Eating and Drinking Communion in an Unworthy Manner

Lord's Supper

We’ve all heard it at some point: “Make sure you clear your thoughts and think about Jesus and the cross so you’re not taking communion in an unworthy manner.” The passage referred to is 1 Corinthians 11:27-28, which reads, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

A stern warning, indeed, but is Paul talking about self-reflection here? We often miss both the context in Corinth and the overall context of the communion meal. First, we must realize that the Lord’s Supper that Christians celebrated was an actual meal. They sat down and dined together in the evening. But in Corinth, the church turned the Lord’s Supper into a typical Greco-Roman meal. Second, the meals commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross were linked to the meals of Acts 2:42 and 2:46. Third, they are linked by sharing “all things in common” through the bond of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

In John Mark Hicks’ book Enter the Water Come to the Table, he says concerning division in the Lord’s Supper, “This scenario emerged at Corinth’s meal (1 Cor. 11:17-22). The rich divided themselves from the poor so that they ate and drank without them. The poor, perhaps slaves or lower class workers, arrived later when the food and drink were gone. The poor, then, went hungry while the rich were well-fed and some of them drunk.”

This is important for us to understand. God’s acts unite man through saving grace. Imagine if the Israelites were shoving each other and leaving others behind when they crossed the Red Sea. God wouldn’t have tolerated it for a second. In Acts 2, imagine if the poor were uninvited from the breaking of the bread. That kind of behavior is “eating in an unworthy manner.” The Lord’s Supper unites believers at the foot of the cross, with Jesus as the host. It’s a time of selfless giving, sharing, and partaking. It’s a time to invite the poor and downtrodden in; to feed them, share in fellowship with them, and enjoy the celebration of grace with them.

We need to work with each other so that we are not eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. We must celebrate together and remain unified at the foot of the cross!

The Three Tables in Luke

Lord's Supper

We tend to think of the Lord’s Supper as only being linked to the Last Supper, where Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. At that meal, Jesus broke bread and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took the cup and said, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”

But only linking the Lord’s Supper to the Last Supper misses the deep connections throughout Luke’s gospel. Israel already had a deep connection with the Passover to the whole of Israel’s story–from Creation, to the Flood, the Exodus, the crossing of the Jordan into the promised land, and beyond. God was with His people from the very beginning of time, acting as a forgiving Father who loves, redeems, and renews his people.

In John Mark Hicks’ book Enter the Water Come to the Table, he rightly says, “At table, Jesus receives sinners and confronts the righteous. At table, Jesus extends grace to seekers but condemns the self-righteous. Jesus eats with ‘others’ to introduce them to the kingdom. . . The table is missional, communal, and hospitable” (pg. 48).

Luke records three times where Jesus messiah is host at the table–the feeding of the 5,000 in Luke 9, the Last Supper in Luke 22, and the post resurrection meal in Luke 24. In all three Luke undeniably links them with the language: Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it. Hicks says the feeding of the 5,000 is significant for these reasons: “First, it is the only meal in Luke prior to the Last Supper where Jesus is the host. Second, it contains language that is explicitly tied to the Last Supper. Third, the Messiah, as a new Moses, feeds his people in the wilderness” (pg. 48).

We cannot miss the significance of these intentional links. All three were in the evening. The suppers were hosted by the messiah himself. They looked forward to the kingdom anew. At the third table, the resurrected Jesus hosted the meal on the first day of the week, demonstrating the continued hope and renewal we will find at the final banquet!

So the Lord’s Supper is not only about remembering Jesus. At the table, Jesus and God’s Spirit are communing with us. We look back through Israel’s history, we remember Christ and him crucified, and, through the resurrection, we anticipate the future when we will recline at the table with Jesus and all his saints for eternity. But, equally as important, we invite people to the table with us.

The table was not exclusive. As Hicks says, it was missional, communal, and hospitable. We need to revision the table where we invite people to participate in the redeeming story of Christ. The Lord’s Supper unites people at the very table where Jesus is host. He invites people to repent, be baptized, enjoy the seal of the Spirit, and celebrate at the table.

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Communion as Sacrament

Communion

John Mark Hicks was a professor of mine at grad school and has written some very good books on communion. His book Enter the Water Come To the Table is an excellent book on communion. I’ve always heard communion referred to as one of the “acts of worship.” Unlike most denominations, we celebrate communion every Sunday. I think viewing it as an “act of worship” is OK, but it’s not completely sufficient. Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is a proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes. Jesus took the Passover, which was meant to memorialize the saving event of God passing over the Israelite homes and sparing the firstborn sons, and gave it new meaning. Passover continues the story of God’s salvation and applies it to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of mankind.

Hicks argues that communion is not merely an ordinance, because “ordinances are often regarded as mere acts of human obedience” (pg. 12). While, in one sense, communion is an ordinance, Hicks argues that it’s also a sacrament. He says that the central idea of sacrament is that “God acts through appointed means to impart grace, assurance, and hope” (pg. 12). In other words, when we, the body of Christ, participate in communion God is acting through this means to impart grace, assurance, and hope. It’s more than remembering; it’s about participating with and communing at God’s banquet.

Very significantly, Hicks also rightly points out that “Jesus himself, as the Incarnate God, participated in Israel’s sacramental journey. He was baptized with Israel, assembled with Israel in its festive celebrations (Sabbaths, Passovers, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.), and ate at those tables” (pg. 15).

