Our call to worship today came from the classic chapter about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit; later we will hear a sermon on Acts 2. So I have been wondering: What does the Holy Spirit have to do with communion? Is this a question for ministerial students during their presbytery exams!? Not really. It is vital that all of us (laymen and ordained alike) know what is happening here, what we are doing now, and Who is responsible for bringing us into such a rich feast. Behold ~ the invisible Spirit!
- One of our primary duties before coming to this Table is to examine ourselves. God urges us to take a good hard look, deep down inside. To do this sincerely and honestly, we need the Holy Spirit to illumine our darkness, and just as certainly to assure us that His love abides in and on us, even as He causes us to grow in honesty about our offensive sin and our complete dependence.
- Another primary duty concerning right celebration of this sacrament is that we are to come in a worthy manner. This certainly cannot mean that we find worth inside ourselves nor even in the manner of our worthy coming. This worth is in the Object of our faith and in the faithfulness of God. Such humility can come only by the Holy Spirit.
- Many of you communicant members have never had to survive the brutal pre-communion examinations we give to our guests and friends who are not members but want to join us at their Lord’s Table! The first question we ask sounds simple and perfunctory: Are you baptized? Of course, of the two sacraments, baptism must come first (even as birth precedes feeding and growth). But Jesus Christ said that His kind of baptism involves a washing in and of and by the Spirit, not by a merely external cleansing of water. As we direct a professor’s attention back to his baptism, we hope the enquirer is thinking of something better than water.
- The second question we ask: What do you have to do with Jesus (or better: What does Jesus have to do with you)? This is testimony time, & the elders are listening to discern if there has been a birth from above, a regeneration by the Holy Spirit. This alone is the beginning of right relating with our holy Savior.
- The third question in our pitiless test is about the individual’s relationship with the church of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Temple in which the Spirit dwells or the Body of Christ in which is the Breath of real life. Friends, in your coming to this Table today, do you discern the body? We are asking if you see Christ here AND are you aware the Spirit is bringing together isolated saints into fellowship?
We might have made this little study of the Lord’s Supper and the Holy Spirit simpler by going right to the end of Acts 2, where we find that classic statement of the four-fold focus of the early believers together. Many seek evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence within a group of Christians through some of the more dramatic signs we find in Acts 2 and beyond (including the miraculous, prophecy, healing, and speaking in unknown tongues). But here, to close the chapter where the Holy Spirit is given to the people of Christ with great liberality, we find that the Spirit-filled saints are continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer (or “the prayers”; Acts 2:42). That “breaking of bread” may point to the simple act of eating their meals together, or providing hospitality to one another, or just “hanging out”! But the term “fellowship” covers those well, so many see that participating in this sacrament became an early hallmark of the followers of the Way of Christ. The Spirit (in His tell-tale manner) backs away from the spotlight, to emphasize in this celebration the sacrifice of Jesus our Lord.