A New Rhythm of Receiving

By Scott McClellan

You might notice something different about this Sunday’s worship service. In some ways it’s a small shift, and hardly unprecedented, but we believe it’s an important part of who we are as a church and where we’re going. You might not have even noticed this change if we didn’t give you a heads-up ahead of time, but I want you to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it so that we can all lean in together. But first, a little background.

Last fall we shared what we believe is God’s vision for Irving Bible Church—A Transformed People, A Transformed City. In short, we believe God is calling us to pursue a particular future together: in the next five years we want to see rescue and renewal sweep across our city, sparked by the men, women, students, and children of IBC.

A big vision like ours, a five-year vision like ours, might seem like an invitation to take a single gigantic step, to make one drastic change that turns us from what we were into what we will become. And sure, the story of the people of God is marked by those pivotal moments in history that forever alter the course of the community going forward. But to me these seem like the exceptions that prove the rule.

Conversion can happen in a moment, but transformation rarely does. More often, transformation happens over time as the people of God abide in the presence of the one whose hands are skilled, powerful, and patient. Sure, lightning can strike in an instant and reduce a tree to a charred, splintered husk. On the other hand, mountains and canyons don’t form with a crash and a bang, but rather with persistent submission to a transformative force.

So rather than talk about a dramatic lightning strike, today I’d like to talk about a few minutes. That’s all—a few minutes. Specifically, let’s talk about the few minutes we’re going to spend together every week at the communion table going forward.

Yes, for the foreseeable future, we’re going to receive communion together every week in our worship services.

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This is new for us, although we’ve often celebrated communion every week in certain seasons such as Lent and Advent. By and large, we’ve celebrated communion about once a month, which may happen to be more or less often than what you grew up with or have experienced at another church. Whatever your past experiences and present reactions with communion may be, we want to establish this weekly practice as integral to the future of the body of Christ called Irving Bible Church.

The transformation we and our city so desperately need is gospel-shaped—have no doubt about that—and communion has always been a formative practice by which the church actively participates in the gospel story.

As followers of Jesus, missionary disciples, to come to his table in earnest is to come empty-handed. Empty-handed, no longer clinging to the sin that so easily entangles, to the masks we wear to make ourselves more presentable to the world, or to the idols we hide away in the dark recesses of our hearts. We come to the table empty-handed, no gifts to offer, no accomplishments to trumpet, no works or worthiness to justify our presence there. We come to the table empty-handed because it's his table, because he has invited us there, and because with empty hands we can receive his mercy and grace. We come to the table as a community to eat with Jesus.

Last week on Maundy Thursday I had the opportunity to talk about the Last Supper and our practice of communion. I mentioned how in the traditional Passover meal—the setting for the Last Supper—the bread was a symbol of the provision of God in the lives of his people. Similarly, the cup of wine was a symbol of God's promise in the lives of his people. And so when Jesus took the bread, the provision of God, he said, “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” After the meal he took the cup of wine, the promise of God, and he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” In communion Jesus was not merely inviting his disciples to consider the provision and promise of God, he was inviting them to take himself as the provision and promise of God—to drink deeply and eat their fill. He was inviting them, and he invites us, to receive that which they could never earn, borrow, or purchase.

This is, in a way, the crux of our faith: Jesus was and is and ever will be the provision and promise of God in the lives of his people. And so for us communion is an opportunity to taste that story, to receive that story, to re-orient our lives around that story, and to let God by his Spirit transform us more and more into people who bring his story to bear on the world. That’s why we’re going to extend this invitation to receive communion as the culmination of our worship each and every Sunday.

Each week we’re going to come to the table to proclaim to the world, to our neighbors, and to our own hearts the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is our provision and promise—that we are his people, called by his name, redeemed by his blood, and raised to walk in a new life of discipleship, community, and mission.

In the book that accompanies our Foundation discipleship experience, we say it this way:

    Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the practice of communion:

    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. — 1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-26

    Do you see how the sacrament makes its practitioners into proclaimers of the good news that God loved the world so much he sent his only son to give his life so that others might be rescued? All the sudden, partakers in bread and wine become storytellers who bear witness to the gospel of grace.

This will be the shape of our worship for this next season in the life of Irving Bible Church. May it be one of the many life-giving practices through which God makes us a transformed people whose work and witness are used by our God to transform our city.

I hope to see you Sunday at the table. 

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