We surprised our congregation during worship on Sunday! It was great! At the beginning, I set up the congregation for coffee break. Once or twice each month, after worshiping God through singing, instead of having our open mic sharing time and prayer, we open the folding divider between our sanctuary and fellowship hall and ask people to grab some refreshments and share a bit of life with one another. Then they return to the sanctuary for the remainder of the service. This past Sunday, we had a surprise in store during coffee break!
Instead of returning to the sanctuary for the rest of the worship service, we invited everyone to stay in the Fellowship Hall. There we had a brief sermon, we had communion around the tables. We had never done this before, and it was so good to experiment, so get even a sliver of a feel for the kind of worship going on in Corinth.
In some ways, what Paul gives us in 1st Corinthians 11:17-34, is pretty cool to get a glimpse into the life, admittedly the messed up life, of the early church at worship. But what does that matter for us? We don’t ever have out of control celebrations of communion. It is always very orderly and respectful.
True. But there is much that we can apply to our lives: the principle of self-examination, of self-judgment is vital. Anytime we come to worship, especially including the Lord’s Supper, but anytime we worship, we can and should have a spirit of self-evaluation.
This is an important spiritual discipline Paul is teaching the people. It is a discipline in which we say to the Lord “I need you.” Much like Jesus taught us to pray “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It is an essential attitude to the disciple of Jesus. An attitude of humility, an attitude that embraces self-examination, an attitude that invites the Spirit to do the work of examination.
David would pray in the Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Disciples of Jesus have hearts that beat for that kind of holiness. Disciples of Jesus have hearts that beat for restored relationships. Disciples of Jesus are quick to admit their faults.
They want others to go first. They want to cross over the cultural boundaries that divide us. They want church to be the most inclusive place in the world. They want Sunday to be the most integrated day of the week. In Christ there is no man or woman, no slave or free, no rich or poor, no black or white, unlike the Corinthian church whose messed-up communions seem to have been motivated by Greco-Roman socioeconomic traditions that had infected the church. When the Corinthian Christians met they most likely had a full meal, only one part of which included The Lord’s Supper. What happened, though, was that the haves got all the good food and wine in the special room, while the have-nots got the leftovers or none at all out in the foyer.
And so disciples of Jesus search their hearts for prejudice and ask God to help them eradicate it.
Disciples remember what Jesus did, how he crossed over the boundaries of eternity into mortality, how he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on servitude, and was even willing to lower himself to death. Disciples remember how he gave his body and his blood. Disciples remember how he gave of himself so sacrificially, and they want to give of themselves the same way.
As Paul would say in Romans 12 “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, offer you bodies as living sacrifices, this is your spiritual act of worship.”
By doing that, this little symbol, this bit of bread and small cup remind us that we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes. This little, but incredibly powerful, symbolic ritual launches us forward into the mission of God. It refocuses us to think about our true calling. That we carry in our actions and in our words the good news that the one who gave his body and blood in death for our sins did not stay dead, but he rose again victoriously! And he wants everyone to experience the power of resurrection new life in their lives as well. What a message!
If you’d like to discuss further, please comment below.