The Lord’s Supper is Not a Pot Luck

Churches in the United States may have a number of problems, but we often feed our people with generosity and abandon. Families that are experiencing sickness, grief, or other life-disrupting events are usually not lacking for casseroles or pasta.

U. S. churches also shine when it comes to gathering for meals. Though our offered dishes tend to lean in predictable directions—meat and cheese: yes, leafy greens: not so much—the Sunday pot luck is usually a hearty feast.

However, a pot luck meal is decidedly unlike another vital, Christian meal—the Lord’s supper—in at least two important ways. Seeing these differences will help us better appreciate both kinds of meals.

We Don’t Bring Food to the Lord’s Supper

Part of the beauty of a pot luck is that everyone who is able contributes. There’s no concern about matching serving plates or coordinated side dishes. We make food at home and take it to share.

But, not to put too fine a point on it, the Lord’s supper is the Lord’s supper. He instituted it (Matthew 26:26–29) and he provides the meal. Jesus sets the table and determines the guest list. He even gives those who are invited the inclination to attend.

We could never cook well enough to earn a seat at this table. We couldn’t do anything to deserve a reservation. This is the wonder of the Lord’s table—Jesus gathers his people around this sustaining meal by grace through faith.

We Know What’s on the Menu at the Lord’s Supper

At a true pot luck meal, the menu is a surprise. (The stuffiest among us might push for a phrase more like “pot providence,” but that introduces an entirely different set of questions these days.) We pick from among the dishes offered, but those dishes are made at the whim and inclination of someone else in the fellowship. Though it’s not likely, it’s possible such a gathering may produce 14 giant bowls of spaghetti and three trays of brownies.

At the Lord’s supper, we know exactly what’s available. We get Christ himself!

Read these words carefully.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)

There are many different views on exactly what’s going on when we take the Lord’s supper. However, Paul indicated that the bread and cup were offered by Jesus to his apostles as his body and blood. We also are to “eat this bread and drink the cup.” We are to take in Christ and all of the nourishment he provides.

Jesus’s use of a meal here is illuminating. However much we depend on eating food and drinking water, we depend much, much more on Christ! Do we understand our need for Jesus to be this deep and desperate?

We know—at least intellectually—what happens to us if we do not eat for a time; we may have read about what happens to the human body when it goes too long without water. What would happen to you without Christ? How dramatically would your soul shrivel, spasm, or seize without the work and grace of Jesus? If we could not come and be nourished by the very Son of God, where would we be?

Come and Proclaim

What generosity our God shows by regularly feeding us and providing what we need! We are welcomed, loved, and nourished at his table.

So, come! Jesus is given for you. Join with your brothers and sisters to “proclaim the Lord’s death” until he comes!

Photo credit

Turning Thanks to Praise

Among the many elements of Christian worship, praise and thanksgiving are perhaps the most common. Though these aspects of worship are related, they are not the same.

Traditionally, praise has more to do with who God is—his character and his attributes. Thanksgiving concerns God’s actions in time, some of which we observe and experience. Because thanksgiving has more to do with our senses, many people (and churches) gravitate more to thanking God than praising him.

But the Scriptures point us to praise through thanksgiving. The actions of God reveal his character. We see this in the opening chapters of the book of Ezra.

The Book of Ezra

After the Israelites had been in exile in Babylon for several decades, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, the king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus issued a decree sending Jewish people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God that had been destroyed (Ezra 1:3–4). He sent back the tools and utensils which the Babylonians had taken from the original temple, and he made sure that this construction project was funded (Ezra 1:5–11).

The rebuilding begins in Ezra 3. The people built the altar of God first (Ezra 3:2) and immediately resumed burnt offerings, feasts, and sacrifices (Ezra 3:3–6). Of chief importance, the altar was built before the foundation of the temple had been laid.

Completing the foundation was a huge step forward and an occasion for praising the Lord (Ezra 3:10–13). The priests and Levites made music and everyone “sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord” (Ezra 3:11). The biblical author gives us a glimpse of their song.

For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel. (Ezra 3:11)

This was a significant worship time, so this quotation is likely just a summary of their song. But it is instructive.

God is Good

The people gathered to worship God “because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid” (Ezra 3:11). The occasion of worship was thanksgiving. Yet the Israelites used this moment of thanks to declare God’s goodness—not just the good things God had done, but the fact that he himself is good.

When we confess that God is good, we are not only declaring that he is upright, consistent, and free from every bit of evil. To say that God is good means that he is the very definition of what is good. He is so fundamental to the creation and to our notion of morality that we understand what is good by understanding him.

As always, the historical context is important. Israel had spent decades scattered in an unfriendly land, driven from the promised place they loved and, because they were unable to worship the Lord, they were in danger of losing their very identity as a people. These are the people who sang about the goodness of God!

His Steadfast Love

This song was not only about God’s character. The people also recognized his posture toward them.

