In my last blog post in this series, we talked about the Sermon, which is God’s Word proclaimed to the people. Every good sermon preaches the gospel—the good news of how God has saved us from our sin and misery through the shed blood of Christ. Having heard the gospel, now we illustrate it and take it in, as it were, through the Lord’s Supper. Also called Holy Communion, this sacrament means many things. It nourishes us spiritually for the Christian life. It unifies us as a body of Christ, the church. It assures us that we share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross. Communion is more than just about remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is a sign and seal of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. So that as we eat the bread and wine, we are assured that Jesus died for us too, and that our sins are truly forgiven. As the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism say, “As surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his blood was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.” So we receive an assurance of our salvation through this sacred meal. Perhaps that is more than enough. But I like how Professor Jamie Smith describes this meal as having “supper with the King” (Desiring the Kingdom [Baker Academic], 197). It is a reminder that one day we will eat another meal with the risen and reigning Lord: the wedding feast of the Lamb. As Jesus says to the disciples at his Last Supper with them: “For I tell you that I will not eat again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:16) How blessed we are that God uses the basic stuff of earth—bread and wine—to assures us of the gospel and nourish us unto salvation. How blessed we are to have a King that invites us to eat with him at his table, where we are formed spiritually for his kingdom service, and assured that we belong to him. So let us lift up our hearts to the Lord through the sacrament of Communion.
A couple of weeks ago I ran into one of my fellow pastors at the local hospital, where I was visiting someone. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “I’m praying for a miracle!” When I asked what he meant, he said that his church was having some financial struggles. They had a large bill to pay and they lacked the funds. So, he was praying for a miracle. I responded by saying the miracle was coming: the resurrection of our Lord! In saying that I wasn’t minimizing their financial struggle. We should pray for such things and trust the Lord to provide. But the fact is that the resurrection of our Lord is a great miracle that gives us significant hope. So that we can endure with perseverance the challenges we face in life, be they financial or otherwise. Every year we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. As we should. As this is the climax of our Christian Year and life. N. T. Wright calls the resurrection of Jesus, and our future resurrection, as a surprising hope that demands a response. As he writes in his book, Surprised by Hope (Harper One 2008): “Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, as his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” (p. 56) During the season of Easter (all 50 days!) we are invited to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord as we worship, feast and play together. But we’re also invited to tell others this good news. And I suggest the best way to do that today is through personal testimony. Telling your faith story to others. As you develop relationships with them. Have a blessed Easter season!
Last week I had the privilege of meeting with my “company of pastors” (a number of Christian Reformed pastors in this area). As usual, it was good to talk about what is going on in our lives over a pizza meal. We also read an article in preparation for our meetings. This time it was one on singleness in the church. Through this article we explored various perspectives on singleness, which led to a discussion on how to enfold single people in the church more effectively. I was left with one major application: extend hospitality. Not just to singles, but to all people. I wonder how we can grow in our ministry of hospitality as a church but also as a people. We claim to be a hospitable church. But what does that hospitality look like, and how can we increase it? And what exactly is hospitality? I’m currently reading a book by Henri Nouwen called, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Doubleday, 1975). According to Nouwen, the second movement of the spiritual life is from hostility to hospitality. As he explores this movement, he does a good job defining hospitality: “Hospitality . . . means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place.” (p. 71) I like this definition of hospitality. Perhaps it is a helpful measure for us as we reflect on our lives. Are we hospitable? Do we seek to extend hospitality to others (including singles)? And what does that hospitality look like? . . . May our hospitable God empower us to extend hospitality to each other, to this community, and to the world. For Jesus’s sake.