Archive for June 2010
Two years ago I wrote “They preach,” of the Lord’s supper, but it could be improved by turning the comparison on its head. Fellowship over a meal is a much clearer picture of how God relates to his people than preaching, so that preaching is itself a bit of both setting out the feast and also table talk (John 21), and evangelism is an invitation to the feast (Luke 14, Revelation 19). The Lord’s supper is not merely a picture of how God relates to us, but one of the ways that he actually, presently relates to us. It is the family meal, and we eat it in fellowship with him.
Even in Genesis 2 Moses makes much of the fact that God provided Adam and Eve with food to eat. Adam’s sin involved eating, and God’s curse after the fall meant not only that fellowship with God was broken, but also that eating would require pain and toil (Genesis 3). As God’s plan of redemption unfolds in his covenants with man, food and table fellowship are not far, so that we often speak of a covenant meal.
God gave Adam the plants of the field, and to Noah he added living things (Genesis 9): God’s covenants keep getting better! Melchizedek, who we know is a type of Christ, set before Abram a meal of bread and wine (Genesis 14). Later Abraham prepared a meal for the three strangers who visit him (Genesis 18).
The Mosaic covenant is full of covenant meals. Passover commemorates God’s deliverance from Egypt, and Israel was commanded to celebrate it throughout their generations (Exodus 12). God provided water, meat and daily bread for Israel in the wilderness; both the bread and the rock that gave the water are types of Christ. Through Moses God also established Sabbath days and years for feasting and refreshment, and a calendar of other covenant feasts throughout the year. These holy feasts were such times of rejoicing before God that grief and weeping in conviction over sin was to be put aside (Nehemiah 8). Even tithing seems to have been not simply handing things over to the Levites, but also feasting with them before God (Deuteronomy 14). “Whatever you desire” — oxen, sheep, wine, beer. Finally, sacrifices regularly involved the priests’ eating the sacrifice, and sometimes the worshipper’s eating as well (Leviticus 7, 1 Chronicles 16). Covenant meals and feasts are not merely gifts from God, but a real part of regular fellowship with God.
Even among the covenants of men we find covenant meals. Jacob and Laban established their covenant with a meal (Genesis 31). David kept his covenant with Jonathan not simply by preserving Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth, but by ensuring his food was provided for and furthermore bringing him to eat perpetually at his table (2 Samuel 9). David is certainly a type of Christ here.
Jesus was falsely accused of sin over who he shared meals with and how he ate (Luke 7). He declared that “whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6). Many turned away at this; I wonder if they were offended not so much by the suggestion of cannibalism as by the implication of human sacrifice. John certainly intended for us to connect Jesus’s statement here to the Lord’s supper, which Jesus also explicitly relates to his sacrifice in the new covenant (Luke 14).
Feasting is a deep picture of how God relates to us. Peter Leithart has this to say about covenant meals and the Lord’s supper:
[T]he rite for animal offering ends, in most cases, with a communion meal. Priests and sometimes the worshipper receive a portion of “God’s bread” to eat. Eating together is a way to make a covenant or have fellowship. Throughout the Bible, when people conclude treaties, they eat a meal together to show that they are now friends. Jacob and Laban ate together after they had made a treaty of peace between them (Genesis 31:44-55). so also, when men draw near to God, they eat with Him. The elders of Israel eat and drink in God’s presence, and He does not stretch out His hand against them (Exodus 24:9-11). The end—the goal and the conclusion—of Israelite worship is a fellowship meal with God, and this renews the covenant. Our worship in the church is the same: After we have confessed our sins, heard God’s word, and praised Him, He invites us to His table to share a meal. We don’t eat the flesh of an animal, but the flesh and blood of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus. — A House for My Name, pp. 91-92
In a way, the old debates over “where is Christ in the Lord’s supper?” are asking the wrong question. Where are we in the Lord’s supper? We are feasting together in the presence of the one who clothes us and prepares a table before us.
God welcomes all of us to table fellowship with him, and this means we ought to welcome one another in the same way. Paul is concerned that we do not exclude one another from the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 10-11), and that our table fellowship does not become an occasion for despising or judging one another (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8-10). He even admonished Peter in this (Galatians 2).