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). A version of this description of God shows up repeatedly in the Bible and it is a consistent confession of God’s people. God’s steadfast love is related to his mercy and grace, to the way he pledges himself to a people who are frequently disloyal.

When the Israelites sang this in Ezra 3:11, they confessed God’s mercy toward them. He relented of his anger; he made a way for them to return to Jerusalem; he provided this reconstruction of the temple. Though God had every right to wipe out the nation because of their rebellion, he preserved a remnant and stayed true to his word.

God’s steadfast love was set upon Israel—not because Israel earned his love, but because God is gracious.

His Love Toward Israel Forever

The last phrase in this worship summary is stunning. God’s people celebrated his love toward them forever.

In singing like this, the Israelites highlighted the promises of God and how deeply they shape our hearts and hopes. If God loved us now but his love tomorrow were uncertain, that would be of little comfort. But God has made promises to his people, and God does not break his promises.

If God’s steadfast love toward Israel endured forever, they could count on it. They could move into the future knowing that whatever happened around them, God’s love would endure. This brings a deep security to God’s people, both then and now.

Resolved in Christ

The returning exiles sang about the character of God, the grace of God, and the promises of God. These are excellent foundations for our worship too.

But consider how much deeper and clearer our song can be now that Christ has come! He has shown us the character of God in the flesh (Hebrews 1:3). God’s grace was demonstrated through the sacrificial work of Jesus (Hebrews 2:9). The many promises of God find their fulfillment in the Son of God, sent to rescue sinners (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So, let’s continue to thank God for all he is doing and all he has done. But let’s also spot God’s character in his actions—and praise him!

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (1/28/2022)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

3 Things God Will Never Do with Your Sin

This post from the Crossway blog highlights some differences between the ways God handles our sin and the ways we handle our sin (or the sin of others).

The point of the psalmist is that this is precisely what God will never do. In responding to us this way, God is not ignoring our faults and failures. He is not winking at sin or pretending that it never happened. And it certainly isn’t because he is more loving than just. As we’ll see shortly, his guarantee that he will never “deal” with us according to our sins is rooted in something so profound and glorious that we often find it more than a little difficult to believe.

What Does It Mean To Trust God in Our Trials?

Sometimes faith comes easily, and sometimes it takes a significant force of our will. Tim Challies explains that trusting God might look different on different days and in different seasons of our lives.

Trusting God, we learn, is not just a matter of recalling knowledge in a moment of need, but applying the whole heart, soul, strength, and mind to accept and believe it—even when the heart is broken and the soul weary, even when strength is sapped and the mind bewildered. Faith is complicated, not simple, and difficult, not easy. Like so much else in life, faith takes practice and rewards diligence. Faith brings us far beyond the end of ourselves and leaves us utterly dependent upon the goodness and mercy of a loving God.

Should or Can in 2022?

Wow, what a terrible headline for an otherwise great article. Ray Ortlund wrote this near the end of 2021, and while it is addressed to pastors, it has wide relevance to all who love the church and want the kingdom of Jesus to advance. The title of the post refers to the difference between exhortations (“you should…”) and assurances of what God offers to needy people (“we can…”). This is an insightful look at what the grace of the gospel can accomplish.

If, by the end of 2022, nothing at your church improves, you can always go back. But for just one year, rather than tell people to obey God’s holy law, why not help them obey God’s holy law and live for Christ and walk in the Spirit, as you trust in the power of God’s all-sufficient grace?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Nearness of God is Not Always Good News. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (11/26/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Helpful Things You Can Say to Grieving Parents

Tim Challies has written a practical article from which I learned a lot. When you encounter Christians experiencing profound grief, here are some loving ways to speak to and care for your friends.

It can be awkward to reach out to those who are deep in grief. It can be hard to know what to say and easy to believe that our words are more likely to offend than comfort, to make a situation worse rather than better. We sense that our words ought to be few, but also that the worst thing to say is nothing at all.

Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Leanness of Soul

What does it look like to be thankful? What might keep us from being thankful? Doug Eaton offers some reflections using Psalm 106.

Gratitude flows freely from a heart full of God, mindful of His wondrous works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh situation this life has to offer and still rejoice with full hearts. On the contrary, the person who forgets God’s great works toward them and begins to think they deserve more can be in the most pleasant of all earthly positions and still live with lean souls.

The Danger of Nostalgia

Here’s a helpful word about nostalgia in the life of a Christian.

When we view certain seasons of our lives as rosier than they actually were, it can make things now seem worse than they really are. Our relationships or career or church now seem more lackluster than they really are. Our gratitude with the past might be coupled with ingratitude for the present. 

Why the Gospel of Self-Improvement Isn’t Good News

Here’s a podcast from The Gospel Coalition where Colin Hansen interviews Ruth Chou Simons about her new book, When Strivings Cease. If you need a reminder about why God’s grace is enough for you, have a listen.

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.