As I continue reading through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion this summer, here is Calvin reflecting on the significance of the Lord’s Supper for our encouragement as believers. Notice Calvin’s powerful series of contrasts at the end of this quotation.
Godly souls can gather great assurance and delight from this Sacrament; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours. As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of Heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be cut off from us than from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weak-poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
[From John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill (Philadelphias, PA: The Westminster Press, 1960), 1361-62.]
I preached this past weekend at Eastbrook about “Prayer as Living within the Power and Love of God” from Ephesians 3:14-20. Thinking about the love of God is something I never tire of. Although it didn’t make it into the sermon, I was reminded of this quotation from from C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves:
God is love….[and] This…love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give….God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing…the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)
the first day:
walking with heavy loads and burdened hearts
to the place His breathless body lay.
every hour seemed so still
since that dark day.
but now, the first day:
their hesitating procession to the tomb
finds the place, but not Him;
and aching emptiness
meets anger’s anxiety.
yet, on the first day
two men send shivers of loud light
mingled with a message:
‘He’s alive like a new day’s dawning!’
and they remember His words.
this first day is the third day
that sends the dark day running.
[This is the seventh in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week.]
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus….With Pilate’s permission he came and took the body away. (John 19:38)
as the crowd dispersed
i came to honor Him.
perhaps it was too late…
but the cost was real for me,
as others from the Sanhedrin
turned their dark looks upon me.
our entourage gathered His limp form
with painful effort from the tree
and wrapped it with care.
standing there, at the Executioner’s workplace,
i couldn’t help but think that
He deserved more than this;
that my present actions were a feeble attempt
to cover my earlier inaction.
Jesus, wrapped in linen and death’s shadow,
seemed like a gift Jerusalem
was not worthy to hold.
so we took Him to the tomb,
with the women following close,
and placed Him gently within
for safe-keeping until the day of the Lord.
but my heart ached within me.
[This is the sixth in a group of original poems composed for Holy Week.]