Communion in Divisive Times
Perhaps you didn’t know prior to coming this morning, but today is World Communion Sunday. Today is a day that we celebrate the One church, coming together in countries all around our globe united in one thing - our desire to follow and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. On this day churches in countries under many different kinds of government - some in industrialized nations, others in nations we would consider impoverished - gather to celebrate the church’s unity by celebrating communion.
Some churches will gather in secret, some will be broadcast via satellite to countries around the world; some will be large and others will be small; some will be gathering around their computer screens due to the pandemic, and still they gather. Many will use the same text we are reading today.
Our text today comes from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth - 1 Corinthians 11:17-32. Let us hear together what the Spirit has to say to the Church:
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 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.
This is a reading from God’s Holy Word, Thanks be to God.
Communion in Divisive Times
Communion in Divisive Times
Let us pray:
Creator God, LORD Jesus, Holy Spirit - Holy Trinity - Open our lips Lord that our mouths might declare your praise. Open our hearts that from them might flow love that is pure. Open our minds that we might have clarity of thought and wisdom to understand your Word to us and your calling on our lives. God as we have come to your Word this morning we ask that you might speak through me your eternal Word for us today. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you our Rock and our Redeemer. AMEN
Our passage this morning shows Paul rebuking the church at Corinth because of their divisions. He has heard of their social snobbery where the Corinthian church was using their gathering around the Lord’s Table - a holy gathering - as an occasion for making social distinctions between the rich and the poor. This is NOT the Lord’s Supper.
This past week many watched what I can only describe as a shameful display by two candidates running for the highest office in our country. There is nothing to be proud of in the way that so called “debate” proceeded. Later this past week, on Friday we discovered our President and his wife had tested positive for the virus all of us have been seeking to avoid. Some openly cheered - again demonstrating the divide in our country.
What does it mean to come together for Communion? Especially on a day such as today when we celebrate World Communion Sunday?
In Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia he wrote:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In our worship services we stand and sing:
We are One in the Spirit, we are One in the Lord.
What unites us? How is it possible that women and men from around the globe supporting and defying every type of government known in the world can be One united Church?
You already know the answer: Christ!
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Jesus did not die for only the Democrats, Republicans, Americans, or Westerners. He did not die only for those who live in democratic republics, or democracies, communism, socialism, tyrannical dictators and more. He died for the entirety of the Human Race! All of us are in need of a Savior. He died for all of us. That is what brings us together.
And as we come together for Holy Communion, we must do so in a way that is honorable and in humility. Everyone of us must examine themselves as Paul tells us:
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.
This is God’s Word to us today, thanks be to God.
Let us prepare ourselves for Holy Communion.
We’re going to begin with a time of prayer. I’m going to invite you to silently examine your own hearts and then we will come together and pray a prayer of confession.
[MUSIC] - CD song #2
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Litany of Confession
Holy and merciful God, we confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven. Have mercy on us, O God .
We have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us, O God .
We confess to you, O God, all our past unfaithfulness. For the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives, have mercy on us, O God .
For our self-indulgent appetites and ways and our exploitation of other people, have mercy on us, O God .
For our anger at our own frustration and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, have mercy on us, O God .
For our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, have mercy on us, O God .
For our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us, have mercy on us, O God .
Accept our repentance, O God, for the wrongs we have done. For our neglect of human need and suffering and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, have mercy on us, O God .
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, have mercy on us, O God .
For our waste and pollution of your creation and our lack of concern for those who come after us, have mercy on us, O God .
Restore us, O God of our salvation, and show us your steadfast love. Turn to us in your mercy and redeem us .
Having confessed our sin, let us profess our faith together.