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Christian Soul Food - John 6, HCLD 28

The fifth service plan in a Pentecost series including preparation for the Table. Just as we have a physical life that requires constant care and nourishment, so believers also have a "spiritual life and heavenly life" that requires nourishment.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Church

This series of worship services explores the nature and the life of the Christian Church as the place where faith is fed and nurtured.

Theme of the Service

Just as we have a physical life that requires constant care and nourishment, so believers also have a "spiritual life and heavenly life" (cf. Belgic Confession, art.35) that requires nourishment. Jesus is the Bread of Life that nourishes our spiritual lives through our participation in the Lord's Supper.

Because two weeks are devoted to the Lord's Supper, we suggest preparing for the celebration this week and observing the sacrament next week. If you observe the celebration of the Lord's Supper weekly or desire to observe its celebration both weeks, you will want to revise this liturgy.

* * * * *


Prelude: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" [see music notes]

Introit: "Sing to the Glory of God," Francis Patrick O'Brien [see music notes]

*The Call to Worship:
God calls his people together before him.
Our new life in Christ is celebrated and nourished
in the fellowship of congregations
where God's name is praised,
his way taught;
where sins are confessed,
prayers and gifts are offered,
and sacraments are celebrated. ("Our World Belongs to God," par.39)
Come, let us worship the Lord.
We come with praise and thanks!

*Song of Praise: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" PH 478:1-3, PsH 475:1-3, RL 144:1-3, RN 53:1-3, TH 76/77:1-3, TWC 25/26:1-3, UMH 66:1-3

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*The Worshipers Greet Each Other

*Response: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" PH 478:4, PsH 475:4, RL 144:5, RN 53:4, TH 76/77:5, UMH 66:4, TWC 25/26:4

The Children's Moment [see liturgy notes]


The Call to Confession

The Prayer of Confession
Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" SNC 203:1, WOV 772
Spoken Prayer of Confession
Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" SNC 203:2, WOV 772

The Assurance of Pardon

Our Song of Thanks: "How Blest Are They Whose Trespass" PsH 32:1-3, TH 551:1-3

God's Guide to Grateful Living: Ephesians 4:22-5:2


*Song of Preparation: "In You Is Gladness" PsH 566:1-2, UMH 169:1-2

The Prayer for Illumination

Our Confession of Faith [see liturgy notes]

The Reading from Scripture: John 6:25-59
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Christian Soul Food
Text: John 6:48-58

The Prayer of Application

*Our Affirmation of Faith [see liturgy notes]


*Song of Faith: "We Come, O Christ, to You" PsH 238, TH 181, TWC 86

Our Preparation for Coming to the Lord's Table [see liturgy notes]

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory Prayer
The Offering of Music: "In You Is Gladness" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer" PH281, PsH543, RL50, TH598, TWC634, UMH127
or: "O Christ, Our Hope, Our Heart's Desire" PsH 485, TH 161

Postlude: "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer" [see music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

This sermon will focus on the Lord's Supper as one of the holy moments of the church. Celebrating this sacrament was so special that the early Christians seemed to have observed it on a weekly basis. Calvin desired the same in Geneva. Currently many Protestant churches are moving in the direction of more frequent observance.

With frequency comes the temptation for the Lord's Supper to become commonplace. The church historically has shown how easy it has been to slip into treating the Lord's Supper as less than "holy." Listen to Paul chastise the Corinthians (in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11). Such concerns warrant a careful consideration of the significance of this sacrament.

The theme and focus for this sermon is taken from the metaphor of food that Christ uses in John 6. Just as physical food sustains our physical lives (see John 6:50, 58), so too Christ, as the Bread of Life, sustains our spiritual lives forever (see John 6:35, 50, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58). The contrast between eating manna in the wilderness (and dying) and eating the "bread of life" (and living forever) is striking.

The Belgic Confession reminds us that the Lord's Supper is designed for people with a physical life and a spiritual life. We find references to concerns about both aspects of life in a concerned father in the gospels (see Mark 9:24) and in Paul (see Romans 7:14-25 and Ephesians 4:20-24). Both the physical and the spiritual lives need nourishment. The Lord's Supper is one of Christ's methods for nourishing our spiritual life.

John 6:60 contains neither a form of cannibalism nor a reference to transubstantiation; rather, Christ uses this metaphor to refer to himself as our spiritual food communicated through the sacrament of communion. Such an understanding significantly raises the importance of this sacrament as "food with a promise." As surely as we receive bread and wine (juice), we receive Christ and nourishment from Him (see Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75 and 76).

Music Notes
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude based on the opening hymn, as well as alternative harmonizations can be found in the following resources:

LAUDA ANIMA ["Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven"]
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-755 [1993] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Partita on Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven. Concordia 97-6082 [1991]
Hustad, Don. Three Organ Hymns for Weddings or General Use. Hope 341 [1970] (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 6. SMP KK339 [1986] (E, adaptable for piano)
Manz, Paul. Two Pieces for Festive Occasions. Morningstar MSM-10-840 [1990] (M)

Dobrinski, Cynthia. Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. Agape 1974 [1988]
(3-5 octaves, level 3)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The introit "Sing to the Glory of God" by Francis Patrick O'Brien is published by GIA G-3773 [1992]. This anthem praises God in the context of our being "His people". It is scored for SATB, congregation, guitar, keyboard and (opt.) 2 C Instruments (E-M).

