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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Lord's Supper is Communion
Text:LD 28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Lord's Supper
 
Added:2022-07-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Luke 22:14-30

Lesson: Lord’s Day 28

 

THE LORD’S SUPPER IS COMMUNION

  1. It is a Communion with the Past

  2. It is a Communion with God

  3. It is a Communion with Each Other

 

  1. Psalm 107:1, 2, 4

  2. Hymn 39: 1, 2, 4

  3. Psalm 133:1-2

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 134:1-3

  6. Hymn 61:1-2

 

Words to Listen For: milk, spear, Mars, sixth, mixture

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why is the bread broken?  In what 2 ways was Jesus’ body broken?

  2. Why is the wine poured out?  In what 3 ways was Jesus’ blood shed?

  3. Are Jesus’ words more important than the Apostle Paul’s?  Why or why not?

  4. What do the Roman Catholic believe about the bread and wine?  The Lutherans?  The Reformed?

  5. How are we the same as unbelievers in Revelation 6?  How are we different?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

Growing up, I would often pass by a public school building with a beautiful mural painted on the wall.

Covering an entire outside wall of the school was this beautiful painting of a tree, and under it, children reading and writing.  The caption above it reads: Give your child just two things: one is roots, the other wings.

And it got me thinking this week...this catchy saying...written initially for teachers and children, is also true for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

The original meaning of this saying is that education is meant to give children a solid foundation of facts, of the necessary skills needed to make it in this world, while at the same time, fostering creativity and inspiration to do great things.

The Lord’s Supper, although not identical, can be seen in a similar way.  In the Lord’s Supper, we can say that we look back with our head in the clouds, and our feet on the ground.  And this is possible through the three types of communion that we experience in this sacrament.  Let’s learn this afternoon how 

THE LORD’S SUPPER IS COMMUNION

  1. It is a Communion with the Past

  2. It is a Communion with God

  3. It is a Communion with Each Other

 

The Lord’s Supper is a Communion with the Past

It is interesting that there are so many different names for this sacrament in different churches, isn’t it?

     The Roman Catholics refer to it as Eucharist, meaning Thanksgiving

     Many traditional Protestant Churches, like ours, call it The Lord’s Supper which is accurate, if rather uninspired terminology.

     But there is another term that is used.  In the broader Evangelical churches, calling this sacrament Communion has become common.

Let’s reflect on this terminology just briefly together.

Communion has the meaning of getting together.  It has the idea of sharing.  It has the idea of unity.

And if we aren’t careful, if we are not intentional about our terminology, and defining our terms, this sacrament can simply become a meal of fellowship with the other members of the church.  And though this is an important aspect, as we will see in our third point, it does not describe everything that the sacrament is.

So let’s begin with the first aspect of communion, communion with the past.

This is first, not because it is the most important, but it is first simply because this is how our Lord’s Day starts.

     How does the Lord’s Supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?

     In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him.

This is also what our Lord said in our reading, after giving His disciples the bread, He said: Do this in remembrance of me.

And this is an important aspect of our celebration.

Just as the preaching is always meant to draw your attention to the saving work of the cross of Christ, so too are the sacraments meant to do that.

Though it was quite a while ago now, cast your mind back to the sermon introducing the sacraments.  The sermon on Lord’s Day 25.  At that time, I used the metaphor of fountain to describe them.

Imagine a fountain.  Picture it in your mind.  A tall fountain, 30 feet high.  This is the fountain of grace.  The water shoots out from the source at the top and then comes down through the various tiers.  One tier, or one bowl after the other.  In this particular fountain, God’s fountain of grace, there are 2 tiers.  

The source of all good things is our God

The 2 tiers stand for the means of grace.  The preaching of the Word, and the sacraments.  The sacrament of holy baptism, and the sacrament of holy supper.

Each one of these, the preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, are meant to draw your attention to the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  And of the three, perhaps the Lord’s Supper does this most clearly.

The bread is broken before our eyes.  Maybe the children notice this...when I break the bread, I lift my hands up so that you can see.  The bread is broken before your eyes.

And the wine.  I know for a fact that you notice this, children.  We’ve had conversations about it.  Some of you, when you have me over at your house, try to pour the milk or the water like I pour the wine.  Lifting the pitcher up quite high, so you can see the red wine being poured out.

