Category Archives: Communion

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say, Episode 4

Standard

“Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?’

“So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God. Who are the ones that are going?’

“And Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.’

“Then he said to them, ‘The Lord had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desired.’ And Moses and Aaron said, ‘Cool, dude. That totally works for us, because the kids haven’t reached the age of accountability yet, so we don’t let them feast.'” (Exodus 10:7-11, NKJV*)

As I listened to almost the whole Pentateuch over the last few days while recovering from a nasty cold, I was struck by the fact that of all the many factors that might keep a person from participating fully in the life of the covenant community–certain categories of parentage or ethnicity, certain physical injury or illness, various bodily fluids, proximity to death, and gross abhominations that warranted not only liturgical exclusion but death–there is never the slightest mention of intellectual or mental capacity. Little children are not excluded. The elderly with dementia are not excluded. No one with developmental disabilities is excluded. Surely no one thinks that limited or diminished mental capacity was unknown to ancient people, so if it was never mentioned in regard to liturgical participation in a context where liturgical participation was highly regulated, it must be because it was a totally irrelevant factor.

So those who exclude anyone from full participation in the life of the church, including full welcome to the baptismal font and the Lord’s table, because of mental incapacity are inventing categories of exclusion that never crossed God’s mind even in Israel’s infancy when all sorts of “house rules” were in place that are no longer in force. The appalling arrogance!

I will concede that for most who follow the man-made traditions of intellectual pharisaism, it is largely a matter of ignorance rather than arrogance. And, fortunately, God is more gracious to the ignorant than the ignorant are to the ignorant. But really, the church needs to repent of these Talmudish accretions to biblical teaching.

*NKJV=New Krazy Joke Version

I Heard It Through the Grape Vine

Standard

I just got fed up enough with the state of my fridge to do a purge. And then I quickly tied up the bags and took out the garbage before the sentient life forms could escape their plastic prison. Upon my return from that errand, I got fed up enough with the state of the front garden to have a go at the grape vines that had half swallowed the lilac bush and were having a go at the house.

Grape vines are a good thing, and what well-cultivated grape vines produce is a good thing, and what yeast and time does to what the vines produce is a good thing, and what the Lord Jesus does each Sunday with what the wine and yeast have done to what the vines produce is a good thing. But just as the good vines, when growing out of place, can do bad things, so can the most correct understanding (or what we think is most correct) of what Jesus does with the fruit of the vine do bad things.

In the conservative Reformed world, we see this most often among those who are so concerned about fencing the table that they neglect to point to the gate. (And Jesus, by the way, is the Gate.) And lately I’ve seen it among some people who agree the most with me — paedocommunion, wine-only, weekly celebration — who actually advocate breaking fellowship with those who haven’t come to the same understanding. They are nuts. They are scary nuts. They have got it as wrong as the quarterly, grape juice-only, gotta-memorize-the-WLC folks, only with the claim that they are all about making the table accessible to all of God’s people.

I too often succumb to the temptation to be cranky about wrongheaded approaches to the Lord’s table — gnosticism, sacerdotalism, intellectualism — but seeing someone advocating shutting out Jesus’ people in the name of welcoming Jesus’ people rightly, I find myself quite inspired to shut my trap and love my misguided brethren.

Somewhat Stream-of-Consciousness Thoughts about Why It’s Wrong to Be Sorrowful at the Lord’s Table

Standard

1. When we confess our sins at the beginning of the service, the pastor or elder declares that we are forgiven. That means our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west. It doesn’t exist anymore. Therefore there’s nothing left for us to be sorrowful about. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we cast doubt on the efficacy of His forgiveness.

2. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. My tears can add nothing to the cleansing process. He didn’t miss any spots that I still need to scrub away on my own. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are trying to accomplish our own salvation by our work of mourning.

3. Self-flagellation accomplishes nothing. By His stripes we are healed, not by ours. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we deny the efficacy of His vicarious suffering.

4. The Lord’s Supper should draw our attention to those with whom we commune—the Lord Jesus and His body, the church. Being sorrowful over our own sin means our attention is consumed with ourselves. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are being self-centered at the worst possible moment.

5. Godly sorrow produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are engaging in worldly sorrow that leads to death.

6. One day a little boy refused to obey his father, threw a tantrum, and talked back in a rather egregious manner. The father took his son aside to apply some tender loving care to his nether region. A few swats, a few tears, a few words of apology and forgiveness, and a few hugs and kisses brought about a general change of attitude, and they abode in peace together for the rest of the afternoon. But that evening at the dinner table, the little boy wept and wailed about how sorry he was for misbehaving. Pretty soon his brothers and sisters were weeping and wailing, as well, over their past transgressions, and the whole family had a rather miserable meal. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are denying the Father’s forgiveness, and we are tempting our brothers and sisters to do likewise.

7. (Same scenario, take 2) One day a little boy refused to obey his father, threw a tantrum, and talked back in a rather egregious manner. The father took his son aside to apply some tender loving care to his nether regions. A few swats, a few tears, a few words of apology and forgiveness, and a few hugs and kisses brought about a general change of attitude, and they abode in peace together for the rest of the afternoon. But that evening at the dinner table, the father recounted the boy’s misdoings and went on at length about how disappointed and ashamed he was of his son. While he was at it, he reminded all his other kids about their past transgressions, and the whole family had a rather miserable meal. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are slanderously saying that the Father’s forgiveness is not sincere, neither for ourselves nor for our brothers and sisters.

8. One day, a wife was quarrelsome and disrespectful to her husband. Later, she was sorry for what she’d done. She apologized and he freely and gladly forgave her. They made up according to the time-honored custom of lovers everywhere. But as he kissed and caressed her, rather than joyfully receiving and returning his affection, she started weeping and kept saying over and over again, “I’m so sorry. I was such a witch today. I can’t believe the way I behaved. You must be so upset with me” and so on. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are faithlessly rejecting His love for us.

9. (Same scenario, take 2) One day, a wife was quarrelsome and disrespectful to her husband. Later, she was sorry for what she’d done. She apologized and he said that he freely and gladly forgave her. They made up according to the time-honored custom of lovers everywhere. But his kisses and caresses were accompanied by reminders of what a witch she’d been that day, how badly she’d behaved, and how he upset he still was about the things she’d said and done. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are slanderously saying He hasn’t truly given us His forgiveness and love.

10. Some people need persistent reminders that their sins have been forgiven, that Jesus loves them, that they are clean. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are throwing an anvil rather than a life preserver to weak-faithed people who are already drowning under a burden of shame.

11. The gospel is like well-functioning toilet. Forgiveness flushes away the contents, and they are gone for good. Why would we want to remember them? Why would we want the pipes to back up so we can continue to gaze upon and smell our filth? Why would we want to keep using (and never emptying) a chamber pot when we’ve got perfectly good indoor plumbing? If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are clinging to our sin and showing that we still love it more than Jesus.

12. Jesus has borne our sins on the cross. The devil wants us to believe that we still bear them ourselves. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are making it out to be the table of demons.

13. He preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. He doesn’t do so in order to hand me over to them to be tormented with shame and guilt. And He doesn’t do so in order to perpetuate His enmity with me. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we make the good Shepherd out to be a wicked trickster of a wolf.

14. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the Lamb’s wedding feast in the new heavens, where every tear is wiped away. If we are sorrowful at the Lord’s Table, we are bringing hell into heaven.