By Daniel Schantz
“For this reason many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30).
Church services are well underway in a smalltown church of a hundred souls, when a little girl of 10 meanders down the center aisle, looking for a seat. She looks confused, as if she has never been inside a church before and she doesn’t know where to sit. Her bony shoulders are draped with a rag of a dress and her hair is matted and greasy. Her fingers and arms are gray with ground-in dirt, and she looks starved. At last she takes a seat on the front row.
The deacons finish their Communion prayers, then the older, heavier server steps over to the first pew and offers the bread tray to the little waif. The tray contains a single, whole cracker. Many churches used to present the bread this way, believing that everyone should break the bread for himself.
The girl looks at the cracker and her eyes widen. Suddenly she grabs the whole cracker and thrusts it into her mouth, and she gobbles it like a starved animal.
At first the deacon starts to stop her, but then he sizes up the situation and holds his peace. Without a word, he turns and steps through a side door and into the kitchen, and soon he comes back with another cracker in the tray, which he passes to the rest of the audience.
The child’s actions are completely forgivable, in light of her hunger and her newness to worship services.
We understand the painful effects of hunger. Everything is harder when you are famished. Miss a couple meals and you become irritable, short-tempered. You snap at your husband or wife. You drive like you are drunk. Your thinking gets fuzzy, and you find it hard to do the simplest task, like reading a book, and all because your mind is preoccupied with one thought: food, glorious food!
The effects of spiritual hunger are just as real, but they are not always obvious or urgent. Like tooth decay, spiritual decay can go on for a long time before you notice any pain. Suddenly you find yourself unable to get along with a coworker or to stand up to a mild temptation, and then you realize you are spiritually famished.
Here, at the Lord’s Supper, you can fill up on the rich offerings of grace. You can savor the thick steak of God’s Word and the buttery bread of God’s love, and you can finish off with the sweet desserts of Christian fellowship. Everything is better after a good meal.
Daniel D. Schantz is professor emeritus with Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri.