Return to Sermon Archive
Come to me
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the gospel of Matthew, the eleventh chapter, and follow along with me as I read verses 28-30. Hear what the Spirit says to us.
28 Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
These words from Matthew are the words of Jesus Christ who is the eternal truth, and because they are the words of Christ, we accept them with faith and gratitude.
Christ invites me to his table, but the invitation fills me with a mixture of emotions. I rejoice at the sweetness of the words of Jesus, but the multitude of my sins oppresses me. My unclean conscience thunders at me, shouting, “How dare you approach such a great mystery as this?”
Jesus Christ is God almighty, the second person of the Trinity. He invites us to partake of his body, which is the body of God. Here at this table we eat and drink God. How can that be? It is a mystery beyond comprehension.
And my response is: “Who am I, Lord, that I should presume to approach You?” The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 4 asks: “What is God?” The answer is “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Now I confess that I do not particularly like that question, nor the answer. It presumptuous, it is blasphemy, to try to describe God. God is far more than any definition. God, by definition, cannot be defined. God cannot be described, God cannot be limited or contained by any labels that we, in our human arrogance, invent for him. What shall we say of God? The heaven of heavens cannot contain God, the whole universe speaks God to us, and yet God is more than that. All human explanations fall short of describing that one who is the fountain of life and the source of our being, one whom we approach with dread and awe.
Yet almighty awesome God invites us into his presence, saying, "Come to me.” Even as we cannot understand God, it is difficult for us to understand God’s invitation. How shall I dare to come into the presence of God? How dare I assume that I have the qualifications to sit at this table? I am conscious of my fallibility, of my follies.
Would I dare ask the lord to go home with me? Would I ask God to live in my life all of tomorrow, even all of next week? And if I would not dare to take God home with me today, because there are things in my life that I am ashamed of, then how dare I approach God’s table in God’s house?
This is the Lord God before whom angels and archangels bow down in reverence. Yet this God still says to you and to me, “Come to me.” If God had not said it, we would not have believed it. If God had not commanded, we would not dare to partake of this bread and wine.
As we look back at the Old Testament, we read of Noah, a just man, who worked for years building the ark that he and a few others might be saved; how, then, can I prepare myself in one hour to receive with reverence the Maker of the world? We read of Moses, the Lawgiver, who made an different ark, the ark of the covenant, and ark constructed of wood and covered with gold, which contained the two tables of the law. Shall I, a sinful human being, dare then without thought or preparation to receive God, the maker of the law and the giver of life? Solomon, the wisest of the kings of Israel, spent seven years building a magnificent temple to God, and celebrated its dedication with a feast of eight days. He offered a thousand sacrifices in God’s honor and solemnly carried the Ark of the Covenant into the temple while trumpets sounded and the people rejoiced. How then can I approach God here in this time and place?
I confess that I cannot spend a half hour in prayer without my mind wandering off and thinking of this and that. I make some efforts to please God, but am well aware of how far my pitiful efforts fall short of God.
Today we come to the most sacred moment in the church. I need to ask myself then, How have I prepared for Holy Communion? Unfortunately, my answer has to be—not very well. Other than writing this sermon, which I suppose does not count, I have not thought much about communion this week. I was distracted by other things. There was a presidential debate. An election is coming. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan keep going on and on. These are the things people call important. They are not. They are trivial stuff. And this trivial stuff separates us from that which is really important. Here at this table, we come into the presence of the king of heaven, into the very presence of the life-giving Godhead. All else is trivial, all else is unimportant.
The great king Solomon only had the Ark of the Covenant, which was basically a box in which there were stone tablets. Here at this table, I have the body of Christ, the very body of God. Solomon could offer thousands of animal sacrifices, they are but a shadow of the great sacrifice offered for me by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why then am I not filled with adoration? Why do I not long for the presence of Christ? Why do I not prepare myself with greater care to receive this sacred treasure?
All of those patriarchs and prophets of old, all of those kings and princes with all their people, had a loving devotion for the worship of God. King David danced naked before the ark of the covenant. David composed psalms and sang them sung joyfully.
Yet David and all the patriarchs and prophets and kings and princes had not a tenth of the revelation of God that you and I have. How much more then should you and I praise and worship God. If they had such great devotion to the Ark of the Covenant, what great devotion should we have for this Sacrament? What reverence should we have as we receive the Body of Christ?
In the religion of Islam, one of the requirements for a truly good Muslim is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. They go all that distance, to Saudi Arabia, and when they get there they go through certain ceremonies, including a march around the Kaaba, a small brick building that houses a black stone, and this is supposed to bring them closer to their God.
How much more fortunate we are that God is present to us, right here at this table. But the Creator of humankind, and Lord of angels is only present when we come to the table in faith. People sometimes seek God for the wrong reasons. They seek out of curiosity, or they are looking for a novelty. American society is cursed by a desire for fads and novelties. People who come to this table with that kind of desire find nothing.
But when we come in faith to this Sacrament, we sense that we are in the presence of Christ Jesus, who has obtained for us an eternal salvation. We are not drawn to this table out of curiosity, or by a desire for something different. We come here with a firm faith, a devout hope, and a sincere love.
We realize that here God deals with us sweetly and graciously. God offers himself to us. This passes all understanding. This is a mystery that speaks to our hearts and causes us to increase in love toward God and others.
This Sacrament contains a wonderful and hidden grace that only the faithful of Christ understand, that unbelievers and slaves of sin cannot experience. Here at the Lord’s table spiritual nourishment is given to those who are willing to receive. Here we receive Christ who is our consolation in this life and our eternal joy in heaven.
Now if all that I have said of the Lord’s Table is true, then it is a sad thing that even many of God’s own people pay little attention to this sacrament. In many Protestant churches, this sacrament is seldom celebrated, and when it is celebrated, it is done so carelessly that everyone realizes that it is not taken seriously.
We have this great mystery of the universe in which God comes to us, and yet we treat it as if it were little or nothing. Perhaps we have so little respect for the sacrament because it is too easily available. We need to emphasize that the supper of the Lord is only for believers. It is not for children because they do not understand what it is about. God loves the little children, but they do not understand this, so this is not for them, not yet. This is not for unbelievers, because they do not understand what it is about. Only a people of faith are welcome at the table of God. But even a people of faith sometimes treat the sacrament carelessly. “Oh,” they say, “We are serving crackers and grape juice this morning. Let us just do it and get through it and not make a big deal out of it.”
God says, Make a big deal out of it. Perhaps it would be better for the church if the US government banned the celebration of the Christian sacraments. If the sacraments were banned and outlawed, and people could only partake of them in secret, and at some risk, then people would be careful about them and treasure them.
Actually, I am not serious in suggesting that the sacraments be banned by the government. It is a great blessing that on this Sabbath many of God’s people around the world can come together to celebrate Holy Communion. It is a blessing that in this country we have the freedom to come together openly and to partake of the Eucharist.
So today we can say, “Thanks be to You, Lord Jesus, for you have seen fit to feed us with your precious Body and Blood, and you have invited us to partake of these sacred Mysteries, saying: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Amen.
Source: Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, BK4, Ch1.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 12/06.04