“We should be eating good bread, hearty chunks that satisfy and not puffed rounds of styrofoam. We should be drinking the potent cup of blessing which in Scripture is always wine and it should be good wine. We should be feasting because we were at one time at war with God. But now by the broken body and shed blood of Christ we can come in peace to the Lord’s Table.”
Song: How Sweet and Awful is the Place
Passage: 1 Corinthians 23-32
Hello everyone and Welcome to episode #10 of the Anno Domini Podcast. A podcast dedicated to the supremacy of Christ over all things including our days, weeks, and months.
Join me as we explore how Christ is revealed through the cyclical life of the church calendar year. We’ll discover how this calendar once structured culture and how it can again. We’ll also discuss practical ways to observe and celebrate these holy days in our quest to glorify God and live the good life in the midst of all good He has given us.
We are well into Holy Week and with the Kingly and Joy Filled entrance of the previous Palm Sunday comes the sinking realization that our King of Glory, received with the praise and adulation fit for the King of Kings, will soon be Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted, stripped of His glory and will be nailed to the cross at the hands of wicked men. As awful as this, Christ knew this was coming. He told His disciples in Luke chapter 18 verse 31-34 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” This means Jesus knew exactly what was coming. He knew the agonizing death that awaited Him. He knew that He was about to become the vilest of sin for His people. The spotless Lamb of God, would take on and bear every sin, every single sin of His people. Even those sins that seem to our dulled senses “small”, He would bear for our sake. He knew also His own Father in Heaven would turn His back on Him in Justice leaving Him utterly forsaken. Jesus knew all of these things but instead of turning inward, instead of turning the focus on Him and the monument task that awaited Him in just a few short hours. Well instead of having a pity party, being in a bad mood, ranting, letting off some steam, having a few drinks to relax….instead of doing any of those things, Christ sat down with His disciples and washed them, and taught them, and fed them. He gave His church one of our most treasured gifts on that most Holy Thursday…Maundy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday which is also called Holy Thursday is celebrated the day before Good Friday. The word Maundy is an ancient word that comes from Middle English and Old French words that and is based on the Latin root that means “commandment.” It refers to the teaching of Christ during the Last Supper when Jesus tells His disciples “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Christ was emphatic during His earthly ministry that He did not come to set aside or change the law of God. He fully submitted Himself to His Father’s Law. Except for those parts that found their completion in His death, burial, and resurrection, things like dietary restrictions, ceremonial laws of uncleanness, sacrificial ordinances, etc., we are promised that Heaven and Earth will pass away before the smallest part of God’s Law passes away. Therefore when Christ tells us He is giving us a “new” commandment we should try and understand this as not “new” as in novel but new as in the way Christ comes to make ”all things new.” In other words, He has come to fulfill perfectly the Law which man could never keep perfectly. Since we can’t He does and since He did, His children can. Loving one another means humbling yourself to those that you’d likely rather not. Just as Christ washed His disciples feet He was saying that Christians ought to be known by their uncanny ability to love each other. The world should see our interactions with one another and even though the cross of Christ will be foolishness to those who are perishing, the world should still see Christians as those who love each other. When Christians exhibit genuine, humble, gentle, and kind love for their fellow Christians, it is one of the greatest evangelism tools we have. Just the fact that we are known for loving our own carries with it an winsome fragrance of newness or “renewedness” that will draw an unbelieving and crooked generation away from their love of themselves and into a God honoring, God obeying love of the Creator and His children. And all we have to do is love one another.
