“How To Celebrate Communion”

Our sermon text this morning comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthiaians in chapter 11, starting in verse 23. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to use the Church Bible under the chair in front of you. You can find it on page 958. Again our passage is 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. This is God’s Word.

 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.

Let’s pray.

We are taking a detour from our 1 John study to talk about the Lord’s Supper. This is our first time celebrating it together, and as I was talking to our leadership, we thought it would be a good idea to have a sermon dedicated to hearing what God has to speak to us concerning it.

It seems especially proper to do so, because the Lord’s Supper is a ritual, and rituals in modern America can easily be misunderstood. We Americans like getting stuff done. We value productivity, effecitcy, results. One of the ways we compliment each other is by saying, “Oh, she is a no-nonsense gal.” “He’s a streight-shooter.” Or for a message, “That’s was so practical.” But rituals are done not for practical reasons, but more intangible, etherial ones. We sometimes don’t know why we do the rituals we do, but we take a comfort in them and it would feel wrong not to do it. Think of having cake at a birthday party. Or blowing out the candles. Does this accomplish anything? It makes the day special, and it is a very sweet, memorable way to let a loved one know how special he or she is to you, but if you were to put on your scientific, Spok-like glasses, it would be hard to define what it is about the ritual that makes it so good.

Now, rituals and ceremonies have incredable value, but they are one of those things in life that you have to experience the value of it in order to see it. If you have eyes to see, they are wonderful. But if you don’t, they can feel routine and just a tradition. I have had friends that even skipped out on ttheir graduation ceremony, because from their perspective, it didn’t accomplish anything. Regardless, they were getting the degree. And so, when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, we can easily fall into doing it, because it is something we do, and not truly appreciate the value it has. And so, we thought it would be a good idea to help us all see a bit more clearly what the wonderful blessings there are in this Christian ritual.

So, what exactly is the Lord’s Supper. Well, we’ve already said that it is a ritual, and specifically, we call it an ordinance or a sacriment. There are only two rituals given to us in the New Testament, the other being baptism. The word “ordinance,” like a city ordinance is simply something someone in authority commands to be done. And we call the Lord’s Supper an ordinance, because it is something the Lord Jesus told us to do. So, in one sense, everything is an ordinance, but we normally just call Baptism and the Lord’s Supper ordinances, because those are the two rituals that Jesus established in his earthly ministry and told Christians to practice.

Sometimes these are called sacraments as well. You won’t normally hear me use this word, becasue I think it is easier for it to be confused. The word just means a holy thing, you can hear the word sacred in it. But the word really took off when Jerome in the 4th century translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate. From his translation, there was some confusion, because he translated some words as sacramentum, which really he should not have, which was the beginning of why false views of there being more than 2 sacraments arose. To avoid these confusions, I like to just call them Christian rituals or ceremonies, or to use the older word, ordinances, a ritual that Jesus himself established.

We’ve already mentioned one error we can fall into with these rituals, that is, just doing them because that’s what you do at Church. We can say this is the fault of seeing it merely as a ritual. And we’ll continue to learn from God how he designed it to be a great celebration. But the other fault is to see tham as something more than a ritual. Some teach that the Lord’s Supper actually cleans you from sin, gives you divine life, or that it actually turns into the physical body and blood of Christ. Some say things that are hard to even make sense of like the bread and the cup don’t become the physical body and blood of Jesus, but that his phsical body and blood are “under” or “with” the bread and the cup. It’s hard to even say that this even is logical. These are wrong at various levels, not only is it that old false teaching that has been around since the beginning that we can earn God’s acceptance from something we do, but I think a very obvious way to correct this is to look at Acts 3:21, which reads, “heaven must receive Jesus until the time of the restoration of all things,” and what does it mean that “heaven must receive him?” The New Living Translation gets it spot on, saying, “Jesus must remain in heaven” until the restoration of all things. So, if he must physically remain in heaven, than not even a little bit of him can be present on earth. Or as he also said, “unless I leave, the Holy Spirit cannot come.” So, if even a little bit of him has not left, than the Holy Spirit could not have come to help us, and what a help the Holy Spirit is. Besides, it’s it our blessed hope that we long we will return one day? The return of Christ is the hope that ties all the promises of the Bible together. And you can’t say that he already has come back, even in a little bit. We long for his physical return, because in that day, the clouds will be rolled back, he will tear the heavens and come down, gather his followers from all around the globe, sound the alarm and wake all the dead in Christ, and gather all his people into one body and come and judge the living and the dead. You just can’t say that he is still physically present, even a little bit. It’s his physical return we yearn and hope for as the restoration of all things.

