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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:You Are Invited: Come to the Table!
Text:LD 30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Added:2022-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Hebrews 10:1-14

Lesson: Lord’s Day 30

 

YOU ARE INVITED: COME TO THE TABLE!

  1. Come Celebrate that the Suffering is Over

  2. Come Celebrate with your Brothers and Sisters

 

  1. Psalm 97: 1, 3, 5

  2. Psalm 103: 1, 2, 4, 5

  3. Hymn 59:1, 2

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 67: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7

 

Words to Listen For: bag, altar, foster, wedding, humbly

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How should we sit at the table?  Mourning?  Celebrating?

  2. What is the gospel in 1 word? (or 3 English ones)

  3. What is Ecumenical Sunday all about?  Is it good or bad? Why?

  4. Who cannot come to the table?

  5. What is required to come?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

The Canadian Reformed Church has a reputation.  And even though we wish it wasn’t the case, we have this reputation among other churches, and a reputation in the world.

     We are exclusivists.

     We are judgemental.

     We are narrow-minded.

     We are like the church at Ephesus - all doctrine, and no heart.

This is what they see in us, and this is what they say about us.  And then, this afternoon, we come to Lord’s Day 30.  Lord’s Day 30, where we speak very harshly against the Roman Catholic Church.  We read these words together, just moments ago: Therefore the mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

These are harsh words.  These are words that may make us cringe.  After all, there are those of us in this congregation who know Roman Catholics.  There are those of us who are related to Roman Catholics.

And though we may not agree with their theology, this line from the catechism may seem to be taking a page out of the Church at Ephesus.

The Roman church IS STILL a church, after all!

Have we lost the love we had at first?

And it has been said off of this pulpit too...if you love God, you cannot hate His church.

So.  Are we being inconsistent here?  The church that we are supposed to love...is it only the church that looks exactly like us?  Do we now have any right to tell those that do not like us, those who disagree with our theology: “But you have to love the church!  You have to love us, because we are the bride of Christ!”  And then...at the very same time, speak in this way to the Roman Catholic Church?

It’s a good question for us to ponder.

And yet, at the same time, the purpose of the Heidelberg Catechism, all 52 Lord’s Days, is not, primarily, to attack and reject wrong doctrines, but rather to teach what is right.  And so, while we will touch on why the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mass is incorrect, the focus of this Lord’s Day, the focus of each and every Lord’s Day, is not to ATTACK, but to EDUCATE.  It is to focus our hearts and minds on the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  To focus on how we are being faithful to our God, and faithful to His Word.  Before we look outwards at others, we must look inwards at ourselves.  And so I invite you to learn the true doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.  What it is, and who should come.

I pray that if you have any doubts about your position with God, any doubts about whether you are worthy to partake, this afternoon you will be assured that

YOU ARE INVITED: (so) COME TO THE TABLE!

  1. Come Celebrate that the Suffering is Over

  2. Come Celebrate with your Brothers and Sisters

When we finally sit together at the Lord’s table to celebrate this sacrament again, I think that there will be great rejoicing.  For it has been so long since we have been able to celebrate it properly.  There will be great rejoicing from you, the congregation, and from me, the pastor.

But even then, even in that great rejoicing, I think that there will be some awkwardness.  There will be a few concerns and questions.

How should I sit?

Should we be joyful or mournful?

Is it okay to smile, or should our faces be downcast and somber?

There is some confusion over this.  And on first glance, there isn’t an easy answer to these questions.  If we look at our form, there is an equal amount of mournful language and celebratory language.  Faithful to Scripture, our Form for the Lord’s Supper emphasizes both the cost and the result.  Both the cross, and our salvation through it.

Take for instance, the line: We cherish the blessed memory of the bitter death of Christ.

We CHERISH - this is positive

The BLESSED memory - this is reason for celebration

Of the BITTER DEATH of Christ - and there is the mourning once more.

So what should we make of this?  Is Good Friday really good?  Should we CELEBRATE the Lord’s Supper?

Even though we could say it is a mixed bag, the answer is YES!

The Apostle Paul says that he BOASTS in the cross of Jesus Christ

There is a constant refrain in heaven, giving thanks for and praising the Lamb who was slain.

Let us, at our table, join their celebration and join their boasting.

  • Even though that day was the day when earthly justice failed in the biggest way possible…

  • Even though that day showed the ultimate corruption of the human heart, as God’s people hurled insults at their Messiah

  • Even though the glorious Son of God, someone who should only have ever received honour and glory and worship, was beaten, tortured, and killed...

Even through all of this…

Good Friday is still good.

The table is still a table of rejoicing.

And why?

Good Friday is good because of what it accomplished.

