Summary: The purpose of this sermon is to cut through traditions and get to the spirtual purposes for the ordinance and give practical ways to accompish these purposes.
What Should I Be Doing During the Lord’s Supper?
May 4, 2003
A. [Communion Misunderstood, Citation: Terry Fullam, "Worship: What We’re Doing, and Why," Preaching Today, Tape No. 102.]
I’m thinking of a small-town church in upstate New York.
They’d had a rector in that church for over thirty-five years.
He was loved by the church and the community.
After he retired, he was replaced by a young priest.
It was his first church; he had a great desire to do well.
He had been at the church several weeks when he began to perceive that the people were upset at him.
He was troubled.
Eventually he called aside one of the lay leaders of the church and said, "I don’t know what’s wrong, but I have a feeling that there’s something wrong."
The man said, "Well, Father, that’s true. I hate to say it, but it’s the way you do the Communion service."
"The way I do the Communion service? What do you mean?"
"Well, it’s not so much what you do as what you leave out."
"I don’t think I leave out anything from the Communion service."
"Oh yes, you do. Just before our previous rector administered the chalice and wine to the people, he’d always go over and touch the radiator. And, then, he would--"
"Touch the radiator? I never heard of that liturgical tradition."
So the younger man called the former rector.
He said, "I haven’t even been here a month, and I’m in trouble."
"In trouble? Why?"
"Well, it’s something to do with touching the radiator. Could that be possible? Did you do that?"
"Oh yes, I did. Always before I administered the chalice to the people, I touched the radiator to discharge the static electricity so I wouldn’t shock them."
For over thirty-five years, the untutored people of his congregation had thought that was a part of the holy tradition.
I have to tell you that church has now gained the name, "The Church of the Holy Radiator."
That’s a ludicrous example, but often it’s nothing more profound than that.
Traditions get started, and people endure traditions for a long time.
They mix it up with practical obedience to the living God.
B. Today I want us to think through what is Biblical and what is traditional about the Lord’s Supper and see if we can bring some freshness to our observation of it.
1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (NIV), In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 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. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 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. 22 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!
A. Paul begins these thoughts on communion with a stern scolding of the Corinthians.
1. Just as parents sometimes have to scold their children in order for them to develop into mature adults, so preachers sometimes have to scold their congregations.
2. And Paul felt that this church needed to be scolded for this particular problem.
B. Now I must first tell you how the Corinthians were observing the Lord’s Supper.
1. In NT days, it was common for not just the Corinthian church, but for most churches, to combine the Lord’s Supper with a pitch in dinner.
2. It was a one-time shot.
3. Not only did they participate in the Lord’s Supper, but they also shared their evening meal with other believers.
4. That may seem like a somewhat strange way of doing it today, because there aren’t any churches that I know of that do it that way now.
a. But you may recall that it was during an actual meal that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.
b. DeVinci called it The Last Supper.
c. It was during an evening meal that the Lord instituted communion.
d. So it is not that much of a stretch to see why the early churches were following that pattern.
C. However, there was a problem with the way they were doing it.
1. It’s that same “a” word that I keep coming back to: attitude.
2. Their attitudes while partaking of this meal were appalling.
3. But notice that they weren’t being scolded for combining the Lord’s Supper with a regular meal; they were being scolded for their attitudes.