Are we really observing the Lord’s Supper? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I have been to worship services at Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Churches. I could say the Mormon and JW churches as well, but I am focusing on churches that are orthodox, at least with a little o. In these churches, I have also seen the Lord’s Supper taken place. The closest I have seen to doing it right is an Indonesian Protestant Church that had a big meal after the service together, though I don’t remember if this was said to be the Lord’s Supper or not.
The problem for me is I have never seen anything that I think I could call the Lord’s Supper. At the Orthodox Church, I see someone coming up and taking some bread and being given a sip of the wine. I have been to high services in Protestant Churches where wine was used and I have seen the individualized services where you are given a wafer and a little thing of juice beforehand.
The main passage to go to is 1 Cor. 11.
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, 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. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions.
Notice that in this passage, Paul talks about some people going away hungry and some gorging themselves on the supper. Now I know I don’t eat as much as most people do, but I hardly think that the little bit that is given in churches today counts as a supper. It’s more like we’re having the snack of the Lord instead.
The sad part about this also is we spend so much time debating the nature of the bread itself, but few seem to focus on the fellowship aspect of this. I thought about this last night after seeing a New Testament scholar post about it on Facebook. The Lord’s Supper was not to be a single piece of bread or a wafer. It was meant to be a meal.
Now I am not one who cares for a group meal at all. However, I realize that many people fellowship over a meal together. Being on the spectrum, I would prefer to avoid that, but I know I’m outside the norm and should not be looking to my experiences here.
Yet what is Paul’s main concern in the text? It is that some people are being excluded and going home hungry. The rich don’t have to work much if at all and they can arrive and get the best of the best. Those who work arrive late and get very little if anything. The rich are then taking advantage of the table.
The main concern for Paul is not with what people believe about the elements.
The main concern for Paul is how they are treating their neighbor.
I seem to recall someone else rather prominent in the New Testament who has something to do with the Lord’s Supper saying something about how you treat your neighbor as well.
Maybe we should listen to Him.
This means the Lord’s Supper is meant to be that, an actual supper. Maybe it doesn’t take place in the evening, but it is to be a meal we are to have together. It is to get us to look at the people next to us and see brothers and sisters. C.S. Lewis even said apart from the sacrament, your neighbor is the most holy sight that you will see.
We can debate the nature of the elements all we want, but I would prefer we focus on what it looks like Paul is focusing on in the chapter, how we treat our neighbor. Are we treating them in love or not? Paul tells us to examine ourselves and it looks like that’s what he has in mind.
I encourage churches to start serving actual meals. The church had it as a meal. It might be more work and cost more, but it would be worth it and if everyone pitched in, that would help with our fellowship all the more.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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