The Perfect Worshiper (2)

In union with its heavenly Lord the Church on earth worships, looking back to what He did once on Calvary and looking up to what He now is with the Father. It is a worship in Christ and through Christ. If it be called a worship of sacrificial offering, it is so because it is through Christ who is high-priest: ‘through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name’ (Heb. 13:15). If it be called a worship of glorifying, it is so because it is through Christ who glorifies the Father: ‘wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us’ (2 Cor. 1:20).

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 94-95

The Perfect Worshiper

The perfect act of worship is seen only in the Son of Man. By Him alone there is made the perfect acknowledgment upon earth of the glory of God and the perfect response to it. On the one hand the prophetic revelation of the glory of God is summed up in Him as He is Himself the glory of which the prophets, all unknowing, spake (cf. John xii, 41). On the other hand the ancient sacrifices are fulfilled in Him as He, priest and victim, makes the rational offering of His will in Gethsemane and on the Cross. In Christ the praise of God, the wonder before God, the thirst for God, the zeal for God’s righteousness, which fill the pages of the Psalter, find pure and flawless utterance. And in Him too man’s contrition for his own sin and the sin of the race finds its perfect expression; for the sinless Christ made before God that perfect acknowledgment of man’s sin which man cannot make for himself.

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 93

Come to the Table 14

The Lord’s Supper was never conceived in the early Church, as it came to be by some in later times, as a solemn wake held in sad remembrance of One who died. From the beginning it was a meal of fellowship, dominated by thanksgiving offered in praise, wonder, and adoration of the Lord of life who had broken the bonds of death and was alive for evermore, really and eternally present with His people.

—William D. Maxwell, Concerning Worship, 14

Come to the Table 13

SEVEN ASPECTS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

1. Remembrance: The Lord’s Supper as a Memorial  (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

2. Communion: The Lord’s Supper as Fellowship with Christ and with One Another  (1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-34)

3. Forgiveness: The Lord’s Supper as a Table of Mercy  (Matthew 26:26-28)

4. Covenant: The Lord’s Supper as a Renewal of Baptismal Vows  (Mark 14:22-25)

5. Nourishment: The Lord’s Supper as Bread from Heaven  (John 6:35-58)

6. Anticipation: The Lord’s Supper as a Declaration of Hope  (Luke 22:14-27)

7. Eucharist: The Lord’s Supper as a Joyous Thanksgiving Celebration  (Acts 2:46-47)


—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church

Come to the Table 12

I don’t think we can ever say too much about the importance of an active exercise of mind and heart at the communion service. . . .

Holy Communion demands us of private preparation of heart before the Lord before we come to the table. We need to prepare ourselves for fellowship with Jesus Christ the Lord, who meets us in this ceremony. We should think of Him both as the host of the communion table and as enthroned on the true Mount Zion referred to in Hebrews 12, the city of the living God where the glorified saints and the angels are.

The Lord from His throne catches us up by His Spirit and brings us into fellowship with himself there in glory. He certainly comes down to meet us here, but He then catches us up into fellowship with Him and the great host of others who are eternally worshipping Him there.

We are also to learn the divinely intended discipline of drawing assurance from the sacrament. We should be saying in our hearts, ‘as sure as I see and touch and taste this bread and this wine, so sure it is that Jesus Christ is not a fancy but a fact, that He is for real, and that He offers himself to be my Saviour, my Bread of Life, and my Guide to glory. He has left me this rite, this gesture, this token, this ritual action as a guarantee of this grace; He instituted it, and it is a sign of life-giving union with Him, and I’m taking part in it, and thus I know that I am His and He is mine forever.’ That is the assurance that we should be drawing from our sharing in the Lord’s Supper every time we come to the table.

And then we must realize something of our togetherness in Christ with the rest of the congregation. . . . [We should reject the] strange perverse idea . . . that the Lord’s Supper is a flight of the alone to the Alone: it is my communion I come to make, not our communion in which I come to share. You can’t imagine a more radical denial of the Gospel than that.

The communion table must bring to us a deeper realization of our fellowship together. If I go into a church for a communion service where not too many folk are present, to me it is a matter of conscience to sit beside someone. This togetherness is part of what is involved in sharing in eucharistic worship in a way that edifies.

