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Communion Meditation: A Four-Fold Look

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Communion Meditation: A Four-fold Look

September 3, 2007

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Introduction:  You can tell a lot about a church by . . .

  • Its shape big or small, multi site, youth building, stone, carpeting
  • Its music  contemporary or traditional, hymns or choruses
  • Its dress code at some churches, folks are turned away at the door for not dressing appropriately. 
  • Its greeters are they friendly, our are they grudgingly letting you enter
  • Its order of service does it follow a fixed format, or is it spontaneous?
  • Its stance on communion Some churches require those who take the elements to be members, Some serve it with a fixed set of words that they say.  Some use wine, others use grape juice, some use loaves of regular bread, and others use loaves of unleavened bread or crackers. 

What do the scriptures have to say about this?  Please stand as we read from God’s word together: 

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 :

17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In 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. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don'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!

 23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

 27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

 33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
      And when I come I will give further directions.

Pray:

Please be seated

Communion is one of the most misunderstood things we do in the church

  • Communion is
    • Not Necessary for salvation: Saved by Grace, Ephesians 2:8-9
    • Not Spiritual food that is any different than any other kind of food.  There is nothing special about this food: it’s massed produced; jar is in the refrigerator
    • According to our tradition, it is not the body and blood of Jesus: for some churches, they believe that the priest’s words transform the elements into the actual body and blood of our Lord.
  • Communion is
    • A command of the Lord: one of the two ordinances, baptism and communion.  Interestingly, there is nothing in the Bible that says that only an a licensed or ordained pastor can distribute these elements. 
    • For believers only: these instructions we just read are for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  For our church, we ask that you have made a personal decision to follow Jesus (as we’ll talk about in a little bit). 
    • A symbolic representation of his body and blood:  we believe that this is a fitting symbol of the body and blood of Jesus: Body of Jesus symbolized by the bread (that which nourishes us: the super carbohydrate of Western Civilization: Africa = mushed wheat into pancakes, in Asia = rice, in South America = plantains or bananas.  Blood of Christ, symbolized by the grape juice (or real wine as some churches use around the world)—In France, we served both. 

I’d like to invite you take a 4-fold look as we prepare ourselves for Communion. 

In Communion, we look BACK to the cross where Jesus paid for our sins once and for all: 1 Cor 11:23-26. 23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

a.      This is core to our faith: vs. 23, “I received from the Lord what I passed on to you” There are other places, where Paul says, this is my command as an apostle, but here he is saying: this is from the Lord.  Why—b/c the Lord wants us to remember the cross. 

b.      We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  What is the significance of the cross, where he died? 

c.      2 Corinthians 5:21: God made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  Do you know how you feel when you’ve really messed up?  When your hand is in the cookie jar or life, and you’ve been caught?  That guilty feeling, and every other horrible thing that we’ve ever done was placed on Jesus at the cross. 

d.      The Roman Road has 4 key verses that explain the cross

                                                              i.      Romans 3:23: All have sinned:  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—all of us are imperfect in this world.  Now we are all created in God’s image and capable of great good.  But we are also all people who cannot meet the standards of God’s perfection. 

                                                            ii.      Romans 6:23: Christ died for us:  He died for us on the cross, and he paid for the result of our sin.  That is the only way for this verse to make sense.  Either you must pay the punishment for your won sins, or someone else must have done it for you.  The scriptures say, The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord. The results of our sinfulness is physical death and a life separated from the Lord Jesus and his people in hell.  (Israel quote) 

                                                          iii.      Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,[No condemnation for those in Christ. That means that if you are “in Christ” you will not be condemned!  

                                                           iv.      Romans 10:9-10: “That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

                                                             v.      Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.  You will be saved!   Confess what?  Your sins, you tell God that you’re sinful and you ask him to forgive you.  You transfer your trust in yourself to be able to gain heaven by doing good works, AND you agree to follow Jesus.  [consider praying this prayer now].  Tell the story of Billy Searle

