Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Blessing, the Pledge, and the Promise – of the Staff of Life’
© November 6, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #626 (The Last Supper – Mark 14); Prayer
Opening Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Scripture Verses: Hebrews 10:11-14, John 6:35, John 6:51-58, John 6:63
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service for Sunday, November 6, 2016. As this is the first Sunday of the month, we will remember the sacrifice of our Lord and His New Covenant by way of Communion.
This Friday is November 11, Remembrance Day, a day where we wear a symbolic poppies and observe, on the eleventh minute, of the eleventh hour, a moment of silence and reflection of the sacrifice given by soldiers, including those who surrendered their lives in order to protect Canadian lives and freedoms, in the First World War and the many subsequent wars and conflicts.
As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we remember a greater salvation that Jesus gave by paying for the penalty for our sins, through the observance of Holy Communion. The elements of Communion are juice and bread.
It is easier to understand what the Communion wine or juice represents than the meaning of the bread element. Wine represents the blood of Christ, but what about the bread?
Let us, first look at a special bread, known as Showbread, described in the Old Testament, and what this blessed bread represented in Smith’s Bible dictionary:
Shewbread or Showbread – from Smith’s Bible Dictionary
(Exodus 25:30; 35:13; 39:36) etc. literally “bread of the face” or “faces.” Shew-bread was unleavened bread placed upon a table which stood in the sanctuary together with the seven-branched candlestick and the altar of incense. See (Exodus 25:23-30) for description of this table. Every Sabbath twelve newly baked loaves, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, were put on it in two rows, six in each, and sprinkled with incense, where they remained till the following Sabbath. Then they were replaced by twelve new ones, the incense was burned, and they were eaten by the priests in the holy place, out of which they might not be removed, The title “bread of the face” seems to indicate that bread through which God is seen, that is, with the participation of which the seeing of God is bound up, or through the participation of which man attains the sight of God whence it follows that we have not to think of bread merely as such as the means of nourishing the bodily life, but as spiritual food as a means of appropriating and retaining that life which consists In seeing the face of God.
One of the central Temple vessels is the golden Table for the Showbread, which stands within the Sanctuary itself, on the north side. This table is constructed of wood overlain with gold, and the specific instructions for its design are described in Exodus Chapter 25.
The priests are commanded to see to it that 12 loaves of bread are constantly displayed on this table before the presence of G-d, hence the name showbread: “And you shall place showbread on the table before Me at all times” (Exodus 25:30).
“These 12 loaves were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones.
It is said that bread is the staff of life, and represents man’s physical sustenance. This is certainly so, and it is important that G-d’s blessing for goodness and bounty be found in the bread which we partake of… for without His munificent blessing, all of man’s efforts would neither satisfy nor satiate. Thus we endeavor to fulfill His will throughout every aspect of our endeavors, and in so doing, we earn His favor and blessing… for each area wherein man fulfills the Holy One’s will becomes a channel receiving Heavenly blessing.
This was especially so in the case of the Showbread, and one aspect of its function was indeed to elicit Divine guidance and providence. The sages teach that since these loaves were in essence the vehicle for fulfilling G-d’s commandment, and they were used to accomplish His will, special blessing could be found in it, and indeed, the Divine blessing was seen and felt particularly in the context of the Showbread. The Talmud describes that a miracle took place every week: When the priests came to replace the breads with new loaves every Sabbath, they found that those of the previous week remained fresh and hot upon the table, like the moment they were baked. This miracle was seen as a clear confirmation that the Divine Presence indeed rested in this holy place.
We may take that the Showbread represented the Divine Presence of God, as the bread remained fresh and hot for a week, at which time the temple Priests would replace the Showbread. The old Showbread was not to be discarded; instead it was to be consumed by the Priests in a holy location in the Temple.
But what about the bread consumed by Christians during Communion? Let us examine today’s Scriptures, beginning with Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV):
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Jesus’ death on the cross was made as a sacrifice to redeem the whole world, for all time for the condemnation and judgment of sins.
The Lord paid the price for our sins, forever, as long as we keep faith. We see the benefit of the Lord’s sacrifice in our next Scripture passage, John 6:35 (ESV):
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
But how does Jesus act as bread? Let us look at the next Scripture passage, John 6:51-58 (ESV):
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Footnotes: a. John 6:58 Greek lacks the bread
We receive Spiritual sustenance from Jesus, which is symbolically represented by the bread. Just as bread provides sustenance to the body, Christ gives sustenance to the spirit, as we see in John 6:63 (ESV):
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The Showbread which represents the supernatural presence of God, as well as His sustenance ended when the Temple was destroyed.
With the advent of Jesus and his crucifixion on the cross, God gave us the gift of His New Covenant through Christ. All who accept Christ’s gift are saved and sanctified as apostles of the Gospel of Christ. We receive God’s Holy Spirit, and vessels of the Holy Spirit, or Arks of the New Covenant.
Being sanctified through Christ, believers are expected to become his apostles or messengers of the good news which is the Gospel of the Lord. Believers in Christ are expected to participate in the observance of Holy Communion until the day that the Lord returns.
This brings us to the Communion portion of the service:
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[a]you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #212: According to Thy Gracious Word
Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.