Posts Tagged 'Lord’s Supper'

Lord’s Day 30: Completely Forgiven

Catechism and Psalter

During its treatment of baptism, the first of the two divinely-ordained sacraments, the Heidelberg Catechism explained its nature and purpose, then asked for whom it was intended.  The Catechism follows a similar pattern in its explanation of the Lord’s supper: now that the proper administration of this sacrament is understood, who is to partake of it?  Lord’s Day 30, our focus today in URC Psalmody’s Heidelberg Catechism series, answers this question.

80 Q.  How does the Lord’s supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?

A.  The Lord’s supper declares to us
that our sins have been completely forgiven
through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ
which he himself finished on the cross once for all.
It also declares to us
that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ,
who with his very body
is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father
where he wants us to worship him.

But the Mass teaches
that the living and the dead
do not have their sins forgiven
through the suffering of Christ
unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests.
It also teaches
that Christ is bodily present
in the form of bread and wine
where Christ is therefore to be worshiped.
Thus the Mass is basically
nothing but a denial
of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ
and a condemnable idolatry.

81 Q.  Who are to come to the Lord’s table?

A.  Those who are displeased with themselves
because of their sins,
but who nevertheless trust
that their sins are pardoned
and that their continuing weakness is covered
by the suffering and death of Christ,
and who also desire more and more
to strengthen their faith
and to lead a better life.

Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however,
eat and drink judgment on themselves.

82 Q.  Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?

A.  No, that would dishonor God’s covenant
and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation.
Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles,
the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people,
by the official use of the keys of the kingdom,
until they reform their lives.

Suggested Songs

483, “Come, Ye That Fear Jehovah” (Psalm 22)

(Sung by Cornerstone United Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI)

Those are to come to the Lord’s table “who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned…by the suffering and death of Christ.”  Although it appears in the hymn section of the blue Psalter Hymnal, “Come, Ye That Fear Jehovah” is actually a paraphrase of Psalm 22, with its origins in the 1912 Psalter like the majority of our songbook’s other selections.  Particularly, number 483 treats the last few verses of the twenty-second psalm, which speak of the glorified Messiah’s rule over all the earth.  The One who cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (22:1) as his body was broken and his blood shed for our sins is now the Provider of the rich spiritual feast his people can enjoy.  The Psalter Hymnal paraphrases it beautifully:

Come, ye that fear Jehovah,
Ye saints, your voices raise;
Come, stand in awe before Him
And sing His glorious praise.
Ye lowly and afflicted
Who on His Word rely,
Your heart shall live forever,
The Lord will satisfy.

Both high and low shall worship,
Both strong and weak shall bend,
A faithful Church shall serve Him
Till generations end.
His praise shall be recounted
To nations yet to be,
The triumphs of His justice
A newborn world shall see.

93, “Thus Speaks the Lord to Wicked Men” (Psalm 50)

“Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.”  In contrast to the humble believer, the Catechism teaches (referencing I Cor. xi.27), the non-elect call down God’s curse upon themselves if they partake of the meal of his covenant people.  Worse, as question and answer 82 explain, they incur divine wrath upon the entire congregation.  This ominous warning echoes the words of Psalm 50:

Thus speaks the Lord to wicked men:
My statutes why do ye declare?
Why take My covenant in your mouth,
Since ye for wisdom do not care?
For ye My holy words profane
And cast them from you in disdain.

Consider this, who God forget,
Lest I destroy with none to free;
Who offers sacrifice of thanks,
He glorifies and honors Me;
To him who orders well his way
Salvation free I will display.

196, “Of Mercy and of Justice” (Psalm 101)

(Sung by Grace United Reformed Church in Dunnville, ON)

“[T]he Christian church is duty-bound to exclude” those “who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly.”  Perhaps the themes of Psalm 101 are offensive to readers in our modern relativistic society, but to the Christian, this psalm remains the inspired, infallible Word of God.  And these words are an essential guide for the overseers of God’s “holy nation,” his Church: “Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.”

The faithful and the upright
Shall minister to me;
The lying and deceitful
My favor shall not see.
I will in daily judgment
All wickedness reward,
And cleanse from evildoers
The city of the Lord.

128, “Though I Am Poor and Sorrowful” (Psalm 69)

Although Psalm 69 is primarily seen as a messianic prophecy, its words also reflect the proper attitude of the penitent sinner.  One of the many benefits of the Lord’s supper is that it reminds us to examine our hearts before we approach the table.  Will we, because of our hypocrisy and unbelief, only eat and drink judgment upon ourselves?  Or do we acknowledge that we are “poor and sorrowful,” dependent on the Lord’s constant sustaining grace?

