World Communion Sunday
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
(1 Corinthians 11:23-24, NRSV)
It’s hard to eat a meal with someone with whom we are angry. Even harder is eating a meal with someone who has hurt us. It is like adding insult to injury. We often sit in silence and seethe with bitterness and frustration and barely pay attention to our meal. Even though we eat in restaurants with strangers around us all the time, it’s different from when we intentionally sit with someone to share a meal. So when we eat with someone with whom we are having relational difficulty, it is excruciatingly painful. Why is that? Because eating a meal is more than supplying nutrition to our physical bodies—it’s a communal experience intended to highlight the dependence and mutuality characteristic of the human condition. It is the most basic level (and, indeed, in the case of mother and infant, one of the very first levels) of family and community connections.
The church in Corinth had many problems, but one of the most pressing issues was their mealtime habits around the Lord’s Supper. (Note here that the Lord’s Supper was more like a church supper than it was Holy Communion as we know it; however, it was still an act of worship and considered a holy experience.) During the First Century, they met in private homes where the Christians gathered for prayer and study. Like our Wednesday night meals here at the church, people would show up after work and arrive at intervals. The wealthier Christians, who had more control over their work schedules, would arrive early and eat first. By the time the poorer, working-class Christians arrived, all the food was either already consumed, or there would be scraps of leftovers, hardly enough to make a meal. Needless to say, this created tension throughout the church. Mealtimes in the church became messy as feelings of hurt and anger took over, and divisions arose.
Paul received a report about the state of the church in Corinth, and much of the 11th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was his teaching on the Lord’s Supper. This week in worship, we’ll use some of Paul’s instruction and guidance to break open our own celebration of Holy Communion. The sermon will be delivered from Open Table of the altar where I will teach about all the elements of the Communion service as a means toward making our regular celebration of the sacrament as meaningful as possible. I hope you will join us as we celebrate Holy Communion in concert with Christians from around the world who will be celebrating in their own contexts. Invite a friend!