Doubting, Questioning, and Discomfort
At the end of April I had the opportunity to serve communion at Christ Church Edinburgh. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to administer the sacrament in Edinburgh. I always find serving at a different church a bit nerve-racking. You never quite know how the church partakes and every church does it a little differently. We have been going to Christ Church for quite some time now, but at the same time, I am never paying super close attention to the exact order of everything. In preparation I talked to David, our Pastor, to work through some of the particulars regarding Christ Church's practices.
The thing that I loved about serving at the table this last month was that I got a chance to reflect on the Lord's Supper again. Giving the invitation to the Table was one of my weekly responsibilities when I was at Parish. I loved to listen to the sermon and consider how it brought us to the Table. So, this last month's worship service was a bit like knocking off a bit of rust.
As I considered the Table that week, I was struck by the fact that there is something about coming to the Table regularly that quiets our soul. It comforts us in the midst of the doubts and questions that come during the course of the week. When we come to the Table, we hear the Gospel preached. We hear it preached in the sermon, but we also hear it proclaimed through the visible words of bread and wine. At the Table, we hear the Lord declare to us that we are his people and he is our God. Thomas Brooks in chapter 4 of Precious Remedies talks about how Satan so often wants to disquiet our souls by causing us to question the truth proclaimed at the Table. Yet, as we come we hear this truth. It is announced in words and in visible signs and seals of those promises, in the sacrament.
As Brooks outlines the different ways that Satan tries to disquiet us regarding our relationship to God with questions, doubts, and discomfort, Brooks' primary point is that it is all about taking our eyes off of Christ. The Lord's Supper functions as a corrective to this as well. It draws our eyes off of ourselves and toward Christ. Not only do we hear the promise: 'I am your God and you are my people' proclaimed at the Table, but, as Bavinck notes, even in the self-examination we are called to turn our eyes to Christ. Bavinck puts it this way:
What a significant confession we make, therefore, when we go to the Lord’s Supper! We do not come to it to testify that we are perfect and righteous in ourselves, but the contrary, because we seek our life outside of ourselves, namely in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that we lie in the midst of death. In this sacrament we confess that Jesus Christ is the true food and drink of our souls, and that we are members of his body. As it is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we all share in the one bread.
In chapter 4 of Precious Remedies Brooks outlines the ways in which we can struggle with questions and doubts about our status before God. The more I think about that, the more I am convinced that one of the best places to be assured of our standing before God is Sunday morning in the worship service as we hear the Gospel preached and we partake in the sacrament. In both of those these elements of worship we hear God say, 'I am your God and you are my people.' In both of those elements of worship we hear God say, 'You cannot find your righteousness in yourself but only in Christ.'
All too often doubts, questions, and discomfort about our status before God creep into our life. The only remedy to those things is leaning on precious promises of God. To try to answer the doubts, questions, and discomfort with anything else may provide a temporary comfort, but that passes and when it does, only deeper and more profound doubts and questions remain. In the end when we have questions, what we need is to hear, taste, and grab hold of the promises of God to which Christ is the 'Yes and Amen.'