Today in Church History: The First Reformed Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper

On December 7, 1524, the Lord’s Supper was observed from a Reformed perspective.  According to Hughes Oliphant Old, it took place at St. Martin’s Church in Memmingen (South Germany) under the oversight of Christoph Schappeler.  Under the leadership of this preacher, the imperial free city of Memmingen committed itself to the Reformation early.  Schappeler arrived in 1513, and as early as 1522, he was preaching against the Roman Mass.

Little is known about that first service other than that it was in the evening.  But what started that night would eventually lead to the development of the Memmingen Service Book of 1529, which was an attempt to arrive at a synthesis of the various existing Reformed liturgies.  The liturgy has been preserved: Continue reading

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>Why Has Guilt, Grace, Gratitude Become Guilt, Guilt, Guilt?

>Many are aware that the historic way of breaking down the Heidelberg Catechism, even the Christian life itself, can be summarized with the three-fold description Guilt, Grace, Gratitude.  But for some reason today, it seems like I talk to a lot of people who do not experience this three-fold description, but rather, their experience of the Christian life seems to be Guilt, Guilt, Guilt.  Understanding our guilt before God is certainly necessary and a good thing, but it’s not everything.  In fact, guilt is supposed to take us to the cross where we find the objective work of Christ, and then subjectively embrace it by faith so that by grace, we can rejoice in salvation and walk in the newness of life–guilt leads to grace and grace leads to gratitude.

With this purpose for guilt, and with such amazing grace, why is it that so many Christians feel so guilty all the time?

At his blog today, Kevin DeYoung asks this question and provides four basic reasons why he thinks so many Christians feel so guilty:

  1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel.
  2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace.
  3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.”
  4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy.

DeYoung believes that this constant guilt is dangerous because it can harden one’s conscience and even lead a person to ignore his conscience.  This constant feeling of guilt, which can sear the conscience, can lead people to ignore actual sin from which they need to repent, and hence, miss out on the salve of the gospel, which is what they need.

DeYoung believes that grace is the answer:

 . . . the best preaching ought to make sincere Christians see more of Christ and experience more of his grace.  Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt. And that’s a good thing all the way around.

Yes it is, but why limit the prescription just to preaching?  Why not offer all the means of grace that Christ affords his church?  Yes, preaching is important, necessary and foundational, but seeing in communion what is spoken in a sermon is also important, necessary and beneficial.

Do you seem to feel guilty all the time?  The bread that came down from heaven makes himself available for you to feed upon him, and hence, be invigorated by the heavenly realities in him.  Maybe you’re not eating enough.

>"The Communion Feast of Peace" – Leviticus 7.11-38 & 1 Corinthians 10.16-18

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Yesterday was my first official Lord’s Day at Reformed Presbyterian Church, though I will not be ordained and installed until this Friday (d.v.).  One of the things I enjoy about this call is that RP practices weekly communion.  As a means of grace, the Lord’s Supper is vital to the life and health of the Christian pilgrim.  As citizens of heaven who still find themselves on earth–Christian pilgrims find themselves needing nourishment and refreshment for enduring the hardships of the desert pilgrimage.  The sin of this world and the ongoing sin in the pilgrim can become a choking dust in the throat of the traveler, and as the psalmist says, the effect of this sin can make one feel like his/her “moisture is dried away.”

For the church who finds herself living between God’s advent in Christ and entrance into the fullness of our promised inheritance of heaven–we are like the church of the OT who found herself living between the advent of God on Mount Sinai and entrance into the promised inheritance of the land of Canaan.  To sustain his people on that journey, God provided the means of grace of the peace offering.  A meal that both portrayed and conveyed the very peace God would accomplish for them–not through the substitutionary sacrifice of an animal through the mediation of the Aaronic priesthood, but through the mediation of the priesthood of Jesus Christ who not only mediated the once for all sacrifice, but who was himself the substituionary sacrifice.

