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Surround Sound

Congregational Song at the Lord's Supper

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.

God’s Welcome

At the Lord’s table, we experience God’s extravagant hospitality. God invites us to eat without price (Isa. 55:1), to taste and see the abundant goodness of the Lord (Ps. 34:8). God welcomes anyone who hungers and thirsts for God’s food. When we sing the following songs, we give thanks for God’s welcome table and invite others to join.

  • “All Who Hunger” (Sylvia Dunstan, in Voices United: Celebration Edition, The United Church Publishing House, 1996)

  • “Let the Hungry Come to Me” (Sr. Delores Dufner, in Renew, Hope Publishing Company, 1995)

  • “I’m a-Goin’-a Eat at the Welcome Table” (African-American spiritual)

  • “Diverse in Culture, Nations, Race” (Ruth Duck, Dancing in the Universe, GIA, 1992)

Yes! to Jesus’ Food

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). When we come to the table, we say yes to Jesus. We renounce what is harmful and affirm what is wholesome. The following songs are gentle pleas to each other and prayers for strength to sustain our dedication.

  • “Spirit Song” (John Wimber, Sing! a New Creation 212)
  • “Christ, Let Us Come with You” (Shirley Erena Murray, in Voices United: Celebration Edition)
  • “Lord, We Have Come at Your Own Invitation” (Fred Pratt Green, Presbyterian Hymnal 516)

Joy of Everlasting Life

After his resurrection, Jesus ate and drank with the travelers on the Emmaus road and with his disciples. These meals were filled with Easter joy. We too share meals with the risen Lord and sing “Alleluia.” The following resurrection songs call us to rejoice in the gift of everlasting life.

  • “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” (Lutheran Book of Worship, Augsburg, 1978)
  • “Lift Up Your Heart to the Lord” (John E. Bowers, Psalter Hymnal 515)
  • “You Are Holy” (Per Harling, Sing! A New Creation 20)
  • “On Emmaus’ Journey” (Herman G. Stuempfle, in Hymns for the Gospels, GIA, 2001)

Foretaste of the Feast to Come

The apostle Paul commands us to feast until the Lord comes again (1 Cor.
11:26), but these earthly feasts point to a more blessed feast that is yet to come. They are a foretaste of the wedding banquet of the Lamb. The following songs help us anticipate this celebration—the day when God will make all things new, destroy death forever, and wipe away all our tears (Isa. 25:6-8; Rev. 21:1-5).

  • “As the Grains of Wheat” (Marty Haugen, in With One Voice, Augsburg Fortress, 1995)
  • “Here, O My Lord, I See You Face to Face” (Horatius Bonar, Voices United 459)
  • “Now the Silence, Then the Glory” (Jaroslav Vajda, Renew 221)
  • “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” (Herbert F. Brokering, With One Voice 801)

These themes and images are just a few facets of God’s table grace. Many more are found in Scripture, including the incarnational presence of Christ, the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the new covenant in Christ’s blood, the unity of the body of Christ, and a sign of ethical commitment. I challenge you to look through the Bible for other themes and images. Search together as preachers, worship planners, and musicians. Then wonder how to surround the body of Christ with sounds of God’s table grace.

Your wondering may take you on a tour through old and new songbooks. If you begin at the “Lord’s Supper” section, you will quickly notice that themes and images from Scripture pop up all over. In fact, a single communion song may move through several themes and images, linking them together. Look beyond the section labeled “Lord’s Supper” too. You may be surprised. While many songs may not mention the Lord’s Supper, they fit with a particular theme and image. I encourage you to make a list just as I have done above and use this list to develop a sermon series and fresh ways to surround the Lord’s Supper.

Your wondering may also inspire you to compose new songs. Perhaps during your searching the Holy Spirit has filled your soul with a refrain or melody. Perhaps you have noticed that a facet of God’s table grace is absent from the church’s song. Others in your congregation may want to compose too. Work together as poets and musicians and preachers to surround the body of Christ with God’s table grace.

The possibilities of “surround sound” at the Lord’s table are endless. None of our efforts will be wasted, for our Supper is a rehearsal for the feast that is to come. Taste and see, and sing the grace of God!