Neither of these things are accidental, beloved.  But these are done so that you can have a picture of what happened all those years ago on that cross.

The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.  Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was broken for the complete forgiveness of our sins.

The bread is broken

    Because Jesus’ body was broken.

It is important to note here that Jesus’ body was broken in 2 ways, and was not broken in one way.

Our Lord’s blessed body had no broken bones.  Though for most crucifixions, there came a time when the legs of the condemned men were broken to speed up the death (this happened to the two criminals crucified on either side of him), for Christ, to fulfill the Scriptures, none of His bones were broken, for He had already given up His spirit and died.

His bones were not broken, but His body was.

We could say that His body was broken in two ways.  It was broken in the sense that it refused to function properly anymore.  The body is not meant to be whipped and beaten.  The body is not meant to have thorns stuck in it, or nails put through the wrists and the feet.  The body is not meant to be hung on a cross, bleeding out, while you struggle for breath.  Jesus Christ had a broken body.

And it was broken in another, perhaps even more important way.  Jesus body was broken in the ultimate way when He died.  His spirit left His body, and there was no longer any life in Him.  A separation.  Just as the two pieces of bread are broken and separated, so too was Christ’s body and spirit.

The bread shows the brokenness of the body, and the wine shows the shedding of blood.  The shedding of blood.  We heard in our call to worship this afternoon, that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

The wine is poured out

     Because our Lord’s blood was poured out

The cup of blessing, for which we give thanks, is the communion of the blood of Christ.  Take, drink from it all of you, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was poured out for all our sins.

And just like the body was broken in different ways, the blood was poured out in 3 distinct ways.

First of all, we confess that the weight of the wrath of God caused by our sins pressed out of him sweat like drops of blood falling on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There was blood that was shed as the weight of the wrath of God became heavier and heavier upon our Saviour as He drew nearer and nearer to the cross.

And then there was the blood caused by His torture and crucifixion.  The blood on His brow by the crown of thorns.  The blood on his back from the whips and scourages.  The blood on His wrists and His feet from the nails.  On that cross, as He became sin for us, that sin was punished by God.

And thirdly, there was blood that was shed when the soldier pierced His side.  A soldier came up and thrust a spear into our Lord’s side, and blood and water came out.  This showed He was dead.

Our Lord’s blood was shed, through suffering, through dying, and in death itself.

And so, beloved, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, our first communion is a communion, a connection, a unity with the past.  Christ’s physical body was broken so that His spiritual body, the church, could be whole.

Christ’s blood was shed in horrific ways so that His people would be cleansed and beautiful in the eyes of God.

This is what He did...for you and for me.  It is all too easy to think of this in an abstract or removed way.  This is what Christ did for THE CHURCH.  But that’s you...that’s me.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper...it is personal.  This is shown in the individualistic language used in Question and answer 75.  It’s not just about the group...it’s about you as an individual Christian.

Each one of us must begin by looking back, but we must not pause there.  Instead, we must look up and have that vertical communion with God.  Our second point.

There is a point to us looking back, and it is for us to then shift our eyes upwards and see what that historical earthly event did to our heavenly status before God, and what happens in heaven when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper here on earth.

There are those who stop after looking back. They say that this is the only function of the Lord’s Supper.  After all, Jesus Christ said “do this in remembrance of me.”  When we remember, are we not obeying our Lord’s command?

On the one hand we are, but on the other hand, we are making the mistake of so many Christians.  I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of thing before…

Did you know...Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.  Must not be an important thing to God then.

Or...this one I heard at Bible college… Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  He didn’t say, “All authority has been given to the book that one day my disciples will write.”

Unfortunately, this comes as a result of a lack of understanding of Scripture.  Each and every word of it is inspired by God the Holy Spirit.  Each and every word, whether the words are quotations of Jesus (sometimes in red letters), or quotations from God the Father, or the instructions of the Spirit-inspired apostles.

The Apostle Paul was specially commissioned for God’s work.  He was an Apostle to the Gentiles.  Some of that was in person, but a lot of it was through letters.  And in the letters of Paul, we see clarified some of the teachings of Jesus.  Just as authoritative, even though Paul is so much less than our Saviour...Paul’s words are inspired by the same God.

