Tag Archives: communion

Communion Meditation: Communion & the Holy Spirit

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

COMMUNION MEDITATION: Because our children are asking …

The New Testament sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are simple, by Christ’s design, so that even children can understand the basic truths which these signs, actions, and rituals are illustrating.  To quote Albert Einstein (in a limited sense), “If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not understand it well enough.”  Thus I have been impressed, over the years, with the ability of some to give excellent children’s talks which are very simple, yet meaty and profound for all who will listen.  Surely Jesus was encapsulating a world of truth as He proclaimed:  “The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like little children” … but one simple application should be:  If only the professional scholars and theologians can grasp a doctrinal point, it may be that the truth claim has more of man than of God in it.  With just a few minutes, then, I ask you to consider two questions which children have asked, both of them deserving clear answers.

Last week, a child asked me:  “Pastor John, if God has always known everything, then why did He create Satan?”  I will interpret and extend his question to ponder:  Why did God create the angel Lucifer, knowing that Lucifer would lead an angel rebellion, become the devil, tempt our first parents, and produce the fall of all mankind and of the universe itself?  I did not claim that simple answers are easy ones!  A word for parents, teachers, and others:  Praise the Lord for such questions.  They could be evidence that the Holy Spirit is stirring.  Do not say:  “Shut up!  Stop asking silly or hard questions.  Just believe and behave.  Don’t think.  And above all, don’t go poking around behind the curtain, or you may discover that there is nothing there after all!”  So much better to respond with something, even an “I don’t know … but let’s dig into that issue together.”

This question (about God’s role in the origin of Satan) is a version of the classical query:  “How could there be a good and strong God in a universe with evil and suffering?”  Okay, this is an enormous subject, but here is a starting point:  Because the universe as it really is (with a Lucifer who would become Satan, with evil and suffering, with pain and sorrow and tears, and with sin under all of it) is the universe which God has allowed and even designed to bring the maximum glory to Himself, to display before Himself, His angels, human beings, and the universe the awesome collection of His own glorious attributes, and in this particular case, to show how He will defeat and destroy His and our archenemy, the devil and all his works.

Here is a second question asked by a child, much earlier than last week, and across many years:  “Father, why is this night different from all others?”  This, of course, is the classic and scripted prompting by children at the Seder (or the Passover), that annual memorial meal to remind Israel of “Exodus Night,” how the Lord delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land.

Please recognize the connection of our first question with this second one, for if God really is good and strong, especially attentive to His chosen nation, then why did He allow them to be enslaved in the first place?  There are, of course, human reasons for why and how Jacob’s family ended up in Egypt, and it is clear that God held many Egyptians to be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.  But God allowed, even designed, Israel’s captivity to glorify and exalt Himself in their eyes, and in the eyes of Egypt, Canaan, and the whole world up until this very day.

Recognize, as well, the connection of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus instituted this Christian sacramental love feast at a Seder.  The Bible strongly connects the minor redemption (of Israel from Egypt) with the major redemption (of all God’s children from their captivating sin).

Recognize, finally, the connection of the Seder, the Supper, the cross, and the first question.  God’s design of a universe where Satan, sin, and sorrow could (would) happen surely had in mind this ultimate and glorious solution, the death of God’s dear Son, as the answer to the very big questions, the solution for all of our needs, and the ultimate display of the glory and grace of God.

Mull over this sentence.  If it is true, enjoy its truth, and turn it into personal worship:  “God in His grace provided what God in His holiness demanded.”  God allowed and designed a fallen universe, filled with fallen people, millions of whom would come to know their Lord as a God of grace, mercy, and faithfulness.  There is a popular book with this subtitle:  “What if marriage is designed by God, not to make you happy, but holy?!”  Well, what if time, space, the universe, and all history are designed to glorify God in His fullness, as He really is?  Would not an eternity of informed worship justify 6,000 or more years of drama, if that is the kind of thing it takes for us to get to know God as He really is?  Yes, and the cross, with the sacrificed body of Jesus Christ, is at the center.