While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28 NIV)

I mentioned in my sermon this past Sunday that the Lord has given us two rituals to observe in the church family. One ministers mainly to our guilt and the other mainly to our shame. The first is believer’s baptism and the second is the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism is a picture of our sins being washed away. It is brief and done only once – biblically, baptisms were always done, and only done, after someone believed in Christ, and they were done by immersion. Baptism is a picture of a new life beginning, the old life dying with Christ and a new life beginning in Christ.

In this sense baptism for the believer is a picture of our guilt being taken away. We are saved through faith and not through baptism, but as a picture to the believers and to the world, it reminds us that we are instantaneous forgiven for all our sin – past, present, and future – the moment we trust in Christ. Guilt produces fear of punishment, and in the gospel we learn that Christ took the punishment that was due us upon Himself, and paid for our redemption.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Rom. 3:25 NLT)

This is saving faith – genuine repentant faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He died for our sins and rose from the grave. As such guilt can be resolved rather simply, through faith in Christ.

The Lord’s Supper, however, ministers to our shame and it is done repeatedly. Shame is more complicated and is an emotion that makes us feel excluded, embarrassed, inferior, dirty. The Lord’s Supper shows inclusion in the body of Christ, acceptance by God to sit at His table, and the church family.

The Lord’s Supper involves the biological mystery of the digestion of food, of turning grain and wine into body mass and strength. A bath can wash away dirt quickly, but it takes time to digest food. The Lord’s Supper enables us to sit and contemplate the grace of God, to confess our sins, to be assured of our forgiveness.

One of the most primal human fears is this fear of rejection. “If these people really knew who I was,” we reason in our insecurity, “they would not accept me.” We feel often as though we do not belong in some situations, and especially our sense of shame and spiritual weakness makes us wonder what we are doing at the table of God, eating the body and blood of His Son.

The Lord’s Supper tells us that we are accepted by grace, and grace means inclusion, not only forgiveness. So we come together to sit together, to eat and drink together, to acknowledge the inclusion, and the acceptance, of every believer in Christ. There is no seat at the Lord’s table that is elevated higher than the others. Each is there by grace, and none by works. Each considers not only himself but the entire family of faith as being invited by Christ.

It is one thing for God to forgive a guilty sinner. It is another thing for God to convince that sinner that he is forgiven, that his shame is removed. This is the work of the Spirit in our lives, and we as the body of Christ should seek to do that for each soul that confesses Christ as well.

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