Like a Multifaceted Diamond

Curating a Lord’s Supper Songbook


In prior columns, you’ve explained that the Lord’s Supper has many layers of meaning (RW 86, RW 88, RW 93, RW blog). My question is how to put that into practice without having to introduce the Lord’s Supper with a long teaching lesson.


It is remarkable that biblical narratives link the Lord’s Supper with so many different, complementary themes. The Lord’s Supper is like a multifaceted diamond. It testifies to the one gospel of Jesus and does so by calling attention to several layers of meaning, as the chart below suggests.

To put this into practice, one promising place to start is to identify songs conveying these themes that your church already knows and loves, and then to sing them before or during your Lord’s Supper celebrations. Then gather these into a Lord’s Supper songbook to share as a devotional for use before and after your sacramental celebrations.

Importantly, these songs do not necessarily have to explicitly refer to the Lord’s Supper. For example, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” 18th century, LUYH 61, GtG 88, PsH 328 may not strike many people as a Lord’s Supper song. But when it is sung during a Lord’s Supper celebration, it powerfully expresses how the sacrament looks both back to the past and ahead to the future.

When you choose a song that people might not expect to sing at the Lord’s Supper, provide some way for people to know why the song fits. This could be as simple as printing its key biblical phrases (see chart on next page) on a slide or in the bulletin next to the song lyrics, or providing a pithy, one-sentence explanation such as “Jesus began the first Lord’s Supper celebration by giving thanks for the bread and cup, showing us how gratitude leads the way when we gather here at the Lord’s Table.”

This Lord’s Supper songbook could be as brief as ten songs—one per theme.

The very process of organizing songs in this way will be instructive. You’ll likely find some of these categories more challenging to fill. Pay attention to those. That signals an area of your song repertoire that needs work.

Don’t treat any of these themes as optional. They are, after all, Scriptural. Failing to engage them leaves congregations with only a partial view of the beauty of the Lord’s Supper and of the gospel.

This exercise will likely stretch congregations to include a broader range of emotions in Lord’s Supper celebrations. The Lord’s Supper is a natural home for aching longing, heartfelt penitence, and grateful celebration. Both “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Watts, LUYH 175, GtG 223, PsH 384 and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” Wesley, LUYH 182, GtG 245, PsH 388 belong at the table.

Having a Lord’s Supper songbook like this can also help churches move toward more frequent Lord’s Supper celebrations, demonstrating how these celebrations could vary over time by highlighting different themes.

The Lord’s Supper

Key Biblical Phrases

Suggested Songs

What songs will you choose for your ministry context?

as a thanksgiving meal

“He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.””

Give Thanks” Smith, LUYH 358, GtG 647

Now Thank We All Our God” Rinkart, LUYH 543, GtG 643, PsH 454


as a foretaste of the heavenly feast

“. . . until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel” 18th century, LUYH 61, GtG 88, PsH 328

Soon and Very Soon” Crouch, LUYH 482, GtG 384


as a feast of illumination

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

Open Our Eyes, Lord” Cull, SNC 80, WR 491


as spiritual nourishment

“Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”

I Am the Bread of Life” Toolan, LUYH 842, GtG 522


as testimony about the unity and fellowship of the church

“We, who are many, are one body.”

Blest Be the Tie That Binds” Fawcett, LUYH 257, GtG 306, PsH 315

One Bread, One Body” Foley, LUYH 835, GtG 530

They’ll Know We Are Christians” Scholtes, LUYH 256


as renunciation and affirmation

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too.”

O Jesus, I Have Promised” Bode, LUYH 352, GtG 724/725, PsH 285

Cast Down, O God, the Idols” Stuempfle, LUYH 626


as a countercultural act of hospitality

“When you gather to eat, you should all eat together.””

Christ, Be Our Light” Farrell, LUYH 908

Lord, Make Us Servants” Quinn, LUYH 904

The Servant Song” Gillard, LUYH 309


as a proclamation of the life-giving significance of Jesus’ death

“. . . you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many . . .”

Lift High the Cross” Kitchin, LUYH 264, GtG 826, PsH 373

In Christ Alone” Getty and Townend, LUYH 770

Before the Throne of God Above” Bancroft, LUYH 682


as a commemoration of Jesus’ life

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Beautiful Savior” German, LUYH 17, PsH 461

O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High” Latin, LUYH 111, GtG 618, PsH 364


as a seal on a covenantal relationship

“. . . the new covenant in my blood.”

This Holy Covenant Was Made” Dunstan, LUYH 847

You Are Our God; We Are Your People” Hoekema, LUYH 35, PsH 272




Rev. Dr. John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of music and worship at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches in the religion department at Calvin University.

Reformed Worship 135 © March 2020 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.