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1 Corinthians 11:23-34 

 

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

 

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another- if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home- so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
 
(ESV)

 

Let's Go

Monday of Pentecost 3

30 June 2014

I remember during my childhood reaching the door of the sanctuary of my home church with my family, when we would pull up short, after perceiving that the altar was set with the elements for the Lord's Supper. My parents would look at one another and my mother would say, "Are we going to Holy Communion today?" In this question (with all due respect to my parents' piety) there is a world of trouble. First, the question asked at this moment implied that little thought had been given to proper preparation to receive this deepest mystery of the faith. Second, it meant that those receiving the body and blood of the Lord went under the influence of others, as though going together as a family to the Table of the Lord was the paramount issue. Third, it meant that in those days, the Lord's Supper was not offered to the Body of Christ every Lord's day in my home church.

 

While waiting for school chapel to begin I took aside a first grade boy whose shirt was hanging out and I asked him to tuck it in. He replied, "But Johnny's shirt isn't tucked in." I said, "Yes, but you can only tuck in yours, not Johnny's" Spiritually, we can only take care of our own preparation for the holy communion. The apostle Paul places upon us the responsibility of self-examination (1Co 11:28). Self-examination certainly rules out the examination of others. We should not ask, "Are you going?" but, "Am I a sinner truly sorry for my sins and in need of the body and blood of the Lord given and shed for me for the forgiveness of sins?" While we know that every sinner should enjoy this gift, you are only responsible for the sinner that you are; not the sinner everyone else is. You can only receive for yourself what You Lord Jesus offers you at that Table.

 

We should attend the sacrament of the altar impelled only by our desperate need and the Lord's gracious invitation to feed upon the gifts there offered to us poor sinners for the forgiveness of sins. The worthiness of which Paul speaks is not the worthiness of others. We ought not to ask who else is going. While that is some concern to us for their sakes, it is not the impulsion that should drive us to the Table of the Lord. What should drive us is our own need, not theirs. I don't mean that we should not worry about, pray for, and encourage with the gospel those who do not receive the antidote to death in a regular communion. Yes, that is our concern, just as if our beloved would were starving herself to death, we would ask why they were unwilling or unable to eat and then seek the proper remedies to their unwillingness to eat. But this is not the same as to say, that we ought to starve ourselves at the same time they are, nor should we eat recklessly just because everyone else is too. Our approach to the Table of the Lord is driven by our own hunger and thirst for the gift of righteousness that our Lord Jesus gives us in this Supper.

 

Some churches only offer the holy communion through an arbitrary decision to give communion on the "first" and "third" Sundays. This becomes a tyranny of "firsts" and "thirds," while no thought is given to the hunger of sinners seeking God's forgiveness for guilt. Necessity knows no law. Certainly the artificial imposition of festal days when the communion could be celebrated in distinction from other days: "second" and "fourth" Sundays hardly feeds the hungry. Nothing is worse than a law that starves the children of God, except a law that starves the people of God arbitrarily. The Lord has invited us. Let's go with a contrite heart when bidden to the feast by the King.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'Let a person examine himself' (1Co 11:28), which also Paul said in the second epistle: 'Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith' (2Co 13:5), not as we do now, approaching because of the season rather than from any earnestness of mind. For we do not consider how we may approach prepared, with the ills that are within us purged, and full of contrition, but how we may come at festivals and whenever everyone else does. Paul did not bid us come this way. He knows only time of access to communion: a clean conscience.

 

"Even that kind of banquet, which the senses digest, cannot be eaten by us when feverish and ill, without risk of perishing. Therefore, it is a much greater wrong for us totouch this Table with profane lusts, which are more serious than fevers. By profane lusts, I mean to include those of the body, of money, of anger, of malice, and, in a word, all profane things. Whoever approaches the Table should first empty himself of all these things and only then to touch that pure sacrifice. No one who is reluctant to attend ought to be compelled to approach because there is a church festival. On the other hand, if a person is penitent and prepared, no one should prevent him because it is not a festival. For a festival is a showing forth of good works, a reverence of soul, and a correctness of demeanor. If you have these things, you may at all times keep festival and at all times approach. For this reason Paul says, 'Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.' And he bids not that  one examine another, but that everyone examine himself, making the tribunal not a public one, but rather the conviction without witness.

 

"'For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself' (1Co 11:29). Tell me, could this Table, which is the cause of so many blessings and teeming with life, become judgment? Not from its own nature, but from the will of the person that approaches. For as His presence, which conveyed to us those great and unutterable blessings, condemned more those who did not receive them, so also the Mysteries become provisions of greater punishment to those who partake unworthily.

 

"Why does he eat judgment on himself? 'Not discerning the Lord's body,' that is, not searching, not bearing in mind, as he ought, the greatness of the things set before him. He is not assessing the weightiness of the gift. If you come to know correctly who lies before you, and who gives Himself, and to whom, you will need no other argument. This is enough for you to use all vigilance; unless you are altogether fallen [from the faith]."

 

John Chrysostom, 
Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 28.1-2
 
Prayer

I come, O Savior, to Thy table, for weak and weary is my soul. Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able to satisfy and make me whole. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest good. Amen. (LSB 618:1)

 

For all those recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction, that they might be strengthened in their recovery by the divine gifts that come from the Holy Spirit

 

For Adam and April Littmann, who were joined in holy marriage on Saturday, that the Lord would bless and keep them

 

For Mila Jolie Listi, who was received into Christ's kingdom through the sacrament of holy baptism, that she would be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian church

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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