Summary: how to be a worthy participant in the Lord’s Supper
Part Four of Sermon Series - Reception of Communion
August 26, 2001
Just recently President Bush visited Kansas City. Afterwards, they interviewed some people from Kansas City to talk about their meeting with the President. Of course, you had the interview with the disgruntled protestors outside of where he was. They had no desire to meet him. But then, they interviewed some young children, asking them, “what was it like to meet the President.” The kids sounded genuinely excited about such an opportunity.
It’s always kind of neat to meet someone of fame or importance. There’s a sense of excitement in the air - your heart beats quickly - and you become nervous. You don’t want to say the wrong thing and you also want to look your best. We’re not talking about meeting someone famous in the Lord’s Supper. We’re talking about meeting God! In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul said that you could take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Paul was saying that there is a way that you can approach him unworthily, and actually sin against his body and blood. What does this tell us - in order to receive the Lord’s Supper we need to be prepared for it. How? That’s what we’re going to look at today.
What it Takes to Partake of the Lord’s Supper
The only way you can usually get to meet someone famous is to pay an amount of money to get an autograph, or a LARGE amount of money to eat with them or talk with them. How much does it cost to approach our Lord and meet with him at His Supper? What do we have to do to be able to receive him? Throughout this sermon series we’ve been pointing back to the Old Testament - trying to learn from examples in the past. If we’re talking about approaching a holy God - we need to look back at examples of this in God’s Word. Take for instance our reading from the Old Testament for today in Leviticus 23.
“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. 28 Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. 29 . . . 30 I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. 31 You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. 32 It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves.
In order to approach the Lord with a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement -the people were to refrain from working and eating to concentrate on the importance of this day where their sins would be atoned for.
When God was going to show his presence to His people on the top of Mt. Sinai, He told Moses in Exodus 19, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”
What does this show us? God wants us to show him respect when we come to him. When Paul had established the congregation in Corinth, one specific problem that they had was with the way they worshiped. Before they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, they had an agape meal where they would share the Scriptures and eat a meal, then have a collection for those who needed it. But what was happening? When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. The rich were getting drunk, the poor were starving, and after this fiasco they were supposed to take the Lord’s Supper. It just wasn’t right - the way they were approaching the Lord. And what was happening as a result? Paul said, many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. God had to discipline them to bring them back to the faith with sicknesses and the like because they weren’t approaching him with a reverent spirit.
I can recall growing up in a much larger church - it was a huge brick building with a very elongated worship area. The altar, then, was a long ways to get to - up several sets of stairs. It always appeared to me to be the place where God lived, almost like the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament. I remember coming to church during the week - when I was in high school - nobody was around. Tentatively I walked up in the altar area. Slowly I moved my feet upon the green marble stone floor, slid my hand along the rail, and just stood there. I had never been beyond the communion rail before! It was almost a sense of awe - I was standing only where the pastor stood. Maybe it wouldn’t be all bad for us to think of taking the Lord’s Supper in that way, would it - to treat it like holy ground to be approached! That way, when you approach the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper, you would naturally feel that something special was happening. You are approaching a holy God!