Augustine exhorted us somewhere to love God and do as we please. This makes us nervous, and more than a little bit jumpy. Of course the protection resides in the first clause – loving God affects what will please us. Psalm 37:4 says that if we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our hearts. As we delight in the Lord this necessarily transforms what we consider delightful. Having said this, and having pointed to every necessary qualification, we cannot get away from the right hand of God and all the pleasures there (Ps. 16:11).
But because we are nervous anyway, we want a safety net. We want our corporate life together as Christians to be governed by man-made rules, and not by the Word, and not by traditional wisdom. Under pressure from this kind of thinking, ecclesiastical feasting has dwindled into almost nothing – the portions we usually get in the Lord’s Supper compare badly with food supplied to a prisoner in a dungeon, a prisoner, moreover, who has recently made his jailer angry. Into this void steps the modern evangelical entertainer/emcee/sharing-leader-guy to send the entertained off with a warm, blessed feeling. “Wasn’t that a great communion? Give the Lord a hand!” So on the one hand, we have very reverent gnostics who want a spiritualized, gaseous communion. On the other we have irreverent breezy types who think the wedding supper of the Lamb is a backyard barbeque, and who brought the chips?
We have drifted into this false dilemma because we have failed to think rightly about the Table of the Lord. If we want to get away from our very great fear of feasting, we must get away from it first in this great feast. In doing this, we must consider at least four things: the table set at the feast, our office at the feast, the scheduling of the feast, and the communal loveliness of the feast.
The fare is simple, but lovely. Jesus established a meal in which He is covenantally present, His body the broken bread, and His blood the wine of the new covenant. On the material level, the elements are bread and wine; on the covenantal level, the meal is union with Christ. Our poverty-stricken doctrines concerning union with Christ necessarily affect how we enact the supper. This explains the little ecclesiastical shot glasses for grape juice we use in communion. This explains why we dim the lights. It explains the shattered crackers.
Surprisingly to modern evangelicals, our office at the feast is that of the lords of the earth. “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30). The Lord’s Supper is the point in the liturgy which corresponds to this wonderful promise to the apostles. We do not need more evangelical lobbyists in Washington; we need rather evangelical ministers teaching their congregations the power of a right observance of the Supper. It is a royal meal. The way we behave when we assemble before the Lord reflects what we think is happening there. We do not have to choose between a mystery religion withdrawal into the sacrament on the one hand, or political involvement on the other. We need to learn that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are battering rams given The Lord has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies.
Because we are unsure of what we are doing, this accounts for why we want the Lord’s Supper to be rare. We want to think that rarity somehow makes the meal “special,” and in a distorted way, it does, but it also has many harmful effects. A husband would not make love to his wife on a quarterly basis just to keep the experience special. A man would not have dinner with his family once a month to keep the event wonderful. Neither should we pull away from communion with Christ and His people in order to “drive the price up.” This means that we should be looking and praying for the opportunity to establish weekly communion in our churches.
And last, when we understand union with Christ through His bread and His wine, when we understand that we rule the world through the Supper as kings and priests, when we look forward to doing this on a weekly basis, the pattern will be set for thoughtful, exultant, disciplined feasting before the Lord throughout the rest of our lives. This meal sets the pattern for all meals. We will then begin to see the potency and glory of this Supper.
“And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it” (Is. 25:6-8).