God is teaching me so much about His grace and infinite mercy and kindness lately. Circumstances are not ideal and they rarely are for our own liking. As humans we always can think of something, diminutive or grandiose, worth tweaking that would presumably make circumstances just *that* much more pleasant for us, one way or another. But circumstances being less than ideal seems to be absolutely, perfectly ripe for the recipe in which God’s glory and truth becomes the most astonishingly rich and savory food upon which we’ve ever ruminated.
Whether it’s in the music I’ve been listening to lately, the sorrows and struggles of those I hold dear, the tremendous burden of man-driven religion being lifted off of someone’s aching shoulders, or the scriptures that we are memorizing as a family around the table each night, God has been shining brightly the splendor of His truth that Jesus is enough.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ve probably been here when I have just effervesced the beauty of the Lord’s Supper. I don’t believe that Communion holds any magical powers. I am just ever more and more touched by what it means and the fullness of joy that that truth produces in me. For years I think I truly wondered how this little bit of juice and this sliver of a dried cracker was supposed to give me a sense of fulness. For me, communion was a time to be sad and feel really bad for all I had done, especially most recently, that I knew was wrong. I was supposed to be droll and morose and hopefully cry a little. Forget fulness, I was supposed to feel awful about what I did to Jesus. Communion was really more a time of self-flagellation than unity with Christ and His bride.
We are memorizing Psalm 16 as a family. I am continually amazed by a child’s ability to memorize stuff! They all have almost half of it down pat, just adding one verse each night. Tonight we worked on verse 5.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
It is a perfect contrast to verse 4.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
These verses, The Hot Pastor reminds us, had real and meaningful physical significance in the time in which they were written. Verse 4 refers to the blood offerings poured out in worship of other gods and verse 5 had real physical meaning in terms of worship in the temple and in the land. When the burnt offering was made the people that were to eat of it were given their portion and (it is my, possibly hazy, understanding that) there was a system, perhaps the casting of lots, in which people could choose which portion or cut of the meat they wanted. The determination of what they were to receive (whether it be food or land) belonged to the Lord. As we were reciting this tonight I saw beautifully the Lord’s Table — Christ poured out for us, in this verse and how it contrasts so vividly with what the world offers us… or rather offers up to its gods.
Verse 4 is talking about real sacrifices that were made to false gods… the sacrifices could have been anything from animal to child, from self-flagellation to any number of less than savory acts of worship. There was the understanding that someone must suffer to be able to be worthy before their gods. I believe my old understanding of communion was a verse 4 understanding as it seems that as I took communion I believed that my sorrows should multiply… the sadder the better actually. This is proof to me that I was not in fact worshiping Christ and reveling in the glory of the cross because I believed that communion was meant to make me sad about me. Upon whom was I then really feasting in my heart? On the goodness and glory and beauty and splendor of my Savior, Jesus? Not remotely. Upon myself. My own suffering (if I can feel bad enough and maybe cry and try my best to recall how bad I was this week, I am worthy to take this cup). And why should I expect anything but that my sorrows would multiply at this self-flagellatory form of false worship? The lie is that this is selfless worship. I’m sure there are a million other ways to diminish the sufficiency of the work of Christ on our behalf in our hearts. By grace all of these too He has covered with His blood.
Verse 5 is no less than a blazing light to the hard shadows of self or other focused worship. Lord, you are my chosen portion — you are the best piece and I want ALL of and only YOU. The lie is that this is selfish worship. You, Jesus. You are all I need. You are my cup. The cup of salvation running over. What blood is to my body, you, Jesus, are to me. Life. You are the fulness. You alone. You don’t need my own self-inflicted suffering and self-flagellation, my many works, my most perfect understanding of theology, my vote, or my joyless adherence to a set of rules in order to be my salvation. You are fulness in a person. Christ is all and over all! He has not only chosen us and staked Himself upon a cross to hold our lot and our inheritance, we can now by grace freely choose Him — the best piece — because He has given Himself freely to us.
If a great King personally invited you to a feast and set you at his table covered in the richest and finest of foods and laid it before you and said, “Take and eat! Take the best of the feast! You are free to have the best portion. Have at it!!” What kind of fool would you be to continually beat yourself and insist that you really only deserve the scraps and so you’d rather eat a small portion and insist that you really shouldn’t be there at the table at all. Or to say, “Alright, yes. Thank you for this feast. But let me repay you so that I don’t feel quite as indebted to you for all of this food.” No he says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” But you feel that you really can somehow earn his more special favor by fulfilling a list of things that you think He’d approve of. You don’t have to and aren’t able to earn what you’ve already received! Sinner, don’t argue with The KING… just FEAST and REJOICE!
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
The same overflowing cup is for all who come to Him with nothing but outstretched hands and broken pieces to lay at His feet.
Oh you broken weary one. Oh you who have felt the shattered glass of your constructed life underfoot. Oh you who have made all the “right” choices but have only the appearance of one holding it all together. You who have willfully made all the wrong choices. You, chosen one, who insists on sitting beneath the table of the King when He has reserved a seat for you. Oh you child of the King, your enemies will not understand how you are able to live and live so fully while they seek after you as you traverse the valley of the shadow of death that overhangs all of this life. Oh you dear one, feast on Christ and drink the cup of salvation to its dregs!
The music that’s been speaking to me lately is from the Album Light Meets the Dark by Tenth Avenue North. Each song has truly blessed me and continues to speak to me, singing over and over again to me of God’s amazing glorious grace. It’s a fiercely beautiful reminder that we can do nothing good apart from the grace and mercy of God who comes and picks up His broken vessels, His jars of clay, and remakes them into vessels of honor through whose cracks overflow with the glory and grace of a forgiving and redeeming God.