Though I am poor and sorrowful,
Hear Thou, O God, my cry;
Let Thy salvation come to me
And lift me up on high.

Then will I praise my God with song,
To Him my thanks shall rise,
And this shall please Jehovah more
Than offered sacrifice.

The meek shall see it and rejoice;
Ye saints, no more be sad;
For lo, Jehovah hears the poor
And makes His prisoners glad.

Let heaven and earth and seas rejoice,
Let all therein give praise,
For Zion God will surely save,
Her broken walls will raise.

In Zion they that love His Name
Shall dwell from age to age;
Yea, there shall be their lasting rest,
Their children’s heritage.

In his massive commentary on the Psalter entitled The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon, writing on Psalm 22:26, pens these wonderful words:

The spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction of their hearts; they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they are filled with royal dainties.…For a while they may keep a fast, but their thanksgiving days must and shall come.…Your spirits shall not fail through trial, you shall not die of grief, immortal joys shall be your portion.  Thus Jesus speaks even from the cross to the troubled seeker.  If his dying words are so assuring, what consolation may we not find in the truth that he ever liveth to make intercession for us!  They who eat at Jesus’ table receive the fulfilment of the promise, ‘Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live for ever.’

–MRK

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Lord’s Day 29: This Visible Sign and Pledge

Catechism and Psalter

With Lord’s Day 29 the Heidelberg Catechism continues its exposition of the two biblical sacraments instituted by Christ.

78 Q.  Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

A.  No.
Just as the water of baptism
is not changed into Christ’s blood
and does not itself wash away sins
but is simply God’s sign and assurance,
so too the bread of the Lord’s supper
is not changed into the actual body of Christ
even though it is called the body of Christ
in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.

79 Q.  Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood?  (Paul uses the words, a participation in Christ’s body and blood.)

A.  Christ has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
as bread and wine nourish our temporal life,
so too his crucified body and poured-out blood
truly nourish our souls for eternal life.

But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge,
that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work,
share in his true body and blood
as surely as our mouths
receive these holy signs in his remembrance,
and that all of his suffering and obedience
are as definitely ours
as if we personally
had suffered and paid for our sins.

Suggested Songs

39, “My Shepherd is the Lord My God” (Psalm 23)

“[A]s bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life.”  One of the most familiar and comforting images of Christ in both testaments is that of a Shepherd who cares for our every need.  The twenty-third Psalm is a powerful expression of this image, but Charles Spurgeon calls attention to a seldom-noticed connection between Psalms 22 and 23:

The position of this Psalm is worthy of notice.  It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross.  There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second Psalm.  It is only after we have read, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’ that we come to ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’  We must by experience know the value of the blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care.

Indeed, we must come to know the true depth of Christ’s love as shown in “his crucified body and poured-out blood” in order to appreciate the significance of the Lord’s supper which “nourishes our souls for eternal life.”  It is because Christ went all the way to death itself that we may “walk the vale of death” yet “not know a fear.”  And how great is the value of the “table Thou hast spread for me/In presence of my foes”—for it is that table itself that fortifies us to withstand the enemies that would wage war upon our souls.

My shepherd is the Lord my God:
What can I want beside?
He leads me where green pastures are,
And where cool waters hide.

He will refresh my soul again,
When I am faint and sore,
And guide my step for His Name’s sake
In right paths evermore.

Thy goodness and Thy mercy, Lord,
Will surely follow me,
And in Thy house forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

186, “Sing to the Lord, the Rock of Our Salvation” (Psalm 95)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“[W]e, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance.”  Right from the start, Psalm 95 acknowledges the Lord as “the rock of our salvation.”  It also builds upon the shepherd motif of Psalm 23 by calling God’s people to humble obedience and trust in their Guide.  In the words of this paraphrase, “Shall we not hearken to our kindly Shepherd/By whom our feet are led?”  It is by Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts that we can “enter the promised land” as the Lord’s own chosen people, and be nourished all along the way with his body and blood.

Sing to the Lord, the rock of our salvation!
Sing to the Lord a song of joy and praise!
Kneel in His presence, lowly in thanksgiving!
The lofty psalm upraise!

And we, His people, sheep of His own pasture,
Lambs of His bosom, whom His hand has fed,
Shall we not hearken to our kindly Shepherd
By whom our feet are led?

Oh, harden not your hearts, like those who wandered
The desert forty years to Jordan’s strand;
Humble and comforted, O chosen people,
Enter the promised land.

