Explaining the Lord’s Supper through Deuteronomy 6

…we should want to provoke the inquisitive nature of our children by exposing them to things they don’t understand.

There was a time not so long ago that kids sat with their parents during a church service. My history is fuzzy but I think it was in the days after child labor laws but before we discovered the retarding effects of acute pediatric boredom (APB).¹ But societal evolution marched on and our ecclesiology eventually caught up so that programs like “children’s church” have nearly eradicated APB (and similar disorders) from our gatherings.

Of course, societal evolution rarely comes without a trade-off. For us, the boon of children’s church meant the absence of young children when we observed the Lord’s Supper. So, in what I hope was a small, first step, our leadership decided to change the service order once a quarter so that our children’s church kids (K5-3rd grade) could experience the sacrament.

Better minds have attempted to work out their corporate worship according to the text and pattern of Scripture only to reach varying conclusions on practices like children’s church. I have no desire to jump into that discussion here except to make one observation.

It’s interesting to note that a full understanding or appreciation of God’s commands are not prerequisites for obedience. Or, to put it another way, sometimes we obey so that we may understand (Psa 119:100; Jn 7:17). For our current discussion the point is that one of the ways God would have our children learn the faith is by experiencing things they don’t understand.

And that brings us to Deuteronomy 6 where God prescribes a parent’s answer to a child’s question:

Deuteronomy 6:20-25   “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’  21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand.  22 ‘Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 “So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.  25 “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.

At the risk of stating the obvious [A besetting sin in your teaching ministry. –Shive], this proverbial son is watching, if not participating in, things that seem strange to him; and his lack of understanding is what draws him in. I take it, then, that in we should want to provoke the inquisitive nature of our children concerning our faith by exposing them to things they don’t understand.

To that end we might even consider keeping a fidgety kid in the pew every now and then on a communion Sunday just to pique his curiosity.

And if your son asks you, “What is the Lord’s Supper and why are you doing this?” then maybe you could say something like:

 ‘We were slaves to sin, and the Lord freed us from the curse with a mighty hand.  Moreover, through his death and resurrection Jesus Christ has shown us great and distressing signs and wonders against death, the devil and all his works;

God brought us out from the domain of darkness in order to bring us in to the kingdom of his Son, to give us an inheritance which He has promised to us.’

“So Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord’s Supper, to fear Him for our good and for our salvation, as we are doing today. “It is a sign of our righteousness when we keep this command before our LORD and Savior, just as He commanded.

 


¹We now know that APB is merely the symptom of bigger problem–excitement deficit disorder (EDD).

The preacher’s dilemma (and our danger)

One of the most dangerous things we can do is sit through a sermon week after week.

In his commentary on Isaiah, Alec Motyer begins his discussion of the prophet’s call to ministry (6:9-13) by observing “Isaiah’s message and his task constitute, at first sight, the oddest commission ever given to a prophet: to tell people not to understand and to effect heart-hardening and spiritual blindness!”

After noting that Isaiah was criticized as a man “fit only to conduct a kindergarten” (28:9-10) Motyer goes on to offer this sobering insight:

It is clear that Isaiah did not understand his commission as one to blind people by obscurity of expression or complexity of message. He, in fact, faced the preacher’s dilemma: if hearers are resistant to the truth, the only recourse is to tell them truth yet again, more clearly than before. But to do this is to expose them to the risk of rejecting the truth yet again and, therefore, of increased hardness of heart. It could even be that the next rejection will prove to be the point at which the heart is hardened beyond recovery. The human eye cannot see this point in advance; it comes and goes unnoticed. But the all-sovereign God both knows it and appoints it as he presides in perfect justice over the psychological processes he created.

One of the most dangerous things we can do is sit through a sermon week after week.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS… (Heb 3:7-8a)

 

Where’s the miracle? (pt 1)

Whether a Christian or not, anyone who has engaged in even a cursory reading of the Bible observes the number of miracles recorded in its pages. Encountering these stories the reader is afforded, it seems to me, three basic responses: belief, disbelief, or disappointment. The first & last of these responses I take to be uniquely Christian. By belief I mean that the reader trusts that a miracle–something that defies natural laws– actually occurred. By disappointment I mean that the reader, believing that such miracles happened, experiences some lack of satisfaction or unfulfilled hope when he concludes that similar occurrences have not happened to/for him.

Almost 10 years ago I was struck with anxiety while attempting to navigate a major life transition. I pleaded with God to heal me. God has graciously granted a measure of restoration but all indications point to the fact that, in my case, the disorder is here to stay. I believe God was (and is) able to remove my illness as He did for others in biblical accounts but I was disappointed to find no complete, miraculous healing.

I look at the Williams family. Jeremy & Jennifer (along with countless others) have prayed for miraculous healing. Jeremy is suffering the debilitating effects of ALS. Jennifer was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Before ALS & breast cancer, their son Jacob was born with spina bifida. In each case, countless petitions failed to procure a miraculous healing. Jacob is in a wheelchair. Jeremy’s ALS progresses. Jennifer underwent a double mastectomy with chemo to follow.

Of course, the miraculous need not be limited to acts of healing. A miraculous provision in a time of need would be welcomed as would a divine sign when standing at one of life’s crossroads. We could point to broken homes which were in desperate need of a miracle that never came or the sometimes maddening normalcy in a local church that could be remedied by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. The point is that any honest Christian can point to a time in which he asked God to do the (humanly) impossible but eventually realized that natural law was to carry the day.

I don’t doubt that miracles still happen. However, I think I’m like a majority(?) of Christians who deal with more disappointment than delight when it comes to the realm of the miraculous. So where are the miracles? Or maybe more accurately: why aren’t the miracles coming my way?