The suggestions for offertory are as follows:

IN DIR IST FREUDE ["In You/Thee Is Gladness"]
Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year. (ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1933] (M)
Beck, Theodore. Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M)
Beck, Theodore. Five Hymn Preludes. Concordia 97-5391 [1976] (M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 1. Morningstar MSM-10-846 [1992]
Haan, Raymond H. Introduction and Variations on In Thee Is Gladness. Concordia 97-5995
[1988] (M, scored for organ and two trumpets)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Sedio, Mark. Eight Hymn Introductions. Morningstar MSM-10-836 [1991] (E-M)

An alternative harmonization and suggestions for postlude based on "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer" can be found in:

CWM RHONDDA ["Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer"]
Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000] (adaptable for organ)

Barr, John G. Three Preludes on Hymn Tunes. H. W. Grey GSTC 01079 [1992] (E-M)
Carlson, J. Bert. A New Look at the Old. Augsburg 11-11009 [1999] (E-M)
Carlson, J. Bert. Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003]
Haan, Raymond H. Welsh Hymn Tune Preludes. SMP KK426 [1989] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Those Wonderful Welsh, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 6. Morningstar MSM-10-542 [2000] (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 6. SMP KK339 [1986] (E, adaptable to piano)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 5. Concordia 97-5257 [1974] (M)
Rotermund, Melvin. Five Preludes. Augsburg 11-6040 [1990] (E-M)

Shackley, Larry. Celtic Hymn Settings for Piano. Hope 8117 [2001] (E-M)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns.Light Jazz Style Word. 301 0136 315 [1997] (M)

McChesney, Kevin. God of Grace and God of Glory. Concordia 97-6584 [1996] (3-5 octaves, M)

Liturgy Notes

1. The Children's Moment is placed immediately after the Gathering Time. This is an excellent time to speak to the children about why we come to worship. The words of "Our World Belongs to God" in the Call to Worship partially answer this question. Receiving God's pardon in the Service of Renewal that follows gives another reason. And the emphasis on the Lord's Supper in this service as God's nourishment for our souls completes the answer. It is important for children to hear our reasons for coming to worship.

2. We include here the text of both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession of Faith. These words may be included either before the Scripture Reading, after the sermon as an Affirmation of Faith, or both places. (Please note that in the order of service we have titled the initial reading as "Our Confession of Faith." Many times we associate confession with penitence, such as the confession of sin. If your congregation would be confused by this term, clarify it as part of the introduction to the unison reading.) These declarations of faith are helpful for (1) understanding what the church has said in the past about this sacrament, (2) teaching us what the Scriptures have said and what we should believe, and (3) making our corporate affirmations of faith. These selections tend to be quite lengthy, and you may want to include only sections of them for the liturgy.

To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 28

How does the Lord's Supper remind you and assure you
that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross
and in all his gifts?
In this way:
Christ has commanded me and all believers
to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup.
With this command he gave this promise:
First, as surely as I see with my eyes
the bread of the Lord broken for me
and the cup given to me,
so surely his body was offered and broken for me
and his blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves,
and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord,
given me as sure signs of Christ's body and blood,
so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life
with his crucified body and poured-out blood.
What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ
and to drink his poured-out blood?
It means to accept with a believing heart
the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing
to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
But it means more.
Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us,
we are united more and more to Christ's blessed body.
And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.
And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit,
as members of our body are by one soul.
Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers
with his body and blood as surely as
they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?
In the institution of the Lord's Supper:
"The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying,
'This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me.'
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
This promise is repeated by Paul in these words:
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks
a participation in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread that we break
a participation in the body of Christ?
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf."

The Belgic Confession of Faith, article 33 and 35

Why has God given us the sacraments?
We believe that our good God,
mindful of our crudeness and weakness,
has ordained sacraments for us
to seal his promises in us,
to pledge his good will and grace toward us,
and also to nourish and sustain our faith.
What are sacraments?
They are visible signs and seals
of something internal and invisible,
by means of which God works in us
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So they are not empty and hollow signs
to fool and deceive us,
for their truth is Jesus Christ,
without whom they could be nothing.

For whom is the Lord's Supper intended?
We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ
has ordained and instituted the sacrament of the Holy Supper
to nourish and sustain those who are already born again
and engrafted into his family: his church.
What is God's aim for us in the Lord's Supper?
Those who are born again have two lives in them.
The one is physical and temporal-
the other is spiritual and heavenly.
To maintain the spiritual and heavenly life
that belongs to believers he has sent a living bread
that came down from heaven:
namely Jesus Christ;
who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten-
that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.
Does the Lord's Supper truly nourish us?
Yes, just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands
and eat and drink it in our mouths,
by which our life is then sustained,
so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life,
the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior.
We receive these by faith,
which is the hand and mouth of our souls.
This banquet is a spiritual table
at which Christ communicates himself to us with all his benefits.

3. Preparation for coming to the Lord's Table can be structured in several ways. If you are familiar with thePsalter Hymnal, you will find a helpful "Preparatory Exhortation for the Lord's Supper" on page 976. A reminder of the significance of our baptisms, as explained in the past two weeks, may also be helpful. Another option is a formulation of the four questions asked at Profession of Faith (see the Psalter Hymnal,page 964); this will give each professing worshiper the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to Jesus Christ and a life of Christian discipleship. These statements can be formulated as follows:

  • I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sent to redeem the world, and I do love and trust him as the one who saves me from my sin, and I do with repentance and joy embrace him as the Lord of my life.
  • I do believe the Bible is the Word of God revealing Christ and his redemption, and that the confessions of this church faithfully reflect this revelation.
  • I do accept the gracious promises of God sealed to me in my baptism, and I do affirm my union with Christ and his church which my baptism signifies.
  • I do promise to do all I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to strengthen my love and commitment to Christ by sharing faithfully in the life of the church, honoring and submitting to its authority; and I will join with the people of God in doing the work of the Lord everywhere.

This time of preparation should end with an encouragement to continue thoughtful reflection throughout the week and a warm invitation to come to the Lord's Table next Lord's Day.