200, “O Bless the Lord, My Soul, with All Thy Power” (Psalm 103)

“[A]ll of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.”  Here we return to the redemptive themes of Psalm 103 as paraphrased in Dewey Westra’s Genevan setting.  Through the death of Jesus Christ “Jehovah doeth right, for he is holy,” yet he also supplies all our needs, fills our souls with good, “and, like the eagle’s, He renews thy youth.”  Truly “Jehovah’s mercy floweth, like a river,/From everlasting, and abideth ever/On those that love and worship Him with awe”!

O bless the Lord, my soul, with all thy power!
Exalt the God who is thy strength and tower;
Let all within me bless His holy Name.
Bless Him who heareth all thy supplication;
Forget not thou His kindly ministration,
But all His gracious benefits proclaim.

O bless the Lord, who all thy need supplieth!
Thy soul with good He fully satisfieth,
And, like the eagle’s, He renews thy youth.
Jehovah doeth right, for He is holy;
His judgments for the sore oppressed and lowly
Are done in perfect righteousness and truth.

Bless Him, ye hosts, in praises without measure,
Ye ministers of His that do His pleasure;
Exalt His Name, His majesty extol.
Bless ye Jehovah, all His works in union,
In all the places of His wide dominion;
Yea, bless the Lord with joy, O thou, my soul!

–MRK

Lord’s Day 28: United More and More

Catechism and Psalter

In our continuing series on the Heidelberg Catechism, today we turn to Lord’s Day 28.  These three questions and answers provide a thorough explanation of the second sacrament ordained by Christ in the New Testament: the Lord’s Supper.

75 Q.  How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts?

A.  In this way:
Christ has commanded me and all believers
to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup.
With this command he gave this promise:

First,
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 body was offered and broken for me
and his blood poured out for me
on the cross.

Second,
as surely as
I receive from the hand of him who serves,
and taste with my mouth
the bread and cup of the Lord,
given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood,
so surely
he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life
with his crucified body and poured-out blood.

76 Q.  What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?

A.  It means
to accept with a believing heart
the entire suffering and death of Christ
and by believing
to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

But it means more.
Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us,
we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body.
And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.
And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit,
as members of our body are by one soul.

77 Q.  Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?

A.  In the institution of the Lord’s supper:
[I Corinthians xi.23-26.]

This promise is repeated by Paul in these words:
[I Corinthians x.16, 17.]

Suggested Songs

58, “The Lord I Will at All Times Bless” (Psalm 34)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“[A]s surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.…[A]s surely as I receive from the hand of him who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.”  The Lord’s Supper teaches us that Christ’s Word and Spirit continue to nourish us throughout our pilgrimages on this earth.  Not only does Psalm 34 contain the familiar words, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good,” it also praises God for providing for the needs of his saints.

The Lord I will at all times bless,
In praise my mouth employ;
My soul shall in Jehovah boast,
The meek shall hear with joy.
O magnify the Lord with me,
Let us exalt His Name;
When in distress on Him I called,
He to my rescue came.

O taste and see that God is good
To all that seek His face;
Yea, blest the man that trusts in Him,
Confiding in His grace.
O fear the Lord, all ye His saints;
No want shall bring distress;
The lions young may pine for food,
The saints all good possess.

155, “Now to God, Our Strength and Savior” (Psalm 81)

“[T]o eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood…means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.”  Psalm 81 is a unique composition because in it God speaks directly to his people.  The Lord calls attention to the stubborn sinfulness of Israel and adjures them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

O My people, hear My pleadings;
O that thou wouldst hearken now;
No strange worship shalt thou offer,
Nor to idols shalt thou bow.

I am God the Lord who saved thee,
And from cruel bondage freed;
Open wide thy mouth of longing;
I will satisfy thy need.

If My people would obey Me,
Gladly walking in My ways,
Soon would I, their foes subduing,
Fill their lips with songs of praise.

Yea, with wheat the very finest
I their hunger will supply,
Bid the very rocks yield honey
That shall fully satisfy.

111, “O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly” (Psalm 63)

“Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body.  And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.  And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as members of our body are by one soul.”  One of the marks of the Christian life is that the more we are united to Christ, the more we desire to be united to him and his people.  In Psalm 63 David powerfully expresses his thirst for God:

O Lord, my God, most earnestly
My heart would seek Thy face,
Within Thy holy house once more
To see Thy glorious grace.
Apart from Thee I long and thirst,
And nought can satisfy;
I wander in a desert land
Where all the streams are dry.

The lovingkindness of my God
Is more than life to me;
So I will bless Thee while I live
And lift my prayer to Thee.
In Thee my soul is satisfied,
My darkness turns to light,
And joyful meditations fill
The watches of the night.

My Savior, ‘neath Thy sheltering wings
My soul delights to dwell;
Still closer to Thy side I press,
For near Thee all is well.
My soul shall conquer every foe,
Upholden by Thy hand;
Thy people shall rejoice in God,
Thy saints in glory stand.

