Summary: The Apostle Paul encourages proper preparation for those who desire to receive the Lord’s Supper
The man flew airplanes in the war against Viet Nam. He was a pilot for Delta for almost 30 years. A year and a half ago he flew a small plane into Tulsa to pick me up so that we could fly together to a District Mission Board meeting in Milwaukee. When his plane was refueled and we stowed my luggage he pulled out a “pre-flight” check list. He went over everything from seat belts, to fuel pressure, to the latch on the cockpit door. His actions surprised me. Why would a man who had flown so many planes for so many years need to go over such simple things? Before we landed in Milwaukee he pulled out another checklist. He looked at certain gauges and lights and switches.
After we landed I asked Dave why a man with his experience as a pilot needed to check everything so thoroughly each time he flew. He told me that if you miss something simple it might cost you your life. Once you are speeding down the runway or in the air you don’t want to realize that you have forgotten something important. So every pilot no matter how experienced he is goes over a checklist for takeoffs and landings.
In the Word of God for our sermon this evening the Apostle Paul gives us inspired guidance to prepare for the Lord’s Supper. We could say it is a “pre-communion” checklist. It doesn’t matter if we have come to the Lord’s Table for one year or fifty years--one time or a thousand times. Each of us is in equal need of preparation so that we are blessed by our eating and drinking.
We ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our preparation to receive the sacrament as we consider these words from 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. (Read text.) This check list for receiving the Lord’s Supper isn’t complicated or extensive. But it is very important. As we dig into these verses let’s each answer the question:
AM I PREPARED FOR THE LORD’S SUPPER?
I. Do I have faith in Jesus’ words?
II. Do I remember what Jesus has done?
III. Do I recognize what I will receive?
As Lutheran Christians we let God’s Word interpret itself. One of the ways that we do that is to look at the context of the words in which a command is given or a truth is stated. Among the spiritual problems facing the Christians at Corinth the Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to address the Lord’s Supper. They had become careless in the way they prepared to receive the meal that Jesus had instituted. It seems as though they had forgotten what Paul had taught them about Holy Communion. So he went over exactly what Jesus said in connection with the Sacrament. He reviewed the purpose and the content of this special eating and drinking.
On this Maundy Thursday we have a special opportunity to recall Jesus’ own words about his supper that he spoke on the night he was betrayed. Our order of service also helps us to review the purpose and the content of the eating and drinking we will do this evening at Jesus’ command. Before we come forward to his table let’s answer the question, “Am I prepared for the Lord’s Supper?” Under that question these verses from 1 Corinthians direct us to three thoughts. Do I have faith in Jesus’ words? Do I remember what Jesus has done? Do I recognize what I will receive?
The first thing that the Apostle Paul did in his attempt to get the Corinthian Christians to consider how they prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper was to take them back to Jesus’ own words. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” Did the Corinthians have faith in those words of Jesus? Did they believe that Jesus’ body was given into death for them? Did they trust that his blood was their covenant with God? If they did they would be properly prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper and be blessed by their eating and drinking. Then Jesus’ body and blood would provide them with the proof that their sins were indeed forgiven. They would have peace in their hearts and the strength to serve God. If they didn’t believe Jesus’ words the Lord’s Supper would not be a blessing to them as he intended.