Picture of Pastor David Cook

Sermon delivered June 21, 2008 by Pastor David Cook

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New Inductive Study Bible NISB unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.


Are You Unworthy to Take Communion?

1 Corinthians 11:27,28

(RealAudio Version available)

Are you unworthy to take Communion today?

If you could open in your scripture, in your Bibles, to First Corinthians, chapter 11.  What I’d like to do is share a ‘what if’ story, or a ‘could have been’. Take a look at how it could have been when the Corinthians received their letter from Paul. And the main passage that we’ll be focusing on is First Corinthians 11, and if you want to follow along, that’s great, if you want to sit back and listen to the story, that’s great too.

The time to gather has come once again.  They arrive from various parts of the city.  Some from the good parts, others from the not so good parts.  They are gathering at the house of the wealthiest man at the church.[1]   It’s only natural that they do this, his Atrium is pretty much the only place that can hold all of them. [2] 

      The Atrium is such a beautiful place to meet.  It is a large room with a shallow pool in the middle of it.  Above the pool a large opening allows sunlight to reflect off the water.  This has the effect of bringing light to the darkest corner of the room.  Surrounding the pool, pillars hold up the edges of the roof and provide beautiful decoration.  On the floor there are mosaics from times past. 

      As the church members gather around the pool and find a seat, someone begins singing a hymn.  Soon everyone is there and their host takes his place at the head of the room. 

      As the hymn ends, he welcomes everybody and then asks one of his servants to bring in the special guest.  In an instant there is chaos.  From the in-door garden[3] comes someone they all know and love.   “Mr. Titus!”[4] one of the children screams as he jumps up and leaps into the arms of his friend.  Pretty soon they are all up on their feet and pressing around this young church leader.

      “How are Paul and the others?  When will they come to visit?  Did Paul receive our letter?[5]  Do you have a word from him?”

      “Indeed I do brother.  A very long word, actually.” 

      “That’s no surprise”, one of the men laughs.

Titus pulls out a thick scroll.  “I told you it was long.  O.K. O.K. now everyone sit down, please.  Just sit down.  You’re acting like children.”

      And then his faces goes serious.  “I have to warn you,” he says.  “This letter may be hard to swallow.  Paul didn’t mince any words.[6]

“Now, who is able to read this for us.  Oh yes, you brother, you’re a scholar, aren’t you?  Come forward.  Please read this for us.” 

Eagerly the young scribe reaches for the scroll and breaks the seal.  Clearing his throat, he begins: 

 “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

      Everyone sits enthralled as they listen to his opening words.  Some even wipe away tears as they think about this man that they love. 

      As Paul’s words echo in the room, the topic quickly turns to the most pressing issue in that little church.  He rebukes them for fighting among each other.  He has heard some say, ’I am of Paul,’ and others, ‘Well, I am of Appolos,’ and others, ‘I am of Cephas,(Peter, I’m of Peter)’, ‘Ohhhh, but I am of Christ.’

      As the scribe reads these words, he halts a bit.  He gives a quick look to the host and then back down, and continues to read.  The room is quiet.  Some pretend like they’re focusing very hard on the reader.  They’re afraid to look at each other.  Even now they’re sitting in separate groups.

      An hour passes.  Different readers take their turns.  At times they stop and reread a passage and discuss it with everyone.  They listen as Paul addresses a number of different issues.  And at times weeping can be heard.  

      Then Paul returns to the most painful topic, the divisions in the church.  Especially as they affect The Lord’s Supper. 

      “I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.”  And then, with sarcasm, “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.”  Ouch.

      By now, their host can’t even look up.  He knows that he’s largely responsible for this.  Behind him is the dining room.  In a few minutes he’ll take some of his best friends, and wealthy friends, of course, and go in there to eat.[7]  He will take them and he’ll place them on couches, and they’ll recline.[8]

But there are others in the church.  These are converts from the lower classes. They will not eat with him in the dining room.  There just isn’t enough room, or enough couches.  And besides, the upper class doesn’t eat with the lower class.[9]   These will sit on the floor of the Atrium and eat the food that they have brought.

The scribe continues:  Therefore, when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in eating, each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.”  

The host remembers a time when they all used to share their food.  Paul had taught them to do this.  But then, after he left, famine struck.  Everyone was hit hard.  Now some of the poor have no food to bring.  At least that’s what they claim.  Everyone knows that the city is providing food for all who need help.[10]  The poor just aren’t willing to bring their rations to supper.  And this makes the host angry.  Why should he and his friends have to feed everybody?