For Hicks, there are three important themes to God’s story where we all participate in communion with God. Those are baptism, the Lord’s supper, and assembly. He says that these three are “dramatic rehearsals of the story through which God renews communion, empowers transformation, and realizes the future” (pg. 16). This cycle of death (burial) new birth (emergence/passing through) and resurrection (future) can be seen over and over, beginning with creation. Our participation in baptism, the Lord’s supper, and the assembly bind us in communion with God and we retell the story of salvation.

Peter binds Christian baptism to Christ and the Flood narrative. He says that in the ark, only 8 people were saved as they passed through the water (death below the water, emergence/passing through with God on the ark, look to the future). “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). We commune with God and Christ in our baptism, just as Noah “passed through” the water to find new life as the old died and also just as the Israelites “passed through” the Red Sea to a new life as the Egyptians were swallowed up by the water.

So also, the Lord’s supper is where we participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and we experience His grace as he communes with us at the table. Paul says that, at the table, we proclaim Jesus Christ’s death until he comes. This is both an ordinance (what we do) and a sacrament (how God shows up and imparts his grace, assurance, and hope.

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The Tree of Wisdom

wisdom

Human nature is to pursue wisdom. It’s no secret that we live in an instant world. Amazon has become the biggest online retailer. In 2005, it boasted just over $8 billion in annual revenue. Just 13 years later, in 2018, it brought in just shy of $233 billion. People are buying online and are addicted to instant delivery. It has created a shortage of truck drivers, and Amazon outsources to USPS, UPS, and Fed-Ex, all of which are overwhelmed. Efficiency is expected to increase where people receive goods on their doorstep no more than 24 hours after they click “place order.”

But it’s not just stuff that we want immediately. As mentioned, wisdom is something people have wanted since the beginning of time. God forbade Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Satan tempted Eve with being “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). Satan promised that their eyes would be opened. Enlightenment. Answers. Immortality (a lie). They were promised all of these things. And, in one bite, they could have it all.

Shortcuts. Eve and Adam, and really all of mankind, learns, forgets, and bears the consequence for seeking instant wisdom and understanding. We don’t have to look very far to realize how arrogant we are becoming. There are so many “experts” on immigration, abortion, church growth, and you name it. Most people have a strong opinion and throw it around as if it is fact. There is mass confusion and downright hysteria. This is what the quest for instant wisdom breeds.

Genuine wisdom, however, is rooted in humility and can’t be eaten into existence. We can’t pray for a silver bullet or whip our phone out to get wisdom. True Godly wisdom comes from above. To gain it, we need to be refined, tested, and stretched beyond our foreseeable comfort zones. Godly wisdom helps other people. It instructs and gently guides. This is the wisdom we need to pursue!

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Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the Lord!

Singing

We began summer singing camp this week. It’s not just because we want to have fun singing, but there is a deeper biblical reason. God created us to sing and enjoy song! As part of his infinite wisdom, He created us to express our love for Him and each other in the form of song. Last week we talked about the difference between improvising music and improving it. We should be constantly improving our music. Music doesn’t just happen. We have to learn, practice, and grow. Just like with every other walk of our Christian faith.

We mature and grow by having a steady diet of discipline. And the really neat thing is that the Bible is clear about the excitement we should have in our worship of praise! Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Isn’t that inspiring? We were created to give praise to God with our lips.

Song is one of the most beautiful forms of expression of our praise and adoration. We need to continue to instruct, practice, and grow in our ability to sing out in praise!

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Do We Improvise or Improve?

Song

Improvise: To make, invent, or arrange offhand

Improve: To enhance in value or quality: make better

Next week we will be hosting a summer singing camp at church. As an a capella church, it’s especially important to learn and practice music. We understand this when it comes to preaching. We send our preachers off to schools of preaching, college, graduate school, or even all of the above. No church would hire an untrained, unprepared preacher who improvised each sermon. A synonym for improvise is “to fake.”

Are you someone who improvises or do you improve? The Bible talks a lot about training, running the race, being disciplined, etc. Never does it say to just wing it, fly by the seat of your pants, or just hope that things improve. To the contrary, Christians are commanded to be disciplined, ready for action, and to be unified.

Music is an important (and highly enjoyable!) part of our worship. Did you know that in ancient Israel the musicians were on duty 24/7 and were not to perform any other duty? 1 Chronicle 9:33 says, “Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”

Music was always a vital part of worship. Jesus sung the Psalms with his disciples. Many of our songs come from the Psalms. The Israelites did not improvise when they sang. They worked to improve. They rehearsed songs every day. Music was a discipline. We have been given a wonderful gift of song by God our Creator! We are excited to learn, practice, and grow.

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Why Missions Are Important

missions

Our team of ten, Lord willing, will be leaving Thursday to travel to Ecuador. There is a lot of planning that goes into these trips. It’s so important to visit the missionaries our church supports. It’s a tremendous source of encouragement for the mission workers who live abroad and it allows us to connect with Christians from around the world.

It is well known that churches who are involved in missions grow. Without mission support, we would greatly hinder the kingdom. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world. Not everyone will become a missionary. And that’s OK. But people who do not (or cannot) go on long trips can still support missions in a big way.

When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he could have gone straight home. In fact, it would have been much quicker and more of a direct route to do so. Instead, Luke records that Paul “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 ESV).

We need to remember that it’s vital to encourage other Christians–both from afar and in person. They are working hard for the Lord. They labor day and night. It is not easy work, and they face so many discouragements along the way. We are excited to visit our friends in Ecuador and to meet other brothers and sisters who live in that beautiful country! Please pray for the Campbells and the work that is being done there.

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