by Billy Strother
As a professor and preacher for over three decades, I have heard a great many devotions around the Lord’s Table. I have given a few myself. Mostly though, when preaching, I am a Sunday spiritual consumer when it comes to the devotion at the table, listening to other leaders.
I have heard all kinds of communion devotions: some so long they rivaled the length of the sermon; some which brought a tear to my eye; some spoken in a language foreign to me, but which still moved my heart; some which never mentioned Jesus or the cross, and some which really opened my heart to the moment of participating in table fellowship with the Lord in the moment.
I do not remember the exact words of the best communion devotions I have heard over the years; simply that they opened my heart for the moment of table fellowship.
But I do remember the worst communion devotion I ever heard.
In the fall of 1988, just minutes before my sermon, the leader selected to lead the communion devotion stood up at the microphone and cleared his throat. The transcript of that devotion has been forever seared into my mind:
“Folks, communion is like that new number one song I just heard on popular radio by Bobby McFerrin. When it comes to communion, like Bobby sings, ‘Don’t worry, be happy!’ That is what communion is all about. The Lord does not want us to worry and he wants us to be happy. Let’s pray!”
And he did … pray. I just do not remember the prayer at all; everyone was a little shell-shocked! While the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” won three Grammy Awards in 1989 (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance), it really is about as antithetical to self-examination as one can get.
Paul told us explicitly in 1 Corinthians 11:23-32 how we ought to approach the Table, and in verses 28 and 31, he specifically tells us to “examine ourselves.”
That Sunday, I discovered that not all communion devotions are created equal. The humble communion devotion is a big spiritual event.
I am often asked by leaders, “How does one lead an effective communion devotion?”
We’ll explore that in depth next week.