Preparing for the Lord’s Supper
On Sunday, September 7 we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper at our church. Far too often, it is something that comes and goes with little notice. This is disappointing as it is meant to be a capstone to our worship service. As we gather together to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we join together spiritually with believers from all places celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord. Let us consider first what the Lord’s Supper entails, and how to prepare for it. Here we quote from our BFC confession which states,
“The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of the New Testament,1 in which, by the giving and receiving of bread and wine, according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, His death is proclaimed.2 Those who worthily partake in this remembrance of Him feed upon Him to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace,3 have their union and communion with Him confirmed, and testify and renew their thankfulness and commitment to God4 and their mutual love and fellowship each with the other as members of the same mystical body.5
The Scriptures direct that each one spiritually examine himself before partaking of the bread and the cup ‘until He come.'”6
1 Luke 22:19,20
3 John 6:55,56
There’s some wonderful truth revealed here. While the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an ordinance, that is a command of Jesus for the church, it is something that is both a remembrance and a joy. Consider how we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, but that by participating together we grow in grace and feed upon Him spiritually. We know that the elements aren’t really the body and blood of Christ but that they signify the blood and body. And so we do not feed on Christ physically but spiritually. Consider these extended words of John Piper,
“The Lord’s Supper expresses the value of Christ by nourishing our life in Christ. If we come to Christ over and over and say, ‘By this, O Christ, I feed on you. By this, O Jesus Christ, I nourish my life in you. By this I share in all the grace you bought for me with your own blood and body’ (1 Corinthians 10:16) – if we come to Christ over and over with this longing and this conviction in our heart: that here he nourishes us by faith, then the Lord’s Supper will be a deep and wonderful act of worship. Nothing shows the worth and preciousness of Christ so much as when we come to him to feed our hungry souls.
Where do we see this in the text? We see it in the fact that the Lord’s Supper is a supper. We are eating and drinking. Why are we eating and drinking? Eating and drinking are for nourishing and sustaining life. And here Jesus tells us that the bread we are eating is his body, and the cup we are drinking is the new covenant in his blood. So the eating and drinking are no ordinary eating and drinking. The nourishment that is in the Lord’s Supper comes not from bread and wine (or juice). Paul already said in verse 22 that we should take care of our bodily needs by eating at home before we come. This supper is not about physical nourishment. It is about spiritual nourishment.”
Union with Christ
More than nourishment, we see too that we recommit to our union with Christ. Through our bond to Jesus Christ, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, we receive all the blessing of justification, adoption, sanctification, and other elements, and are both objectively realized in those, but also subjectively. Christ’s alien righteousness has been bonded to us as we enjoy this relationship. Participating in the Lord’s supper reminds us of this mystical bond we have with Jesus Christ. It is not just a reminder of our sin or a proclamation of the death of Christ, but as we are nourished in the bread and the cup, we actually are reminded of the joy we experience as being part of the family of God!
Fellowship of the Saints
Together, as we celebrate as a body of believers in our local church, we are bound together with brothers and sisters in all time and in all places celebrating our union with Christ and with each other. The beautiful truth that we celebrate this nourishing memorial together until He comes, is a reminder of the church bound together, despite differences of theology and practice, that we are all part of the body of Christ.
There is far more to the Lord’s Supper than just a mere observance of ritual and tradition. It is a proclamation of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. It is something that helps us grow in our sanctification as we are nourished by Christ’s spiritual presence with us. It is something that we do together to remind us of our relationship as the body of Christ. On that note, I will say, my burden is that one day, we consider celebrating the Lord’s Supper every week as we see the wonderful blessing of being nourished in the body and blood of Christ as we gather weekly (Acts 2:46).
That being said, how can we prepare for the Lord’s Supper this coming Lord’s Day? Let me give you a few things to consider (adapted from here):
1) Prepare your heart through the meditation upon Scripture. Before you come Sunday, consider reading and thinking upon these Scriptures:
Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
Isaiah 53, 55, 59
Gospel of John 13-17
Romans 3, 6, 8, 12
2) Pray for God to prepare your heart. Something like this:
My Lord Jesus Christ, I have fallen; I long to be strong. For this purpose You have instituted this meal, to help us rekindle and strengthen our faith. Therefore, you have called me to receive it. Lord, it is Your word that invites me. You know my weakness and failings completely. You Yourself have said: Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. I now come to be helped. Amen.
3) Do some reading to help you understand better the Lord’s Supper. Here’s some things to consider:
Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), Chapter 30
Keach’s Catechism, Questions 107-108
The Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 75-82
John Calvin’s Institutes, Book IV, Chapter 14, Chapter 17
4) Consider some hymns to sing and reflect upon:
“Stricken, smitten, and afflicted”
“No, not despairingly”
“We have not known thee as we ought.”
“My Jesus, I love thee”
“Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts”
As Rich Barcellos says in his excellent book, The Lord’s Supper as a Mean’s of Grace,
“Though it is not a converting ordinance, the Supper is a sanctifying ordinance. Like the Word of God and prayer, it is a means through which grace comes to us from Christ” (p. 53).
Come prepared to receive that grace!