Three small communion cups, drained empty, are stacked together in my hand.
My two little girls sit on my right, not so little anymore. From the middle of the country, in small-town America, they drank with me from these cups. The eyes of the world couldn’t be further from us here, a place where no politician rallies for votes, no business builds its headquarters, and no rich man invests his money.
Beneath us, orange pew pads clash with the blue carpet of our sanctuary floor. A drop-ceiling sags overhead, stained from damage caused by winter leaks around the steeple base. Surrounding us are wooden panels, painted white in our modest attempt to emerge from mid-twentieth-century décor.
Our little town is six thousand miles from Jerusalem, from the humble hill outside the city where Jesus died, and it seems like no one on earth pays attention to us. An earthquake could tear the foundations out from under us, and we’d still have only a small chance of making the evening news.
We could not be more remotely dislocated from any sort of central importance, and yet, the Lord Jesus is among us (Matthew 18:20).
Love on Display
How wide is the love of Christ? At least six thousand miles from a rugged cross to the farmlands of western Ohio.
In this is love, not that we have loved God . . .
I have loved God, but I also have not loved him. The number of false gods I have made to come between us is unknown even to me. They are too many to name, yet too central to my rebellion to completely omit.
Some of them now come to mind as I hold these empty communion cups: wooden images, cheap and rudimentary idols which I carved for myself in the naivety of childhood. They were basketball heroes and middle-school crushes, idols that never repaid my devotion or delivered on their promises.
After these came the sophisticated gods of silver and gold that I worshiped as a man — sex and money and power and pride. I much preferred these gods to the old ones, marking my love for them as a sign of my own development, emblems of my new maturity.
Such a fool was I. O God, keep my children from loving these things, I pray.
To my shame, I have loved them all. To my shame, they still whisper to my heart sometimes, though I have renounced them all. Such is life in this fallen flesh.
I have not loved God. I loved him not for many years before I ever loved him truly.
. . . but that he loved us and sent his Son . . .
The Son of Man who lived as I could not, without error, without crime, crawled to a cross for me? Is this the same Christ who lays the axe to the root of the tree (Luke 3:9)? Is this the same King with the bloodstained robes of his fallen enemies (Isaiah 63:3)? Why is the Lion bound as a Lamb on Abraham’s altar? What is Jesus doing on a cross for me?
. . . to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Oh that my children would look to this Jesus! See him, girls, the angel who redeemed Jacob from all evil (Genesis 48:16), suffering under the weight of our sin. God has provided a Lamb! God has provided for me — for us!
Three little communion cups, stacked in my hand, representing blood enough for a father and his daughters. Yes, we are rescued! To my overflowing joy, we are rescued!
For Us and for Others
I turn to my left, where two smaller children rest, not yet ready to drink of the Lord’s cup. I hold up the empty cups and ask, “Do you remember what this represents, son?”
“Jesus’s blood?” he whispers back, with only the slightest hint of a question. I nod. He smiles. He has remembered Jesus too.
Which, of course, is the point. “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
Too often we sit distracted and disinterested in our corporate gatherings. We sing with little enthusiasm. We pray with little heart. We treat the privileges of God’s family as if they were mere little obligations.
All the while, little eyes are watching us.
But when those eyes see in the adults around them a passion for Jesus that seems at once both unreasonable and yet remarkably genuine, then the doorway to their hearts might be cracked open by the Holy Spirit. A little light might begin to shine through as they struggle to understand this great power that holds sway over mom and dad and the rest of the grownups.
And with ears suddenly opened, they might hear, as if for the first time, the pastor read to them the words of Jesus, “This is my body which is for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
How can we just go through the motions at his Table? How can we only mouth the words of songs for his praise? How can we live as if our lives were actually our own?
One day, when the time comes, we will take our children by their little hands and, holding those empty cups to their eyes, assure them that the God of the universe has loved them this much.
We will tell them that there is blood enough for them as well.