–MRK

Lord’s Day 25: Holy Signs and Seals

Catechism and Psalter

With Lord’s Day 25 of the Heidelberg Catechism we move into a study of the sacraments, a key aspect of  the Christian life.  Writing in an atmosphere dominated by the numerous extra-biblical and unbiblical rites of the Roman Catholic Church, the authors of the Catechism took special pains to delineate the nature of the only true sacraments instituted by Christ: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  For the next several weeks in this URC Psalmody series we’ll be considering the connection between the psalms and the sacraments.

65 Q.  You confess that by faith alone you share in Christ and all his blessings: where does that faith come from?

A.  The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts
by the preaching of the holy gospel,
and confirms it
through our use of the holy sacraments.

66 Q.  What are sacraments?

A.  Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see.
They were instituted by God so that
by our use of them
he might make us understand more clearly
the promise of the gospel,
and might put his seal on that promise.

And this is God’s gospel promise:
to forgive our sins and give us eternal life
by grace alone
because of Christ’s one sacrifice
finished on the cross.

67 Q.  Are both the Word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?

A.  Right!
In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us
and through the holy sacraments he assures us
that our entire salvation
rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

68 Q.  How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?

A.  Two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Suggested Songs

164, “Lord, My Petition Heed” (Psalm 86)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“The Holy Spirit produces [faith] in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.”  More than anything else, Psalm 86 is a prayer for faith.  Admitting that he is “poor and needy,” David cries out for the Lord to gladden his soul; he turns to declare, “you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.”  Then the psalmist prays:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11 (ESV)

Psalm 86 concludes with another prayer whose language echoes the imagery of the sacraments as signs and seals: “Show me a sign of your favor” (v. 17).  Or, as the blue Psalter Hymnal versifies it:

Show me Thy mercy true,
Thy servant’s strength renew,
Deliverance send;
To me Thy goodness show,
Thy comfort, Lord, bestow;
Let those that hate me know
Thou art my Friend.

202, “Mindful of Our Human Frailty” (Psalm 103)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

Sacraments “were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put his seal on that promise.”  How weak and dull-minded we are, how slow to comprehend what God has done for us.  One of the URCNA’s new forms for the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper contains this wonderful admonition:

Do not allow the weakness of your faith or your failures in the Christian life to keep you from this table.  For it is given to us because of our weakness and because of our failures, in order to increase our faith by feeding us with the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  As the Word has promised us God’s favor, so also our Heavenly Father has added this confirmation of his unchangeable promise.

Psalm 103:14-18 speaks eloquently of our “human frailty” and the “changeless mercy” of our Lord:

Mindful of our human frailty
Is the God in whom we trust;
He whose years are everlasting,
He remembers we are dust.

Changeless is Jehovah’s mercy
Unto those that fear His Name,
From eternity abiding
To eternity the same.

All the faithful to His covenant
Shall behold His righteousness;
He will be their strength and refuge,
And their children’s children bless.

109, “O God, Regard My Humble Plea” (Psalm 61)

“[T]his is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s one sacrifice finished on the cross.”  In times of trouble and distress it is all too easy to forget that we are God’s own children, yet the sacraments are powerful reminders of our identity in Christ.

In Thee my soul has shelter found,
And Thou hast been from foes around
The tower to which I flee.
Within Thy house will I abide;
My refuge sure, whate’er betide,
Thy sheltering wings shall be.

For Thou, O God, my vows hast heard,
On me the heritage conferred
Of those that fear Thy Name;
A blest anointing Thou dost give,
And Thou wilt make me ever live
Thy praises to proclaim.

Before Thy face shall I abide;
O God, Thy truth and grace provide
To guard me in the way;
So I will make Thy praises known,
And, humbly bending at Thy throne,
My vows will daily pay.

54, “How Great the Goodness Kept in Store” (Psalm 31)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments he assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.”  The latter half of Psalm 31 calls us to praise the Lord for the goodness he has shown to his elect.  These blessings he seals to us through the preaching of the Word and the faithful administration of the sacraments.

How great the goodness kept in store
For those who fear Thee and adore
In meek humility.
How great the deeds with mercy fraught
Which openly Thy hand has wrought
For those who trust in Thee.

Secured by Thine unfailing grace,
In Thee they find a hiding-place
When foes their plots devise;
A sure retreat Thou wilt prepare,
And keep them safely sheltered there,
When strife of tongues shall rise.

Ye saints, Jehovah love and serve,
For He the faithful will preserve,
And shield from men of pride;
Be strong, and let your hearts be brave,
All ye that wait for Him to save,
In God the Lord confide;
In God the Lord confide.

–MRK


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