Summary: The most worshipful act a corporate body of believers accomplishes can be a source of shame or grace -- the Lord’s Supper -- don’t trample on the grace.
March 10, 2002
23For 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, 24and 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." 25In 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." 26For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. First Corinthians 11.23-26 - NLT
Corinth - the city of corruption, widespread sexual perversion, debauchery, lawsuits, incest, paganism and more - and that was the church membership! These people came together to worship? Paul rejected the notion that any worship of God was happening. His description of what they called worship should cause us to prepare for genuine worship…if for no other reason than shame:
20When you gather in the same place, you can’t possibly be eating the Lord’s Supper. 21Each of you eats his own supper without waiting for each other. So one person goes hungry and another gets drunk. First Corinthians 11.20-21 GWT
One lady told about how her "…cousin’s daughter Kathy usually stays in children’s church on Sunday mornings, but one Sunday she went with her parents to the regular adult service. When Communion was served, she turned to her mother and whispered loudly, "The snack in children’s church is much better. And we get a lot more juice."
This kind of childish selfishness was evident in big ways - adult ways, in the church at Corinth. Christians and churches suffer severe consequences when they do not honor the Lord by putting Him first. Illness and premature death are mentioned by Paul - but while these are severe enough, the worst has got to be powerlessness. Like the parable of the talents, we are left with no Kingdom gain in our hands to offer our Lord - only the miserable truth that we "did our own thing" - we ignored His calling!
We do this by demanding our own way, ignoring weaker brothers, and many other ways. We sin against the broken body and shed blood. We make the Gospel of none effect. We trample the grace! There is a time and place to take care of our personal needs; we need to heed the warnings so we don’t trample His grace, but become vessels of that grace for others.
I like to read Dan Erickson’s sermons. He proposed something about this passage which I’d not considered - that the discerning of the Lord’s body had more to do with our treatment of the people who make up the Lord’s body here on earth, than our reverence for the sacred moment of worship.
I think the person who participates in the Lord’s Supper without recognizing the relationship he has with other Christians, who is interested not in serving people but in using them, is the individual who is participating in an unworthy manner and may face God’s judgment. Thus, I would say that when we examine our lives before we eat at the Lord’s Table, the focus should not be so much on our vertical relationship with God, but on our horizontal relationships with other Christians. Obviously the two are connected. In many ways the vertical relationship is more important, but in this passage, I believe Paul is saying we should make sure we are treating those within the body of Christ in the right way, make sure we don’t have bitter or hateful attitudes toward a Christian brother or sister before we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper.
Observing the Lord’s Supper is not something we do individually at our kitchen table or something like that. It is something we do together as a congregation, as a group of Christians. Roger Williams, the fellow who started the first Baptist church in North America in Providence, Rhode Island, separated himself from so many folks that he was only willing to take communion with his wife, and eventually he was not sure about her either. It is not supposed to be that way.
It is vitally important to understand the table - and come to it prepared for living-out the faith it represents. This morning I want to pose three questions…
What does the table say?
What shall we do?
When we do what we should, what will we find?
WHAT DOES THE TABLE SAY?
The Table Describes our Condition Of course the table stands for the sacrifice of Jesus. The Gospel tells us he came to us, leaving heaven’s splendor for Calvary’s cross. He was buried, descended into Hell (where he preached to the captives there), raised on the third day defeating death, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father 40 days later.