So why are we content with depriving ourselves or our children or new, freshly baptized believers of the nourishment God longs to give us at the Lord’s Supper table by not celebrating the Sacrament more frequently?
Maybe part of the answer is that we don’t fully appreciate how much God indeed longs to nourish us. The late Robert Webber once counseled a troubled student with this advice: “Flee to the Eucharist!” Jesus would begin to care for and heal this student’s heart at his table.
Hearing about this incident between Professor Webber and his student led Howard Vanderwell to pen these reflections: “How different, I thought, than the way we so often understand and present the Lord’s Supper as a rather stern and somber event we participate in only after we have carefully scrutinized ourselves to make sure we are prepared and ready to come. Here, instead, was the Sacrament with a wonderfully warm welcome where wounded and struggling people could find healing and peace, a table where people could find refuge” (Living and Loving Life, p. 70).
It seems to me that God is eager to welcome, care for, heal, and nourish us, and he will use as many means possible to accomplish this. He indeed speaks his grace to us through our senses of sight and hearing as we read and listen to the Word. Through the Word, “God makes himself known to us,” as the Belgic Confession puts it (article 3). But, as I mentioned in part 1, recognizing that we are physical and material beings, God graciously uses physical and material things (namely the water, bread, and juice of baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to also communicate his grace to us.
As Leonard J. Vander Zee explains in his book Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God knows “we need more than talk, more than words on a page; we [also] need a touch, a smell, a taste – just as lovers need more than the words ‘I love you’ but also a kiss or an embrace… The Lord’s Supper is a physical handle faith grabs hold of, allowing us to grasp God’s promises with our bodies as well as our minds” (pp. 192, 193).
Our gracious God engages all our senses: He invites us to listen attentively to his Word; to feel the cleansing baptism water flow over us; to smell, taste, and see his goodness through the Lord’s Supper. It’s as though he’s eager for us to “get it.” It thus seems counterintuitive to suggest that we should be skimpy with any of these modes of communication, particularly with the Lord’s Supper. What better way for us to “get it,” to better grasp God’s grace than by frequently availing ourselves to the Sacrament?
Writer and pastor Thea Nyhoff Leunk makes this warm observation in A Place at the Table, her book on welcoming children to the Lord’s Supper: “The Lord delights in nourishing His people, and we respond by coming with grateful, but empty hearts to His bountiful table” (p. 18).
I for one would be grateful to experience more often God’s delight in nourishing me at his bountiful table. So I am grateful that the elders of Trinity CRC have decided to increase the frequency we celebrate the Sacrament as 2018 progresses and I look forward to seeing and hearing (and maybe even smelling, tasting, and feeling) how God will bless that decision in our congregation.