The table is a table of rejoicing because it is a table that tells us of the freedom we have in Christ.

We can truly take the words of the form on our lips, and speak of cherishing the blessed memory of the bitter death of Christ.

We celebrate, but in our celebration, let us never approach the table, or approach God Himself, casually.  There should not be foolish talking or joking around the table, for it is a very serious meal.  But just because it is serious, this does not mean that it is sombre.  It is a meal of REJOICING.  We rejoice at what the cross of Christ accomplished.  For what was done in the death of our Saviour, beloved?  What was it?  Let me list a few of the benefits for you

  • On the cross of Christ, our sins were punished.  The cup of God’s wrath was poured out, and there no longer remains any wrath or judgement for the sins of God’s people.  Your sins have ALREADY been punished, and God will never punish them again.

  • When Christ died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.  The curtain separating God’s people from God Himself.  As we heard in our call to worship this afternoon, we can now draw near to the throne of grace to find help in time of need.

No longer do we have to be represented by the earthly high priest.  No longer do we worship from afar, but in prayer, and in spirit, and even when we feast at the table, we are welcomed spiritually into the heavenly throneroom of God.

On the cross of Christ, when Jesus Christ said: IT IS FINISHED...He meant it.

This suffering happened, and it was horrible.  More terrible than we can imagine.  The nails, the whips, the thorns...but also God’s wrath.  He descended into hell right on that cross.  As the sky turned black in the middle of the day.  As God’s Messiah was forsaken by His Heavenly Father.  God forsaken by God.  We can’t understand this with our limited minds, but that is what Scripture says.

His horrible, terrible, unimaginable suffering happened...but now it is over.  It is over, and it will NEVER.  HAPPEN.  AGAIN.  It doesn’t need to.  It is Finished.  With that one word in Greek: TETELESTAI, He declared the fulfillment of redemptive history.  Everything had been leading up to that point.  And now it is over!

And we read of this wonderful reality in our catechism

The Lord’s supper testifies to us...that we have complete forgiveness of all our sins through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself accomplished on the cross once for all.

This is the clear teaching of Scripture.  Clear, comforting, and wonderful.

And this is the gospel in one word: TETELESTAI!  IT IS FINISHED!  For one of two things must be true: Either Christ has finished His saving work, once and for all, and there is no place for repetition...or the cross was not enough.  The sacrifice of the cross has to be completed by the sacrifice of the altar.  And with sadness the catechism goes on to describe exactly this.

But the mass - what happens at that Roman Catholic altar - teaches, first, that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the suffering of Christ unless He is still offered for them daily by the priests.

And with these words, our reputation begins to come out.  Do we have the right to rail against the Roman Catholic Church in this way?  If you would walk up to a Roman Catholic on the side of the road and say, “We believe that we have complete forgiveness of all our sins through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself accomplished on the cross once for all,” your average Roman Catholic would say, “Amen, brother!  I believe that too!  Hebrews 10 is also in my Bible!”

And so we have to ask ourselves...is it time to update the language of Lord’s Day 30?  Are we fighting against a Roman Catholic Church that doesn’t even exist anymore?  Is it fair for us, as outsiders, to label Roman Catholics with such a broad brush as this?

To answer this question, we must consider two things.

Firstly, we must acknowledge that when the Catechism was written, the writers had an intimate knowledge of what the Roman Catholic church believed!  When they spoke against the Roman Catholic church, when Calvin worte harshly against it, and Luther had choice words for the Pope...these accusations didn’t come from outsiders, but from those who learned these doctrines firsthand from the priests!  We must remember that the Reformers came out of the Roman church!  They wrote and preached, and spoke against what they knew!  And so, when it was written, this was an accurate description of the Roman Mass.  That’s the first thing.

But the question remains...what about now?  Is this STILL what the Roman church teaches?

Even though the average Roman Catholic may not believe it, even if the average Roman Catholic priest may not teach it in so many words, there are a set of theological documents that have never been overturned by the Roman Catholic Church.

To delve into history for a very brief moment, there was something known as the Council of Trent that took place between 1545 and 1563.  This was known as the Counter-Reformation.  The Roman church took seriously the accusations of the Protestants, and they sought to reform the church.

Unfortunately, what happened was that this council officially recognized and cemented into their doctrine:

  1. That salvation is not by faith alone, but that our works add to our salvation...and that those who deny this are to be condemned.

  2. That the bread and the wine do mysteriously transform into the real body and blood of Christ...and that those who deny this are to be condemned.

  3. That the Mass is to be seen as a sacrifice, where Christ is the victim, offered again for our sins, and that this new bloodless sacrifice truly takes away sins...and that those who deny this are to be condemned.

