You remember the Second Helvetic Confession, don’t you? Right. There’s a line to make you want to keep on reading. But keep on reading, because the Second Helvetic Confession knows the answer to the question of who is coming to dinner.
The Second Helvetic Confession is a Swiss confession written in Zurich by Heinrich Bullinger in 1561. It is one of the great Reformed confessions, though it lacks the influence of, say, the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the poetry and beauty of the Heidelberg Catechism.
In his long and profound chapter on the church, Bullinger says:
Since there is always but one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Jesus the Messiah, and one Shepherd of the whole flock, one Head of this body, and, to conclude, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one Testament or covenant, it necessarily follows that there is only one Church. We, therefore, call this Church catholic because it is universal, scattered through all parts of the world, and extended unto all times, and is not limited to any times or places.
The sometimes confusing line in the Apostles’ Creed about the holy catholic Church (get your caps right) is made less confusing. It is not about denominational identity. It is about God’s gift to us. Called to Christ, we are called to a communion of the saints. As Bullinger says, “a communion, I say, of all saints, namely, of those who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God in Christ the Savior, by the Word and Holy Spirit…”
And get this – I love the Second Helvetic – it exists “scattered through all parts of the world, and extended to all times, and is not limited to any times or places.” More than that. Though we speak of the Church Militant, the church about its Kingdom business and still on earth, and the Church Triumphant, those whose rest is won; the church in heaven, “notwithstanding, both have fellowship and union one with another.”
The Church is not limited by time or place. In her both heaven and earth have fellowship and union with one another.
Sunday is All Saints Day – our celebration not of a few of us, but all of us. A celebration of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. With All Saints Day being a Sunday, we will gather as a church with the Church at the Lord’s Table.
Guess who’s coming to dinner.
Chapel or Sanctuary, contemporary or traditional, our services will not be confined to those in the room. Jesus is Lord of this feast and he gathers his Church at his Table. It will be a great cloud of witnesses that comes to dinner this Sunday.
Who will be at the Table this Sunday? Confined neither by time nor place, friends from Hope Kibuye in Burundi, Fuente de la Vida in Guatemala, Igreja Presbiteriana no Jardim America in Brazil, and untold others will be at the table with us.
I will be at Table with friends from the First Presbyterian churches in Santa Cruz, California, and Menominee, Michigan, Lake Grove Presbyterian in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Park Presbyterian in Beaver, Pennsylvania. Each of us who gathers at LPC will recognize brothers and sisters in Christ who we have known in other times and other places – and it may be that they have become a brother and sister in Christ since we last were with them.
Who will be at the Table this Sunday? Since both the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant have fellowship and union one with the other, we will be joined in this joyful feast of the people of God by those who now cast their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
Guess who’s coming to dinner. The 21 Coptic Martyrs who joined the Church Triumphant on February 15 of this year will be Table with us on Sunday. (See this reminder of All Saints Day.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Archbishop Romero will be there.
On Sunday, by the grace of God, I will share the Meal with Bob and Louise. Duane will be there, his mind sharp and clear. Ruth and Mabel, both. Jim Wiley will be with us. All of us will recognize brothers and sisters in Christ who we knew here but who now in glory reign.
Guess who’s coming to dinner this Sunday. Nothing short of the holy catholic Church. Thanks, Second Helvetic, for reminding us.
See you Sunday, all you saints.