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.
The Ascension of our Lord is an often overlooked holiday, but it’s an important one. I think I first encountered this holiday when I served as a teacher in Indonesia. Despite the fact that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated the Ascension of Jesus, as Christianity is recognized (tolerated?) as one of their official religions. Anyway, Ascension Day marks the fortieth day of Easter, and recalls the story of Jesus ascending to heaven, as recorded in Luke 24 and Acts 1. So, considering that Ascension Day is not observed by some churches, why is it important? I turn to one of the Reformed confessions of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, to answer that question. The teacher asks, “How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?” The answer: “First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of the Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven—a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting God’s right hand.” So as you can see, Ascension Day is a very significant day for Followers of Jesus. What I find especially significant is the hope it brings, for in a few weeks will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, when we recall how our Lord sent down the Holy Spirit in his place, so we can grow spiritually and carry out his mission in the world. As we learn in Acts 1: the Holy Spirit makes us witnesses. So, let us worship our risen Lord, who ascended to heaven for our benefit.