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Thank you, Will. And thank you, Curt, for sharing your testimony. I love hearing how God has moved in your lives, both on Sundays and when I get to read one of your testimonies each morning when I get into the office. If you’re a guest, or have missed a few weeks, just a reminder that I’d love for you to spend time writing out your testimony, but I don’t want you to feel anxious or like this is some mandatory thing. I don’t have some checklist or anything like that for who has turned one in or who hasn’t, it’s not like that at all. But I’d still challenge you to spend time writing your story out of how you came to know the Lord, even if it’s not to give to me, but just for your own sake, seeing how God has moved in your life . But I’ve so enjoyed reading the ones I’ve read; I still haven’t quite gotten through all of them, but I look forward to it, just about every day when I get to my office.
Just as a reminder, we have in your bulletins a list of many service opportunities here at Raintree. These start in January and go through June. Even if you’re already serving in one of these areas, we’d like for you to re-signup, sort of as a way of restarting our volunteer base, at least in these areas, and allowing for you to feel free to try something completely different if you so please. You can signup online, or what we did for this week only, for a limited time only, we perforated the right column in your bulletin, if you’d like to sign up by filling that out, you can give that to Andrew as you leave today. Andrew’s right back there. Now this isn’t every volunteer position in the church, at all. But this is a good number of them, and we’d love for you to pray about serving in one or more of these areas.
Today we’re continuing our Be the Church series, though we’re taking a break from the book of Acts, and heading to 1 Corinthians 11 to talk about the Lord’s Supper, which I must just be honest: I wasn’t too excited about spending a whole message on The Lord’s Supper this week, until I spent so much time really digging again into the Scriptural meaning behind it. I’m not saying this to try and hype it up or something, but The Lord’s Supper is not just some ritual we do because technically it’s in the Bible so we must do it just to say we do it. It means something; it, in fact, carries with it quite a weight of meaning.
When I was growing up I loved the Sundays that we observed the Lord’s Supper, because my brother and I would run around the entire sanctuary after the service, and pick up every little cup that most traditional Baptist churches use, and we’d take them home, clean them (don’t worry), and then play with them. Honestly, I don’t even remember what we did with more than 100 of those little cups. I don’t remember. But that was the Lord’s Supper, to me.
I didn’t understand the Lord’s Supper as a way to worship God until I was in college. When you think about worship, I doubt the Lord’s Supper comes to most of your minds, which is ok. But worship is cherishing Christ in your heart above all else. We think of worship as singing praise sometimes, but praise is an expression of worship. Real worship is a heart-thing, and the Lord’s Supper is a way of expressing that inner cherishing, or treasuring of Christ above all else. Today we’re asking and hopefully answering the question, How can we worship God through the Lord’s Supper? Turn to 1 Corinthians 11. We’ll read vs. 20 to the end of the chapter. Just so you know before we read, Paul is dealing with some pretty serious issues the Corinthians were having with the Lord’s Supper. They weren’t running around stealing the cups afterward; they were doing some other things that might find ridiculous. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly that there were some issues.
1 Corinthians 11:20-34
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry; another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
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 concerning 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.
Before we get to the question, How can we worship God through the Lord’s Supper, I want to answer four brief questions just about the nature of the Lord’s Supper.
- Where did it come from?
It came from Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark and Luke record the Last Supper the disciples had with Jesus. He said, this bread is my body; this drink is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me. According to Paul in the text we just read, vs. 20, the early church observed the Lord’s Supper. It came from Jesus, and the early church.
- Who is it for?
It’s for Christians. Now, anyone is welcome to be in our midst, no matter your current religious belief or practice, you’re welcome in this room. But, there are certain things just for believers, for those who have repented and believed in Christ. Vs. 26- “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” meaning you confess Christ’s death, and by implication his resurrection. That’s what Christians do. Now, this isn’t some secret cultish thing that we do, for those of you who might be new to church life, this isn’t real blood, and this isn’t flesh. This is bread and juice. That’s why we do it on Sunday mornings, when we are all together, because 5 times in this text it says “when you come together.” This is for the gathered body of believers. That’s why even if you’re not a part of this fellowship, or a member here, if you are a Christian, you are still welcome to partake with us in the Lord’s Supper. But, we do ask, if you are not a Christian, to abstain.
- Why not a full meal?
Isn’t this supposed to be the Lord’s Supper, not the Lord’s Snack or something? Well, it seems pretty clear that this was a simple thing; bread and juice, not to be mixed up with supper at home. That’s why vs. 34 of 1 Corinthians 11, what we just read, says, “If you’re hungry, eat at home!” In other words, this is not breakfast, or lunch, or even brunch. I hope you didn’t skip breakfast because we’re having the Lord’s Supper today. This is a symbol of Christ’s flesh and blood. This isn’t actually supper!
- What’s the primary purpose?
The primary reason we do this is to remember Jesus Christ. This is a symbolic thing. This isn’t actually Christ’s flesh and blood. We don’t believe this supernaturally turns into Christ’s blood and flesh when we eat it, like Catholics do, or at least that’s Catholic dogma, it’s called transubstantiation. To eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper is receiving the grace of God. It is a means of grace for the Catholic church. But, we believe the only means of grace is through Christ himself, who is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic celebration of the real, spiritual presence of Christ in your and my heart.
So now, on to our main question for today before we actually observe the Lord’s Supper: How can we worship God with the Lord’s Supper?