Jesus invites and welcomes you to eat and drink at his table. Take, eat!
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. — Nehemiah 8:9-12
Toby Sumpter considers the wonder of God’s love. Audio below, text here.
My song is love unknown
My Savior’s love to me
Love to the loveless shown
That we might lovely be.
Or, as Asher says, “bathtized.”
I was sprinkled as a baby and dunked at the age of 14. I expected that to be a pretty powerful spiritual experience but ended up feeling unchanged. Partly because of that, and partly because I kept coming to a better understanding of the good news, I often wished I had waited longer to be baptized. Several years ago I read something from John Piper that changed my thinking:
Many of us came to faith and were baptized at a point when we did not know very much. This is good. It is expected that baptism happens early in the Christian walk when you do not know very much. So it is also expected that you will learn later more and more of what it means. Don’t think, “Oh, I must go back and get baptized again. I didn’t know it had all this meaning.” No. No. That would mean you would be getting re-baptized with every new course you take in Biblical theology. Rather, rejoice that you expressed your simple faith in obedience to Jesus and now are learning more and more of what it all meant.
This is very comforting: God accepts us in our immaturity, and maturity is not at all what will secure our salvation. But why didn’t baptism seem to change anything? Perhaps it did, in a different way than I was expecting? What is baptism and what does it do?
Linguists call something a performative utterance if its accomplishment is wrapped up in the declaration of that accomplishment. If I say “I promise I will pay you,” my speaking is my promise. If Queen Elizabeth declares someone to be a knight, so they are! Declaring is part of a performative utterance, but so is authority: you cannot promise anyone my money; and no one but Queen Elizabeth can dub a British knight.
This is what happens in a pronouncement of marriage: a minister of God’s church, under God’s authority declares a couple man and wife, and this declaration itself accomplishes the marriage. Neither the declaration nor the exchanging of rings or vows actually causes the marriage, but altogether they do accomplish it. This, too, is what happens in baptism: a minister of God’s church, under God’s authority declares a person to belong to God and to be part of God’s family. Baptism doesn’t cause anything; we have a risen Savior and King who does that! But baptism is normally part of how God visibly accomplishes joining us to Christ.
In one sense, baptism is something we do — part of submitting ourselves to Christ. But baptism is much more God’s declaring and doing than our declaring and doing. Consider:
- Baptism takes place in the Triune name; it is done under authority.
- Baptism is done to someone. The one being baptized is not the subject but the object.
- Baptism is spoken of as accomplishing something or bringing us somewhere, in terms that seem very bold to us: it kills us, buries us, washes us, puts on, unites us, saves us. We are baptized into Christ, into his church.
- Finally, if baptism unites us to Christ (Romans 6), and if God declared over Christ that “you are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased” — at his baptism, no less — then our own baptism is certainly God’s declaration of his acceptance of and pleasure in us, in Christ.
Surely a dip in the water cannot cause all this! No, but it accomplishes it, since God has ordained to use baptism to speak and do through his church.
Are you baptized? God wants you to remember and believe and live in this truth: God loves you as his child and is pleased with you. Our Father has finalized our adoption by publicly announcing it. That is a powerful experience!
Ten years ago Lisa and I were married.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Lisa is fit for me. Ten years, and through both joys and sorrows it ever grows better. She is fit for me not least because:
- She is the fun to my serious, the extrovert to my introvert, the laugh to my ponder, the poetry to my prose.
- She exceeds me in being observant, especially of others’ cares and needs.
- She surpasses me in compassion and care for others. With our children she calls me to compassion when I am tempted to be disciplinarian.
- Altogether, she is an excellent hostess, mother and friend. She makes our home is a wonderful place to be.
- I like her cooking.
- I like her looks.
- She works hard.
- She reads.
- She is mother to our Ivy, Charlotte and Asher.
So, my love,
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
Lisa, I love you . . . I’m damn lucky that I made you my wife.
As far as we know, this is the first time Asher’s drawn a face on anything.
This is an alien; in fact, it is a bad alien. You can tell because he has mean eyes. Fortunately, Spiderman has wrapped up his arms in string. The alien tried to throw a ball, but he couldn’t because his arms are wrapped up. And then everyone heard him growl.