David’s psalm of hunger and an Anabaptist eucharistic revival

Photo: Mugi Jo, Unsplash.

One time, a famous Mennonite cookbook writer and her husband stayed at our house, and we fed them a frozen lasagna. Oh yes we did. We had our hurry-hurry excuses, and the couple was gracious, but we didn’t fully grasp just how far our hospitality had slumped until we sat down to consume our daily sodium content in a single plateful. It wasn’t exactly our best feast.

In the Scriptures, God feasts with his people: Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18, Moses and the Israelites in Exodus 24, the “bread of angels” in the wilderness (Psalm 78:25), the sacrifices at the altar and the Shavuot loaves (Festival of Weeks, Leviticus 23:15-21). And then Jesus with the 5,000 and the 4,000 and, above all, with the 12 in that upper room on the night he was betrayed. “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” says Jesus (John 6:51). It’s God’s very best feast.

To God’s best feast we’re invited to bring our deepest, seeking hungers, like King David of old.

“I seek you,” David says in Psalm 63. “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” His thirst will be quenched by no other. 

The desire of David’s soul can only be “satisfied as with a rich feast” by the Lord of lords. David meditates on God in the night. He finds his help in God and strength in God and vindication in God. 

God is David’s source and sustenance, the deepest desire of his heart. “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3). It doesn’t go much deeper than that. 

Maybe it was David’s sharp hunger for God that made him a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

I love David’s psalm of hunger, because I hear my own rumblings in his words. My hunger for Jesus has been what’s drawn me to study and pray and live and minister. 

In some ways, my calling to pastoral ministry has been less of a calling and more of a hungering. St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “My real hunger was inside me and was for a more inward food — it was for you, my God.” 

That’s what David was talking about. And that’s me — or, at least, what I want me to be: hungry for God, growing in that hunger.

Are we hungry? Do we want more and more of Jesus? 

“I am the bread of life,” he said (John 6:48). 

“My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:55). 

Yet all too often we sound less like David the hungry poet-king and more like the privileged, well-connected and landed in Jesus’ parable of God’s feast (Luke 14:15-24). Many were invited, but only the hungry came.

I think it’s time for us to restoke a Psalm 63-style hunger for the Lord. We have what we need in the table he’s given his people, a table that both meets us in our hungers and kindles in us a hunger for more. 

However it was that infrequent communion took hold among Mennonites, there’s a way in which early Anabaptism was a eucharistic revival movement. Leading thinkers rejected the medieval Mass and certain abuses that had become attached to it, but they clung to the Lord’s Supper with a passionate hunger. 

The church order bundled with the Articles of Schleitheim calls for groups to celebrate the Lord’s Supper each time they gather and to gather three to four times a week. 

On the cusp of martyrdom, Michael Sattler wrote to his church in Horb reminding them to continue meeting “that you may be united in prayer for all men and the breaking of bread.” 

Conrad Grebel wrote that communion should be celebrated “much and often.” 

Menno Simons linked coming to the Lord’s table with living as true disciples. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper, says Menno, “in order that you might by it faithfully observe and carefully conform yourself to the mystery represented by this sign or sacrament.” 

That eucharistic fervor is ours by baptismal birthright. Let’s reclaim it. Maybe the next Great Awakening our slumping churches need will be sparked by a Great Hungering for God’s best feast. 

Brad Roth

Brad Roth is pastor of West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kan., and the author of The Hunger Inside: How Read More

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