More than a Memory (Means of Grace #5)

As I write, a friend of mine is taking part in The Race (www.therace.ie). It’s a 250 km endurance event in Ireland that starts with a half marathon, followed by kayaking 15km in the sea, cycling 96km in the hills, running up and down a mountain, cycling a further 70km, and a finishing with a final marathon on roads and trails. All inside 24 hours. And it’s cold, wet and windy.

Stamina and mental fortitude are key, but absolutely vital are the feeding stations along the way. Not even the best athlete could go without sustenance.

God has provided his people with refuelling points along our journey where his spiritual power, change, help, fortitude and blessings flow into our lives. These are called his means of grace. The Lord’s Supper is one of these fountains of grace provided for our nourishment.

In the Lord’s Supper we remember and relate. In this moment the risen living Lord draws near to his people to bless them. Because of that, the Lord’s Supper is more than a memory.

The risen Christ meets with and blesses those who have put their trust in him. But it doesn’t come automatically. This refuelling is done by active faith—not simply saving faith, but the present activity of faith as we partake. We are not to be passive, but active. Robert Reymond highlights this: “Those who come should come as to a banquet table expecting to be fed with the richest food available to mankind.”

What does this faith or expectation look like? Let me point out three directions for our faith:

Look back in faith to Christ’s work on the Cross

The Passover was a yearly rehearsal of the glorious rescue of God’s people from slavery. They lived because a lamb had died, because they had sheltered under its blood. In AD 30 a young man sat with his friends at a Passover meal. He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and handed it to them with a new significance: “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Like the Lamb, whose bones sat on the table before them, his body would bring freedom. His blood would protect from judgment. And he wanted his people to remember.

He knows that the pressures of the present cloud the past, so he gives us something in the present to draw our eyes to the past. The Lord’s Supper turns our heads to Golgotha, not in sentimentalism, but to remember its unique meaning.

This is where we need to see by faith, beyond what is happening to what did happen. An old Reformed Presbyterian minister Thomas Houston gives the most wonderful instruction on this. Let me summarise it:

Mark carefully the words and actions of the minister. Each is ordained by God to underline what happened. As the minister re-enacts what Christ did—don’t see it as the pre-amble to getting the bread and wine—see past the minister to Christ.

As the minister takes the bread and wine, see Christ holding these symbols of his body and blood—a body that he did not need to have. Why did he have a body? So he could live and die for you. By the eyes of faith, see Christ taking a body to himself, so he could be your saviour.

As the minister gives thanks, hear Jesus giving thanks. He gave thanks for these symbols of his body about to be broken, and his blood about to be poured out. He gave thanks for the ability to die for his people! For your sins and mine.

As the minister breaks the bread, see past the bread to Christ, pierced, crushed, broken.

As the minister gives the bread and wine to the elders to distribute, see with the eyes of faith Christ standing there and saying, “This is for you. I’ve paid for you. My body was broken, so yours wouldn’t have to be. My blood was shed so yours wouldn’t have to be.”

As you take the bread and wine, see past it to your taking of Christ’s life and death to be yours. His death is mine, and his life is mine.

Use every God-designed and God-ordained word and action in the Supper to point you to Christ—see and hear Him by faith.

Look up in faith to Christ’s provision from Heaven

The Lord’s Supper is more than a memory. It is something living and active. Christ is no longer dead. His flesh and blood, once broken and shed are united and are seated on the throne of grace in Heaven.

It is his table, and here we meet with him. And he meets with us, to supply us with what we need.

So we must look up in faith. He knows what each of us need. He sits as priest and king on the throne to dispense his purchased blessings to his people.

Do you come to the table battling a particular sin? Believe that you are forgiven, and equipped with all you need to fight.

Do you come needing grace for trial? Feeling that you just can’t go on? At the table look up, see how much Christ has already given, and know that he will supply all you need. His grace is sufficient.

Do you come with worries about tomorrow? Here is God’s assurance to you that he is near, at your right hand. He will keep you.

But most of all, he offers himself. This is what communion is. We get Christ. More of Christ. More awareness of his love, and power, his tenderness, his help, his nearness, his victory over sin which is ours, his all-sufficiency, his being our portion, enough to offset all our losses and hurts in this life.

We should be looking heavenward expecting Christ to give us more of himself in communion.

Look ahead in faith to Christ’s Promised Return

The Bible starts with a table spread by God in a garden with guests, Adam and Eve—all is perfect. A sinful eating ruins it all. But it ends with a wedding feast between Christ and his bride—and all is perfect again. Every Lord’s Supper, as well as looking back, is a looking forward to what will be restored.

Jesus underlined this at the Last Supper. Commentators tell us that on the Passover table stood four cups of wine, to be drunk at different points in the meal, each linked to promises God had made.

Jesus left the last—the cup of consummation—undrunk, saying, “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt 26:29)

Like a cup of coffee left sitting while someone goes to answer the door saying, “I’m not finished with that yet”, this fourth cup sits in scripture untouched reminding us that one day Christ is coming back for us. Our communion services are unfinished meals. We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Like the first disciples we should arise from the table eagerly looking forward to the day when we drink it with Jesus in His Father’s kingdom.

Here is a glorious reminder that the best is yet to come. Here is a reminder that great joy and fellowship awaits us. Jesus is saying to us, “This isn’t it, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Faith sits at the table and looks past the table. It sees a table spread in Heaven for us. Faith sees the people of God from Adam to the last believing member of your church or family to pass into glory sitting at that table.

Faith works at looking forward. Faith comes with our brokenness, sits with our brokenness in a broken world, and sees beyond the brokenness to a wedding feast. To joy, to celebration.

Conclusion

This is the fuel that propels you through this vandalised world. Every time you come to the Lord’s Supper Christ is there waiting to provide you all that you need to be refreshed for the journey.

Let’s us come expecting to be fed with the richest of food.

3 Comments

  1. Doug Wallace March 6, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    Thank you Mark! This is a nice series & very helpful.

    • Mark Loughridge March 7, 2016 at 7:00 am #

      Thanks Doug for your encouragement – I realise that the articles are longer than usual for blog posts, so I’m glad if people take the time to read them! Hopefully they’ll be of benefit.

      • Doug Wallace March 7, 2016 at 10:37 am #

        They are well worth the time to read, Mark.

        Doug (a URCNA brother)

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