Summary: The Lord’s Supper isn’t a snack. Nor is it really a cause for charges of cannibalism. But somewhere in between the two is the mystery of Christ present in the bread and cup that we share together. And if Christ is somehow really present in these elements
Are you a cannibal or are you just snacking? You heard me – are you a cannibal or are you just snacking? Or something else?
Ancient Christians were accused of cannibalism. Why? Because rumor had it that when they got together before sunrise on Sundays they drank blood and ate a body. It didn’t help that in some places they met in the catacombs.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Lord’s Supper.
A little girl who was used to going to children’s church, once decided that she was going to stay in big church to see what the grown-ups did after all the kids were gone.
On that particular Sunday they had the Lord’s Supper. Her only comment afterward was “I like the snack better in children’s church. You get more juice.”
We kind of chuckle and think, “Isn’t that cute.”
But I’ll tell you what isn’t cute – an adult who is still operating with an underdeveloped children’s view of the Lord’s Supper. I don’t want to put anyone down – and frankly, I know that this whole thing is a little strange – especially if you’re not used to be around church.
And many of you don’t have a personal church history. So you’re trying to figure out that little piece of bread and a little sip of grape juice or wine.
It is a little out of the ordinary – intentionally so.
This morning we’re going to take a look at a section of scripture which deals with this whole issue of Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes you might hear it referred to by the more technical name, Eucharist.
“For this is what the Lord himself said, and I pass it on to you just as I received it. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.’” (NLT)
The Corinthians had certainly heard these words which are recorded in vss. 23-26 before. Paul says, I have pass on to you what I have received.
“Received” and “passed on” are both technical terms for the transmission of something that is a part of a body of tradition. The apostle is saying, “I am reciting the tradition...” Which, of course, he would have given already given to the Corinthian church. But he felt that he should say it again – for apparently the Corinthians were missing the point!
They had become way too casual about the Lord’s Supper. As evidenced in vss. 17-19: “But now when I mention this next issue, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First of all, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it.”
And division wasn’t the only problem! Verses 20-22 suggests that they were ignoring the poor believers who were a part of the church.
“It’s not the Lord’s Supper you are concerned about when you come together. For I am told that some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk.”
We’ll come back to this in a minute but for now it is helpful to know that in some places when the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper it was a part of an larger potluck meal – the Agape Feast.
The problem in Corinth was that they had figured out how to stratify the whole thing. If anyone could turn a potluck into a social statement it was the Corinthians.
They had figured out how to serve two types of food. First class food for the wealthy enlightened Christians and budget mac and cheese for those stuck back in the cheap seats – the poor and the struggling. So Paul is taking this opportunity to remind them of their priorities.
This morning I would like to summarize the teaching here in 1 Corinthians 12:17-34 with 5 relatively quick points.
Now, our problems are a little different from those of the Corinthians but I do think that this will be helpful in developing a little more mature understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
First of all, THE LORD’S SUPPER SHOULD BE A SIGN OF OUR UNITY.
This was what was bothering Paul the most.
The ancient world was very class conscious. This is why Jesus and his merry band of followers were seen as so radical.