April 5th, 2020 - Preparing for the Lord's Day
Preparing for the Lord's Day
In Philippians 4 the imprisoned Apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” It seems a strange command for him to give when his own situation is so dire. However, that is what makes the command so powerful. For we can rejoice even in the midst of our suffering as Christians. We have in the Lord Jesus Christ the power to bless the Lord at all times for we know that in all things we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord. In this time of hardship and loss we might wonder how we can rejoice in the Lord. We don’t do it out of ignorance or stoic indifference, but rather we rejoice because we know that the Lord is ever-present to save and deliver us from all our troubles.
In Psalm 34 David is expressing his joy in the Lord in the midst of a difficult and trying situation. The heading of the Psalm tells us that David wrote this Psalm as he was fleeing from the city of Gath. David was on the run from King Saul and sought refuge in Gath, however, after a short stay there his life was again threated so he had to flee back into Israel. And in the midst of his hardship he wrote,
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1 ESV)
Can you praise the Lord at all times? Not just in the good times but in the challenging and stressful times can you still praise the Lord? To be prepared for the sermon take time this week to read and to meditate upon Psalm 34, 1 Samuel 21:10-15, 2 Chronicles 20:12, John 12:13;15:10-11; 19:33-36, Philippians 4:4-6, and Westminster Shorter Catechism # 26.
As we gather in our homes to worship this Palm Sunday day, we will join our hearts in song, singing the Hymn of Praise “A Crown Him with Many Crowns”, the Acclamation of Praise “Man of Sorrows! What a Name” and the Hymn of Response “All Hail the Power.” Let us come to worship this Sunday prepared to hear God’s Word, to receive it in faith, to love and treasure it in our hearts, and to practice it in our lives that we may continue to glorify and enjoy Him!
A Note on Communion:
It is with a heavy heart that we come to the first Sunday of the month. If we were to follow our normal schedule, we would celebrate communion this Sunday. However, the government mandated quarantine means that we cannot gather and if we cannot gather, we cannot celebrate communion in a manner that is consistent with the witness of Scripture nor our theological understanding of the sacrament.
It is the witness of Scripture that the Church would gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34). As such the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not to be served to those who are not present in the congregation. Westminster Confession of Faith 29.3 explains,
The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.
Theologically we understand that communion is not primarily an individual action but a communal action. It is a fellowship both with the body of Christ and the people of God who are the body of Christ on earth. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 we read of the Lord’s Supper,
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation (fellowship) in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation (fellowship) in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”(1 Corinthians 10:16–17 ESV)
To take communion at various locations, at various times, without a visible gathering of God’s people (the body of Christ) the outward actions of eating and drinking lose their spiritual meaning, purpose, and power. For we fall into the same trap as the Corinthian church if communion devolves into a personal feast and not a communal meal.
While I understand that there are many churches who will practice “virtual communion” it is the conviction of the pastoral staff that we should not. There are many things that we can do to accommodate our current isolation made necessary by the Coronavirus, however, technology cannot save us from all the losses and hardships of being separated. One of the losses is corporate worship and all the blessings which flow from corporate worship, including the sacraments.
Next week we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the day when the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper. At the end of the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus explains that he will not participate in this meal until the coming of the Kingdom of God. Luke 22:16-18 says,
For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:16–18 ESV, cf. Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25)
While there are various interpretations of this passage, it is clear that Jesus is foregoing the blessing of communion for the period of time until the coming of God’s Kingdom. John Piper reflects on this passage when he writes,
I have been moved afresh by this picture of Jesus on the night before his death setting before himself the joy of his coming kingdom, telling his disciples that what he is signifying tonight in the meal and accomplishing tomorrow on the cross will one day be fulfilled in the kingdom—a kingdom of people ransomed from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Then he adds this: I'm not going to eat it till that day comes. You eat it to remember me and keep your hope strong and empower yourselves for mission. But I am going to wait until I can eat it new with you and with all the ransomed that you will gather from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.
You see Jesus is waiting to partake of communion until the day he can partake of it with all of his gathered people in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
For a time, we are separated from one another. And because we are separated, we must wait for the blessings of communion. Yet on the day of our reunion we will feast together as the gathered body of Christ on earth looking forward to the day when we will partake with the whole, gathered, glorified, Body of Christ. There are times to wait. Now is such a time.
Text: Psalm 34
Title: Rejoice at All Times
- To Bless the Lord at All Times We Must Be Dedicated to Prayer (vv. 4-7)
- To Bless the Lord at All Times We Must Experience His Goodness (verses 8-10)
- To Bless the Lord at All Times We Must Obey His Commands (verses 11-14)
- To Bless the Lord at All Times We Must Trust His Salvation (verses 15-22)
(for your ongoing prayers and expressions of love)
- IN THE HOSPITAL: Sophia Boyers (UVA Medical Center)
- RECUPERATING: Greg Alty, Bill Johnson, Beth Martin, Kay Albee, Andrew Shaddock, Paul Cowras, Michael Quintero, and Ryan Webb (with ongoing treatments).