Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lord's Supper: A Sweet and Awful Place

On this evening, here is a hymn that brings out the paradox of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially how that paradox is displayed in the Lord's Supper and felt by sinners who are invited to partake of it in joy.  This paradox is emphasized in the original wording of the first line found in #271 of the original Trinity Hymnal, "How sweet and awful is the place," but has been lost in #469 of the revised version, which now reads, "How sweet and awesome is the place."  Notice the paradox as it is brought out so clearly in the second and third stanzas:
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?

"Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"
Now, there is no doubt that when the church gathers for fellowship with Christ at the Lord's Table for the Lord's Supper it is surely an awesome event.  Yet, we must never forget that it is also an awful place to be.  Yes, we meet Christ there to be fed from him and to see him in the bread and wine.  We are reminded of our fellowship with him in the new creation, and our fellowship with one another and all the members of the church throughout all time who will fellowship together in heaven for eternity.  But, we see all of this through the confrontation of the elements, as they show us a broken body and spilled blood.  That because of our sin, we are not invited because of anything good in us, and therefore, can only meet with the savior through his awful act of sacrifice and the ongoing awful act of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

What a sweet privilege and honor to be invited to this feast and to meet with him who gave himself for his bride, and yet, what an awful means of coming to that table and that fellowship. 

Below is a beautiful rendition of this great hymn of the Lord's Supper.  They are singing the words as they appear in the revised hymnal, so below the video, I have also included the words from the original.



How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?

"Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.


[HT: Gene Long]

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