St. Jerome once said, grieve over your sin, and then joy over your grief. What Jerome meant is similar to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians about how the Corinthians had truly mourned over their sin. Paul said he was glad. He had mourned over their sin, and rebuke them, and they in turn had been given a godly sorrow that lead to real repentance, and therefore it was time to rejoice.
Just as we begin every worship service with confession of sin and assurance of forgiveness, we conclude every worship service with this table of joy. But do not misunderstand. We are not ceremonialists – we are not saying that you must save up all your sins throughout the week for the confession, and therefore you must wait until this point to be assured that God has accepted you. No, these parts of our service are more like confessions of faith, reminders of what is true all the time. We proclaim the truths of forgiveness and joyful fellowship here because they are available to you all week long.
Do not save up your sins: confess them right away, forgive one another right away, keep short accounts. And as you do that, every time you are forgiven, there should be a mini-feast of joy laid for you and for the people around you. What is your forgiveness? It is the body and blood of the Lord shed for your sins. What is your joy? It is the body and blood of the Lord shed for your sins.
Then you might wonder: why bother with church every Sunday? Well, for starters, Jesus told us to gather together and keep this meal whenever we gather. But Jesus also promised to be uniquely present when we gather together, to be in our midst. But think about it: we all sin throughout the week, and we confess our sins, and we receive forgiveness, all week long. And then we come here, all together, to celebrate that. It’s not that we’ve been saving up our sins to be forgiven, or in some weird way, pretending we don’t know if we’re forgiven or not.
Rather, if we’ve been confessing our sins and forgiving one another all week long, we’ve actually been saving up our joy. If we’re doing it right, there’s a sense in which we should be welling up as the week goes on, considering how gracious and kind and merciful God is being to each of us, and then considering how God is being so gracious and kind and merciful to our whole church. So we’re welling up with joy throughout the week, and then we come here to rejoice. We come here to lift our praises. We come here to feast together with our King. God is good.
So come and welcome to Jesus Christ.