Friday, October 14, 2005

Don't "Just" Take Communion

Recently, I was asked to assist with our church's communion service. I was so excited to help, and even more excited when our youth director (who lead the service) asked me to preach/teach/give a challenge focusing on "examine yourself" from 1 Corinthians 11:28. I have to tell you - I was so ... (struggling to find the right word)... passionate about this that I found it extremely difficult to boil it down to a meaningful 10 minute attempt to accurately give a picture of what this means.

Here's what I came up with (the primary referance used is 1 Corinthians 11):

First of all, it's amazing that while most communion services use the text from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 for the taking of the elements, and they usually stop the reading at verse 26. These 4 verses are set in between different sections (v18-22 and v27-34)and about the observing of the Lord's Supper in an incorrect manner. I trust that you can (and hopefully will) read this chapter to understand the context, but it's clear that there is a very right and very wrong way to observe this ordinance. One of the things that Paul says (v 29-30) is that some people are sick, weak, or even DEAD because of their neglect in correctly observing the Lord's Supper. Now, understanding the cultural differences between 1st century Christian and 20th century western cultures, there are some very good principles that we can observe.

One of the primary differences between our cultural observances of this ordinance is that we do not observe an entire meal, instead we take the "elements" of this meal to remember the Lord's Supper. The key is that we need to examine ourselves to make sure that we're not taking communion in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11:27,28). There are other questions that need to be addressed, but in the time that I had, this was the focus of the message. One of the other necessary studies is, for instance, what does being "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" mean?

Q: What do I need to examine so that I am not observing the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner?

A: Primarily, we need to examine how we take communion. The Corinthians were eating the Lord's Supper as if it were just another meal. Paul mentions that there were those who were getting drunk while others went hungry (v. 21). This is a picture of some having excess (not just in drink) and others being utterly deprived. The overall point is that they were not separating this as a time to remember the sacrifice of Christ, and that led them to eat and drink as if it were just a regular meal or party.

Now that we understand what errors the Corinthian believers were making with the Lord's Supper, we can look at what would cause us to be observing it in an unworthy manner. I have come up with a list of things that I have done (and probably you have too) that will show the principle of taking communion in a wrong way:

  • Standing up (because I have to) for praise and worship when I'd rather sit and sing...grrrr.
  • I really don't feel like talking to people, but because Pastor said to greet someone, but I'll act happy and say "good morning" anyway.
  • Bowing my head while being lead in prayer about someone or something that (at that moment) I am just not personally and spiritually invested in. But I bow my head because that's what you do.

The point is this - I should never, NEVER, take communion with an attitude that isn't focused and done in heart-felt seriousness for the reason for this observance. This has served as a good and sobering thought: how much of my current refining is a result of my stubborn heart and casualness toward the Lord? Now, I do not believe that all of the trials or bad things that happen are a direct result of being wicked or not pleasing God in life. If you don’t agree, look into Job 1 and see how God refers to Job before his trials begin, or John 9 and see how Christ explains the reason for this man’s blindness, and not to mention every trial and persecution that Christ went through.

Whether I am at the communion table or at a football game – the sacrifice of Christ, and what that sacrifice has purchased for me should be the overwhelming force behind my speech, actions, and attitude.

1 comment:

Gone said...

I feel the same way about Communion. You should not just take it arbitrarily.

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