason there’s not much celebration in celebrating the Lord’s Supper is, perhaps, ignorance. We don’t really know or understand why we do this. 

If you’re new to the faith or you’ve been around church for a while but are just now connecting with your faith, you may not get this whole communion thing and you’re afraid to ask because you think, “I should know this.” I’m the most excited for you because you have the greatest chance of getting a blessing today.

No matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the Lord’s Supper it is good to answer the most obvious question about it…

Why do we do it?

That’s easy. And simple: Jesus commanded us to. 

Just hours before the crucifixion, Jesus brought all the disciples together for one last meal…

Luke 22:14–20 (ESV) — 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Jews to this day celebrate the Passover meal together much the same way Jesus and His disciples did that night 2,000 years ago. The Passover meal was a reminder of their deliverance by God from the bondage of Egypt.

17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Did you catch that?

Do this in remembrance of me.

The disciples took that to heart. When they gathered together they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. And we have been doing it ever since

We probably fail to heed our Lord’s commands in many ways, but when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are being obedient to this command. He loves it when we obey.

So we do it because Jesus commanded us to, but we could ask another question...

What does it do?

This has been a debate over the centuries. Our friends in the Catholic church believe it’s necessary for salvation, that it carries some kind of saving grace.

This can’t be true because it would add a human work to the simple plan of God: saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

It doesn’t save us or make us more saved, but it does point us to the most important events in the history of the universe. Go back to our Luke text….

Luke 22:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

The bread symbolizes Jesus' body hung on the cross.

The fruit of the vine symbolizes His blood spilled on the cross.

The Lord’s Supper takes us to the foot of the cross, where Jesus worked his greatest miracle, something Paul glorified in when he wrote to the Colossian Christians…

Colossians 2:13–14 (ESV) — 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Jesus came and lived the life of perfect obedience that we couldn’t live, and died the death of payment for our sins we couldn’t pay.

The Lord’s Supper points us to the cross in the past, and it points us to the future. The apostle Paul reminds us…

1 Corinthians 11:26 (ESV) — 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I love the irony in this verse. “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” He died but he isn’t dead! Jesus is coming back. Remember how he said…

15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

He was talking about that future day when he returns to set all things right and usher us into the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The Lord’s Supper centers our attention on the cross, the empty tomb, and coming resurrection!

There’s another question we need to ask about the Lord’s Supper…

Who is it for?

Christians: those who have believed in Jesus and received like a gift his living the life they should have lived and dying the death they should have died.

If you’re here today and haven’t done that yet, please don’t feel bad. You can let the bread and juice pass you by. But I’d like to know, what would keep you from receiving God’s gift today?

Here’s one last question…

How do we prepare?

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians…

1 Corinthians 11:27–28 (ESV) — 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Even in the early church, mere decades after Jesus commanded us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, there were those who lost sight of its meaning. They took it lightly and abused what was supposed to be a precious time for God’s people.

Paul warned them and us to examine ourselves.

He wasn’t saying the Lord’s Supper is only for those walking in perfect fellowship, only for those not struggling with failures. Good heavens no.

Paul spoke of those who claimed to know Christ yet lived in open rebellion against Him. They weren’t convicted of or sorry for their sin. They came to the table callously.

If you are here today and there is failure, there is conviction and sorrow, the Lord’s Table is for you! 

On the other hand, if you’re here today and you think you’re worthy to partake (as if you might be doing God a favor), you’re probably guilty of the mother of all sins: pride.

1 John 1:8–10 (ESV) — 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

We prepare today by examining ourselves and confessing our sins. By coming to the table boldly, but humbly.

There was a Jewish rabbi who lived in Poland in the 1700s, best known for what might be called the parable of the two pockets.

The parable begins with two slips of paper. On one slip is written, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ On the other slip is written, ‘For my sake the world was created.’ These two slips of paper are meant to be carried around in two pockets.

Rabbi Bunim said, 'Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: For my sake was the world created. But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: I am but dust and ashes.’

The rabbi’s point was that we are at once both things. We are both sinners and saints, dust and treasure, limited but with tremendous potential, fallen but loved. And we ought to approach our goals and lives with that mindset. 

Christians would say we are fallen people for whom Christ died.

Dust, yes … but dust so loved by God that he gave his Son…”

That’s the attitude in which we should approach the Lord’s table today.

Conclusion: Why do we do this? Because our Lord commanded us to. What does it do? It points us to what he did for us on the cross, to the empty tomb, and to his certain return. Who is it for? Christians. How do we prepare? Examine ourselves and humbly partake.

Let me close with the words of Spurgeon…

Perhaps you say, “I should be afraid to … come to the Master’s table; I should be afraid of eating and drinking damnation unto myself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Ah! poor trembler, Jesus has given you liberty, be not afraid. If a stranger came to your house, he would stand at the door, or wait in the hall; he would not dream of intruding unbidden into your parlour—he is not at home: but your child makes himself very free about the house; and so is it with the child of God. A stranger may not intrude where a child may venture. … God makes no difference in his love to his children. A child is a child to him; he will not make him a hired servant; but he shall feast upon the fatted calf, and shall have the music and the dancing as much as if he had never gone astray. 

When Jesus comes into the heart, he issues a general licence to be glad in the Lord. No chains are worn in the court of King Jesus. Our admission into full privileges may be gradual, but it is sure. Perhaps our [listener] is saying, “I wish I could enjoy the promises, and walk at liberty in my Lord’s commands.” “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Loose the chains of thy neck, O captive daughter, for Jesus makes thee free. -- Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

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