Summary: The Church at Corinth had a problem with communion. What was their problem and what can it tell us about our worship today?
OPEN: Author Max Lucado tells of an episode from his youth. He was part of a group of young people from his church who, as a service ministry, took the Lord’s Supper to homebound or hospitalized members of the church. He and his friends visited one elderly gentleman in particular who was in the hospital--nothing serious, just a minor illness--and these young people were disappointed to find that the gentleman was fast asleep. Nothing they did, it seemed, could stir him from his sleep.
Well, they were crestfallen; they hated to leave without performing their duty. So, one of the eleven-year-olds pointed out that the gentleman’s mouth was open. The young boys looked at each other, as if to say, "Why not?" and they broke off a tiny little piece of a wafer, and placed it in the elderly gentleman’s mouth, and poured in a tiny sip of grape juice; and sure enough, the man swallowed.
He never woke up. Max Lucado goes on to write: "Neither do many people today."
APPLY: The church at Corinth was a congregation that was asleep to the meaning of the “Lord’s Supper.” So, Paul starts out writing to them about Communion. His 1st words are:
"In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good." 1Co 11:17
The early church at Corinth worshipped much like we do today. They met every Sunday, they read and discussed Scripture, they prayed… and they took communion together. But there was one thing Corinth did that was slightly different. Every Sunday they’d have a fellowship meal before the Lord’s Supper. I suspect they had this fellowship meal as part of each Sunday worship because on the night Jesus betrayed, Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover meal. At the end of that meal, Jesus passed the loaf & cup to His friends and told them "this do in remembrance of me!"
AND SO Corinth had a potluck dinner every Sunday. You like potluck dinners? I do. It’s a good time for fellowship, there’s always good food and they are far better than any meal you can get at Ponderosa or KFC. I love those meals.
BUT there was something wrong at Corinth. Paul writes: "When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!" 1Co 11:20-22
The gist I get from this is that at Corinth’s Potluck Dinners, if you didn’t bring a pot – you were out of luck. Some people would bring steak, others potato soup. BUT they didn’t share with each other. The rich and well off showed no love or concern for those who were poor and hungry in midst.
Well we don’t have that problem do we? We take communion every week, but we’ll have potluck dinners every 6 weeks or so. And when we do have carry-ins, people wait their turn, share their food & the meals have nothing to do with our worshipping at the Lord’s table.
SO, we don’t suffer from Corinth’s problem, do we? We don’t have a full scale meal before Communion, so his words couldn’t possibly have any impact on us – could they?
…WELL, YES, THEY COULD
The problem at Corinth ran deeper than “how they behaved at the dinner table.” Their rude behavior was a “symptom” of what was wrong in their church. It was the symptom. BUT it was not the sickness.
What was the sickness? In 1Co 11:17-19 Paul tells us it was divisiveness & pride.
" In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you… to show which of you have God’s approval (pride)."
Pride & divisiveness mar more Church worship services than anything else.
ILLUS: A letter to Lookout: "Our church is split right down the middle on an issue involving financial disagreements and hurt feelings. Yet last Sunday we all shared communion in the same room, with the 2 factions seated on either side of the middle aisle. You could feel the tension."
Both sides felt they had God & the angels on their side, and they weren’t about to love anyone who didn’t agree. When people get their feelings hurt and become angry in Church, you can feel the tension. You don’t need a potluck supper to be the stage for that to play out.