Today is a very special day in the Christian World—It is World Wide Communion Sunday. Christians around the globe will be participating in this holy sacrament of the church.The church world has many different beliefs that cause them to be separated. The uniting belief that is essential is that Jesus was God in the flesh who made His dwelling among us (John 1:14); that He laid down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world when He was crucified on the Cross; that He arose from the dead on the third day as Victor over the Grave; that He ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father ever interceding for each one of us; and that He is coming again to claim His Bride –the Church, and will have dominion over all things (See 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 and Philippians 2: 6-12).
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is an act of worship that has been practiced in the Church since its beginning. Let’s examine this passage that Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church and then reflect on the significance of The Lord’s Supper for us today.
I. THE CORINTHIAN PROBLEM
a. The Church at Corinth is often referred to as the Problem Church of the New Testament. As I have studied it over the years I have often said that Corinth Church is very much like the modern church in America today. In Paul’s Letters to them he has to deal with a number of issues—things like pride and carnality; immorality; and confusion in their worship services. The Lord’s Supper was another issue that Paul had to address.
b. From the earliest days of the church, it was common for Christians to come together to worship and then share a common meal called a Love Feast. And that meal was closely associated with and probably climaxed with the partaking of the element of the Lord’s Supper. But in Corinth this so-called “Love Feast” had become a source of conflict and discrimination. Some of the more affluent members were bringing their food and not sharing it with those who were less fortunate. Some were filling their plates to overflowing and not leaving anything for others who were less fortunate.So Paul had to put a stop to this practice of flaunting their wealth and making the less fortunate go without. He told them to eat their meals at home if they couldn’t behave. Then He gave them the instructions for receiving the Lord’s Supper as we have read.
c. The Lord’s Supper was different from the Love Feast –The Lord’s Supper was to be truly an act of worship.
II. WHAT HAPPENS IN COMMUNION?
a. Even though we may have different beliefs about many things, true Christians share that basic understanding of the Gospel that Jesus is Lord and that it is only through faith in Him that we have salvation.And the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion as it is often called, is one act most denominations practice. . But there are many different views of what actually takes place when we are served Communion.
b. Roman Catholicism takes the words of Jesus literally when He said “This is my body…” They insist that when the bread and wine are blessed and served that they literally, physically become the body and blood of Christ.
c. Lutherans have a little different interpretation. They say the bread and wine do not change, but the body and blood of Christ accompanies the elements.
e. The Wesleyan view acknowledges that the elements of bread and wine do not change, but believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Communion Service. John Wesley went so far as to say there is the Saving Presence of Christ in Holy Communion and that a sinner who has a repentant heart may in fact experience salvation in the act of the sacrament of Communion.
III. SO WHAT DOES COMMUNION SIGNIFY?
a. My Systematic Professor in college was Dr. Rob Stables. He taught for many years at Bethany Nazarene College and then moved up to Kansas City to teach at Nazarene Theological Seminary for many more years before he finally retired. Dr. Stables was a great man and had lots of humor mixed in with his teaching style. As a hobby he liked to write limericks—and he even had a book of limericks published. But he was also a very skilled theologian. He published a book entitled Outward Sign and Inward Grace—THE Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality (copyright 1991 by Beacon Hill Press). In the chapter on Communion he states there are five different Images associated with Communion. Let’s take a few minutes to consider these images:
i. Thanksgiving to the Father.
1. Another name that is often used for this sacrament is “The Eucharist.” That word comes from a Greek word that is used in the Gospels as well as in this passage in 1 Corinthians. It literally means “To Give Thanks.”While we usually focus on the solemn fact of the Death of Christ, the early church focused on the positive aspect of Communion: Jesus purchased our Salvation. Therefore, Communion was a time for Praise and Thanksgiving for the victory over Satan and for the freedom we have from sin because of what God has done through Jesus!
ii. Commemoration of Christ.
1. Jesus told his disciples that every time they partook of the bread and wine to do so “In Remembrance of me.” The Greek word for Remembrance suggests something more than mentally recalling what Jesus did—it carried the connotation of “reenacting what Jesus did.”In his Book Dr. Staples illustrates this principle with the story of a couple whose marriage was in trouble and who were contemplating divorce after their 12 years of marriage. It was suggested to them that they take a second honeymoon. So they returned to the place of their first honeymoon for a 2 week vacation. In recalling that event their love was rekindled and their marriage was saved. They could have stayed home and mentally remember their first honeymoon, but the reenactment of their honeymoon had a much stronger impression.Let us in the spirit recall the event of Lord’s Supper and think about what Jesus was saying. Let us go with him to the Cross and realize the great price He paid in order to save us from our sins.
iii. Sacrifice of ourselves.
1. Early on, the Church focused on the Lord’s Supper in terms of the Sacrifice of Christ for our salvation. Some have gone so far as to say that each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper Christ is sacrificed anew. Of course that is heresy because the Bible clearly says that Christ was the ultimate Sacrifice. His death was the fulfillment of God’s Plan once for all. (See Hebrews 10:14).But there is the sense that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are giving ourselves to Him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’
iiii. Fellowship of the faithful
1. The word we most often use here for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is “Communion.” The word literally means “With Union.” In other words, Communion is something we do together as the Body of Christ. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper it was with His disciples as they were celebrating the Passover Meal. That meal was shared by the Jewish people as they recalled how God had spared their children from the plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt and how God had delivered them as the People of God from Egypt. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are remembering how God through Jesus has delivered all those who have accepted the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. So we celebrate this sacrament together as the people of God. The context of 1 Corinthians 11:26 that warns about taking the Lord’s Supper unworthily is in reference to the elements. We must remember they signify the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a reality that we are all unworthy, but it is only Jesus was perfect and we partake the sacraments recognizing that fact.
v. Foretaste of the Kingdom.
1. Dr. Staples pointed out that The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the Heavenly banquet to which we are all invited—The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. When we partake of the sacrament we do so with the affirmation that Jesus is coming again to receive His Bride—the Church which is composed of all those who have accepted His Atoning Sacrifice for their sins.
This morning as we prepare our hearts to partake of the Lord’s Supper, I challenge you To Give Thanks for the Victory That Christ has provided for you. Remember His Death and Resurrection. Offer yourself as a Living Sacrifice to God. Celebrate the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Christ forming One body—the Body of Christ. And recognize what God has in store for all those who have received the gift of Eternal Life. Jesus is coming again and we want to be ready to meet Him when He comes to take us to our heavenly home!
Let’s Worship God this morning as we receive the Bread and Juice—symbols of His Broken Body and Shed Blood.