Currency and Communion

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Devotional Word for Wednesday, July 7, 2021

For the past weeks, we have been discussing the sacraments of baptism and communion.  Today we are going to continue that course and we are going to consider again the how the bread and the cup assure us of Jesus’ death FOR US.  Before we turn to the catechism, I want to talk with you about money.  Consider the lowly and humble dollar.  I have one here.  We could wax philosophic about the “in God we trust” statement on the reverse side of the dollar, but I would like us to consider the obverse.  There is George Washington in the center.  As you are looking at it, above and toward the left is the comment “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”  That means that you can use this to pay for things.  You are all saying, “Wow, that is really inciteful.”  Before you turn to watch some other video, consider why this is a valid form of payment.  It doesn’t do anything.  It is not good as a building material.  It is not good as a tissue or towel.  It has no value in itself.  If I were the owner of a coffee shop and someone offered me a dollar for coffee, I would be tempted to refuse.  Instead of a dollar (which has no value), why not barter with something more directly needed like toilet paper?

The answer to our dollar conundrum is twofold.  First, we do not, by and large, barter because it is not efficient.  As a coffeeshop owner, I can only accept so many rolls of toilet paper before I no longer need it and no longer value it.  I would then have to keep changing my prices.  There would be shortages and excesses inefficiently placed throughout the community.  Using a standard currency allows folks to pay for goods and services nearly universally.  The second part of the use of a dollar is more germane to our discussion today.  Though it has no value of its own as a building material or a towel, it has value because it has been declared to have value by the United States government.  We know that because down at the bottom it is signed by the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury.  That means that when I have this worthless rag in my hand, it is not worthless because its value has been guaranteed.  If we speak in sacramental terms, it is the sign of the worth of one dollar.

Heidelberg Catechism Question 77 asks, “Where has Christ promised that He will feed and nourish believers with His body and blood just as surely as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?”  Think about it.  When we take communion, we are eating bread and drinking wine or juice.  Unlike the dollar, these do have some value (they contain calories and nutrients).  However, with regard to our salvation in and of themselves they contain no value.  We cannot eat enough bread or drink enough grape juice to earn our righteousness.  If they do not give it to us, how can we be sure that we will have that righteousness as we eat the bread and drink the cup?  The answer responds,

“In the institution of the Holy Supper which reads:

THE LORD JESUS ON THE NIGHT WHEN 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 ALSO 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.” FOR AS OFTEN AS YOU EAT THIS BREAD AND DRINK THE CUP, YOU PROCLAIM THE LORD’S DEATH UNTIL HE COMES.  This promise is also repeated by the apostle Paul: When we bless “the cup of blessing,” is it not a means of sharing in the blood of Christ?  When we break the bread, is it not a means of sharing the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we -many as we are- are one body; for it is one loaf of which we all partake.”

How is it that we can be assured that Jesus’ body was broken and His blood was shed FOR US when we participate in communion?  We can have certainty not because the elements carry worth in and of themselves.  Instead we can be certain because they have be given the task of pointing Christians to the death of Christ on the Cross.  We know that they are affective, because the Lord speaking through His inerrant Word has declared it to be so.  We live our daily lives taking the word of our civil magistrates in the buying and selling of goods.  We should be far more certain of Christ’s death to remove our sin and give us His righteousness in the sacrament of communion because of the truth and certainty of God’s Word.