LET ME ADD MY “AMEN” to Leonard Vander Zee’s article “What Happens at the Lord’s Supper?” (January 2007) and share some memories I have.
I was raised in a “contemporary” Christian Reformed church; my pastor didn’t bat an eye when I wanted to profess my faith at age 14. From that point I received the Lord’s Supper just as my parents and everyone else did. But the pastors in my high school and college days rarely, if ever, read the old forms for communion that made much of our receiving the real presence of Christ by faith. I grew up never fully understanding the depth of the Lord’s Supper.
I was taught that “Catholics and Lutherans are wrong,” but not much else. So I’d attend revival meetings with my fundamentalist friends, get manipulated to feel fresh guilt for my sins, then walk the aisle to really repent and recommit my life to Christ.
That happened over and over again. And after a while it got plain tiring. Was there any hope for a young person who loved the Lord but loved the pleasure of sin all too much?
It was only in seminary that I finally understood. In one class a professor reminded us, “In the Old Testament, Israel had the feast days. Israel’s problem was she rarely took the opportunities to be renewed that God gave her. In the New Testament, Christ has given us the sacraments. These are God-given opportunities to recommit our lives to Christ and receive Christ into our hearts afresh. No crusades, revivals, or altar calls are necessary.”
Every pastor has members in his or her congregation who will say, “Oh, Pastor, I feel so much better. I just recommitted my life to Christ at Promise Keepers” (or a Women of Faith conference or a Christian rock concert). And as genuinely happy as I am for their renewed spiritual vitality, I always shake my head later, wondering if I didn’t make the renewing and sustaining grace of the Supper as clear as I should have.
If anything, I have a flaw of making the old forms a few seconds longer. To “These are the gifts of God for the people of God,” I always add the Anglican phrase “Take them believing that Christ died for you. And feed on Christ in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
As we lead the celebration of the Supper, may every colleague of mine never forget to share Christ’s real presence. May we never cheat people of the comfort and assurance they so desperately need. By God’s grace, it will mean refreshment and renewal for ourselves and those we serve.