Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17-33
Idea: Like the Bedouin boy who discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, but did not recognize their worth—many Christians today fail to recognize the treasure that is ours in the celebration of the Lord’s table. When it comes time to celebrate communion, vast numbers quietly slip away. They are afraid of eating and drinking unworthily, so they play it safe by skipping the sacraments. There is trouble at the table today because we do not understand the trouble at the table in the first century Corinthian church.
Story: In the first century Corinthian church there were two things that created trouble at the table—the first of these was a failure on the part of believers to value each other as brothers and sisters in Christ (verses 17-22). Their fellowship dinners, in time, evolved into a feast of farces. The wealthy rushed in with their bulging picnic baskets and drew themselves into tight little circles, while the poor were left with a mere crust of bread, if anything at all. The fat cats of Corinth ate and drank to excess, and thus created not only an unhealthy situation for themselves, but a spirit of snobbery that polarized the church. Their experience back then cautions us to guard against a spirit of selfishness in the church today.
The second trouble in the Corinthian church was their perfunctory observance of the Lord’s Supper. Their bodies were present but their hearts were far away. They superficially went through the motions of eating the bread and drinking the wine without connecting it to the great spiritual reality of accepting Christ into their lives anew. When we celebrate communion we must avoid just going through the motions. When we fail to value the emblems of Christ’s passion, we are betraying Him all over again.
In his quest to awaken in us a growing value for the Lord’s table, the apostle Paul takes us back to the touchstone (verses 23-26). When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we hold in our hands and bring into our lives two powerful symbols of our salvation in Christ. The first of these, the bread, bridges us from the incarnation to the cross, while the wine bridges us from the cross to the second coming of Christ. Our lives become wrapped in the passion of Christ and our heart’s compass is set for the future table that will be shared with Christ in Heaven at last.
Now in verse 29 we read that “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” The word damnation found in the KJV is too strong a translation. The Greek word here means condemnation. Spiritual and relational breakdowns often lead to natural consequences that can bring on illness and even death. And yet even in those times of pain, God’s Spirit is there to make the appeal to our hearts to renew our relationship with Him and with those who belong to our church family.
As we approach the table, therefore, we must prepare our hearts (verse 28). In light of our tendency to undervalue each other and to undervalue our salvation symbolized by the bread and wine, we need to do an honest evaluation of our horizontal and vertical relationships. Such a preparation enables us to celebrate communion with joy and confidence. These sacred moments are not meant to shut out the person who is a sinner and knows it. These sacred moments are for sinners who are trusting Jesus to take them through.
Submitted by Dan Martella. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.