Friday, 22 October 2010
The Feast That Makes You Clean
Where do we go when we feel dirty, not just once but again and again?
To Jesus? Yes. But not just to Jesus in our private times of prayer and Bible reading. We need to go to Jesus together, gathering weekly with the body of believers to which we’ve joined ourselves so we can hear the word of God preached and receive communion.
Until now on this blog I’ve been talking about Jesus and me. Now I want to begin talking about Jesus and us.
This is God’s provision for our subjective sense that we are dirty. It’s the objective voice we need to hear in order to silence the voices in our heads. It’s the drama of redemption reenacted weekly with us as participants, not just audience. It’s the chance not just to hear, but to ingest the sacrifice that has made us clean.
In short, it’s a feast, the feast that he has commanded us to eat until the day we eat it with him in his kingdom.
Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast. 1 Corinthians 5:7
I just got the weekly email from our church that gives the order of worship for Sunday. I love seeing the songs we’ll be singing and the Scriptures that are going to be read. I especially love to see the way the service tells the story of our salvation.
It takes me through the ups and downs that have characterized my private faith during the week:
- God calling me to worship out of whatever distraction I’m facing,
- my reawakened desire to worship him,
- my awareness of being unclean,
- my confessions,
- his assurance of forgiveness,
- the chance to feed on his word,
- the call to feed on his sacrifice.
These personal experiences haven’t necessarily been an orderly progression for me. No, my life is messy. But when I join the company of believers on Sunday, we will worship through the sequence in order, ordering our lives according to God’s story, clean ones confessing our sins and receiving the assurance. Together.
The liturgy is a tonic for my individualistic faith. After all, I’m an American. Community doesn’t come naturally to me.
The Preached Word
God knows that I don’t always understand my Bible. Parts of it confuse me. Other parts have been misinterpreted by me. Some parts I skip altogether. A combination of laziness, ignorance, and personal preference keep me from the full feast of Scripture. That’s why God wants me to receive the preached word, not just the devotional word.
Calvin puts it this way
But as our ignorance and sloth (I may add, the vanity of our mind) stand in need of external helps…God, in accommodation to our infirmity, has added such helps, and secured the effectual preaching of the gospel, by depositing this treasure with the church.
Jesus told his disciples, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” The truth of the gospel has made me clean. That same cleansing, sanctifying word is the one I need to hear from my pastor. It is the primary means of God’s grace to feed my soul. Hearing it, not just in my head, but spoken to me by another helps me receive it as the gift that it is. A Word outside my words.
In the celebration of communion we go from words to senses. Jesus, now exalted in heaven, can feel far away. In the Supper we hear his words addressed to us. “Take, eat. This is my body.” We remember by putting the bread into our mouths. We chew and swallow. We drink the cup. The One who is far away comes very near, not just to us, but into us. Christ in me. All that he is–in me.
It’s more than remembering. It’s internalizing. Faith hasn’t yet become sight, but common things become a tool in God’s hand reassuring us, It’s real. It’s true. It’s for you.
Calvin explains the usefulness and comfort of receiving communion:
For seeing we are shut up in the prison of the body, and have not yet attained to the rank of angels, God, in accommodation to our capacity, has in his admirable providence provided a method by which, though widely separated, we might still draw near to him.
We draw near together, passing the bread, passing the cup, experiencing the truth that he isn’t just mine, he’s ours. This feast isn’t meant to be eaten alone. It’s food for a party of his people. It’s a celebration that he commanded for our joy.
What kind of God commands a feast? The God who knows what we are made for–clean and celebrating in his Presence forever.