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Week 12

 

Liturgical Note: The word “comfort” appears in two key places in the liturgy. The first is in the Invitation, “…draw near with faith and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort”. The second is right after the Absolution, “Hear what comfortable words our savior Christ says”. However, the word “comfort”, as it is used by our liturgy, does not mean relaxed or at ease. Rather, it means literally to strengthen. Importance: in both places in the service the word “comfort” underscores the fact that the grace you are about to receive at the Table not only forgives your sins but also renews and strengthens your walk.  Listen to the difference: you who repent and desire to walk in God’s holy ways “…draw near with faith and take this holy Sacrament to strengthen you

 

Liturgical Location: We have just finished the prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church. Notice then, immediately after the praying for the whole Church, the local parish and each believer in it are invited to the communion of the whole Church with her Lord. Thus once again the Liturgy stresses the connectedness of the entire body of Christ. We are not partaking of a private dinner or even a local celebration. Rather, we come to share a feast, the reality of which, the whole body of Christ partakes.

 

Invitation:

YE who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

 

A] Notice at once that the invitation serves three basic purposes. The first purpose of the Invitation is to remind the believer of the necessity of repentance for participation in the Sacrament. You cannot come to the Lord’s Table to be nourished by God’s grace if at the same time you are refusing that grace. Thus, only those who truly and earnestly repent of their sins are allowed to partake of the Table.

 

Not only that, notice that the Invitation demonstrates what true repentance is:

 

First, the believer is warned against a casual or halfhearted attitude toward sin. Instead, you are to truly and earnestly repent. That is, you are to examine yourself according to standards of Scripture and bring your specific sins to Christ for Him to forgive and heal (repentance is specific). Why? Grace is specific. Christ died for the specific sins and struggles in your life. Therefore, you are to bring those specifics to Christ for Him to forgive and heal.

 

Importance: the Invitation underscores the active nature of the Liturgy. The believer is not a passive recipient of the meal. Rather he is an active participant. Notice then each party brings to the Table what is his to offer. You bring God your specific sins, struggles, and needs. Christ brings grace that forgives and heals those specifics.

 

Second, the Invitation reminds the believer that we are to be in love and charity with our neighbor.  That is, the Invitation reminds the believer that true repentance is never merely inward or private. Instead, true repentance and forgiveness are always relational. Why? A major point of grace is the restoration of right relationships (our relationship with God, others, self, and creation).

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {Grace is the means of salvation. Peace is the result}

Notice then, Scripture teaches that true repentance does not stop with asking God for forgiveness. It also seeks reconciliation with those who we have wronged (Matt 5:23-24). In other words, the objective of true repentance is not to make you feel better about your misdeeds while others still suffer from them. Rather, the objective of true repentance is to bring healing to those relationships that our sins have marred. Think about it: as grace heals you it removes the sin that damages relationships and replaces it with a new heart that fosters right relations. Not only that, as grace is at work in you, it is also working toward the same end in your brothers and sisters. Therefore, because you know that God’s grace has gone before you and is already at work, you have the confidence and direction to work as well. Restoration is what God’s grace is doing.

 

At the same time, Scripture teaches us that we are to forgive others when we are wronged (Mat 6:12). In other words, the objective of true repentance and forgiveness is not to help you come to terms with a situation even though the relationship still remains broken. Rather, the objective of true repentance and forgiveness is to bring healing to that relationship.

 

Notice then, in both cases (whether you are wrong or the one wronged) Psalm 34 provides a perfect summery of what your attitude and actions should be. 

Psalm 34:14 Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it.

 

Third, the Invitation reminds the believer that true repentance turns to God for amendment of life as well as forgiveness. Notice then, we are to strive to lead a new life, following the commandments of God. In other words, true repentance does not turn to God for license to keep sinning without suffering any consequences. Rather, true repentance turns to God to forgive our sins and to heal our sinfulness. Why? The grace that saves you is a grace that changes you. In other words, every prayer for forgiveness is also a prayer for renewal.

 

Bottom line: the Invitation has reminded us that true repentance:

  • Turns to God to remove specific sins (from both heart and hand)
  • Turns to God to heal relationships (repentance is never merely inward or private)
  • Turns to God to amend life according to His Word

 

B] The second purpose of the Invitation is that it assures the believer that the Lord’s Table is a table for sinners (not for the self-righteous, the perfect, or the self-sufficient). Notice then the believer is invited to repent and turn to God for the grace that will comfort (lit. strengthen) him. That is, the believer is invited to come to the Table precisely because he is a sinner in need of God’s grace.

 

C] Third, the Invitation serves to fence the Table. That is, it excludes any who do not believe in Christ as their savior or who refuse to repent and turn to God for His correction and grace.

 

 

 

 

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