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Jan 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 7, 2018 – 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

First Supper of the New Year

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also 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.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

Intro: I had a hard time pulling myself together this morning

I’ll just say, yesterday was tough – lingering emotional residue from yesterday
– stumbling around in the dark, my first thought was that I did not want to be here
• that I’d rather find a quiet spot near the ocean
• and just sit with Jesus for awhile
◦ that I could really use his company and his strength and wisdom
– but when my brain started waking up,
• I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be and needed to be

Paul was not with Jesus and his disciples for that last supper
– he heard the story from the apostles who were there
• so he observed Communion the same way we do
• as a ritual re-enactment of that hour in the upper room
– Paul fully understood (and felt) the sacredness of Communion
• and he gave specific instructions to treat it with reverence
• as strong as his words sound to us, this is not a warning to back away
◦ it is an invitation to come, to eat and to drink
◦ but to do it with full awareness and receive its full value

To observe Communion with reverence is to discern the embodied presence of Jesus
– the Lord’s Supper celebrates our union with God
• a (common)union we enjoy with undying gratitude

Let me remind you of the Bible story that defines Reflexion

The Sunday following Jesus’ crucifixion,
– two disciples were on the road going away from Jerusalem
• however, they could not leave behind what happened there
◦ I imagine their feverish conversation as they tried to make sense of Jesus’ death
• as they walked together, another traveler approached them, perhaps from a side road
◦ it was Jesus who joined them, but they did not recognize him

Jesus: “Listening to your voices, it sounds like an intense conversation. What are you guys discussing?”
One of the disciples: “You must be only visitor to Jerusalem who knows nothing of the things that have happened there these last few days”
Jesus (innocently): “What things?”
They ran through the brief history they had with Jesus, describing him as a mighty prophet and the hope they had placed in him, but how it all collapsed when he was arrested, tried and crucified. They also mentioned the news brought to them by the women who were at the tomb early that morning, but it is apparent that they really did not know what to make of that.
Jesus: “ ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures’ ” (Lk. 24:25-27)
Arriving at their destination, it looked as though Jesus was going to continue his journey, but turning to him they begged him, “Please stay.”
When dinner was served, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight (Lk. 24:31)
Immediately they ran back to Jerusalem, where they reported their encounter with Jesus to the apostles and explained how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread (Lk. 24:35)

In junior high school, I struggled with my studies
– I was labeled a “slow learner” (still am)
• that was not the disciples’ problem – they were “slow believers”
• this was not a mental deficiency, but a heart problem
◦ faith would have opened their eyes to see more of what was in the Scriptures
– “slow of heart to believe” was not a criticism or a rebuke
• it was a diagnosis:
◦ “You missed seeing this because you let your rational mind get in way”
• so as they traveled together, Jesus administered the cure

I think of the many times I have not recognized Jesus

I wonder how a conversation would have gone if only I realized Jesus was there
– the disciples, at least, had a valid excuse
But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him (Lk. 24:16)
• what I regret are the lost opportunities
• if I had been aware of Jesus’ presence, I could have done more
◦ there could have been a better outcome
– but for these two men, this was not a lost opportunity
• in fact, it gave Jesus an advantage that they did not recognize him
◦ it allowed him to open the Scriptures to them
◦ without them being distracted by the fact of his resurrection
• recognizing him would have led to lots of questions and a very different conversation
◦ then it would have been a lost opportunity
– his exposition of scripture came at a crucial moment
• they were vulnerable, looking for answers and eager to learn

There is something else about Jesus traveling incognito
– Jesus met up with them as if he were just another person on a journey
• he must have enjoyed that
• whenever he appeared in public, he was mobbed
– the beauty of Jesus appearing to be just another traveler is that this is how he wants to be with us
• many Christians have stern images of Jesus
◦ they envision him as demanding and mean
• but what he projects is a person like us, a friend, a brother
◦ he goes with us, listens to us, talks about what’s on our mind
◦ he puts himself within our reach
◦ makes himself available and accessible

So now we circle back around to Communion

It was in the breaking of bread that they recognized him
– Paul says that the benefit of Communion is in discerning Jesus’ presence in the bread and the cup
• he meets us here and joins us in our journey
◦ he is on our life’s road with us
• we return to the bread and cup to rendezvous with the Lord
This cup is the new covenant in My blood, Jesus said
• covenant is one of the central themes running through the Bible
◦ God connects with humans in covenant
• there is a slight but important difference between a contract and a contract:
contract: “I give you my word”
covenant: “I give you my self”

Conclusion: As soon as they recognized him, he vanished

Every time I read this, it feels like a rip-off
– but it is exactly how it is supposed to be
• they still had Jesus, but in a different way
• they had him exactly according to God’s plan
– here is how they had him – and how we have him:

  • in the Scriptures – and with new eyes to see what’s there
  • in the Spirit of God – his inner presence and “continued education”
  • in the bread and in the cup – the sacred rendezvous
  • in their close-knit spiritual community
    ◦ a life we share that is formed around Jesus
    ◦ in fact: Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it [because] God has placed the members, each one of them in the body (1 Cor. 12:27 and 12:18)

Some of us cannot help the fact that we’re slow learners
– but I think being slow of heart to believe is a choice
• it is usually an emotion that gets in the way of faith and typically it is fear

Here with you this morning is where I want to be after all;
sharing this moment
eating the bread and drinking from cup.
And I want to be here,
because with all the sadness of these last few weeks and yesterday,
I just need to be with Jesus

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