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A Lord’s Supper reflection.

As I prepared for our annual Lord’s Supper service last April, I realized that this year would be my fortieth Supper since my baptism.

I pondered the significance of that large number. Like Israel’s forty-year journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, my own journey of faith has had its twists and turns, but the Lord has been faithful all the way. What I did not know at the time was that 2022’s celebration would be unlike the others.

Jesus’ words

For all these years, the Lord’s Supper has been like a spiritual and congregational New Year’s: looking back and looking forward together as the body of Christ. As my anticipation for celebrating this sacred time of remembrance with my brothers and sisters mounted, I was reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples:

“With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).

As the pastor of our local congregation, my personal tradition is to spend the day of Lord’s Supper at the church, meditating on my message and readying the sanctuary and fellowship hall for our special evening service. Two words of Jesus, from Luke 22:15, had settled in my mind. “With you” stood out to me, as I cleaned, decorated, and set up the church. I decided that would be the theme of my message that night.

Eager desire

Jesus’ statement to His disciples is passionate. He piles up the words: “With fervent desire I have desired.” Jesus couldn’t wait to share this sacred, intimate meal with His disciples. The new covenant Passover that Jesus was about to inaugurate with them would be finished the next morning for them.

That event is the focal point of our memory and our hope. Of the bread and the cup, Jesus declared, “This is My body. . . given for you . . . My blood, which is shed for you” (vv. 19, 20, emphasis added).

Making and keeping covenant

In saying “My,” Jesus locates the magnitude of this event upon Himself. He alone is the new covenant maker.

But in saying “you” (plural pronoun), He commits the keeping of this momentous event to us, His new covenant people. We remember it and reenact it as the church, for whom He desires to give Himself and with whom He desires to be.

At each Lord’s Supper, we remember Him. But we also remember that His sacrificial act has made us a covenant people for Him and for each other.

Blessings of brethren

As I reflected on this “with you,” I got more excited for the service and being with the church — my friends — as we gathered together around Jesus. Remembering my previous thirty-nine Suppers, I appreciated how meaningful those meals were, just to the extent that they were shared with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Maybe my attraction and attention to the theme of “With You” was influenced by two years of COVID, where gathering as the Church of God for Sabbath services and even for the Lord’s Supper was threatened for many around the world. Thanks be to God that my local church in Jasper could meet, with precautions, through most the last two years, including the Lord’s Suppers of 2020 and 2021.

I couldn’t imagine a Lord’s Supper without them. But I was about to.

Caught by COVID

Ironically, this year, after COVID restrictions had been lifted and serious concerns mostly dissipated, I tested positive for the virus — on the very day of Lord’s Supper. I had a cold the week before, and it passed within a few days. But I learned the night before the Supper that a friend I’d spent time with a week earlier tested positive.

So the next morning, the day of Lord’s Supper, I got tested, to be on the safe side. Sure enough, after two years of my successfully dodging COVID, it finally caught me.

Lonely and lovely

For the first time in forty years, Lord’s Supper went on without me. Stephanie and I had a lovely service at home, just the two of us. But we were kind of lonely, keenly aware that just a few steps down the hill, our children and friends gathered without us.

I learned afterward that they had a lovely service, too, but the pain of separation, both for them and for us, was eye-opening for me. My “With You” sermon was not given that night, but the message did not miss its mark. It was for me all along.

Fervent desire

I see now that my desire to be “with you,” brethren, is an echo of the Lord’s fervent desire.

It must be the supernatural desire that makes the church the church. Feeling that desire to be together in the days leading up to Lord’s Supper; to be in company together, remembering what Jesus has done to make us His new covenant people; to be drawn to speak this special message to you — and then to not be able to — only made the essential, existential truth of it resonate all the deeper in me.

Walking together

I hope your desire to be with the saints is as strong and urgent as mine is to be with you, but current events aren’t trending that way. I hear on the news that many are departing from the faith. The Word tells us it will be like that. Many are not coming back to church in the post-COVID world.

I hope this is not true of us in the Church of God (Seventh Day). It is not so for me. If thirty-nine Lord’s Suppers with the Church, and one apart from it, have taught me anything, it’s that the journey of faith is meant to be walked together. We can’t go it alone.

So may Jesus’ words be all of ours: My fervent desire is to be with you.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

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Jason Overman is Editor of Publications of the Bible Advocate Press. After 24 years in the publishing industry (in sales and management) with the Harrison Daily Times, Jason left his general manager’s position to join the BAP family in 2015. He has served in ministry for 30 years and currently pastors the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Jasper, Arkansas, with his wife, Stephanie, and two children, Tabitha and Isaac. Jason enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading theology, playing his guitar, and taking in the beautiful Ozark Mountains he calls home.