  1. In Communion, we look AHEAD until he comes.  We have looked back at his offering of himself on the cross, and now we look forward to his coming again.  This is the anchor of faith and our optimism as Christians:  without hope, we wither as human beings, and this is our hope. 
    1. Communion is a physical act where we affirm our faith in the Lord’s return:  1 Cor. 11:26. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
    2. We are looking forward to his return: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words. Let me encourage you:
    3. Imagine Heaven!  (Hall of Mirrors in Versailles) Heaven is described as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb!—one of the most wonderful experiences for oppressed people.  Imagine sunlight filtering through shad trees, marble tables  Perfect temperature, a wonderful balance of food (French, of course), a stringed quartet playing Mozart, your loved ones who are “in Christ”  This is just a glimpse of our hope.  And unfortunately, we go from the sacred to the profane.  We go from heaven, to the 6th dimension, to just ordinary old us.
  2. In Communion, we look AROUND at the rest of our local body.  Some of you are probably asking, “You mean I have to see Him or her in heaven?”  Well, your situation is not unique.
    1. In Corinth, communion was as much about coming together appropriately as it was about remembering Jesus’ death and return.  The Corinthians were not doing this too well. 
    2. In Corinth, there were numerous problems in the house churches that met:

                                                              i.      Dissentions (vs. 18).  18In 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.  There were division in the body: in the Corinthian church, there were theological factions: some said that they followed the teachings of Apollos, a gifted Bible teacher, others said that they followed the apostle Paul, still others said that they followed the apostle Peter, and some said that they followed Jesus (the spiritual ones).  I want to congratulate you on being an amazingly factionless church.  With our recent decision to not church plant, I’m glad that there were no factions. And theologically, I’m glad there are no factions—no Calvinists, Armenians, Dispensationalists, or Pentacostals here.  Under the broad parameters of the Alliance we are all together under the things that are important. 

                                                             ii.      Another group of problems in the Corinthian church was Selfishness, drunkenness, and humiliation The scriptures in (vs. 20-22) say, “When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don'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!”

1.      IN NT times, there were no churches as we know them today.  People met in house churches in the home of someone with the space and money to host the gathering.  Communion was a passing of the cup and the bread after a meal.  The dining rooms could only seat about 12 people at special little tables called triclinia.  (see the picture of the Greek house, and then the  rest of the church had to wait outside).  So when the wealthy homeowner and his guests were done with their meal, then the rest of the church could join them.  Paul calls this insensitivity to others selfishness.  Furthermore, there some of the members became drunk because they consumed too much alcohol.  And they humiliated others in the church by making them wait outside. 

    1. These problems existed because believers looked down on others (Grk).  That’s what the word means in the original language.  Now let me ask you this question, your attitude may not be similar to the Wealthy, snobby Corinthians, but do you look down on other believers?  Do you see people around you in life for whom you feel a self-righteous pity?  If so, beware! When we have these sorts of attitudes, we risk being like the Corinthians.

    1. And to come to the table in this manner is not acceptable.  To take communion in an unworthy manner is to sin against the Lord: 1 Cor. 11:27 says “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” #. Instead of focusing on the negative aspect of people around us, we should be focusing on the positive side Communion is a time for us to reaffirm that we are brothers and sisters in Christ: 1 Cor. 10:16-17 ”Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

                                                              i.      Because we are one body, Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Often we think that there is something wrong with having a good healthy image of ourselves as Christians.  I don’t think that’s Biblical.   What’s Biblical is to love ourselves because we realize that we are loved by God!  And then as we are secure in His love for us, we can project his love onto other people. 

                                                            ii.      In fact, The scriptures, in Philippians,  call us to think of others as more important than ourselves.  In our modern educational system it’s all about being self-actualized—about reaching our potential.  The trick here is to be selfless, not selfish—that’s the pathway to being  whole as a person. 

  1. In Communion, we look WITHIN. We look back to the cross, we look forward to his coming, we look around at other believers, and we look WITHIN. 
    1. Before Communion, the scriptures exhort us to examine ourselves:  1 Cor. 11:28.  28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  How do we do this?  We replay the events of our lives in our minds in quiet meditation, and we ask the Holy Spirit to bring to light any thing that we need to repent of and change.  We ask the Lord to forgive us, and we ask him to help us to make these changes.  Why do we do this?  #. If we take communion lightly, we risk judgment: 1 Cor. 11:29-30.  “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”   The scriptures are clear that we should take this seriously. 
    2. So judge yourself before you participate:

                                                              i.      Are you right with God ? We are going to come to the Table of the Lord in just a moment.  Please examine yourselves to make sure that you are right with God. 

                                                            ii.      And Are you right with others? The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.If there is something that you can do to restore a relationship with a brother or sister, then it is better not to partake of this table.  However, sometimes, we’ve done all we can to live at peace with those around us.  If that’s the case, then please partake of the table with us. 

I’m going to ask Dorene to come and play something for us so that we can reflect quietly on the words

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