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Communion Meditations (2022)



Originally scheduled for July 17

The English language word “substitute” has a curious contradiction in its meaning. There are two possible uses.
            A substitute might be something which is not quite as desirable as the original. For example, if you are making a casserole, the recipe might call for cream of asparagus soup. You go to the cupboard and find nothing but cream of mushroom soup, so you use that instead. It’s a substitute which is not as good as than the original intended item.
            A substitute might also be something which is superior to the original item. Baseball enthusiasts are familiar with this. If your lumbering, slow footed first baseman gets a hit and winds up on first base, the manager may decide to substitute a pinch runner. That player is much more likely to steal second base, and in that sense is a superior form of substitute. Similarly, you might send up a pinch-hitter for the same reasons.
It is clear from the Scriptures that Christ is our substitute. He substitutes for us in atoning for our sins. As such he is the superior form of substitute. To understand this we must remember that Christ is our Passover lamb. There are regulations for sacrifices in the Old Testament, and he better fulfills them.
            First, unlike all of us, he is without defect — he is sinless. The Passover lamb had to be without defect, a perfect example of the flock. None of us are sinless; therefore none of us are qualified to make such a sacrifice effective. He is, as Athanasius put it, “perfect God and perfect man.” There is no one who is equivalent to him.
            Next, he was sacrificed at the perfect time. There is a sense in which he was sacrificed at the perfect time in history for the founding of the church. Even locally, however, he meets the perfect time requirement as he was sacrificed at the same time the Passover lambs were being killed. This is not a coincidence.
            Finally, he was sacrificed at the right place. He died outside the city walls, as is fitting for a sin offering. This commandment goes back to the time of Moses, so that the sin offering would be separated from the people. Our sins were laid on his shoulders and he carried them outside the walls.
Communion brings us to remember this sacrifice. The cup represents his perfect blood, shed for our sins. We recall the Scripture says there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. We remember that perfect sacrifice. Similarly, the bread reminds us of his body, given up for us. In these two emblems we see that sacrifice, the suffering that he went through — and the resulting salvation of those he loves.
It is fitting that we take this in worthy manner. How does one do this? By being honest with yourself. Look into your own life and see if there is a besetting sin that needs his helping hands. See if there is something you have between you and your Christian brother that needs to be resolved, and prepared to do so. Most of all, as you partake, do so with a solemn reverence fitting the greatest outpouring of love mankind will ever see.

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