A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING (TWENTY-NINTH IN A SERIES)
To “take it for granted” is a shorthand way of saying that frequency and abundance of blessings can breed a lack of appreciation for those blessings. That lack of appreciation then hinders thankfulness. That which is part of our usual routine tends to have diminished value in our estimation because we soon see it as “normal” and may then begin to “take it for granted.”
I was reminded of that truth recently when our Florida home was without power for ten days as a result of Hurricane Irma. I normally don’t think about—much less feel specific thankfulness for—the blessings of being able to refrigerate and freeze food, control the temperature of our house, have lights at night, and even enjoy electronic entertainment almost effortlessly. I seldom thanked God for those blessings when they were my “normal,” but how thankful I was for them when the power came back on!
Because God’s abundant blessings to us are so constant in our lives, it is easy for us to soon “take them for granted.” Rightly considered, however, our appreciation of and thankfulness for a blessing should not be affected by that blessing’s frequency, but rather should be simply a product of the magnitude of the blessing coupled with a recognition of our unworthiness.
Sadly, “taking it for granted” can sometimes become the case with our attitude toward the Lord’s Supper. How woefully easy it is for us to have this holy event become little more than normal routine! We look in the bulletin and think, “Oh, that’s right. Today is Communion Sunday,” and then we may give some more-or-less perfunctory thought to confession and repentance of our sins as we walk to the altar. We don’t intend to lightly esteem the sacrament, but do we appreciate that blessing as we ought? Do we feel properly thankful for what is expressed by the words “given for you,” “shed for you,” and “for the remission of sins”? (see Mathew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:17-20)
In “Thy Table I Approach,” Gerhard W. Molanus (1633-1722) expresses a Christian’s proper attitude toward Holy Communion when he writes, “Oh, may I never fail/ To thank Thee day and night/ For Thy true body and true blood,/ O God, my Peace and Light!” (v. 6) The value of this blessing is of infinite magnitude: the forgiveness of sins; and our thankfulness is heightened as verse 3 reminds us of the price Jesus paid for this forgiveness: “Thy body and Thy blood,/ Once slain and shed for me,/ Are taken here with mouth and soul,/ In blest reality.”
“Thy body and Thy blood”—the Doctrine of the Real Presence (the biblical teaching that in Holy Communion we receive not only bread and wine, but also the true body and blood of Jesus)—is denied by some Christian denominations. It’s easy to understand why. After all, this doctrine doesn’t seem reasonable to us; it teaches something that we cannot perceive by means of our five senses. However, in this matter, we submit our reason to the clear Word of God, and simply accept in faith what He says. As Molanus writes, “Search not how this takes place,/ This wondrous mystery;/ God can accomplish vastly more/ Than seemeth plain to thee.// Vouchsafe, O blessed Lord,/ That earth and hell combined/ May ne’er about this Sacrament/ Raise doubt within my mind.” (vv. 4&5)
What a great blessing we receive in Communion! We approach the altar in contrition and repentance; we leave with the assurance of God’s Word that we are fully forgiven. “Lo, I confess my sins/ And mourn their wretched bands;/ A contrite heart is sure to find/ Forgiveness at Thy hands.” May God grant that we never begin to “take for granted” the blessing of this wondrous sacrament.
Craig Owings is a retired teacher and serves as assistant editor of the Lutheran Spokesman. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida.