Since the earliest centuries of the church, Christians, when baptized, have engaged in a series of what are called denunciations. Just as baptism involves the positive profession of faith in Christ as Lord, so it also involves certain rejections. Typically, the question is asked in this way: “Do you renounce sin, death, and the devil and all his ways?”
Each of these is rightly taken to be an enemy of God and of God’s mission in the world. Sin names the disorder in the world that is opposition to God’s good will; death names the power that stands against God’s creative word of life; and the devil names the demonic forces that work against God’s purposes in the world
This morning we gather at the Lord’s table as those baptized into Christ, the Son of God, and having received the gift of the Holy Spirit we come at once as forgiven sinners and as children of God the Father. We are therefore gathered at the table of Christ as the body of Christ, members one of another, ready to receive from sister and brother the body and blood of Christ.
We do this at the very threshold and intersection of divine and human timelines. As Paul writes, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). As we partake of Jesus’ broken body today, we remember Jesus’ wounded body in the past, even as we remember his future coming in his risen body. Communion, then, is the cross-section of past, present, and future in our life with God
So we come to this table this morning to remember: to remember that the one true God has come near in Jesus Christ; to remember that the same God who raised up Israel from Egypt has raised up Jesus from the grave; to remember that God is present among us even now by and through his Spirit.
Even more, as a people baptized into Christ, who have renounced sin, death, and the devil and all his ways, we come to this table to be reminded of God’s victory on our behalf: reminded that because of the Father’s mercy, all our sins have been forgiven—they are no more and no more have power over us; reminded that because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have been freed—freed from the fear and power of death, for Jesus reigns as Lord even over death; reminded, finally, that because the Spirit is with and among us, there is no power, no force, no authority or demonic enemy that can triumph over us—God has triumphed, once and for all.
And because God meets us at this table to remind us of these things, we remember also that there is no one—not a single man or woman in all of creation—who is excluded from the hospitality of the Lord’s table. All are sinners, are all lawbreakers, all deserve condemnation. Yet beneath the cross of Christ and at his table, there are no divisions or enemies, for here all are welcome, all are forgiven, all are one body. And we know that the Lord of this body loved and died for his enemies, and calls us to do the same after him. In response to love like that, what else can we do but follow, and give thanks.
Let us pray.
Prayer for the Bread
you are our God,
and by your grace
you have made us your people.
As your servant has said,
you stir us to take pleasure in praising you,
because you have made us for yourself,
and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
So we ask that in taking this bread
which is the broken body of your Son,
make us a people who remember;
make us your people of memory,
who remember the victory of the cross.
Help us to remember Jesus:
friend to the poor,
breaker of chains,
lover of enemies.
Make us faithful disciples
who follow his way,
who keep this feast of love’s memorial—
knit together as Christ’s body
even as we receive it from one another.
In his name and by your Spirit we pray,
Prayer for the Cup
you are our God,
earnestly we seek you
as thirsty people long for water
in a dry and weary land.
You have told us that,
should even a mother forget the newborn at her breast,
you will not forget us, your children.
You have told us that,
in unbroken fidelity,
our very names are engraved on the palms of your hands.
Make us mindful, therefore,
of the great cost of your love,
and so make us people of your costly grace
who do not sin that grace may abound
but rather in thanks walk the path of the cross.
Wash us clean
and let us hear your word of forgiveness
sung over us in joy.
we ache with hope
for the coming of your kingdom,
where we will share this cup anew with him who is our life,
Jesus the risen Christ,
in whose name and by whose Spirit we pray,
Comments on the Collection
Now is the time when we, as a community, share our resources for the sake of building up the body.
On the one hand, we do this, in Paul’s words, “not that others might be relieved while some are hard pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Cor 8:13). In that spirit we gather together our financial means so that we might be more than the sum of our parts: that missions might be supported, that ministries might be sustained, that the hungry might be fed, that those in need might receive aid and those hurting might hear the good news of the gospel.
On the other hand, the order of having the collection after communion can be misleading, because the salvation we’ve received in Christ is not a matter of exchange. God does not give us his grace on the condition that we “pay up” afterwards. The gift of the gospel is precisely its lack of conditions. The good news is good because there is nothing we could have done, nothing deserving about us, and nevertheless God saves us sheerly out of his great love.
So as we give of our means this morning, for the sake of the mission of God in the world, give not out of guilt or compulsion, much less to “pay God back” for Jesus. No—give out of the overflowing joy of knowing God in Christ; give out of pure gratitude for being loved by the God of the universe; give out of the freedom that comes in knowing that wealth does not bring happiness, but often as not, temptation and greed, even idolatry; and so give because money can only be a means to an end—namely, the missional end of serving those in need to the glory of God.
Let us pray.
Prayer for the Collection
giver of all good gifts
and Father of the heavenly lights,
bless this collection of the gifts of your people.
We ask this day that you would
fill the mouths of the hungry,
clothe the bodies of the naked,
shelter those without home or family,
comfort those in prison.
We ask also this day that you would
bring your kingdom near to us,
make your will done on earth as it is in heaven,
build up your church in all the world,
come near in love for the sake of your glory.
Finally, we ask that you would do these things
both by the gifts we share together today,
and by the gifts of the Spirit
with which you have equipped your people.
Make us, Lord, a people of witness
whose lives reflect the life of your Son,
empowered to love and to service
in the way of the cross.
In the name of your gift to us, Jesus,
who gave us the gift of your Spirit,