So then how ought we to think of this ritual? In this passage, we learn that the Lord’s Supper is a rememberance, a spiritual participation, and a proclamation.

First, the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance. You can see it in our text, how our Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” At the Lord’s Supper we remember him, not just his death, nor his ministry, but simply him. All of him. All of what he has accomplished and all of who he is. And isn’t it the truth that remembering him is the one thing we need to do in the midst of our life that is so filled with trouble. The moment we read the bill that we know we don’t have enough in the bank to pay for, we forget him. The moment our plans succeed the way we hoped for, we forget him. The moment we receive any sort of bad news, we forget him. And when things go just as we expected, we forget him. 
Wasn’t this the whole problem the Israelites faced from the day God brought them up out of Egypt? We have no food! The Canaanites are too strong! We were better off in Egypt! It’s funny how our memories forget all the good things, but remembers all the bad ones. Really, you want to go back to Egypt?! It’s like our rememberers are broken. And that’s actually exactly what Paul says in Romans 1. It says we did not see it fit to  acknowledge God in our minds. And God’s punishment for that was the next sentence, “so he gave them up to a debased mind.” What does that mean, that means our sinful nature doesn’t like thinking about God. It doesn’t like being reminded about him. No wonder we have a problem forgetting! This is one of the reasons why everyone of us must be born again. We come to this world darken in our understanding, alienated from the life of God, due to the ignorance that is within us, to to our hardness of heart. And when one becomes a Christian, the lights turn on. And for the first time we can think of God clearly. Indeed, The true miracle is that for the first time we want to think of God clearly. That old man still lives with us, and that’s why we need help in the battle to remember him.
But what specifically is it that we remember in the Lord supper? Well, concerning the bread, Jesus says this is my body which is for you. We remember that all of who Jesus is, everything that he did, the fact that he took on a body, and went through all of his sufferings, he did it for us. He did it for our benefits, for our sake, in the most profound sense of the word, he is for you and not against you. This is the thing that we need to remember in our life. This week, I was reading a bit of Jonathan Edwards and I wanna tell you one of the promises that he made to God. He said, Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it. I love that. Every single cent we slip into cover is because in one way or another, we forget that God loves us. Why is it that we grumble why is it complain why is it that we have stress and anxiety or cut corners and feel like we need to Clara way up and shut others out of our way. It’s that we think that we’re on our own, that we think everything depends on us. The fundamental problem we have is that we dealt the love of God. Oh that God be exposed to as what that one thing is inside of us that causes us in the least to tell his love and add it’s very first re-dawning inside of our hearts, that we direct all our forces against it. He cannot possibly be more for us than he is. He took out a body for us. He left the comforts and riches and all the sweetness of heaven to the very lowest spot on earth. How could he not before us?
But not only is the Lord’s Supper a remembrance, it is also a participation. No this one is a little bit more difficult to define. If all the lights up or was as a remembrance, there would be no need for the actual bread in the cup. So why did he choose this for to help us remember? Why something we eat and drink? Well come in the prior chapter it helps us see a little bit about what’s happening when we partake of the bread out of the cup. In chapter 10 starting in verse 16 it says that it is a participation with the body and blood of our Lord. When you eat something it literally becomes a part of you same thing when you drink it.  And I think this is one of the reasons why God chose to use food and drink in this ritual. In some profound way, which I don’t profess to understand fully, Christ becomes one with his people. This is what Paul says in Ephesians five phone talks about marriage he says The two shall become one flesh. this mystery is great, but I am saying it refers to Christ and the church. 
Throughout church history, much is been written about the spiritual union between Christ and his people that can be especially encountered in the Lord’s supper. It’s a time to give deep contemplation and profound gratitude for the fact that Christ has become one with us. He absorbed all of our sin and guilt, and gave us all of his reward and righteousness. In John 6, Jesus says, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Though the physical body and blood are not present in the bread in the cup, to the eyes of faith, it is clear that they are spiritually present just as a physical eyes can see the bread in the cup. And we know that when we take the Lord supper, spirit is being refreshed in the victory his death has won.
