1 Corinthians 11:23-32
I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you: on the night on which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.
This is why those who eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord inappropriately will be guilty of the Lord’s body and blood. Each individual should test himself or herself, and eat from the bread and drink from the cup in that way. Those who eat and drink without correctly understanding the body are eating and drinking their own judgment. Because of this, many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few have died. But if we had judged ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged. However, we are disciplined by the Lord when we are judged so that we won’t be judged and condemned along with the whole world.
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
Today is communion Sunday, yes the first Sunday of the month. If it was up to me, we would have communion every Sunday. I have done that before for the Lenten 7 Sundays and by the 4-5 Sunday everyone just goes through the motions. I can see that in peoples eyes. Maybe that is your feeling when we do it once a month.
Let’s explore what Jesus meant when He turned the Israelite Passover meal into the Sacrament of Holy Communion on the night of His betrayal. As members of the church universal we must affirm these basic statements: Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead, when we accept that, we are given the Holy Spirit to walk with us in our life in an effort supplied by His power to be ever more like Jesus. We proclaim Jesus and all that He is to us.
We have two sacraments in the United Methodist Church: baptism and communion. Neither one is just a religious ritual. Let us explore Paul’s words. It is important for us to observe communion often and with a pure heart and with an understanding of what it is we’re doing.
1. It is a requirement. “I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you”. A tradition in a biblical sense is a doctrine, a command. Check Webster’s. For every believer communion is not an option, it is a commandment from the Lord. Communion is meant to be a powerful connection to God and His free gift of renewal, also known as grace.
Now Paul also said “do it, but do it in a worthy manner.” We all have sin in our life so how do we become worthy? Many have taken this out of context in the following verses 29-30: “Those who eat and drink without correctly understanding the body are eating and drinking their own judgment. Because of this, many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few have died.”
Some pastors have indicated that this makes some unworthy and should not come forward.
They have forgotten this key next verse: “But if we had judged ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged.” This means that we are to look at our sin, understand our sin, and lay it down in taking communion. Can I take communion if I recognize that I have sin in my life which I do not wish to be rid of?
Some would say no but I say yes because when you truly understand your sin and the hold it has on you, communion becomes a means of grace and repentance. I believe that as you truly understand the significance of communion, you can receive the power of God in your heart to lay it down, repent, receive forgiveness, trust Christ for strength to overcome and become a new creation in your heart.
2. Here is The REASON we have the Lord’s Supper.
1 Cor 11:26 “Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.” Every time we as a congregation hold the symbols of bread and juice in our hands, by that very act we are preaching a sermon, the most important sermon any preacher could ever preach. We are saying together: “our salvation was purchased at Calvary, all our hope and expectation is based upon the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Without His death on the cross there is no salvation. Without His broken body there is no healing or restoration. Without His shed blood there is no forgiveness of sin. By His death the penalty of sin was paid and the power of sin was broken. By His death, and His death alone, we are saved.”
These symbols are concrete reminders of what it’s all about. That’s why the commandment to do it must be done and done often-to keep us on center, to keep the main thing the main thing, to protect us from straying from the central message of Christianity itself.
Whether the message is popular or not, it is the message and the message does not change! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…”The reason we take communion is to proclaim the Lord’s death. By a concrete act of obedience we are proclaiming it to anyone in our midst who may not know the Lord. We are proclaiming it to ourselves as a reminder of what is essential and central to our faith.
3. It is a REMINDER.
Twice Jesus says: Do this to remember me.” It is a memorial service in honor of the Lord Jesus Christ. On my desk I have pictures of Bonnie. In the house I have pictures of our family. When I look at them they are concrete reminders of my love for them. The elements of bread and juice are like those pictures, concrete reminders of Jesus Christ. God knows we remember things that are visual and concrete much easier than abstract thoughts and concepts.
Reminders and memorials are throughout scripture: the rainbow, circumcision for the Israelites, 12 stones from the Jordan placed by Joshua as reminder of deliverance to the promise land. Parents and grandparents, when your children ask you “What does this grape juice and bread mean? Answer them with a simple explanation of the cross. Tell them about Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
Communion is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us! The bread is a reminder of His body broken for us. The juice is a reminder of His blood shed for us. It is not the blood. It does not become the blood. We do not worship the symbols themselves. But it is symbolic of that blood that must be taken by faith.
There is a spiritual reality that is to take place at the Lord’s Table. It is an act of obedience and faith. It becomes a moment when our hearts open up and receive grace and strength for our life in God. When you come to the Lord’s Table come with purpose. Come expecting to receive from the Lord. Receive forgiveness if you need that. Receive strength and courage if you need that. Receive healing. I can think of no better time than at the Lord’s Table to ask Him to heal your body. Embrace the divine health that is available through the everlasting covenant of grace.
4. It is RELATIONSHIP through covenant.
Jesus said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” At Communion we celebrate the covenant we have in God because of what Jesus did on the cross. We celebrate the relationship we have in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Greek word we translate as “communion” is koinonia. At communion we are to also celebrate our partnership, community, commonality, family, and union we have through the cross, not only with God but each other.
In light of that we are to examine our relationships with each other before we participate. Previous to this chapter Paul wrote about division and factions in the church. This too is to be laid down and gone when we take communion if we respect the community table we have. Without doing so we desecrate the church, the body of Christ, made to take the message to the world.
So, How do we approach the Lord’s Table in a worthy manner and partake in a worthy manner?
1. We come with our hearts set on Christ, loving Him because He first loved us, considering His love for us.
2. We examine ourselves. We examine our relationship with God. Where is your faith? Is it firm? What sin exists? What truly needs cleansed? What needs renewed in your life? What have you forgiven yourself for but not truly repented in your heart. Spiritually examine the all of you.
Lay aside every weight and sin. Reflect upon your relationship with God and your relationships
with other people. Reflect upon God’s love for you and the sacrifice Jesus made for you.
3. We come reflecting upon the sacrifice He made for our salvation. With the bread in our fingers, we remember it represents-His body beaten, humiliated, and broken for us. With the cup we meditate upon the blood He shed to pay the penalty for our sin, to bring us into covenant relationship with the Father. That is unconditional love, the symbols you hold in your hand. As you partake receive healing, receive strength in your spirit, soul, and body.
4. We look at the cup in our hand and we hear Jesus say, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” And so as we drink we celebrate the covenant of grace, we celebrate our relationship with one another, we celebrate the promise of His coming. We look forward with joy and anticipation to His second coming. And in light of all this we are called to broadcast the Lord’s death till He comes.