Meals, Nourishment, Reconciliation, and Celebration: A Service of Scripture and Song
The meal that we know as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist is derived from a rich background of meals—meals and meal customs recorded in Scripture. Traces of these meals can be found in the sacrament.
This service suggests a series of Old and New Testament readings about meals, nourishment, reconciliation, and celebration, along with some songs that respond to the Word. Together they make up a hymn festival that culminates in a celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Good words, good music, and good food—the best, in fact. You’ll find a few comments about each reading (see box) that emphasize the thread running through them. Those notes could serve as an introduction or commentary on the readings in place of a homily.
Several song suggestions are provided to choose from. Most congregations will have only one, or at most two of the songbooks indicated. In several cases a song in Shona, Spanish, or Korean is among the selections available. A variety of instrumental accompaniment is also possible. Careful attention to your local context will indicate which choices will best help the congregation respond to the readings and move toward the meal. Although all the songs can be sung by the congregation, some churches might want to have the choir or a soloist provide some of the musical responses, using texts similar to those suggested.
Prelude: Improvisation of “Taste and See” or another of the tunes to used in the service
Call to Worship
In Christ, the God of heaven has made his home
Christ dwells among us and is one with us.
Highest of all creation, he lives among the least.
He journeys with the rejected and welcomes
Come now, all who thirst,<
and drink the water of life.
Come now, all who hunger,
and be filled with good things.
Come now, all who seek,
and be warmed by the fire of love.
(The Worship Sourcebook, 1.2.35; www.faithaliveresources.org)
“God, You Call Us to this Place” SNC 14
“I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art” PH 457, RL 366, TH 168
“I Greet My Sure Redeemer” PsH 248
“Uyai Mose/Come, All You People” SNC 4
Christ as Host of the Forgiven:
The Feast of Joseph and His Brothers
Scripture: Genesis 43:15-34
“Psalm 23” SNC 181
“The Lord’s My Shepherd” PsH 161, TH 86
“The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life” PsH 23
The Feast on the Mountain
Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-9
“Table of Plenty” SNC 247
“Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless” TH 424
“Gift of Finest Wheat” PsH 300, PH 521
“Somos pueblo que camina/We Are People on a Journey” SNC 260
The Escatological Wedding Feast
“Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness/Clothe Yourself, My Soul with Gladness” PsH 305, TH 421
“As We Gather at Your Table” SNC 245
“Ososo/Come Now, O Prince of Peace” SNC 209
Jesus Eating with Tax Collectors and Sinners
Scripture: Luke 5:27-35
“Taste and See” James E. Moore, Jr. (GIA, also in Wonder, Love, and Praise 764)
“Lord, I Bring My Songs to You” (st. 3-4) PsH 34
“Let Us Praise God Together” TH 659
“Psalm 34: Taste and See” SNC 255
The Last Supper
Scripture: Matthew 26:17-34
“Come, Let Us Eat” PsH 303
“I Hunger and I Thirst” TH 430
“Eat This Bread” SNC 254
“Haleluya! Pelo tsa rona/Hallelujah! We Sing Your Praises” SNC 261
The Lord’s Supper
[Use your denomination’s suggested liturgy; SNC 250 provides a musical setting for the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving.
Sing one of the Hallel psalms (113-118), which were used in Jewish liturgy at the time of the great festivals, and therefore also sung by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper: PsH 113-118; TH 54, 67, 106, 7, 613; SNC 174, 226, 146.]
As you have been fed at this table, go to feed the hungry. As you have been set free, go to set free the imprisoned. As you have received, give. As you have heard, proclaim. And the blessing that you have received from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be always with you. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook 9.1.20).
Other Passages to Consider
- Genesis 18:1-9 (Abraham and the Three Visitors)
- Exodus 12:1-20 (Passover, a Meal for Remembrance)
- Exodus 24:3-11 (The Meal That Ratifies the Covenant)
- Nehemiah 7:73-8:3; 8:8-12 (The Feast That Reestablishes the Covenant)
- Acts 2:37-47 (The Sacramental Meal in the Early Church).
Notes on the Readings
Genesis 43:15-34 (Christ as Host of the Forgiven: The Feast of Joseph and His Brothers)
In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers’ money is returned in their grain sacks. When they discover it, they lose heart and tremble (v. 28); they are dismayed (v. 35). At this point, we know more than the brothers, having been informed by the narrator how the money got there at the behest of Joseph (v. 25, see also 44:1-2—or, as the house servant says, God put it there, 43:23). The brothers also found provisions for their journey back to Canaan (v. 24). These are early clues of Joseph’s gracious intentions for them. God is acting behind the scenes (42:28), as the brothers sense and as Joseph later reveals (45:5).
In Genesis 43 we find a gathering of twelve brothers at a banquet. It is a family meal that anticipates other meals of the family of God. As he hosts the meal, Joseph is a type of Christ’s graciousness. This noon meal is portrayed as a gracious feast, a time of merriment and a preview of the end of the story—when Jacob arrives and the family is reunited. This is a story about family healing, renewal, and reunion as a picture of God’s redemption of the human family—accomplished at a meal. And it is a foretaste of the banquet promised in Isaiah 25.
Isaiah 25:6-9 (The Feast on the Mountain)
This passage builds on previous feasts and meals, some of them harvest meals and some of them more explicitly sacramental, like Passover. This meal on God’s mountain (see 2:2-4 and other references to mountains in Isaiah) contrasts with the famine and desolation of God’s judgment in Isaiah 24. Notice how abundant and rich the meal is, and how it portends the end of death and tears.
Revelation 19:1-10 (The Eschatological Wedding Feast)
Jewish thought portrayed the coming kingdom of God as a wedding feast. What a festive way to anticipate the future! John’s vision in this reading picks up that image as the culmination of the persecution of the church and the judgment of her enemies. It all leads to a wedding. When we read the newspaper or watch the evening news, we need to keep that wedding in view, and the feast. We get a foretaste every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Luke 5:27-35 (Jesus Eating with Tax Collectors and Sinners)
Jesus is often portrayed at meals with his friends, with great crowds, and also with sinners and tax collectors. He also eats with his disciples, who desert him, betray him, and deny him (just as Joseph feeds his treacherous brothers). This points to Jesus’ welcome to sinners at his table. We come unworthy and are welcomed and nourished.
Matthew 26:17-34 (The Last Supper)
Although it’s a lot to think about while chewing a small piece of bread or taking a sip of wine, all the themes of the previous readings are present in each Lord’s Supper—and more. The emphasis in these readings and songs has been on the nourishment that the sacrament gives our spiritual lives, the assurance of reconciliation that comes from this meal, and the hope toward which we move, the great final supper. That will be a rich banquet indeed!