- Examine yourself
The biggest problem Paul was writing to address in 1 Corinthians 11 was that the Corinthians were completely misusing the Lord’s Supper. They were stuffing their faces, while others were getting nothing, and still others were even getting drunk! It’s kind of a wild situation. It reminds me of my mother, the first time she took communion, I believe in an Episcopalian church when she was a child. She grabbed the wine, which was actual wine, and just started chugging! She said she didn’t really know why she did it, but she did it. But for the Corinthians, this wasn’t children doing this. This was adults!
Paul’s response in vs. 22 makes perfect sense: “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” He’s pretty ticked. While we may not have the same issues as the Corinthians did with the Lord’s Supper, we can still observe flippantly, as if this doesn’t really matter. This is just some ritual that God forgot to leave out of the Bible.
Vv. 27-28 should be taken as a warning: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” We are to examine ourselves. Examine ourselves, affirming that we’re participating in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are taking part in Jesus’s sacrifice. First and foremost, examine yourself and affirm that you have been born again, and then I’d say also to examine yourself to see whether or not there is any sin in your life that you need to repent from. In affirming that we take part of Jesus’s sacrifice, we must also affirm that we reflect one who has taken part.
Do you cherish Christ, treasure Him, more than anything? Are there any idols in your life? In a moment when we ask you to pray and take the Lord’s Supper, we’re going to play part of a song, with words on the screen, that will allow and even lead you in examining yourself to see what’s most important in your life. What has most of your attention? The song is called Clear the Stage, and it really gives a vivid pic of what an idol is, so hopefully that will allow for all of us to examine ourselves before the Lord’s Supper. How else do we worship God through the Lord’s Supper? We…
- Remember Christ (23-24)
Vv. 23-25, “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.’”
We’re to remember his body that was broken for you and for me. To help us remember, let me just quote a few verses from the Gospels, and I want us to dwell on these for a moment, if you like, maybe close your eyes and remember:
- Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
- Then Pilate released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
- Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and then gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. Then they led him away to crucify him.
- They nailed him to the cross.
- And the chief priests and the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himself. Even one of the robber being crucified with him, mocked him.
- From 9am until 3pm, six hours, Jesus hung on this cross.
- And finally, Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.
- When they came to Jesus to break his legs, and realized he was already dead, one of the soldiers instead pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
We remember Christ, because He is worth remembering. There’s nothing else worth remembering more, keeping at the forefront of our minds, that the God of the universe had his body broken and blood spilt for YOU. He was flogged, scouraged, spit on, mocked, nailed to a cross. As we know, ultimately, he defeated death, and offers to us salvation through his body and blood. If we repent and trust in Christ and his sacrifice, we are saved.
THIS is what we remember. THIS is why the Lord’s Supper is not some trite, dated ritual, but instead a vivid, tangible expression of worship toward our God, saying, WE REMEMBER. We PROCLAIM through this expression Christ’s death, because it will not be forgotten. Because His death and resurrection are the only means to salvation from God’s wrath. God is JUST, but he is also the JUSTIFIER.
We remember and reflect because his death and resurrection are the only means by which we have ACTUAL fellowship with God. We eat and drink in the presence of God. It’s a real sign of oneness that we can eat with God the Father because of the son.
History of the Lord’s Supper
In the garden, Adam and Eve had full access, VIP access, even more than that, constant fellowship with God in His presence. Because there was no sin separating them, every meal that Adam and Eve enjoyed was feasting in His presence. That’s unbelievable to think about, isn’t it? That fellowship was broken with sin, when suddenly we could no longer be in God’s presence in the same way.
But, even when sin came into the picture, God still allowed some meals to be enjoyed in His presence, like when God called the leaders of Israel up to the mountaintop to meet with him (Ex. 24:9-11), and like the tithe of fruits (Deut. 14:23, 26). But these were only a partial restoration of what Adam and Eve had before the fall. But the Lord’s Supper is far greater!
The sacrificial meals in the OT pointed to the next sacrifice to be made for sin, year after year, they made sacrifices, which pointed to the eventual Messiah who would, once and for all, take away sin. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of one of the greatest possible truths over which we can rejoice: we have real fellowship with God FULLY RESTORED because of His Son having paid the price, once and for all. We can let our guard down before the Father, we don’t pretend, we don’t act a certain way because we’re a stranger. We’re not strangers; we are God’s children, and can have great joy in being restored!
The Lord’s Supper points to a day that Jesus mentions in Matthew 26:29- “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” That was the last time he would eat with the disciples. But we will enjoy one day all together in his uninhibited presence. We now can truly enjoy being fully restored to the Father, but one day we will not only be fully restored, but also unable to break that fellowship in any way with sin, because we’re constantly face-to-face with the Father. Can you imagine that day? That joy we can have now, knowing we are washed clean, knowing we can fellowship with God with nothing between us because of His Son.
The Lord’s Supper is a time of real fellowship, with the realization that you’ve been bought and can do something as normal as eat in the very presence of God, and at the same time, there is this reverence and awe before God the Father, because His Son was broken and His blood spilt on our behalf. There is a real, vivid sense of the presence of God at the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper
So what I want us to do now is examine ourselves, and then remember Christ. Because I want all of us to do this together as a body, even those that lead worship up here, we put together a simple video that will lead our thoughts and reflections on Christ’s body that was broken and his blood that was spilt. During this about 8-minute video, you are welcome to come up anytime to grab a piece of bread, dip it in the juice, and eat. My encouragement during this time: examine yourself first, with the first part of this video, really pray the words that the singer sings, then when the 2nd part starts with the blue background, you can come up whenever you wish.