The following are expanded thoughts of what I did not have time to mention during the Communion Meditation on May 22, 2022.
Sunday’s at Grace is the celebration of God’s grace. We are commanded to worship the Lord and exult in His glory and magnify His love and goodness. His presence is there in power and fullness of joy! Come to Grace on a Sunday morning, and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
And every Sunday, we celebrate Communion. It is an ordinance, a commandment made by the Lord Jesus that we are eager to obey with pleasure and joy.
But have you ever considered the celebration of communion as a spiritual discipline, as well? What is a spiritual discipline? A crude description would be the performance of an outward action that is religious or spiritual in nature. Wait – you mean like prayer, reading my Bible, and going to worship? Why are those “crude”?
I say they are “crude” in that they are rudimentary. That's not meant to be an insult, but a commentary. If you think about it all religions have prayer, worship, and their own scripture reading.
So what sets Christian spiritual disciplines apart? Intention. Christian spiritual discipline has as its focus Jesus Christ. It should enable us to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done to conform us to the image of Christ. Conversation with God the Father (prayer) demonstrates our faith and trust in Him and belief in his desire to build an eternal relationship with him. Celebrating with him (worship), focusing on his presence, rejoicing over his promises, listening to his precepts and comingling with his people (fellowship) is a natural consequence of that faith. Christian spiritual disciplines enable us to do what must be done when it needs to be done.
Dallas Willard made this comparison: if you wanted to be a great athlete or artist, no one would say to you, "Go pole vault 18 feet and run a mile under 4 minutes” or “Go play a Chopin piano concerto tomorrow”. Instead, they would say, if you aspire to be a great athlete or artist, “enter a certain kind of overall life, one involving deep associations with qualified people as well as rigorously scheduled time, diet, and activity for the mind and body.” (The Spirit of the Disciplines, 8). Christians are disciples. Disciples by implication do disciplines that need to be done to conform us to the image of Christ.
So what needs to be done in communion?
At the least, it is to please the Lord Jesus by obedience in remembrance of what he’s done for us. That in itself is sufficient!
But as with all of the gifts of God, there are depths and intricacies. It just takes a little contemplation.
Consider this: In Matthew 26:39, Jesus, anguished by his impending arrest, torture, and villainous death and separation from God, cries out to the Father: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And we know, of course, that the Father responds in essense, "No. I will not take this cup from you. You will drink all of its poison, its gall and bitterness down to the dregs."
Here’s something interesting: Did you know that this was not the first time a man of God was called to take a cup of wrath? Jeremiah 25:15-17 says, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.” So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it". The difference, though, was that Jeremiah forced the nations to drink the cup of wrath. Our Lord, by contrast, drank our wrath for us.
The blessing get’s better. What is Jesus' promise to us? If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Jn 15:7-8
What a contrast! The Father's Great No to his only Begotten, and the Great Yes, to His Son's disciples? How can this be? He gets pain, we get gain; He drinks wrath, we drink eternal life; he dies, we rise.
This is the majesty and mystery of communion: The Father intends for the world to see his Son - and by proxy, his sons and daughters - bring glory to Himself by the manifestation of our loving obedience to him. If you listen to Rick’s message this week, you’ll discover the importance of God’s people as his witnesses.
But let us consider now:
How shall the Father glorify himself through us, this week, as we demonstrate to the world our discipleship?
I don't know. But perhaps, as we come to the Table, as we take up our cup and bread, we can avail ourselves to God: "Father, make me like your Son. I pledge to saturate myself with your word so I can recognize what and when to ask. I pledge to be the nexus of your authority and your Gospel so that I may bear much fruit for you."
We know that folks with weakened immune systems should be very wary of public attendance at anything. But for must of us, if you've gotten out of habit, or if it's become more of an option than an eagerness, I encourage you to be intentional in what God intends to do in your life: engage in the discipline of worship; engage in the discipline of prayer; engage in the discipline of fellowship; engage in the discipline of praise; engage in the discipline of serving; engage in the discipline of communion ... engage with God that which is the only thing that matters: His glory.