Our biblical segment comes from the epistle written by Paul to the Corinthians believers regarding the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s Table which we also call communion is one of 2 sacraments the Protestant church holds. These two sacraments are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We believe that all Christians should be baptized and given the name Christian. When we are baptized, we are not making a public statement about our own faith, but we are rather making a public statement about who we belong too. In baptism we take on a new name and a new identity. Our baptisms are a physical display of the covenantal reality that we are now a new person because Jesus has given us a new name. Instead of viewing baptism as us declaring to the world how committed we are to Jesus, we should think of our baptisms as God telling the world how committed He is to us. With our baptisms, as with every covenant in Scripture come great blessings for obedience and great curses for disobedience. Those who are baptized have full access to the second sacrament, that of the Lord’s table. The Lord’s Table is not an intellectual act wherein we remember something while engaging in an arbitrary act. In other words, we don’t eat the bread and drink the wine so we can think about something. The Lord’s Table is the place where everyone claimed by Christ should gather. This includes men, women, boys, girls, the aged, the infirm, those with low IQs, those unable to talk, those unable to remember. When we associate the Lord’s Supper with intellectual thoughts, that of merely thinking about and remember the death of Jesus and how the bread represents His body and the wine represents His blood, if that is all that Communion means than we begin traveling down a path in which we begin to exclusion from the Lord’s Table becomes the driving force. Instead we ought to think of the Lord’s Table as a family table. My last name is Stout and all of my children have the last name Stout. Therefore everyone of my children belong at my table. They belong there not because of anything they’ve done. They belong there not because they’ve been good kids. They belong there because they bear the name Stout. How much more than should those baptized sons and daughters of Christ who bear the name of Christ be brought to the table. All that is an introduction of sorts to the text we will read for Maundy Thursday which comes from the Lectionary.
1 Corinthians 11:23-34
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
Jesus instituted His new commandment hours before He was betrayed, deserted, and crucified.He commanded His follows to love one another and He gave them a culturally relevant way to go about doing this ie washing one another’s feet. He then dropped a bombshell on them, He told them that they were a part of the New Covenant now and as often as we eat the bread and drink the wine we proclaim the Lord’s death. Now the question has been asked, who gets to comes to the Lord’s table? I said earlier that it belongs to those who are baptized and claim Christ as King. Many faithful Christians have interpreted the previous passage describing “examining ourselves” and “discerning the body” to indicate there is some kind of mental exercise going on. That there is a certain theological level you must attain in order for God to feed you. The thinking goes that if you don’t think the right thoughts or discerning the theology of what you’re doing correctly while partaking of communion then God’s gonna get you for that. What I have found to be persuasive though is that to discern the body is to understand that you are the body of Christ. In other words, since you are part of the body of Christ you should be fed the body of Christ. The bread and the wine are for the strength and encouragement of the believer in the faith. God makes it so simple. He doesn’t require theological insight or intellectual horsepower. Simply eating the bread and drinking the cup you are proclaiming the fact that the Lord’s died and rose again. You are preaching the gospel. That is so simple even a baby can do it.
I asserted during the last episode on Palm Sunday that communion really can’t be done at home. Even during this time of quarantine when the gathering together of God’s people is outlawed, we need to understand that communion means the body of Christ together partaking of the body of Christ together. If we don’t have Communion together than the ecclesiastical structure of the Church falls apart. The table is protect by the shepards of the faith. This would be your pastor and elders. These men have been placed in positions of authority over the people of God as having to give an account one day. This is why you should be so appreciative of your pastor and elders. They must take care of you and shepherd you. Because of this the Church has historically and is commanded biblically to exercise church discipline for those who are rebelling against the law of God. The final culmination of Church discipline is that of excommunication which was once regarded as the most awful of punishments. It is literally excluding those who once professed Christ from the Table. This is always a last resort but once excommunicated, the rebelling individual would find themselves cut off from the Supper and handed over to Satan. However if communion can just be simply celebrated at home with one’s family or by oneself than the God given authority of the local church to govern her parishioners is destroyed.
