Psalm 102 – Epiphany Presence

 

last-supper-isaac-fanousI read a study this week that involved about 2,000 men and women in the UK b/t the ages of 18 and 30. The study revealed that when it comes to taking photographs, 39% preferred taking pictures of themselves, rather than their family, partner, or pets. The research showed that over half of young people take selfies at least once a week, with 73% of photos going primarily toward social media. By comparison, only 45% used their pictures for online dating profiles and 32% used them to document life events in online diaries and blogs. When the regular selfie-takers were asked how they felt about their appearance and relationships, only a shocking 13% said they felt confident in their own skin, with 60% having low self-esteem. The reasons why any of the subjects posted selfies ranged from capturing the moment when they look their best to communicating their mood instead of updating their profile status, but most common was to get attention from likes and comments. The primary researcher said: For the selfie addicts, it is important to make sure that they do not base all their self-esteem on a few comments or likes on a picture. There is a lot more to a person than their selfie.[1] This study jumped out at me b/c it highlights the fact that we are insecure people. We are broken and desire recognition, and our insecurities seem to dictate many of our actions.

We are now into the 4th week of the season of Epiphany. If you remember by now, in the season of Epiphany we celebrate the presence of Christ in our midst. And we have been asking the question: Now that Messiah is here, what shall we do? And, the answer is Worship. In light of this, we have been examining the different aspects of our worship gatherings. Why do we eat together, or offer prayers and songs, and why we study scripture together? Today we will skim the surface of why we take the Lords Supper every week.

There are 4 primary views about what is present or not in the Lords Supper. I am hoping to offer a simple overview to each, knowing there are more nuances and detail than what I will give. The 1st view is the ROMAN VIEW. The Roman Catholic Church holds that the presence of Christ in the sacrament happens in a physical sense, that the bread and wine literally change into the body and blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation. This view is based primarily on a literal interpretation of the words of Jesus, when He said: this IS my body. The LUTHERAN VIEW is similar but nuanced. Their view is called consubstantiation. Luther believed that Christ is literally present in the serving of the Lords Supper, but that the bread and wine remain what they are, just bread and wine. They believe that as one receives the bread and cup, it is Jesus Himself who serves it. The whole person of Christ, body and blood, is present in the moment but not in the elements. The 3rd view is the ZWINGLIAN VIEW. The Reformer, Zwingli, denied the bodily presence of Christ in the Lords Supper, and emphasized the Lord’s Supper being a memorial of what Christ did for sinners and as an act of profession of faith. The bread and juice are just bread and juice, and Jesus is present only in one’s faith in Him, so they take communion to remember His work. The final view is the REFORMED VIEW. John Calvin took a middle position to the previous views. Instead of the physical presence, he emphasized the spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper w/ a deeper significance of the mystical communion which the believer enjoys in it. He saw it as a seal and pledge of what GOD did for the believing participant rather than a pledge of the BELIEVER’S consecration to God.[2] In all of these views, they are asking about the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. So it makes sense for us to consider the presence of Christ in our lives in general.

 

Text

To do this, lets look at Psalm 102. I see this Psalm as having 4 sections. As we look at the Psalm together, we are going to label the sections, and I hope that will aid us in our discussion of Christ’s presence among us. The 1st section of Psalm 102 is vs. 1-11:

1 Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. 3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? I would say that in this section we see life w/o Him and His hope. We get a picture of life outside of His presence. There is a plea to be heard, followed by various pictures of desperation. In this section we see the human condition of insecurity.

The 2nd section is vs. 12-17:

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. 14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In this section we see who God is, and what He does. We ultimately see the answer to the human condition of insecurity. Here the Psalmist praises of God for His promise of presence and deliverance and sustenance. We see that God is present and moving to deliver.

The 3rd section of the Psalm is vs. 18-22:

18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 19 The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death. 21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In this section we see the answer to the question of: What shall we do? In light of God’s presence, we are to remember the presence and the promises of God. If we are living in the condition of vs. 1-11, of despair and anguish, and believe in the activity of Jesus among us, as seen in vs. 12-17, then we are to build up our faith in Him, by remembering and seizing His promises, and tell the story of His redemption again.

The final section of Psalm 102 is vs. 23-28. If the 1st section showed us our condition w/o God, and the 2nd section proclaims who God is and what He does, and the 3rd section shows us what to do, then WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE THIS SECTION?

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. 24 So I said: Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. 25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end. 28 The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.

WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In many ways this final section is the Summery of the entire Psalm. v. 23 = vs 1-11, showing us our condition. vs. 24-27 = vs. 12-17, and show us the greatness of God and what He does. And, v 28 = vs. 18-22, showing us how we live in response to God’s presence.

I love this Psalm, b/c it is very real. In it we see that we are broken, flawed and insecure. It confirms what we see in our culture, including the condition of selfie addicts. And in the Psalm we see that God’s response to our condition is His presence. In His presence we are secure. When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” and died upon the cross, our security in God was secured. We are secure in His presence.

 

Today

And so, just as in the Psalm, we respond w/ building our faith. , by telling the story of redemption again, and posturing ourselves to receive His blessings. This is one reason why we take the Lord’s Supper each week, to remember the benefits of Jesus’ work on the cross.

The Heidelberg Catechism is a confession of the Reformed tradition and has helped folks throughout the centuries meditate and build up their faith. In it, it speaks of the Lord’s Supper and asks the question: How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts (Q. 75)? Part of the answer states, “First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.” In other words, we are reminded and retell the story of redemption again. Second, it says “that as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.” In other words, just as the bread and juice could sustain us physically, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus also feeds us spiritually, posturing us to receive His blessings again. As we receive the Lords supper, these 2 things happen: we are spiritually fed, and we remember and participate in His work on our behalf. We accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ, and, by believing, receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In addition to this, we are also united w/ Christ’s body, and are therefore posturing ourselves to live on governed by His Spirit. Hebrews 2:14-15, says: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.As we do this together as a community, we also declare that we, as a people, are united under Him. In the Lord’s Supper we celebrate the reality that Jesus is present among us, interceding for us.

The good news is that in His presence we are secure and free. And in His presence we thrive. As we live under His security, our identities reside in Him, not our images of ourselves, our selfies if you will. In Christ, we live in His freedom and peace. So my prayer is that as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, it would allow us to realize His presence among us, and we will be fed.

Amen.

 

[1] http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/400572/Psychology-study-reveals-insecurity-of-selfie-addicts

[2] Louis Berkhof’s Manual of Christian Doctrine.

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