Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Holy Meal: The Lord's Supper in the Life of the Church

by Gordon T. Smith (Baker Academic, 2005)

I found this to be an excellent reading on the Biblical meaning of the Lord's Supper.  The writing is not shallow, but neither is it overly academic.  Often one's view of the Lord's Supper is skewed by the particular emphasis of our particular Christian tradition.  Dr. Smith opens with discussion of the meaning of eating, symbol, and sacrament. He then looks at the Lord's Supper as described by the following seven chapter headings:  

  1. Remembrance: The Lord's Supper as a Memorial
  2. Communion: The Lord's Supper as Fellowship with Christ and with One Another
  3. Forgiveness: The Lord's Supper as a Table of Mercy
  4. Covenant: The Lord's Supper as a Renewal of Baptismal Vows
  5. Nourishment: The Lord's Supper as Bread from Heaven
  6. Anticipation: The Lord's Supper as a Declaration of Hope
  7. Eucharist: The Lord's Supper as a Joyous Thanksgiving Celebration
In my own church background and circles the historic emphasis has been on the Lord's Supper as a memorial.  As Smith rightly points out, the Lord's Supper is indeed a memorial, but it is not just a memorial.  This realization makes the Table even more meaningful and personal. 

Smith does not separate the Supper from the Word or the working of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Word that gives us the context and informs us of the meaning and purpose of the Supper.  It is  the Holy Spirit that makes the meaning and purpose of the Supper real to us in our corporate church life as well as in the individual lives of each believer participating.  The author also understands there is a certain mystery to the Lord's Supper that our intellect will not fully comprehend, but it is also that same intellect that informs our humble obedience in observing the Supper.

The reader may come across a statement or two in this book that could cause the eyebrows to raise in question or disagreement.  Dr. Smith's own view of the Lord's Supper has roots that go back through John Calvin, and as such reflects an overall view of the Table that I am personally sympathetic to.   Whatever few statements raised my eyebrows were far out weighed by the positive contribution Dr. Smith has made to the church's understanding of the Lord's Supper. 

If you are sensing that there is more to the Lord's Supper then your tradition's peculiar emphasis; that perhaps there is something about the meaning and purpose of the Lord's Supper that you are missing, this will be a helpful  book to read.

~ The Billy Goat ~

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