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Apr 2011

Sunday Rhythm | God Strengthens His People At His Table | Communion

I have never heard any Christian say, “Let’s be careful not to have our pastor preach the Word too often.” All Christians recognize that it is through the Word that our Savior speaks to us today, but many seem not to understand that he speaks by the sacraments also. It is the very same message. Through the sacraments, Christ ministers to his children, feeding them spiritually. It is difficult indeed, in the light of the spiritual benefits which are imparted with (not in) the Lord’s Supper, not to agree with John Calvin, who insisted that the Lord’s people should have the privilege of partaking of the sacrament every Lord’s Day as the climactic part of their worship service. – Robert Rayburn in O Come, Let Us Worship: Corporate Worship in the Evangelical Church

We communicate the gospel by the way we worship, and the rhythm of our worship on Sunday is meant to tell a story. We begin each Sunday with God calling his people to worship. During this time, we are simply asking the questions, “Who is God?” and, “Who is Jesus?” We gather together to sing songs, read scriptures, and offer prayers that bestow adoration on, and recognize the greatness, goodness, and grace of God. In light of who God is, we recognize that we are sinful people in desperate need of his grace. His pardon then becomes necessary as we affirm God’s provision of grace through the person and work of Jesus on our behalf. We sing songs about Jesus and his work on the cross, and we read scriptures together that also remind us of the mercy provided by God, who has reached down to us through his son. After this reminder that we have received pardon from our sin because Jesus sacrificed himself and paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, we then go on to pass the peace that we now have with God through his son.

The next movement of our rhythm is the sermon. We believe that the Bible is the means by which God graciously reveals Himself to His people, so each week, we take the time to listen, read, and study it with expectant hearts. As our gospel story continues, we move from proclamation to communion, where we join with churches throughout the ages in retelling the story that those who truly hear God’s Word will share his love. This portion of our service is entitled God Strengthens His People At His Table.

Communion is simply the time where we celebrate the grace of union with Christ and his people; where we are tangibly reminded of the broken body of Christ and the sacrifice of sin he became for us on the cross. The gospel message in the partaking of Communion is the same message proclaimed throughout the entirety of our service: we acknowledge God’s holiness, confess our sin, and celebrate his grace. We are then nourished by his provision, and encouraged and enabled to live with his blessing. We are also reminded that Jesus now reigns on the throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us in our prayers and needs (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).

The Lord’s Suppers began in the context of a Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-29), but was also reflected in an evening meal (Luke 24:28-30) and an early breakfast (John 21:13) By the time that the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, it is clear that New Testament Christians are regularly celebrating Communion within the context of a larger meal that is integral to their weekly worship (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).

We don’t believe that Communion should be a full meal, but as we look at scripture, we see that Communion in the early church was not a routine ceremony; it was a natural and intergral expression of living and worshipping together in Christ. The meal itself was not made special by layering it with ever-increasing details of ceremony, restriction, and formality. The meal cohered with the preached message of the gospel, and as people participated in the Lord’s Supper, they experienced and demonstrated what it meant to live the gospel. What kept Communion from being routine was the fact that it was part of living the gospel, and we come to know the “good news” of that gospel as we recognize the holiness of our Creator, confess our sin, seek his grace, are assured of his mercy, give him thanks, petition his aid, seek his instruction, and, in loving response to all his mercies and grace, live for him.



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