When I miss a meal, I can tell. (When my hunger starts making me cranky, then everyone else can tell, too!) It’s pretty important for me to have breakfast, lunch, and supper each day for my body to function properly.
There’s a corollary between eating meals around our kitchen tables and eating the Lord’s Supper around the Lord’s Table. We need this holy meal not only to remember that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross for you and for me, but also to allow the Holy Spirit to feed us with the resurrection life of Jesus (to paraphrase “Our World Belongs to God” ¶38). The church needs to eat this meal for the body (of Christ) to function properly.
Historically in the Christian Reformed Church, congregations gathered around the Lord’s Table only four to six times or so a year, and this is still the practice in some places. I cannot help but wonder whether such infrequent partaking deprives our faith similar to how putting too much space between breakfast and supper can be detrimental to our day.
I have heard the suggestion that celebrating the Lord’s Supper too often may make it less meaningful. However, as a study committee of the CRC once stated, “that more frequent Communion diminishes its impact is a weak argument. That seems to be an argument against weekly preaching and even against worship itself.”* If more frequent partaking threatens the meaningfulness of the Lord’s Supper, how come no one worries about the frequency (weekly, often twice!) of preaching? (One would think people would rather err on the side of eating too often rather than listening to too many sermons!)
I thought of this afresh after reading a few paragraphs in William H. Willimon’s cleverly-titled book Sunday Dinner: The Lord’s Supper and the Christian Life…
How often should our church have the Lord’s Supper? We might better ask, How often should we eat? We usually eat three meals a day. Admittedly, not all of our daily meals are special or full of significance. Some are, some are not. But that is not the point. We eat regularly, even routinely, ritualistically, because we need these gifts to live. The Lord’s Supper is the normal food for Christians. Sometimes the service is special and significant for us. Sometimes it is not. But whether a service strikes you as deeply moving or as routine, the important thing is that you are fed.
We might respond to the question, How often should our church have the Lord’s Supper? by asking, How often should we commune with the risen Christ? Is once every three months enough? Hardly. Friendship takes time, commitment, risk, frequent meetings. The more you get together, the more you grow together. Sometimes your gathering with a friend can be invigorating, inspiring, and full of significance. Sometimes it will be a cup of coffee, a little idle talk, and nothing more. But the important thing was that you met. You got together. You provided the opportunity for a deep encounter. You took time…
If we are going to grow and mature in our relationship with Christ, if we are to meet this Truth as He must be met, then all of us must keep at it on a regular basis. A lifelong series of big and little, significant and commonplace rhythm of meetings at the meal is required. (pp. 99-100)
Coincidentally (or providentially!) I happened to be listening to “Hungry” by Kathryn Scott while I was typing this. If we know Jesus is the One who satisfies our hunger, why don’t we eat at His table more often than we do?
*This is from a 1997 report by the CRC’s Committee to Study Worship titled “Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture.” It’s out of print, but can still be purchased or else found as part the CRC’s Agenda for Synod 1997 beginning at p. 93.