And the Apostle Paul has some specific instructions for the Corinthians when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  It is not simply a memorial meal, much like a sermon in visual form...for Paul would go far and wide, preaching to all those who would listen to him, from the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill, to the Philippian Jailer, to the Roman soldiers he was chained to during his house arrest.

But Paul warns the Corinthians not to eat in an unworthy manner.  He tells them that so many of them have died because they aren’t properly celebrating.  Clearly this different than the preaching.

And that is because of the vertical and horizontal communion that is tied up in this celebration.  There is, first of all, the vertical communion with God.

Through the sacrament of Lord’s Supper, we share a special unity with God.  But how is this done?  How do we have this unity beloved?

The unity is not found IN the elements, that is, the bread and the wine, but it is found THROUGH them.  Let me explain.

     Though the Roman church will have you believe that the bread and wine transform into the body and the blood…

     Though the Lutheran church will have you believe that Christ comes down from heaven and is spiritually present in the bread and the wine…

 

Neither is the faithful teaching of Scripture.

When Christ proclaims, This is my body, He does so in a metaphorical way.

Just as, when Jesus says, “I AM the door for the sheep,” He does not mean that He is made of wood.  That He has a handle, and that He is out in a field somewhere.  But instead, He compares Himself to the door for the sheep.

And so it is here as well.  The bread in His hand at that first communion, can be compared to His body.  It is a sign of His body.

More on the Roman Catholic view in the next Lord's Day.

But the Lutheran view is also not quite accurate.  For the book of Mark, the book of Acts, Philippians, Hebrews, Revelation, and likely many others speak of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.  This is where He is.  This is where He is meant to be worshipped.  And so, He does not come down off of His heavenly throne each time the Lord’s Supper is had, and is present there spiritually.  We do not drag out Saviour down when we celebrate, but instead, mysteriously, mystically, we are taken up to Him.

This is what our form means when it says, We must not cling with our hearts to the outward symbols of bread and wine, but lift our hearts on high in heaven, where Christ, our advocate is, at the right hand of His heavenly Father.

John Calvin put it like this: In the Lord’s Supper, Christ is present, not by descending to us, but rather, by Him raising us up to Himself.

Lest this be too difficult for us to understand, Calvin adds these words:  I will not be ashamed to confess that it is too high a mystery either for my mind to comprehend or my words to express; and to speak more plainly, I rather feel than understand it.

This is the teaching of Scripture.  It does not matter whether we can understand it or not...and, truthfully, who among us is bold enough, or presumptuous enough to claim that they know exactly how God Himself works?

But, through the Lord’s Supper, Christ Jesus is not dragged down to our level.  He is not hidden somewhere under the bread.  He is not mixed in with the wine, but instead, we are brought up to Him!  Spiritually into Heaven, before the throne of God, where Christ is seated, and we are unified with Him.

He was already on earth with His human body.  He came down in the flesh, and He did this once for all.  His glorified body resides in heaven...and THAT is where we join Him in our celebration.

We, humble sinners, now called to be saints, are unified with Christ.  And the only way that we have this union with Him, is through what was accomplished on the cross.

Our souls are nourished and refreshed to eternal life with His crucified body and shed blood.

It is through what was accomplished on the cross that we are right with God.  There is nothing we can do.  No words that we can say with our mouth, no feelings we can feel with our heart, no bread we can eat, or wine we can drink, that will make us right with God.

But instead, it is only through the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross that this kind of communion is possible.  And we must remember that.  As wonderful and powerful, and grace-filled as the meal is, our salvation is not found at the table.  It is a table of blessing, not a table of salvation.  We are reminded of what God has done for us through Christ, but it was done once.

Through baptism, we are covered with that blood, and in the Lord’s Supper, we are partakers in it.

Let me, very briefly, before moving on to our last point, share with you, perhaps one of the most important contrasts between believers and unbelievers when it comes to the judgement of God.

Turn with me, if you will, to Revelation chapter 6.

Revelation 6 talks about the seven seals.  Each of these seals, able to be opened because of the Lamb (our Lord Jesus Christ) in chapter 5, contains a different action that must come before the end.  The conquering of the earth, the taking of peace, the taking of life, etc.  And I want to draw your attention to the sixth seal being opened.  This seal is a great earthquake that comes upon the earth.  And John sets the scene for us.  Let’s pick it up at verse 15 and read to the end of the chapter.

