One of the issues of the church at Corinth was the way that the Lord’s Supper had become an occasion for division. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians constitutes the longest teaching, anywhere in the New Testament, about the worship practice of the early church and especially about the practice of the Lord’s Supper. This week’s sermon is called Assembly and takes a look at 1 Corinthians 11:2-22.
Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, May 1. Read Acts 18:1-17. This text is about Paul’s arrival at Corinth and missionary work there. 1) Who helped Paul establish that church? 2) Where did Paul concentrate his work in Corinth? 3) What did God say to Paul?
Tuesday, May 2. Read Jude 8-12. 1) What did Jude say about the people he criticizes in this text? 2) In verse 11 he says a lot about their selfish preoccupation. What did they do? 3) How do you think it may have been like what was happening at Corinth?
Wednesday, May 3. Read John 13:1-20. John 13 is the occasion of Jesus eating the Passover meal with his disciples just before his death. 1) What would you say his attitude was toward the disciples before the meal began. 2) What do you think we could learn today in our modern-day practice of the Lord’s Supper?
Thursday, May 4. Read 1 Corinthians 11:29-30. 1) What do you think the implications of “honoring or discerning” the body of Christ are? 2) How do you think the Corinthians were violating that command? 3) What did Paul tell them happens when this discernment does not occur?
Friday, May 5. Read Acts 2:43-47. This text occurs after the day of Pentecost and the beginning of the church. 1) What did these first Christians start to do immediately? 2) How do you think this affected them and shaped their behaviors as disciples of Jesus?
Saturday, May 6. Read 1 Corinthians 11:2-22. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer for the Week:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ; and I pray that, as by his death he has recalled me to life, so by his love he may raise me to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
Bread of the World
Reginald Heber, 1827
Bread of the world in mercy broken,
wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead:
Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed;
and be thy feast to us the token
that by thy grace our souls are fed.
Devotional Article of the Week:
More than a Memorial
Is there something more to The Supper than just remembering?
by Phil Ware
The Lord’s Supper — whether you call it The Supper, The Eucharist, or Holy Communion — is a holy disruption for our homogenized and carefully planned “worship experiences”! In the early church, the first disciples appear to have shared with the Lord in The Supper at least on the first day of the week. They also likely enriched some meals at home to include The Supper with awareness to Jesus’ sacrifice and presence in breaking bread.*
Unfortunately, like baptisms in many churches today (and unlike the practice in the early church), the modern disciple’s time at the table is stored up for special Sundays. Or, it may be set off to the side for those who want to take The Supper each week, but those leading worship want to keep it from being part of the weekly “flow” of worship. The Supper is also programmed into a set slot and allocated a specific time in our worship orders by some groups. We then can predict where it will fall in the service, how long it will last, and many of the words that will be said.
In other words, we’ve made The Supper into something like those roadside memorials to fallen heroes or famous battlefields. It’s visible, but not vital. It’s provided, but not purposeful. It’s a commitment, but not connected to living Jesus.
When we enter into The Supper with the Lord’s presence real to us, The Supper should have a disruptive effect on the flow of our scripted services. It should shatter our neat, tidy, and regimented ways of “partaking” — using the traditional term which seems so out of phase with the biblical language for The Supper. This disruptive power of The Supper must shine through two dimensions of our sharing: remembering and restoring.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In 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.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The Supper calls me to remember. I remember the betrayal and abandonment of Jesus by his disciples. I remember the unfair trials. I remember the humiliating and sadistic nature of Jesus’ crucifixion. I remember the Lord’s words on the cross. I remember the mocking and ridicule the Messiah endured while he hung there cursed and humiliated. I remember how alone and abandoned Jesus felt as he hung naked before the mob of gawkers and gave up his spirit.
Communion invites me to remember. However, The Supper’s kind of remembering is as disruptive and heartbreaking as it is riveting. The story of God’s Son on a cross is agonizingly too true to our cruel and sadistic world of hatred and human suffering. So rather than asking us to put everything of our world out of our minds so we can worship properly and antiseptically, The Supper brings Jesus to our memory in the worst realities of our fallen condition and meets us there.
There is no sterile place to hide from our world in The Supper. Not when it connects us to YAHWEH’s Suffering Servant and our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth (Isaiah 53). We enter The Supper with our broken lives. We take The Supper by breaking bread to remind us of our broken world that murdered its Savior. As we do, we find Jesus as God with us. We know this Jesus was part of our broken world in his incarnation, and he joins us once again in our world in The Supper.
Jesus entered our brokenness, shared our brokenness, and suffered our brokenness for us. In The Supper, we are reminded why the Father sent Jesus to our broken world (John 3:16). We also are reminded that Jesus has sent us into this same broken world to continue his mission (John 20:21-24).
Remembering is good. Jesus wanted me to remember. He commanded us to remember. We also are to remember the life Jesus led that preceded his crucifixion — the life he spent reaching out to the lost, the least, and the last people. Remembering is very good. Yet we are called to do far more than just remember. Paul also reminded us of another important principle: as we come to the table we are to restore Jesus’ presence to our world as his people, the church:
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? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Think of it. As we share the bread, those of us who share it together are formed into the living Body of Jesus. Through sharing the bread together, we are the Lord’s ongoing bodily presence in the world. As we share in that bread, a miracle happens. Yet the miracle is not in the bread, but in the participants — in us, Jesus’ people. We become him for our world today. We covenant that just as Jesus was God fully incarnate in the world in real flesh and blood, we commit to being Jesus to our world. When we take the cup, we have the blood of Jesus transfused into our bodies to renew our life that is to be given for the sake of the world this coming week. We are Jesus’ presence — his hands, his feet, his eyes, and his heart.
When we take The Supper with a commitment to restore Jesus to the world through our lives, it becomes an explosive device to church as normal. This explosive device detonates in our climate-controlled rooms, crisply performed songs, smoothly orchestrated flow, and carefully time-mapped services. This committing to restore Jesus to the world as we gather at The Table reminds us that our lives are not about church. At The Table, we realize that the church is here to help us live our lives for the sake of the world as Jesus did. The Supper is a reminder that if lost, rebellious, struggling, broken people aren’t at our table on Sunday, then we haven’t been living out the implications of The Supper we took the week before. That’s because when we come to The Table each week, the Lord tries to speak to the lost, rebellious, struggling, broken people of our world and say:
This is my body given for you! This is my blood shed for you! These people are my body. My blood flows through them to show my concern and to share my mission in your broken world. They will enter your brokenness as I did. They will search to find you, love you, and bring you back to my Table so that you, too, can receive the Father’s grace.
The Lord’s Supper — whether you call it The Supper, The Eucharist, or Holy Communion — is to be powerful, holy, and precious. It must be disruptive to our tidy status quo and business as usual approach to our neatly packaged church services. If it is not disruptive, there is no grace to offer the broken people on the pew near you or the person on the pew inside you.
Let the Lord’s Table be disruptive so that we can truly remember and restore Jesus to our broken world!