Rochester Christian Reformed Church, New York, crafts its own Lord’s Supper litanies to help connect the theme of the service or the season of the Christian year with the sacrament. This is the first of several litanies they will be sharing with RW readers. It is based on the sacramental sections of the Belgic Confession, one of the confessions held by many Reformed denominations.
“Do this in remembrance of me.” For most Christians, these familiar words of Christ trigger the sweet scent of grapes and the taste of bread. We all know that Lord’s Supper services are intended to help God’s people remember Christ. But how can we help God’s people better retain knowledge of Christ—and translate that memory into lives of worship?
If you are a preacher in a typical Reformed congregation, you know that on most Sundays the congregation expects the table to be bare even as they expect the pulpit to be filled. Many people who wouldn’t bat an eye at a service without either of the sacraments would find a service without a sermon vaguely scandalous.
If you’re looking for a good read that will refresh your understanding and especially your experience of the Lord’s Supper, the writings of John Calvin might not immediately come to mind. They are, admittedly, old and occasionally laden with arguments for or against (usually against) the views of certain contemporaries. But, ultimately, neither their age nor such disputation should be held against Calvin’s works, as they are also imbued with rich pastoral insight and devotional depth.
Certain experiences are pregnant with new insight, usually more than we recognize at the time. One of those experiences gave me new insights on the Lord’s Supper.
When my now-grown sons were young, we took a lot of car trips. On one particularly long journey, after we’d exhausted the usual repertoire of the license plate hunt, Riddly Riddly Ree, and Twenty Questions, the boys came up with a game of their own. They made two signs on pieces of drawing paper. One sign said “Hello!” That one went in the front passenger window. The second said “How is your day going?” The boys held that one up in the back passenger window. It then became my job to pass as many cars as possible.
Throughout Scripture, God reveals his table grace to us. We are given a feast of themes and images to interpret the Lord’s Supper. Poets and musicians have highlighted these biblical themes and images in their songs. You’ll find some of them listed below, along with songs that accentuate them. Use these songs to surround the Table with music that proclaims the grace of God and deepens our participation in the Lord’s Supper.
The service of Tenebrae, meaning “darkness” or “shadows,” has been practiced by the church since medieval times. Once a service for the monastic community, Tenebrae later became an important part of the worship of the common folk during Holy Week. We join Christians of many generations throughout the world in using the liturgy of Tenebrae.
How should pastors prepare themselves and the churches they serve to participate in communion?
A celebration of World Communion Sunday need not be odd or uncomfortable for people with a limited experience of languages and cultures other than their own (see p. 3). Any time we plan worship, we need to ask, What is the authentic “language” (ethos, perspective, culture) of the congregation? In what forms can the gospel be heard most clearly, and in what language(s) can the congregation glorify God most freely?