- Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-36 here.
- no sermon this week, because we had worship in a park.
I believe that we often over simplify the Lord’s Supper. We sip some grape juice and nibble a cracker, remember our sinfulness and Christ’s death and we’re done. Yet the observance of the Lord’s Supper can mean much more than that. In an excellent book studying the 1st century church (The Church of Christ, Eerdmans: 1996) Everett Ferguson highlights 8 aspects of the Lord’s Supper:
- Thanks – why many churches refer to it as the Eucharist, from the Greek word for thanks. (In each account of the LS Jesus gives thanks before passing the bread, we give thanks for His sacrifice, I wonder what he gave thanks for.)
- Lord’s Supper – this is not our supper, Jesus is the host. (Cf. 1 Cor. 11:20, 21)
- Fellowship or Communion – with God, but also with each member of the church. (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
- Memorial – but not just memory, almost a reenactment, a participation in Christ’s death. (1 Cor. 11:24, 26)
- Looking Forward – anticipating the messianic banquet. (“until he comes” 1 Cor. 11:26, Matt. 26:29)
- Covenant meal – we renew our commitment to our covenant with God. (Matt 26:28, a covenant of forgiveness)
- Sacrifice – not that we sacrifice Christ again, but we remind ourselves of His sacrifice. (Matt. 26:28)
- Sacrament or Mystery – the Lord’s Supper symbolizes God’s grace, and we commune with Christ in a way we don’t completely understand.
Ferguson also suggests 5 attitudes that we can bring to the Lord’s Supper:
- Self-examination – am I living up to my commitment (1 Cor. 11:28)
- Confession – acknowledging specific sins and struggles in my life.
- Reconciliation – as a communal event harmony within the church is crucial. The problem in 1 Cor. 11 was lack of unity and the need for reconciliation.
- Rededication – do we walk away from communion with Christ the same as we come in? Communion expresses loyalty to Christ (1 Cor. 10:21)
- Joy – shouldn’t reminding ourselves of God’s forgiveness and grace create joy in our lives? (Acts 2:46)
When I look at these lists I’m reminded that there’s a lot more going on than I often consider. I’m also reminded in many details the way we “do church” differs from how the first century “did church”, and sometimes, as a result we miss out. Do your thoughts during the Lord’s Supper ever focus on something other than remembering that Jesus died, or your sins? What perspective do find encouraging?
(Another good book on this topic is by John Mark Hicks, Come to the Table Leafwood Pubilshers: 2002.
One of the earliest church documents we have describing a church service comes from the late first/early second century, called the Didache (Greek for “Teaching”). You can read it here. Chapter 9 describes the Lord’s Supper with a heavy emphasis on Thanks. Chapter 10 seems to indicate that a meal was part of the regular church gathering. Chap 14 also mentions meeting to break bread.)
Songs and Scripture
Obviously, a huge number of songs remind us of the death and sacrifice of Jesus. It’s a little more difficult to think of songs that specifically mention the Lord’s Supper. Can you think of any? Or, Do you have a favorite Lord’s Supper song that helps you focus your thoughts?
- When We Meet in Sweet Communion
- Father, We Thank You (#387 in our hymn book (GSR) – I don’t know it, but it takes its words from the Didache!)
- Come Share the Lord (SFP)
- I am Crucified with Christ
- The Bread Has Been Broken (The Zoe Group from 2005 album In Christ Alone)
- Here in this Place (The Zoe Group from 1999 album In This Place)
- Come to the Table (written by Martin Nystrom and Claire Cloninger and recorded on the 1991 Hosanna! Music album of the same name.)
- Come to the Table (a different song recorded by Micahel Card on his compilation album Joy in the Journey)