Reviewed by: Stephen J. Oharek
Date posted: 06/25/2017
Spreading the Feast: Instruction and Meditations for Ministry at the Lord’s Table, by Howard Griffith. P&R, 2015. Paperback, 152 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Stephen J. Oharek.
In Spreading the Feast, Howard Griffith has brought his decades of pastoral experience, along with his abilities as a systematic theologian, to bear upon the subject of the Lord’s Supper. This brief volume is divided into two parts: “Foundations” of the Supper, followed by a series of twenty-eight “Meditations.”
“Foundations” provides a basic orientation to the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper, agreeably to the Word of God and our confessional standards. Within this discussion, Griffith defends the admission to the Table of professing believers only (against paedocommunion) and argues against using the Supper as an occasion to turn “from faith to ritual” (p. 34). He commends weekly observance of the Supper, though that point is far from essential to the book.
Griffith provides a helpful (and, I believe, correct) explanation of why all communicant members should ordinarily partake of the Supper when it is administered. He explains that Jesus’ warning, that “if you … remember that your brother has something against you,” you should first go and be reconciled (Matt. 5:23–24), does not teach communicants to refrain from partaking of the Supper. He says that “individual members do not have the right to put themselves out of Communion,” because “Table fellowship is rightly more than an individual matter” (p. 59).
Flowing out coherently from the “Foundations” discussion is a series of “Meditations,” which Griffith refers to as “the meat of the book” (p. 19). Here the author makes a particularly useful contribution to how the Supper can be administered. If Griffith’s sound ecclesiology is on display in Part One of the book, his redemptive-historical reading of the Scriptures is on display in Part Two. These twenty-eight meditations move along the story line of the Bible from “Old Covenant Anticipations” to “New Covenant Fulfillment,” concluding with “The Riches of Union with Christ.”
These meditations offer guidance to enable ministers to tie their explanation of the Supper to the particular themes of the sermon text. This not only helps avoid the redundancy of reciting the same form, but also allows the visible word (sacrament) to attach rather specifically to the preached word. Just as a particular wine can be paired with a particular food to enhance the meal, so also can sacrament and sermon be paired well to create a coherent spiritual meal for God’s people.
While Spreading the Feast will prove especially useful to pastors, it would also be of benefit to anyone interested in finding an accessible introduction to the Supper and its breadth of redemptive-historical significance.