Presiding over the Supper
Don R. Freling
San Antonio, TX
Memorial Day is more special to some than others. "How soon they forget" is a thought verbalized by veterans of World War II as they observe Memorial Day ignorers. One veteran wrote about an amphibious landing on an island in the South Pacific. He recalled how the sea swarmed with landing barges filled with troops. The barges approached the beach under heavy fire from concrete bunkers. The air was filled with lead and soon the sea was colored by the blood of gallant boys who would never fire a shot for their cause. A few barges made it to the beach and many of the men on these were slaughtered in the shallow water.
Those who survived to the sand dunes were pinned down by machine guns from concrete bunkers. Many were dying. With no visible hesitation they pressed forward. When they reached the bunker they realized that it was no longer active. They looked inside and saw four dead enemy gunners and two dead Marines. There were no survivors to tell the story of this frantic hand-to-hand combat.
Time and circumstance did not permit longer reflection and discovery of the identity of these two Marines who gave their lives that so many might live. But these veterans never forgot. Memorial Day is special to them. It is special to their families. What is the value of those two dead Marines who got to the bunker first?
In the same sense we owe something to the One who died for us. What value would you place on the forgiveness of your sins?
Sometimes a short story of a suffering sacrifice in a real life situation closer to us brings to reality the death of Jesus for us. We have a Memorial Day -- the Lord's day. It's once a week. It's important to remember. Two Marines died for a few men in the invasion force. Jesus died for all men of every nation of all time. Other men could have given their lives on that bloody beach but only one could have given his life for the sins of the world.
Christians meet to remember as they partake of the Lord's Supper. This shows our common hope and unified purpose. Despite our separation geographically or even doctrinally, the Lord's Supper could be the platform for unity and love for each other and for all men.
Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians that we must "individually examine ourselves and not partake in an unworthy manner." Simple instructions. How can one presiding over the Lord's Supper assist each individual? One cannot partake and remember for another. The leader can effectively read appropriate passages from different translations, make comments, or relate a story pertinent to members which brings to vivid reality the events on the cross. The leader can also describe a crucifixion or the helplessness of the on-lookers.
Personally, I recommend against:
(1) Dramatizing Scripture with undocumented speculation about what someone might have said or thought.
(2) Praying about things not associated with the Lord's Supper.
(3) Using familiar phrases too often. This might imply the leader is just going through the motions -- not really meaning what he says. However, if using familiar phrases best ex-presses one's heart use them. (4) Hurrying the service could diminish its importance. (5) Prolonging the service. Time should be given for other things that must be done while we're together. (6) Using external effects -- light dimming or soft singing. This puts my mind on what's coming next and off the subject. Personally, I need time and silence to better put my mind on the subject. (7) Using a play or skit because this brings a sacred spiritual event down to a secular level. (8) Thinking the Lord's Supper is the main purpose for gathering.
Such an attitude leads to people just coming for the Lord's Supper and then leaving. This could lead to arbitrarily assigning a greater or lesser importance to other things God has required. The Corinthian church assembled together and were edified (ch. 14). They sang together, they prayed together, and they gave of their means. Is preaching less important than the Lord's Supper? Romans 10 proclaims the need of preaching and following the Lord's charge in the Great Commission. Who would say singing is more important than prayer? The Bible does not say the Lord's Supper has more weight on God's scale than singing, praying, preaching, and giving. If we have the correct attitude we will seek to do everything God requires in the best way we know how. (9) Reading from the writings of men. Someone less informed may read something in-appropriate or with Calvinistic assumptions. (10) Trying to attain a new "spiritual high" each time one partakes. This leads to "let downs," depression, or even guilt.
The best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to dignify the Lord's Sup-per with reflective silence. Introduce what is about to occur (for visitors) then allow a long moment to pass before offering prayer for the element being taken.
In time, the brave sacrifice of those two Marines will be forgotten and piled on top of countless other heroic acts on time's face. Lincoln said in another war not too long ago, "Men will little note nor long remember what we say here but they will never forget what they did here." Yes, we will remember but only as long as we are reminded.
Why is the Lord's Supper more special to some than others? Perhaps some have sinned more, committed high consequence sins, omitted doing what God wants done. Perhaps they just regret past sins more. Remind the rememberers.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, p. 5