Of course, they will ALL eat the Lord’s Supper.  After dinner, his servants will bring out the unleavened bread and the wine and share it with everyone.  No one should be left out of THIS part of the service.  And yet Paul is saying that they shouldn’t even call it the Lord’s Supper because of how they are treating each other. 

He listens as the scribe continues. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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.’”  And then farther on. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.”

This part wasn’t new to the host.  How many times had Paul and Peter explained why they keep the Lord’s Supper? 

But the next words cut straight to his heart.  “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” 

The host is miserable.  Has he been eating unworthily?  Is he guilty of the Lord’s body and blood because of how he has treated his brothers at the Lord’s table? 

“But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat the bread and drink of the cup.” 

      Paul is right!  They’ve all been hastily eating their own selfish little meal and then rushing right into Communion.  They’ve been so blind.

For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”  The owner of the house is now fully overwhelmed.  He looks at his wealthy brothers.  They are upset too.  He looks at his poorer brothers and sisters.  Their looks break his heart.  Pain and sadness, yet mixed with forgiveness, tears streaming down their faces. 

“For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”  And now they’re all crying.  They remember their loved ones whom they have recently buried.  Is the church to blame for this?  Is God judging us for how we’ve treated each other? 

“If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.”

The host jumps up and stops the reader.  He looks around to his brethren.   “I’ve been so wrong,” he says.  “Can you ever forgive me?”  Titus stands and puts his arm around him. “Of course we can, brother! After how Christ forgave us?”    

And now they’re all standing and walking around the pool and hugging each other.  The different groups are now mixing up.  The rich are embracing the poor.[11] 

The host, “Let’s pause now to take the Agape and the Lord’s Supper.”  Soon they’re all sitting together in the Atrium.  There are no divisions now.  No one is lounging in the private dining room. No one is sitting in a corner without food.  They are all eating the Agape feast together. 

After a time, the bread and the wine are brought.  Together they solemnly eat the symbols of their Lord’s Body.  And how they sing when they are done.  They have not had this kind of oneness in a very long time.  Passers-by hear the sound of the singing coming up through the open roof.

“Well aren’t those Christians happy!  I wonder what got into them?” 

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I want some of it.”

 

You know, thousands of years have gone by since then.  A lot of things have changed.  We don’t meet in the house for church or for Communion.  We don’t eat a love feast, an Agape feast, before we have the Lord’s Supper.  We don’t practice segregation. 

So how does Paul’s letter apply to us?  Could it be that we have similar problems as the Corinthians? 

Today we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  Are there divisions among us?  Are we harboring anger toward others in this room?  Let’s examine ourselves.  Are we excluding others?  Are we bitter with each other?  Are we divided?  Are we eating the Lord’s Supper unworthily?  Are we bringing judgment on ourselves?  If so, let’s pray for God to help break down those walls.

I long to be worthy of the Body and the Blood of the Lord, don’t you?

      At this time, we’ll go ahead and divide for the foot-washing, and then we’ll come back in and celebrate the Lord’s supper together.

 

 

I will be reading from Luke 22, starting at verse 14. “And when the hour had come, He sat down and the twelve apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat the Passover with you before I suffer.  For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which is shed for you.’”

      I invite everyone to kneel, please.

      Gracious Father. This is the time that we remember the sacrifice that You sent Your Son.  But it is a time to remember of the sadness, but also the glorious showing of what You are about, that You would be able to give that sacrifice up for each one of us.  Lord, let us humble our lives, let us cleanse our hearts, let us go to one another, any ones that we have trespasses against, let us be forgiven between ourselves, so ultimately we can be forgiven by You, by just asking.  Lord, we ask You to bless the breaking of this Bread and the drinking of this Wine.  In Your Holy Name, amen.

 

 

“For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, 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.’”

      “In the same way, He took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

 

 

But, we are admonished to also make it a time of rejoicing, so leave here rejoicing for what Jesus has done for you, for me.

      Let’s close with Hymn number 569, Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Saviour.



[1] http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pines/7224/Rick/chron1.htm

[2] http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/romanhouse.htm

[3] Ibid

[4] 2 Corinthians 7:14; Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pg 301

[5] Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pg 300

[6] Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pg 323

[7] SDA Bible Commentary Vol.VI p. 45

[8] http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/NTeSources/NTArticles/CTR-NT/Blue-HouseChCorinth-CTR.pdf

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pg 324


 
Hymn of Praise: #162, Wondrous Love
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:27,28
Hymn of Response: #569, Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior



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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 6/27/08.