As the people would feed on the sacrifice as a portrait of the peace achieved for them by another, they simultanesouly experienced that peace when they ate by faith.  The point:  as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10.16-18,

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation 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. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Just as they partook of the benefits of the altar, we too, partake of the benefits of Christ when we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Lord’s Supper.  Although the Lord’s Supper is a beautiful picture of the grace of the gospel, it does more than merely portray that grace–it conveys it when received by faith.

What we have in the Lord’s Supper is nothing less than a communion feast of peace!  So are you feeling weakened because of the ongoing pilgrimage and struggle with sin–then get to the table and feed on your savior, so that as your moisture dries up, you may be replenished!

You can read the entire sermon here.

>The Lord’s Supper: The Nexus of Heaven and Earth; the Future, the Present, and the Past

>Another hymn that I love to read and meditate on (that for some reason I’ve never gotten to sing in corporate worship) is the hymn, “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face,” (Trinity Hymnal, #378).  It does a beautiful job of displaying Christ in the elements of bread and wine and the fellowship that brings.  Yet, it also has a very biblical-theological presentation of that fellowship.  First, it reveals the horizontal plane of continuity of God’s redemptive plan in Christ by tying together the past redemptive acts of Christ, the present act of fellowship because of those acts, and the future consummation of the fellowship to which the supper points.  Yet, it also beautifully reveals the vertical dimension of God’s redemptive plan by bringing together heaven and earth through the worship of the Lord’s Supper.  There is true fellowship in the heavenly presence of Christ enjoyed by his still earthly pilgrim people.  Although the church has not entered into the full consummation that will take place at the end of history (the horizontal plane), the church does not have to wait until the end to enjoy that heavenly fellowship (the vertical) now.

In the Supper, the horizontal and the vertical come together.  Each time the church fellowships with Christ and one another around the elements of bread and wine, they enter into the future, while in the present, because of the past, because in that moment, heaven and earth come together.

Oh what fellowship we have with the Christ at his table!

Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen,
Here grasp with firmer hand th’eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon thee lean.

Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with thee the royal wine of heav’n;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.

This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heav’nly table spread for me:
Here let me feast, and, feasting, still prolong
The brief, bright hour of fellowship with thee.

I have no help but thine, nor do I need
Another arm save thine to lean upon:
It is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
My strength is in thy might, thy might alone.

Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness;
Mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing blood;
Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace,
Thy blood, thy righteousness, O Lord my God.

>The Lord’s Supper: A Sweet and Awful Place

>On this evening, here is a hymn that brings out the paradox of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially how that paradox is displayed in the Lord’s Supper and felt by sinners who are invited to partake of it in joy.  This paradox is emphasized in the original wording of the first line found in #271 of the original Trinity Hymnal, “How sweet and awful is the place,” but has been lost in #469 of the revised version, which now reads, “How sweet and awesome is the place.”  Notice the paradox as it is brought out so clearly in the second and third stanzas:

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

Now, there is no doubt that when the church gathers for fellowship with Christ at the Lord’s Table for the Lord’s Supper it is surely an awesome event.  Yet, we must never forget that it is also an awful place to be.  Yes, we meet Christ there to be fed from him and to see him in the bread and wine.  We are reminded of our fellowship with him in the new creation, and our fellowship with one another and all the members of the church throughout all time who will fellowship together in heaven for eternity.  But, we see all of this through the confrontation of the elements, as they show us a broken body and spilled blood.  That because of our sin, we are not invited because of anything good in us, and therefore, can only meet with the savior through his awful act of sacrifice and the ongoing awful act of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

What a sweet privilege and honor to be invited to this feast and to meet with him who gave himself for his bride, and yet, what an awful means of coming to that table and that fellowship. 

Below is a beautiful rendition of this great hymn of the Lord’s Supper.  They are singing the words as they appear in the revised hymnal, so below the video, I have also included the words from the original.

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

‘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.

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

[HT: Gene Long]