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Nov 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 23, 2014 – 1 Corinthians 10:14-18

Communion: A Thanksgiving Meal

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a share in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar.” 1 Corinthians 10:14-18

The warning, “Flee from idolatry” does not speak to our situation as it did to the believers in Corinth
– their everyday world was cluttered with images of Greek and Roman deities
– so they looked to the apostle for insight  in dealing with these sorts of issues

Now concerning the things about which you wrote . . . (1 Cor. 7:1)
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols . . . (1 Cor. 8:1)

We are fortunate that Paul responded to these concerns
– in answering their questions we learn what taking Communion meant to him
– the different ways Christian traditions refer to this ritual draw on different dimensions of its meaning

The following labels highlight various aspects of the ritual and will, I think , give us a greater appreciation for it


The cup is a sharing in Jesus’ blood and the bread a sharing in his body
– for sharing, the King James Version has communion, which translates the Greek word koinonia
– its root is koinos, “common,” “to share in common”
(scholars use “Koine Greek” to designate the “common Greek”–language–in use when the New Testament was written)
– this is how we came to refer to the ritual of the cup and bread as Communion
St. Augustine understood the Latin term to mean “union with”

Earlier, Paul said we are joined to Jesus (“one spirit”) as husband and wives are joined (“one flesh” — 1 Cor. 6:16-17)
– our union with him is renewed every time we eat his bread and drink from his cup

Paul uses of one of Israel’s regulations regarding worship to illustrate this union
– the “peace offering” was a celebration of shalom, offered “by way of thanksgiving” (Lev. 7:11-15)
Part of the sacrifice was consumed on the altar (God’s portion)
– another portion was eaten by the priest and another by the worshiper
– the peace offering restored or renewed the bond between God, his servants, and his people

The Lord’s Table

In the time and cultures of scripture, it was believed bonds were also formed between those who ate at the same table
– it is in sharing this meal in common that we become a community 

The word “one” in verse 17 is very important — we become one communal body by partaking one bread
– Paul emphasizes oneness again in chapter 12:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

To “partake” (Grk. metechein, vv. 17 & 21) is “to participate”
(Strong’s Greek Dictionary adds, “by implication belong to, eat (or drink)”
– the writer of Hebrews uses both koinonia and metecho in reference to Jesus’ incarnation:

Therefore, since the children share [koinonia] in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook [metecho] of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil. (He. 2:14)

Jesus became flesh and blood to be one with us
– at the Lord’s table, we become one with him and participate in what he is
(Peter goes so far as to say we are “partakers of the divine nature” — 2 Pe. 1:4)
– so Corinthians Christians could not go from the “table of the Lord” to the “table of demons” (vv. 20-21)

The Lord’s Supper

In the next chapter, Paul emphasizes the distinction between ordinary meals and “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20)
– it is vital to maintain the sacredness of the ritual — to realize what is actually before us

Someone might ask, “If Jesus lives in me, do I need to take Communion?”
– many people dislike rituals–they view them as empty, mechanical, exclusively external, unnecessary
So they ask, “Do I have to take Communion to be a Christian?
– the answer is, “No, you do not have to eat the Lord’s Supper to be a Christian” — likewise:

  • you don’t have to have a wedding to be married
  • you don’t have to have a funeral to be buried

But in the Lord’s Supper, something happens in the ceremony that moves us beyond it
– and it is a means that God has given us by which he works something into us

One of the great minds of the twentieth century, John L. Austin, wrote How to Do Things with Words
– in it he coined the term “performative” speech — speech in which saying something is also doing it
– he gives as examples:

  • Wedding: “I do” – take this person, give myself
  • Christening a ship: “I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth”
  • A will or trust: “I give and bequeath my watch to my brother”

We could add other instances, such as when a person confesses to a committing a crime
– the confession is the speech (i.e., the words that are spoken or written)

This is what happens when we take the bread and the cup — we are saying, “I do”
– we are not “commemorating,” but encountering (the Lord) and committing (ourselves to him)
– the life of Jesus enters us and we enter his life

Eucharist (give thanks)

To straighten out the Corinthians thinking regarding the Lord’s Supper, Paul returns to its origins (1 Cor. 11:23-32)
– Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me”
– it was Jewish tradition to give thanks before a meal for God’s provision
(Eucharist is derived from the Greek word for gratitude or to express gratitude)

Of all the reasons I will be giving thanks this week, the central and primary reason is for the life I have in God
– everything else I love and enjoy is possible only because of this
A few years ago, after Dad’s stroke, I spent a couple of nights with him in the hospital
– it was probably 2:30 in the morning when I heard him call, “Chuck!” I sat up and said, “Yes?”
– his back was hot from having not moved for several hours and he asked that I would help turn him on his side
(he could not do this himself because of partial and temporary paralysis)
– as we struggled to get him on his side, he said, “I hate being weak”

I do not take for granted the fact that I can roll over in bed, run up a flight of stairs, walk the dog several miles
– I know that everything I enjoy comes from God’s hand
– the energy of life itself is gift
The Lord’s Supper is, for me, the most authentic Thanksgiving dinner

Paul says that both past and future come together at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:26)
– Jesus also pointed to the future when he served his disciples the bread and the cup

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:23-25)

Something that was there and then in the upper room and something that will be there and then in the kingdom of God, is placed in our hands and taken into our bodies in the here and now

I was reading in 2 Corinthians yesterday and came to the passage in chapter 5 about our transition through death
– we will move from these earthly tents of our bodies into buildings from God, “eternal in the heavens”
– this was the passage Dad read or quoted in every funeral he officiated
Stressing the temporary and fragile nature of a tent, I remember him saying (in essence):

“We cannot help but feel attached to our bodies and to each other through our bodies. It is with our bodies that we express who we are and we know others by the way they express themselves through their bodies. But these bodies wear out and breakdown. Our strength and capacities diminish with age. Sometimes our bodies are ravaged by illness or injury until a time comes when they are no longer capable of expressing who we are. And when that time comes, God, in his mercy, delivers us from the old shells and moves us into our permanent bodies in heaven.”

I cannot help but feel a greater poignancy reading this passage now that Dad has made this move
– he is in that infinitely blessed place — the future that awaits us
– in the meantime, Communion is a taste of what is to come

Do you want to live a long life?
– if so, live in slow-motion
– take enough time with what you enjoy to feel gratitude for it
I realized recently that I sometimes say, “Thank You” to God the way I thank a clerk who hands me my change
– so I’m trying to slow down when I notice beauty, or joy, or humor, or irony
– to slow down and allow myself to feel the pleasure that makes me grateful

Let’s slow down for Communion
– this is not a meal we gulp down, but one to be savored
– after all, the goal here and now is not so much to consume as to be consumed


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  1. Chris Lim / Nov 24 2014

    Following last Thursday’s lectio divina – Fr. Romuald gathering, I have been meditating on the practice of being in “awe”. How do I experience this daily? I think there is an understanding from chuck’s teaching when he communicates the essence of the Lord’s Supper, “it is a means that God has given us by which he works something into us”.

    Is it possible to be in the presence of God when mindfully participating in ritual or practiced tradition? Perhaps, “Yes”, however, the human senses may take an undetermined amount of time to become accustomed to the truth… because what I am convinced now is outside my awakening to repent.

  2. JoAnna Tupman / Nov 25 2014

    Thank you, Chuck… a beautiful message!
    God’s love to you and to yours 🙂

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