I also said during the last episode that coming to the Lord’s Table is a gift God gives His children who are no longer at war with Him. If it merely is an intellectual assent to theological statements with a bit of styrofoam cracker and grape juice than we might be hard pressed to see the value. But that is not what communion is. Communion is a meal with God. We should be eating good bread, hearty chunks that satisfy not puffed rounds of styrofoam. We should be drinking the potent cup of blessing which in Scripture is always wine and it should be good wine. We should be feasting because we were at one time at war with God. But now by the broken body and shed blood of Christ we are no longer at war with Him. We now eat a meal of Peace with the conquering King. He conquered our hearts of stone and gave us hearts of flesh and we offer Him our love and obedience. He promises us that we are showing our faith in Him by eating at peace at the Kings table and will one day eat with Him in glory at the Supper of the Lamb.
As is our tradition on the Anno Domini we pick a hymn or psalm to finish off the show. Today’s hymn is from none other than the Issac Watts renowned hymn writer of the 17th century. Mr. Watts is one of the most well know hymn writers and although he wrote prolifically, his hymns were never “a mile wide and an inch deep.” In other words he was not only prolific but deeply profound and thoughtful. He wrote many hymns we still sing today such as Joy to the World, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and Jesus Shall Reign. The hymn will be examining today is called “How Sweet and Awful is the Place”
1 How sweet and awful is the place
with Christ within the doors,
while everlasting love displays
the choicest of her stores.
2 While all our hearts and all our songs
join to admire the feast,
each of us cries, with thankful tongue,
“Lord, why was I a guest?
3 “Why was I made to hear your voice,
and enter while there’s room,
when thousands make a wretched choice,
and rather starve than come?”
4 ‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly drew us in;
else we had still refused to taste,
and perished in our sin.
5 Pity the nations, O our God,
constrain the earth to come;
send your victorious Word abroad,
and bring the strangers home.
6 We long to see your churches full,
that all the chosen race
may, with one voice and heart and soul,
sing thy redeeming grace.
Now this song is traditionally sung to an Irish hymn melody. I changed the melody and slightly altered the verse order, repeating verse 1 and 5 a second time at the end. Let’s take a deeper look at the words.
Verse 1. We are told that the time of the Last Supper was a sweet and awful. Not awful meaning terrible but awful as in full of awe. Christ is offering Himself, the choicest thing in the world to His people. The body and blood of Christ is incredibly precious and belongs to those who belong to Christ.
Verse 2. We are at the Lord’s table and our hearts and our minds are admiring the feast set before us. But we also aren’t so brazen and bold to understand there was nothing we did to deserve our spot at the table. In fact we ask, Lord why was I a guest?
Verse 3. We extend this line of questioning by asking why was I made to hear the voice of God and enter into His presence while there is still room or time or in other words while I am still alive and breathing. We look around and see thousands of others making wretched choices and starving instead of coming to the King for bread. This is critical as much of modern church music is Armenian at best and Humanist at worst. We want to focus on our love for Jesus and our choice to follow Him and how committed we are. IN this song though we simply ask, why have I been blessed with this? We knowits not because of our devotion to God.
Verse 4. The answer comes in verse 4 as we are told that it was the same love that gave His body broken for us and His blood spilled out for us, the same love that spread the feast, that also drew us in through the winsome song of the gospel. If the Spirit of Christ hadn’t done this, than we would have perished.
Verse 5 extends the view out from the Church Militant to all of Christ’s elect throughout the earth. We ask God to take pity on the nations and to constrain or compel the inhabitants of the earth to come to Christ. We ask that the victorious gospel of Christ would be sent out into the world abroad and convert the nations and bring the stranger (who we once were as well) home.
Verse 6. This verse is particularly poignant in our time of quarantine. We long to see the churches of Christ filled with people. Not just numbers for numbers for numbers sake but churches full of the chosen race of God and that we would with one voice, heart, and soul sing of the redeeming grace of Christ.
I hope your Holy Thursday is filled with culturally relevant ways of loving your brother’s and sisters in Christ. This new commandment really will bring the strangers home. I will see you tomorrow for our Good Friday podcast. Enjoy this new setting of How Sweet and Awful is the Place.