Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
Over the next few weeks I am bringing you a series of HELLO FRIENDS around the topics of COMMUNION and COMMUNITY. These writings are drawn from a research paper I wrote about 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, which is one of the most well-known passages of Scripture about The Lord’s Supper (communion). You may want to grab your Bible and read the passage in 1 Corinthians. It’s a good one.
There is a notable academic tone to these writing, but I trust you will also find them immensely readable as well as applicable.
THE ORIGINAL HAPPY MEAL – PART 1
The dinner table is set. The food is hot and plentiful. Family and friends have gathered to enjoy not only the food but also the warmth of fellowship, whereby affirming love and admiration for one another around the backdrop of a common meal. The setting is glorious and poised with possibility, and yet unforeseen to the naked eye, lurks the enemy to both food and fellowship: division.
Nothing can make a morsel taste more bland and cause fellowship to fall flatter than animosity and general disdain for one another. Unresolved issues, bitterness, neglect, and the like will often steal the joy from a gathering and leave the attendees with a gaping void even though food was consumed. The situation was similar when the Apostle Paul stuck his theological and pastoral nose into the church of Corinth. What he found was a group of people that were “coming together” but not truly “being together.”
That condition still largely exists within the church of today. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:20, “When the church come[s] together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.”
The words of Ben Witherington captures the scenario perfectly: “the meal had become a mess.”
When there is a mess in the church, the tendency is to eradicate the potential of future unsightliness, whereby avoiding subsequent messes altogether. This has been the case in many sectors of the church in regards to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the same possibility exists in regards to the Lord’s Supper. From a denominational standpoint, the sacrament is open for such a wide variety of interpretation, and unfortunately it would seem simpler (less messy) for the Lord’s Supper to be done away with as a whole. But that was not the intention of Paul in his writings found in 1 Corinthians – he wanted to inspire reform and renewal regarding communion and foster deeper community within the church of Jesus Christ.
He was contending that the mess become a meal again.
This can be accomplished by exploring the connection between the Lord’s Supper and the ancient Love Feast. Over time, even the best of traditions, habits, or rituals can get stale and lifeless, desperately in need of an infusion of new passion and purpose. Often the best source of renewal can be discovered in that which gave the tradition life and vitality in the first place. In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, it is the conviction that vitality can be found in the Love Feast.