1 Corinthians 11:23-29
This weekend is one in which we celebrate, or remember, those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America. This is a holiday which has been observed since 1868. It was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves.
The day remains one which still honors those who gave their all for their country. It has also become a day when people remember those family members who have passed away.
In the minds of many, though, Memorial Day is also known by another title – A Three Day Weekend. It often sparks the beginning of the summer. We see it as a release from a cold and dreary winter to warm, fresh days to enjoy God’s great creation.
As the Body of Christ we know and observe a memorial even greater than that of honoring our war dead. That memorial, of course, is the one commanded by Jesus Christ Himself – the observance of His Supper - the Lord’s Supper, which we call Communion.
The Apostle Paul instructs the church at Corinth on the importance of this observance and remembrance in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where he says,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Paul's purpose in including this teaching in his letter is that he wants us to know that Jesus wanted us to make communion so much a part of our worship experience that whenever we do it we should remember Jesus and what He did for us.
Is it possible that we might forget Him? Or, is it possible to forget WHO He is? Is it possible to forget what He did for us? Could it happen that we would approach communion, much like we have in making Memorial Day nothing more than a three day weekend? That is possible if we fail to remember WHO it is we worship and WHY we worship Him. We do so because He is the Son of God, our Savior, and He gave the ultimate sacrifice. He didn’t just die, in combat, as our armed soldiers did. He died after taking all the sin of the world upon His shoulders.
Some churches today see Jesus as a nice man, a great teacher, a powerful example. But when the cross and the blood and the total sacrifice come into the picture, it just doesn’t appeal to many in this “enlightened” world.
Donald Nash once wrote in the Christian Standard that he has heard of some churches that have done away with Communion as part of their Morning Worship. These churches offer the Lord’s Supper as an option in a side room, rather than making it part of the main Worship Service. What is their reasoning behind that? Because those churches want to appeal to the “seeker” crowd (those who visit, “seeking” a church home). These congregations apparently believe that communion is such a strange practice - and dwells so much on death – it would offend “seekers” and frighten them away.
Placing communion off to the side says to those who are “seekers” that communion is optional, and of less importance that the other elements of worship; like, for instance, the “praise band” creating the same music sound heard in any secular venue.
Whether we are members or seekers we need to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. This is precisely why the church meets. Acts 20:7 says to us: “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.
Seekers AND members need to remember what Jesus did on the Cross – this is why the church meets! Acts 20:7 tells us “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.”
Let’s go back to the observance of our secular Memorial Day again for a moment. It doesn’t have the impact it once had. Because people don’t observe Memorial Day like they once did, it has lost much of the meaning it once had.
Sadly, if we are not careful, that same loss of meaning and purpose can happen to communion. That’s why it is so critical that seekers and believers be constantly exposed to, and reminded of the message of the Lord’s Table. And that is why we take Communion every Sunday. It’s part of disciplining ourselves and new converts. Communion is time when we disciple (discipline) ourselves.
I Corinthians 11:28 tells us we should “examine” ourselves each time we take of the Lord’s Supper.
Communion is a time of judgment, that is self-judgment. Communion is more than eating a cracker and sipping a little grape juice. Communion is a time when we carefully and deeply search our souls. Paul calls that self-judgment – examining yourself. He tells us, through his letter to the church at Corinth, that God says (in words paraphrased here) that we can fully understand: “Don’t you dare take communion with your heart filled with bitterness, and unconfessed sin. Don’t you dare eat that bread and drink that cup without first examining your heart and your behavior of the past week.”
The communion table is where we come face to face with our sin, and face to face with the Jesus who died so we could have that sin removed.
During these past few weeks while we have not gathered together, I hope that you all have had opportunity to share in the Lord’s Supper with other believers. When we do meet again together the method in which we partake of the loaf and the cup may be a little different. But, praise God, the purpose and the meaning of the meal will remain the same. For those of you who will begin meeting together tomorrow, I know that God will be with you and you will commune together with our Lord, remembering His sacrifice for each of us.
----- Gary K. Fair