 In the biggest way it lands is held backwards sin then becomes. Look at verse 20. “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Paul was teaching the Corinthian‘s about the dangers of idolatry in the specific verse, of eating food sacrificed to idols. But the idea is deeper. If we are one with Christ, how can we join ourselves to send willingly? Can we be holding hands with God and the devil? Go to football player play for the Vikings and the Packers in the same game? They are mortal enemies!
The Corinthians were having a problem with The Lord supper. They were getting drunk at the meal and some were coming to it’s not even being able to eat anything. The way the pole respond to them, is that they he said they were drinking and eating judgment upon themselves that they were sitting against the very body and blood of our Lord. And so, he charges them not to partake in an unworthy manner. There’s been a few times in my life. Where I did not feel right celebrating the Lord supper. For one most recently, there was a relational conflict that I was leaving on resolved. And if the Lord supper is the celebration of our unity with the Lord that purchases are unity with one another, how can I share in it when my life wasn’t matching up with that unity. So, on that particular Sunday, I made that is the time to demonstrate to the Lord I was gonna deal with this today. And I lets the elements pass as a confession of sorts. And God ended up bringing restoration to that relationship.
Friends, if you are living in a way that you know the Lord is not pleased in, please do not take the Lord’s supper. I say this not as a judge, but as one who has been there. I don’t want you to bring God’s discipline upon yourself. And we already saw on Romans 1 that one of the ways in which God punishes us is by letting us go our way. Paul gets real serious about this real fast, when he says, “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. 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.”
 Now, this is not saying that only perfect people are allowed to do it, because if that was the case we would all have to pass the cup. I say this to those who have become comfortable in a sinful lifestyle as a wake up. And on the other side of us, make this a time of a re-dedication to the Lord. You can think of it this way. At your baptism, you dedicated yourself to God. And every time you take the Lord’s supper, it is a rededication of your vow that you made at your baptism. It’s like the re-saying of your wedding vows.
And lastly, the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation, a visible proclamation of our faith in the death of Christ to save us when he returns.  And we see this in verse 26, which reads, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” And if we double-click on that word proclaim and see where else it pops up in the New Testament, it is really telling. This is not just telling someone about the death of Christ, a mere communication of information, the word has more of a feel of a herald, like sounding the trumpet, giving an official announcement, making a public boast. The idea is shouting out to the world where you find hope and declaring where men must go to be saved. When Paul started his missionary work in Acts 13, it says that he proclaimed the Word of God, and every other usage of this word “proclaim” carries with it an urgent message that must be received. When we have the Lord’s Supper we are making an announcement of where we find hope. It is saying Christ died. The age-old story is true. Judgment is coming upon the world, but I have found an escape from it in Jesus Christ.
In summary, how can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Let me offer you an easy way to remember. First look in. Is there anything that you need to repent of? Are you not right with the Lord? Consider having the elements pass, or deal with at this moment. And partake in it together as a rededication of yourself to the Lord. Next Look up. Remember Christ and how he has pledged himself to you. You are one with Christ. Enjoy that sweet unity that our souls have longed for. Next Look around. All around you is the band of sinners who have washed themselves in the blood of Christ. And and making each of us one with him we then become one with one another. Enjoy the unity that exists inside of the church. Next Look back. Remember his death. Remember the seal of his promise. He cannot be more for you than he is, and his blood proved it. Proclaim to the world your hope your appreciation your love your allegiance to the king of kings. That I’ve got no other hope none in the blood. Last, Look ahead. This is something the Lord commanded us to do until he returns. He said that he will not partake of the fruit of the vine again until he drinks it a new in his father‘s kingdom. This meal is a small foretaste of the wedding feast of the lamb that awaits us in the new creation. He will come, oh how weird for that day. Look in, look up, look around, look back, look ahead.
Let’s pray.

–DANNY FRANCIS

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