by LE Leeftink
"Let a man examine himself" … but how?
"Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." So writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:28. And the Form for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper identifies three things to examine yourself for: sins and accursedness, faith in God's promises, and a desire to show thankfulness to God and love for the neighbour. But how exactly do you go about it? I don't recall ever receiving any practical advice, nor do I remember hearing discussions about it at Bible study club. Self-examination is of course by definition a private thing. Maybe that's why people don't talk about it much. I have heard it said that you should examine yourself everyday, not just during the week before Lord's Supper. No doubt there's some truth to that. Yet 1 Corinthians 11:28 and the Form both link it directly to the sacrament. So what do we do during the days before Lord's Supper that we don't normally do?
Rev. L.E. Leeftink, a minister in our Dutch sister churches, has written a very useful devotional, which has now been translated into English. He writes: "it is my experience that it isn't easy to find a right method to prepare for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I have therefore written these meditations firstly for myself. It helped me concentrate more and better on this Celebration of Faith – for that is what the Lord's Supper is – during the week leading up to it."
The book has 17 chapters. The idea is not to read all seventeen before each Lord's Supper celebration, but just one. So it will take 17 Lord Supper weeks (or three to four years) to get through the book. Each chapter has a Bible reading roster for the week leading up to the Lord's Supper celebration, followed by a few Scripture quotations and a meditation on a part of the Lord's Supper Form, presumably to be read over the course of the week. The meditations have been written in a simple, devotional, personal, and soul-searching style.
I can envision three ways in which this book might be used during the week leading up to holy supper. The first is that a communicant member could use it for his/her personal devotions. That fits with the idea that self-examination involves a time of private reflection. Secondly, a couple might use it for evening devotions. Then self-examination also becomes a time of spiritual sharing and mutual prayer. Thirdly, parents might choose to read the meditations in this book at the dinner table as a change from the regular Scripture reading. In this way children and teens will learn that the Lord's Supper has a special place in their life of faith. They will also get much more out of the Lord's Supper service when it comes, and hopefully become more eager for the day when they can go to the table themselves. The songs included in the book also lend themselves well to family worship.
Yes, Leeftink has also included a number of songs, some found in the Book of Praise, but also four others specifically about the Lord's Supper. The latter have been translated from the Dutch (no easy task!), and the melodies are included. Three of these are unfamiliar (to me at least) and will provide a fun challenge for the musically inclined, but I've noticed that two of them can be sung to well-known tunes: "All things in all" (page 22) can be sung to the tune of Psalm 116, and "Christ Jesus, with the bread and wine" (page 56) fits the last five lines of Hymn 24.
Between the unpretentious covers of this book is a little treasure. It deserves an honoured place on the family worship shelf, right next to the Bible, Book of Praise, and devotional. I'd also recommend it as a gift for those who profess their faith.
Review by Rev J. Smith