Does this sound like an acknowledgement and understanding of what happened on the cross?  Does this sound consistent with the gospel of: FINISHED! ?  Does this sound consistent with the last words of our Saviour on the cross?  IT IS FINISHED!

The decrees from this council have been confirmed and affirmed by councils and catechisms, as recently as 1992, and have never been changed or revoked.  And so, unfortunately, though it is harsh to say, it is accurate to conclude with the catechism that: The Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

There harsh words, that may seem judgemental and narrow-minded, are said out of a respect for what God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and a love for our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church that have lost their way.  And yes, I say brothers and sisters.

Just as with wayward members of our churches, we should not view the Roman Catholic church with hostility, but rather with sadness.  Sadness that those who profess to believe in the same Saviour as we do, those who pray to the same God, those who were formed and fashioned by His hand, have gone so far astray.

Though they are WAYWARD brothers and sisters, we must still view them as brothers and sisters.  As the prophet Malachi said of wayward Judah, Do we not all have one Father?  Did not one God create us?  And so, they are brothers and sisters.

Beloved, we must be firm on the truth.  The god found in the bread at the Roman Catholic Mass is no god at all, and it must not be worshipped.

We must be firm on the truth, but we must be equally firm in our love.  No Roman Catholic is beyond the reach of God, just as you are not beyond the reach of God.  Just as, when I sin and live as though God is not my God...I am not beyond His reach either.

In the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the sins of every single one of us, Protestant or Catholic, Reformed or Baptist or Pentecostal...the sins of every single one of us who is humble before the Lord, who depends on Him only for forgiveness...each and every one of those sins is forgiven.  Washed away.  Cleansed in the blood of Christ.  Our salvation is not found in about the precision of our doctrine, but in the position of our heart.  

It’s not about the precision of your doctrine, but the position of your heart.  All those who are thus minded are invited to come celebrate with their brothers and sisters at the table of the Lord.  Our second point.

When we celebrate at the Lord’s table, we celebrate with our brothers and sisters.

And now, the question naturally arises...if we can say that Roman Catholic Christians are brothers and sisters, even if they are wayward...could we sit at the same table as a Roman Catholic for the sacrament?

And though I believe that there will be a day...that last day, the day of the Lord that lasts for all eternity...on THAT day,  I believe that we will be sitting side by side with those who were once members of the Roman Catholic Church...side by side with those who were members of the Baptist Church and the Pentecostal Church...our unity with them is not realized yet today.

No matter what denomination or church you attend...if you have truly put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, forsaking all other false sources - forsaking your own works, forsaking the help of saints, forsaking anything that you, or anything that anyone whose name is not JESUS CHRIST, has done...then the promise of God is that you are saved and you will enter into the glory and eternal favor of your God.

But that unity is not realized yet.  And though we mourn this, the solution is not to foster false unity.  And this is what some churches do.

In Winnipeg, where I grew up, each year there was what they called Ecumenical Sunday, where various churches across the city would gather together in a stadium and have a church service together.  When I was younger, I went to one of these services, thinking that it would be so wonderful to have that unity.

But what actually happened?  The gospel of Jesus Christ WAS NOT PREACHED!

  • Out of fear of offending the Roman Catholics, salvation was not preached as something by grace through faith, in Jesus Christ alone.

  • Out of fear of offending the progressive churches, God was not called Father.

  • Out of fear of offending the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus was not proclaimed as God.

  • Out of fear of offending the United Church, Christianity was not viewed as the exclusive way to God.

This is not what unity looks like.  That great multitude in heaven sings the song of praise to the Lamb who sits upon the throne at the right hand of God the Father.  The Lamb whose blood was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.  Once for all.

It is a song of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

It is a song before God the Father

It is a song recognizing Jesus as Lord and God

It is a song sung by those believing in Him alone.

Ecumenical Sunday is NOT a picture of the church in heaven.

And on this earth, because our knowledge is not complete, because we cannot see the heart, the table is not open to all.  The table is not open to all who call themselves by the name Christian, and it is not open to those of other faiths.

It is not an OPEN TABLE because it is not an EMPTY TABLE.

Rather, the Lord’s Supper functions as a double-edged sword. It is not an empty table filled with empty elements, symbolizing nothing, doing nothing for us.  But rather, as a two-edged sword, it cuts.

For the unworthy, it cuts a curse.

For the worthy, it cuts a blessing, and is a wonderful means of grace.

But what makes someone unworthy to sit at the table?  It is not, as many of us fear: sin.  Sin does not make us unworthy to sit at the table.

Let’s take a look at our catechism once more for this.

Hypocrites and those who do not repent eat and drink judgement on themselves.

Those who are unbelieving or ungodly may not eat at the table with the people of God.