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the general and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves, and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

This is the cry of the unbelievers, great and small.  They cower before the judgement of God.

And as believers, we have a different cry, but it is not as different as we may think.  For when the day of God’s wrath comes, we are not able to stand on our own.  We will also cry out.  But here is the difference.

Where the unbelievers cry out for death, they cry out to not appear before God’s throne of judgement, crying out for the rocks to cover them...we cry out to be covered as well.  But covered, not with rocks, but instead, crying out to be covered with the blood of Christ.

We will cry out to our God, Please, cover us with your blood!  See us as redeemed people, and no longer sinners!  Work in us, so that one day, we will be finally washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, and never again sin.  We do not want death away from the throne, but we want life before it!

That small taste of the vertical communion that we experience through the Lord’s Supper...we eagerly desire that communion forever with our God.

But our communion is not only with God.  Though our worship is unquestionably PERSONAL, it is never meant to be PRIVATE.

Just as Adam was not meant to be alone in the Garden of Eden, so we too are not meant to be alone in our worship.  Our communion must be with God, first and foremost, but, even as it extends vertically, it must also extend horizontally.  Our final point.

The Lord’s Supper is a meal that is not meant to be celebrated privately.  It is not meant to be celebrated individually, but rather, it should be done communally.  As a group.  And not any group, not just a group of your friends who get together on a Friday night, but rather, it is a holy meal that should be celebrated properly.  Reverently.  But also joyfully.

It is the meal of the redeemed.  It is a meal for the soul.  A spiritual feast.

We heard earlier that question and answer 75 intentionally use individualistic language...but did you notice the shift?  In question and answer 76, it shifts to communal language.

This is a meal for us to celebrate...personally...but also all together.

And there are times when this is difficult for us to do.  When there is a virus sweeping across the world and everything is different, or something else that we can't even imagine now...there are times when this celebration is changed or delayed...

And wherever we might be at with this personally in our lives, whether frustration, fear, or a mixture of both...it is safe to say that when we cannot celebrate the Lord’s Supper in person as a congregation, it is difficult for us.  It is difficult for me.

Because, being at that table together shows equality.  Whether you are an office-bearer or not, you need the blood of Christ to cry out on your behalf before the throne.

Whether you are male or female, whether you professed your faith decades ago, or just last year...at the table of God, we are equal.  We are equally needy.  We are equally sinful.  We are equally forgiven, and we are equally loved by our God

The table shows our equality, and the table shows our unity.

We are the redeemed people, coming for a meal of redemption.  Our souls are united to God with the blood of Christ, but our souls are also united to each other by the blood and by the Spirit.

We are made one body by the body and blood of our Lord.

And through this meal, we grow ever closer together.  Ever closer to Him, and ever closer to each other.

This is what our catechism says

What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink His shed blood?

To be united more and more to His sacred body through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us.

We forever live and are governed by one Spirit, as the members of our body are by one soul.

Do you notice that every aspect of answer 76 of the catechism is stated in the plural?

This meal is not meant to be eaten alone, in a dark corner, hoping to gain favor with God.  When we love God, we love His body.

When we love God, we love His bride.  We may be weak. We may feel division, over what has happened this past year, and what has happened in the years before that.  But congregation, let us strive for unity.

It is not unity at all costs, unity at the expense of the truth...but the wonderful thing is, the best thing about the church is...that we are not united by weak human things.

     We are not united because we live in the same neighbourhood.

     We are not united because we have the same fashion sense.

     We are not united in our view of the government or public health.

But we are united as those who believe the ultimate truth.  This is what we are united IN...but not what we are united BY.

We are united as sinners gathered at the foot of the cross of Christ.

And it is our Saviour who unites us.  It isn’t us worshipping together...it is HIM, loving us.  Pouring out His abundant mercy on us.  This is what holds us together.

He has united us as struggling, sinful saints.

As those who have been shown the light.  Those who have been shown grace and mercy.  Those who have gained salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We look to the past as our foundation.  These are our roots, firm and sure.

We look up to the Heavenly throne, and the Spirit gives our heart wings to be united with our Lord in His glorified state.

And we look around to see each other, rooted in the same history, trusting in the cross of Christ, and praising Him on high.

 

This is the unity that God loves.

This is the unity that God blesses.

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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