There was a time when I would have never thought me and my brother-in-law Tim would be talking about spiritual things. That is exactly what happened today during the trip to take him, Tami's mom and grandma (who had come down for Kaelisa's graduation) to the airport. God works in amazing ways, but this blog isn't about Tim's conversion but our conversation.
Tim was reading from 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.
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. 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.
He asked me what I thought the passage meant. I replied as the wise pastor that I am, "I think what Paul is saying is that those who take communion without reflecting on what Christ has done are in trouble."
Tim proceeded to point out the part about being judged, which has always been a bafflement to me, and the part that says the reason for people being weak and sick is because of their improper approach to communion. I was thinking "Great, he's going to pull some legalistic thing on me," but instead he said "I don't think this passage is just talking about the Lord's Supper."
That kind of blew me away and got me to thinking. What is the Lord's Supper and what is it's purpose? The Lord's Supper is, for lack of a better term, a ritual. I know some people may not like the fact that I used the word ritual in conjunction with the Lord's Supper, but please hear me out. A ritual is something that is done the same way over and over. The Lord's Supper is done the same way at KCC every Sunday. The bread is taken representing Christ's body and the grape juice is received representing Christ's blood, both given freely on the cross for mankind. The fact is, it is still a ritual that was instituted by Jesus.
Now the word ritual brings up nasty images for people, and I can understand why, but this ritual instituted by Jesus Christ serves a purpose. It is not just an act that is done without meaning, at least is should not be. It is an act that represents something greater. The Lord's Supper reminds us of what Jesus did on the cross. It gives us a sensual (using of the senses) way of remembering and not only remembering but reflecting upon the free gift of salvation that accompanies the symbols of His body and blood given for us.
A ritual is nothing without meaning. I know that some people have looked at this passage and used it as a reason to deny unbelievers communion. I think this is the wrong use of this passage. If anything, communion can be a way to teach unbelievers about Jesus' sacrifice. What does communion hold for them if they don't know the meaning behind it? Absolutely nothing. So meaning is important and it is what I believe Paul is really talking about in this passage. He is not talking about the ritual of communion. He is speaking about the meaning of communion.
Is communion the only time where we as Christians contemplate Jesus' sacrifice? Absolutely not, or at least it is not supposed to be the only time. Unfortunately many Christians make it the only time they even fool around with the idea of the cross. Paul states in Romans that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This passage can be easily translated as "the constant renewing of our mind" meaning that in order for our mind to be constantly undergoing a renewal it has got to be focused on something.
Hopefully the bell is ringing. Ding, ding, ding. What should our mind be on in order for it to continually go through a constant renewal. "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Many of us are guilty of approaching the cross daily with the wrong attitude. "Jesus, what can you do for me today!!!!" "Jesus, how are you going to fix this!!!!" "Jesus......." Instead our thoughts should be reflecting on the sacrifice and not what it is going to do for me but how it is going to change me.
Paul says that many of those he is writing to are sick and dying. Why? Because they are not forming a proper attitude when it comes to Jesus' death. It isn't just about being saved. It is about being changed. We get sick and die early because we are not changing. God has given us two laws to live by. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind." This implies obedience to His law; a law that is put in place for our benefit. The second command is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." This implies living like God lives which means loving like God loves. When we do these two things it affects our lives. I do believe that health is achieved when we love (obey) God and love our neighbors. I do believe that we are prosperous when we love (obey) God and love our neighbors. (Just for the record, I'm not speaking about prosperity in the sense of the "prosperity gospel.")
In conclusion. Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians concerning the Lord's Supper is not just about the physical ritual but goes beyond the once a week and into the every moment of a Christian's life. "Be transformed by the [constant] renewing of your mind." Every moment is a celebration of the Lord's Supper. How are you approaching it?