To make this clear in your mind, let me give you two examples.  One from my own life, and another from church history, of a great man, defending the table of the Lord.

Once I was approached by a couple, engaged to be married, and they asked me if I would perform their wedding ceremony.  When I asked about their walk with the Lord, they said the following: “Well, we don’t really believe in God, but we would still like YOU to marry us...in a CHURCH...just so we get God’s blessings, just in case He exists.”  I don’t think you need me to tell you my answer to this couple.

The UNBELIEVING do not share in the blessings of the Lord.

And the UNGODLY will not have a seat at the table of the Lord.

In Geneva, in the 1540s, Reformer John Calvin was plagued by a group known as the Libertines.  They were those who took “freedom in Christ” as a license to give in to horrible public sins.  Faithful to Scripture, and unwavering in its application, Calvin used the keys of the kingdom and excommunicated them from the church.  One Sunday, their leader decided to take the Lord’s Supper anyways.  Coming in with a band of fellow Libertines, they marched into the church, swords drawn, ready to fight.  But with bold audacity, Calvin descended from the pulpit, stood in front of the communion table, and said, “These hands you may crush, these arms you may lop off, my life you may take...but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned and dishonour the table of my God.”  And the Libertines withdraw, no match for such unflinching conviction.

Now, these are judgements.  These are judgements that the church makes...and judgements that the church HAS to make.  These are judgements, not out of self-righteousness, but judgements made out of love.

If the Lord’s Supper cuts two ways, then the Libertines, having profaned the sacrament, would suffer the curse.  It was not cruelty and self-righteousness that made John Calvin do what he did, but it was LOVE.  It was love for the sacrament (not profaning the table), and love for his enemies, saving them from further sinning against the Lord.  They could not come to the table.

But so, who is worthy?  Who is truly worthy of coming to the table?

Your sin does not prevent you from coming to the table, for then the table would have only empty chairs around it.  No member of the church would be able to sit there.  No elder would be there to supervise.  No minister would be there to break the bread and pour the wine.

Being a sinner doesn’t disqualify you from being a partaker in the gospel.  Being a sinner doesn’t prevent you from being received in grace in Christ.  You know what being a sinner actually does?

Being a sinner...QUALIFIES YOU for salvation.  For what did our Saviour say?  "I have come to call, not the righteous, but sinners!"

And what did the Apostle Paul say?  This saying is trustworthy and true: Jesus Christ died to save...who?  SINNERS.

Being a sinner QUALIFIES you to come to the table of the Lord.

It is those sinners who look inwards.

And it is those sinners who then look upwards.

 

To eat at the table of the Lord, we must first, look inwards.

Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

Those sinners who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins.

We must rightly examine ourselves before we eat.  For if we do not recognize who WE ARE before God, then we eat falsely.  We must eat, recognizing, that in ourselves, we are not worthy to eat.

For if we come to the table, filled with pride, thinking that we can take the elements in our own strength...then we should not come.  Instead, we must be filled with awe and wonder that God could love a sinner like me.

And this is when we must look up.

Those who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins...and yet trust that these are forgiven them and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ.

We must look inwards at ourselves and our unworthiness, but then we must direct our attention to the One who makes us worthy.  We must raise our hearts on high, where Christ is, at the right hand of the Father.  We must truly believe the message of the gospel, that IT IS FINISHED.  It is finished.  There are no more sacrifices to make for our sins.  Our sins have been paid for, all that we must do is trust and believe that what Christ said is true.  We must trust and believe that He is in heaven as our advocate.  That each and every time we sin, He tells His Father: Look at ME!  I DIED for HIM.  I SUFFERED for HER.  My blood is over them, and they are forgiven.

Beloved, as Christians, we are not perfect people.  Far from it.  We are not perfect people, and yet...we are FORGIVEN PEOPLE.  We are a forgiven people.  And being forgiven means that we must have confidence with our humility.  We humbly admit: "I am not perfect."

And in awe and wonder, we confidently admit: "But because of Christ, God sees me as righteous."

There is nothing in me...not one OUNCE of goodness that is not from God.  There is no good deed, no right doctrine, no love for my neighbour that is purely mine and has not come from above by the grace of God.

But through Jesus Christ, we are a new creation.

Through Jesus Christ we are seen as holy.

Through Jesus Christ, the church is His bride, bought with His precious blood.

Beloved, the table of the Lord is not a sacrifice.  That is done.  It is not a sacrifice, but a celebration.  It is a celebration and a feast where sinners are invited.

So come.

Come, you weary and you burdened.

Come, you anxious and you downtrodden.

Come, those who mourn.

Come, those struggling with their sins

Come, those who are too tired to fight anymore, and gain the strength to fight again.

Come to the table. This meal is for you.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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