As Sandy and I stood in the driveway last night listening to and watching the fireworks displays, I wondered how many people were actually thinking about the reason for the 4th of July celebrations. Our nephew who is in middle school had some vague idea about the Declaration of Independence, but no sense of appreciation for the history or meaning of the day.
I am under the impression that a majority of the people who “celebrated” were just glad to have a chance to make noise and shoot off the fireworks. It was a celebration void of meaning or passion beyond the tradition of a national holiday and the chance to enjoy the pyrotechnics.
It is my prayer and hope that today you have come to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with knowledge and passion. We offer the Sacrament 24 times a year in this branch. Multiple opportunities are provided for all of us to worship the Lord through this ordinance.
The Lord gave the church important instruction on the Sacrament through Joseph Smith III.
And the Spirit saith further: Contention is unseemly; therefore, cease to contend respecting the sacrament and the time of administering it; for whether it be upon the first Lord’s day of every month, or upon the Lord’s day of every week, if it be administered by the officers of the church with sincerity of heart and in purity of purpose, and be partaken of in remembrance of Jesus Christ and in willingness to take upon them his name by them who partake, it is acceptable to God. (D&C l 19:5a b)
Let him that partaketh and him that refraineth cease to contend with his brother that each may be benefited when he eateth at the table of the Lord. (D&C 119:5g)
Twice in this passage the Lord said that contention must cease regarding this ordinance. Contention is unseemly. There continues to be contention, however, about the Sacrament. Some is the contention of man to man and some is man contending with God. Too often some are reserving the Sacrament for some members in preference to others who qualify to receive it by scripture, but apparently not according to by-laws or prejudice.
The Lord further counsels that the frequency of administering the emblems is not the most important thing. The keys to observing this Sacrament and offering appropriate worship through the ordinance is:
- Administered by priesthood with sincerity of heart and purity of purpose.
- To be partaken of in remembrance of Jesus Christ
- To be partaken of with a willingness to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ.
When these criteria are met, the Lord said that this act of worship is acceptable to him. He is honored when we come to the table in this fashion.
These criteria rule out coming to the Table of the Lord by habit or by privilege alone. If one comes to the Table simply because that is the agenda of the day, the Lord is dishonored and he will not accept that worship.
So many Americans love to have an excuse to make noise and celebrate on Independence Day, but do so with little or no understanding of the meaning of the day, their responsibility to maintain this independence, and with little or no remembrance of the sacrifice required to make this independence possible.
As Saints of the living God, we cannot fall into a pattern of acting without knowledge or understanding. The passion of true worship is generated in the one who remembers what Jesus did, understands who he is, what he is doing and the consequences of believing and disbelieving the gospel, and who is committed to following Christ and the gospel.
Who can, when recalling the holiness and purity of Christ, fail to come to this Sacrament without thanksgiving and praise to God in their beings? This is the passion which is needed in worship and the Sacrament. It is a passion built on knowledge gained through revelation from God.
This passion is not emotion, although the emotions will often be engaged. It is a sense of awe in appreciating that the Sacrament (and all worship) is an invitation into the Holy of Holies. It is a heartfelt, thoughtful humility and repentance for sins committed and personal unworthiness. It is unspeakable gratitude for life undeserved which is manifested towards us in the mercy, grace and forgiveness granted through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
The true worshiper must know who they worship and why they worship. The worshiper must also understand the requirement of worship. This is why the Lectures of Faith state that if a person is to have faith that is unto life and salvation they must know that the life they are living is pleasing to the Lord.
“Having treated in the preceding lectures of the ideas of the character, perfections, and attributes of God, we next proceed to treat of the knowledge which persons must have that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, in order that they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation.
“This knowledge supplies an important place in revealed religion; for it was by reason of it that the ancients were enabled to endure as seeing him who is invisible. An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more ‘enduring substance’ (Heb 10:34).
“Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods, and the wasting of their substance joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house ‘not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’ (2 Cor. 5:1) (Lectures of Faith 6:1-3).”
Thus it was critical in the worship response of the Samaritan woman at the well that she knew she had encountered the Messiah of God. Likewise the man who was born blind needed to know that he had been healed by the Son of God. We are not just following some guy with some wisdom and some power. We are following the Son of God, the Messiah, the Creator of Heaven and earth, a High Priest who knows our life and has overcome it. Following him and walking in his precepts is the only way to life eternal, to the Father and Celestial glory.
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life: and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him (Lectures on Faith 6:7-8)”
Only a person who has made a covenant with God the Father, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and is living by the direction and comfort of the Holy Spirit is therefore able to offer the worship demanded by this Table set before us. To pretend to do otherwise is to partake unworthily. This is why we are commanded to provide the Sacrament only to those who have entered into this specific covenant.
Worship without an offering is not real worship. The offering we make to God is us. Paul said that this is our reasonable and acceptable service (see Romans 12:1-2). It is the act of laying aside sin and taking up our cross and following Jesus. This is what the Lord means in asking us to have a willingness to take upon us the name of Christ.
This is the covenant of the gospel restored in the last days. It is the covenant of the pure and unadulterated truth sent down from heaven for men and women of this dispensation. This is not an arrogant position of a people who have devised for themselves a system of religion they feel is superior to all others. This is the revelation of God.
Only by virtue of this covenant may one approach the Table of the Lord with the zeal of knowledge and with faith unto life and salvation. To the priesthood, serve with sincerity of heart and purity of purpose. To the covenanted ones, partake in remembrance of Jesus Christ and with a willingness to take upon you his name. We may thus expect the blessing of heaven in our midst to guide us through the days to come.