COMING TO THE TABLE — Pete Bauer
This communion sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 6, 2013. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Ps 15.
A Psalm of David. Lord, who can enter your tent? Who can live in your holy mountain? The one whose way is flawless and who contrives righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not vilify with his tongue. He does not associate with evil. He does not bear evil towards his neighbor, nor disgrace him. He despises the vile one and honors those who fear God. He keeps his oath even to his own hurt and does not charge interest when he loans his silver. He accepts no bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will not fall forever.
This morning we are celebrating communion. We are going to look at a Psalm of David that asks the question: Who can come into the presence of God – and remain? Who can have fellowship with God. Who can come to the table?
Who Can Come to the Table?
David’s Answer: The one who is blameless (lit.Flawless), David isn’t talking perfection here – but rather completeness or spiritual wholeness. He is referring to a very high standard of righteousness. The same Hebrew word is used of Noah (gen.6:9) and of Job (Job 1:8, 2:3) to mean, one who is without fault and careful to do what is right.
But David himself is not flawless in this way – and so the Psalm becomes a Psalm of longing – that which David would wish to be – that to which he aspires.
Jesus is the Fulfillment of David’s Longing: The NT answer, the fulfillment of this Psalm, is Jesus – who was flawless. “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Jesus transforms this Psalm and, in a sense, turns it on its head, so that, now we who belong to Jesus are no longer trying to do these things so that we can come into the presence of God. Instead, Jesus welcomes us, flawed as we are, into the presence of God through his body and blood – offered to God for us in our sin.
Jesus has died and risen for us and we are now welcomed into the presence of God, because we have put our trust in Jesus. Because of this, God has given us his Spirit and made us inwardly alive to the things He loves.
So now, rather than facing a list of demands that we have to carry out flawlessly before we can come into the presence of God (to the Table), verses 2-5 have become a description of the life God is producing in us by His Spirit.
What Is the Life God is Producing in You as You Come to the Table?
Flawlessness: In God’s eyes, because you trust in Jesus Christ, you are flawless. You do not feel flawless – but God sees you, “… having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless”.
Creative Righteousness: You are becoming “The one contriving righteousness”,
I looked up the word – Contrive: It means to bring about, engineer, manufacture, orchestrate, stage-manage, create, devise, concoct, construct, plan, fabricate, plot, hatch or set up.
You have become a person who cares about pleasing God, about your neighbor, about listening to God’s word. Maybe you have volunteered for some kind of service, like meals on wheels, or joined a worship group. But also, contriving to do what is right has become – is becoming – a lifestyle, where you contrive to do what is right in situations and relationships that you are already a part of. You find that you want to orchestrate acts of kindness, justice, reconciliation, joy, peace, within the context of the situations of your life
Honest Speech: Increasingly, gradually, grace has set you free – and is setting you free to be honest about who you are: your flaws, your fears, your doubts, your struggles. Gradually you are coming to see, as you listen to the word, that you are not maintaining your standing before God – Jesus is -and does. You are learning to be free in the knowledge that God loves you and that you are under his grace.
Graciousness Towards Others: While your, and my, natural tendency is to vilify people – to describe those we don’t like as villains – we are becoming less comfortable with this kind of speech and attitude. We are starting to recognize, because God was kind to us when we were his enemies – and died for us when we hated him – that we are now called to love even our enemies. You also are beginning to recognize that you are not an innocent and your enemy a villain. You both need God’s grace.
Hatred of Evil: You hate what is vile and evil – but not the way the world does. The world loves to judge and set themselves above those who “get caught”. Just watch Maury some time – (actually please don’t!) – people are delighted to judge and hate.
You don’t rejoice to humiliate those who get caught – evil makes you mourn. People who ruin themselves and others break your heart. You long for justice, reconciliation and even healing for those who do evil.
Generosity: You feel less free than you used to about taking advantage of people. Somehow, now, by God’s Spirit, you know that you are called to be generous rather than grasping – both financially generous – and generous in kindness. You don’t always want to – but you are pulled towards generosity – particularly whenever you experience or recognize the generosity of Jesus in an act or in a teaching or example.
How Does This Life Grow In Us?
Like A Seed: These things we have been talking about are the seeds of the life of God (not a complete list). The Spirit of God is planting these seeds in you again and again – every time you come into the presence of God and experience grace and the love of God. This renewing grace is continually planted in you over your lifetime. It grows slowly, gradually in you – like a seed.
Seeds grow slowly. In fact, to begin with, they don’t seem like they are doing anything at all. They grow slowly, in fits and starts. And one day, when we are finally in the presence of God, they will become full grown – they will become who we are.
This morning, you are coming to the table. You are welcomed by Jesus, the one who died and rose again to bring you into the presence of God with freedom. As you come, God will feed you with gracious food and plant the seeds of his life in you.