Summary: This is the first three sermons inspired by the book Come to the Table by John Mark Hicks
The God Who Communes
Note: CofC=Churches of Christ. The introduction is somewhat specific to practices of communion in the Church of Christ.
Introduction: What have we lost in communion?
1. Lord’s Supper in CofC.
I knew a couple when I attended the Huntsville CofC that showed up for the Lord’s Supper and took off for Vegas immediately after! There has been a time or two when I can remember visiting someplace and taking communion and hitting the road. Why is that? On one hand, it is a good thing. We value the Lord’s Supper to the point that we believe we should take it every week, if at all possible. We focus on the technical correctness of making sure we remember the body and blood of Christ through the emblems. OTOH, we make it a legalistic requirement and forget the true meaning of the word communion. It becomes a check on our list. We don’t even see the contradiction in someone dropping in for communion and the fleeing shortly thereafter. If we think that is what God is after in the Lord’s Supper, we are sadly mistaken.
2. Our God is the model of communion.
Before we can just jump into the NT passages about the L.S. we need to understand where communion derives from, that is, the nature of God. God has always been a God of communion and he has graciously extended his loving fellowship to us. The L.S. is simply a realization of that communion. Whether in creation, the exodus, the cross, or the future kingdom, God’s purpose has always been to possess a people that he could share his love with.
Move 1: Creation, fall, and sacrifice.
1. The eternal communion of God (Gen. 1:1, 2).
We know the opening words of the Bible well, but the Bible doesn’t tell us God’s motivation for creation, more specifically his motivation for creating us. That is something that we learn from the nature of God himself. Notice 1:26. Who is God talking to? Genesis doesn’t spell it out to us, but we learn from later revelation that though God is one, he is three in one. God by his very nature is a God who communes in eternal love and fellowship as Father, Son, and Spirit. God didn’t create us because he was lonely. He created us to share that fellowship with us.
2. The loss of fellowship (3:8).
If only things could have remained as they were. But Adam and Eve were deceived by a powerful rebellious creature. This verse is particularly sad. If you have a child, imagine the child hiding from you because of fear. Adam and Eve lost their intimacy with God because of their sin. They would be banished from the garden and bring the curse of death to mankind.
3. The God who seeks to restore fellowship (3:21; 4:2-5).
God could just write them off and kill them instantly (he had told them the penalty for their sin before they made the tragic choice). Why doesn’t he? It is not his nature. He seeks to restore what was lost and though not completed he begins immediately. He makes them clothes from skins. But notice; there is already a price. Where did God get those skins? The price of continued fellowship comes with sacrifice of innocent animals.
- By the fourth chapter we have animal sacrifice as a norm (read 4:2-5). Able sacrificed the first born of his flock. There is a price to pay at the altar to be able to come to the table of God.
Move 2: God seeks a people for himself.
1. God cuts a covenant with Abram.
God enacts a plan to restore full fellowship with man. It reaches a pivotal stage with Abram. He is not special, except that he was chosen by God, and that he was past the possibility of having a child in his old age (Sarai, too). When God tells him that his descendants will be as the stars in the sky, Abram asks how he can know this. Read Gen. 15:8-21. In v. 18, it literally means “cut a covenant.” It is easy to see how that term came about. A covenant implies fellowship, and always was sealed with blood. Here is a very graphic picture. Abram brought a heifer, goat, and a ram and cut them in half and made an aisle. At nightfall a blazing torch and fire pot passes through. This meant that if someone failed to keep their covenant that they would become like the animals. Certainly, God cannot die, but neither can he break his covenant, and this was the most profound way that God could make this point to Abram.
2. The next stage of the covenant is fulfilled (Ex. 24:8-11).
Israelites were the descendants of Abraham. God’s next act of divine communion is to call a people his own. He rescues them from Egypt and they remember with the Passover, marked by the sacrifice of a lamb, but also the eating and celebration with each other and God. Eating became a way of communing with God. First the altar, but then the table. In this text it says, “…they saw God, and they ate and drank.” The implication is that God was with them as they ate. He was a participant in the meal.