Summary: Lord's Supper message.
This summer I was reminded just how easy it is for us to get so comfortable with something that we do all the time that we just do it without thinking about how or why we do it. For me that realization came when I had to drive three different rental cars on our vacation.
One of the reasons that Mary and I have vehicles that are almost exactly the same is that I don’t really have to think a whole lot when I drive. I just put the key in the ignition, start it up and go. I don’t have to think about where any of the controls are – I just use them instinctively.
One of our rental cars didn’t even have a key, but what did I do every time I got in the car? I tried to put the non-existent key into the ignition. And not only that, the controls for the lights, windshield wipers and radio and the trunk release buttons were all in completely different locations on each car and in totally different places than in either of our cars. So I had to consciously think about what I was doing a whole lot more than I usually do when I drive.
I think worship can be a lot like that. Although we vary the format of our services from time to time, all of us pretty much know what to expect and it’s easy to just kind of go through the motions without really thinking about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. And that can be especially true of the Lord’s Supper.
So this morning before we observe the Lord’s Supper we’re going to take a few minutes to go “back to the basics” and be reminded from the Scriptures about what we’re doing and why we do it. We’ll be looking at two different passages from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. So go ahead and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10. You’ll find the book of 1 Corinthians after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the books of Acts and Romans. It’s a rather long letter so you shouldn’t have too much problem locating it.
There is much more that we could possibly cover in 1 Corinthians chapters 10 and 11 this morning, so I’m going to limit my comments to just a couple of the most important things we can learn there. Let’s begin near the end of chapter 10:
[Read 1 Corinthians 10:16-18]
In this section, Pau is addressing those who misunderstood the purpose and the power of the Lord’s Supper. On one hand, they overestimated its power because they thought if they just ate the bread and drank the cup, God would be pleased with them and they would be safe from His judgment, even if they kept going to the idol feasts of their unbelieving friends.
That is actually how a lot of people still view the Lord’s Supper today. A while back I had a lady come to the church one day while I was here and ask when we were having the Lord’s Supper because she hadn’t taken part in it for a while and she needed to get right with God. And I’ve also seen those who approach the Lord’s Supper with the idea that as long as they participate in the ordinance, they can go ahead and live their lives however they want afterwards. But Paul makes it clear here that the Lord’s Supper itself, like any other religious ritual, does not have the power to make us right with God.
But Paul also addresses those who underestimate the power of the Lord’s Supper. He makes it clear here that this is more than just some religious ritual. And the key word that helps us to understand that is the word “participation” in verse 16 and the related word “participants” in verse 18. That is the same Greek word that is normally translated “fellowship” in the New Testament. It comes from a root word that means “common” and refers to something that people share in common. So it might be best to think of this word in terms of “joint participation”. This idea is furthered in this passage by Paul’s use of the pronoun “we” throughout the passage. Whatever is going on here is something that is done by the entire body, not just individuals.
Paul first mentions the “cup of blessing”. During the Passover meal, this would have been the third cup, which would have been taken after the meal itself. It is also known as the cup of redemption. And Paul writes something very interesting here. It is the cup “we bless”. In other words, in some respect, every person present participates in the blessing of the cup, not just the person leading the observance. So although it might very well be appropriate for one person to pray a prayer of thanks for the cup, the cup is actually to be blessed by each and every one of us by the act of taking that cup with a heart of thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us.