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Communion 2010

Reverence

Originally scheduled for January 10, 2010

Wikipedia defines reverence as “to show extreme honor and respect for something or someone.” That’s the modern definition. Noah Webster, writing over a hundred years earlier had a different definition: “Fear mingled with respect and esteem.”

Both definitions include the idea of respect. Certainly a Christian should respect Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made. For this reason the Lord’s Supper is served with appropriate ceremony, beginning with this meditation. But there are some changes which have been made. Perhaps we can examine these changes and see if something valuable has been left behind.

The modern definition begins with a verb: “to show.” That’s what it seems to be; a show. It is a formality, something which is polite. Polite – but not necessarily significant. Webster’s definition excludes this idea. In his view, reverence is very significant. It is also based on a noun. It exists; it is not something we do once in awhile. It’s not just a show, but a full time attitude.

The key to the difference is in the word “fear.” If you meet the Queen of England you would observe the formalities required by protocol. But there is no sense of fear in that. Henry VIII might have gotten a different reception, given his habit of beheading his wives.

You might ask, “Why should I fear God? He is loving and compassionate.” Indeed he is. But this is not incompatible with reasoning fear. It is as the Royal Navy used to say: Fear God, and dread naught. If you have the fear of God, then what other thing can frighten you? God is supreme in power. Moreover, he is willing to act. He promises judgment to the sinner, but mercy to the repentant. So much so that he has given you this reminder, so that you might examine yourself. Fear him; know his power – and accept his offer of mercy to the repentant.

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