—J. I. Packer, “The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper,” in Serving the People of God, vol. 2 of Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, 49-50

Come to the Table 11

The Lord’s Supper is the meal of the church, the body of Christ, and our basis for gathering around this table is not our blood affiliation but the fact that we have been called together by Christ.  This meal, in the language of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” is the holy food of the faith community:

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 54

Come to the Table 10

There is no place for solitary communion. The Lord’s Supper is, by its very nature, a corporate event—a meal of the community, not the individual. This is not to discount the place of personal, private prayer and a personal, intimate fellowship with Christ. It is rather to insist that this meal is an encounter with both Christ and the people of God. It is an act by which we are in fellowship with Christ and with others, and the two dimensions, of necessity, always go together. It is appropriate though for the elements of the Lord’s Table to be taken to those who cannot be present with the community—those in prison or whose health makes it impossible for them to be present. But then the elements themselves come from the common gathering, and this is made clear both in the common event and in the smaller celebration. The second is derivative of the first.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 55

Come to the Table 9

With the current situation of the American church in mind, we can say the following: frequent eating and drinking at the Lord’s table will inoculate the church against the Gnosticism of modern Christianity (not to mention trendy spiritualisms) that would reduce religion to a private, inner, purely “spiritual” experience; a church whose central religious rite includes baked goods is being trained in proper dominion over creation and will refuse resurgent nature worship in both its religious and political guises; a church that celebrates a feast of wine is being formed into a joyful community that contests the equation of Christian seriousness with prudishness; a church that celebrates the communal meal is bound into one body and will resist the corrosive individualism of modern culture that has too often invaded the church; a church that shares bread at the Lord’s table is learning the virtues of generosity and humility; a church that proclaims the Lord’s sacrificial death in the Supper is exercising itself in self-sacrifice and becoming immune to the lure of self-fulfillment. Not automatically, but in the context of biblical teaching and a robust community life, the skills and virtues practiced at the Lord’s table will spill over to fill the whole church with a eucharistic ethos. In short, the Supper exercises the church in the protocols of life in the presence of God.

—Peter J. Leithart, “The Way Things Really Ought to Be: Eucharist, Eschatology and Culture” Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997):176

Come to the Table 8

The eucharist became the showing forth of the death of One whom death could not hold.. .. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated not on Thursday night, the time of its institution, or on Friday afternoon, the time when our Lord died upon the Cross, but on Sunday morning, the time of His resurrection.

—William D. Maxwell, Concerning Worship, 13

Come to the Table 7

The Lord’s Supper is first and foremost an encounter with God’s love. As St. Francis de Sales counseled, “Your great intention in receiving Communion should be to advance, strengthen, and comfort yourself in the love of God.”

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 66

Come to the Table 6

The efficacy of the Lord’s Supper does not, finally, rest on our faith or our sincerity or the depth of our resolve. The energy that sustains this meal and makes it a holy meal is that which is provided through the ministry of the Spirit.

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 118

Come to the Table 5

Since Christ is the host of the meal, and very much present in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the focus and central dynamic of the event are in the present, not the past. We are not, then, reliving or reenacting a past event—neither the event of the cross nor the event of the Last Supper. We are, rather, allowing a past event to shape and inform the present. 

—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church,  40

Come to the Table 3

In New Covenant worship, the peace offering is fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper, and these passages indicate that song during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is appropriate and good. Much Eucharistic music, however, is far too slow, meditative, and melancholy, contributing powerfully to a Eucharistic piety that treats the Supper as “tomb” rather than “table.” Meditative music might occasionally be used at the Supper, but I believe that vigorous and triumphal music is far more appropriate. The Supper is a victory meal, memorializing the death that vanquished the powers and led captivity captive. It is not a moment to wallow in sorrow, but a moment to celebrate Christ the Victor.

—Peter J. Leithart, From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution, 128

Come to the Table 2

Question 75: 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?

Answer: 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. With this command He gave these promises: First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely does He Himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood. (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-25)

Heidelberg Cathechism

Come to the Table

Question 81: Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

Answer: 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, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and amend their life.

Heidelberg Cathechism