April 29, 2009

The Table & The Altar

This Sunday our church family has the opportunity to share in communion together. In preparing for this I was reading this morning in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul is forced to rebuke some in the church there who are taking communion thoughtlessly and carelessly. I think it's a healthy idea for us to take his words to heart as we approach this element of worship together.

In verse 28 Paul says we should "examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup." And he also exhorts us that we should not "take the break or drink the cup unworthily...." I want to explain what this means for us (and keep in mind that this reinforces much of what we say about "worship"). If I take part in communion without really reflecting on it's meaning - if I drink that cup without remembering that Christ shed His blood for me - I am taking it unworthily. I'm not grasping that one of the significant purposes in me even participating is to remember. Remembering that Christ was beaten, broken, spit on, and crushed for me. Remembering that it's by "His wounds that we are healed". This is why He told His disciples, "Every time you do this...remember!"

On another note, when Paul says we should "examine ourselves", I believe that what he is telling us is that if there is unconfessed sin in our lives - if there are broken & fractured relationships among us - if we are going through the motions or keeping up appearances - if we are more concerned with our "sacrifice" than we are with our "obedience" - we are better off leaving the bread and the cup on the table. I think that David's prayer in Psalm 139 is something we should make our own before we participate in communion: "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me in the way everlasting." Christ would say to us, "Put down the bread, walk across the room, and seek restoration - ask for forgiveness. Put down the cup, stop pretending everything is OK, and confess." In other words - and hold on to your seat for this one - if communion is one more piece of our religious puzzle - one more opportunity for us to keep up appearances - we are much better off not even going to the table.

Some may read this and think, "Wow, that's a little harsh!" I don't think so. It's becoming evident that we're a whole lot more familiar with the table than we are the altar. We're great as the church at calling everyone to communion and fellowship, but we've grossly neglected the call to confession and repentance. And the worst part is we failed to realize that they should all go hand-in-hand!

I hope you'll join us for communion this Sunday.
But I pray that you'll "examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup." Christ has taken our sin and our guilt away. There is reason to celebrate!

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