Category: Lord’s Supper (Page 1 of 15)

Promote the Mood

Colorado is done. It’s most likely going to happen tonight. If not, it’ll be Friday. Certainly over the next two games, the Dallas Stars will vanquish the Avalanche and advance to the Western Conference Finals for a second consecutive season. The Stars are playing their best hockey of the year right now. Since dropping those first two home games to Vegas a million years ago, Dallas is 7-2 and absolutely romping on offense and completely locking things down on defense. Oh, man, they are fun to watch right now.


Today’s post wraps up most of my thoughts on the Lord’s Supper right now. Thank you for hanging in there with me over the past couple of weeks. I believe the communion meal is the most important thing we Christians can do on a Sunday. It’s the primary reason we come together in the presence of God on his day: to share a fellowship meal at his table with him and with one another.

But this is really difficult for us. We struggle with this. Not just here at GCR and not just in Churches of Christ. All Christians and churches in the West have a hard time with this. We’ve been conditioned by our culture and, honestly, by our churches for centuries to view the Lord’s Supper as an individual act, a very personal moment between God and me.

Yes, there are times for private introspection and reflection. There are times for silent meditation on the death of Jesus at the cross. Yes, there are times for personal moments between the Lord and you. There must be! But the Lord’s Supper is not that time. The Lord’s Supper is intended to be the time when God’s people express and experience real community with God and one another.

That’s difficult because we’re not sitting around a big table together on Sundays in the Worship Center. There are 500 of us in there, sitting in straight rows, staring at the backs of each other’s heads. So, logistically, it’s hard. We can’t eat a full lunch with 500 of us inside that room every Sunday. That’s where your small groups come in, I hope.

During our Sunday worship assemblies, we can’t provide the food, but we can promote the mood.

Even though it’s just one bite and one sip, we can act like we’re sharing the meal the bread and cup represent. We can look each other in the eye, we can pat each other on the back, we can share encouraging words up and down your row. “God loves us. Thank you, Lord Jesus.” Or, “Hey, we’re forgiven and we belong to together at this table with Jesus!” If we’ll embrace the mood of a family meal, if we’ll foster that culture of community, the Lord’s Supper will shape us. It’ll change us. It’ll force us to recognize the body and serve each other instead of ourselves. It’ll be a transforming encounter.

We try this every now and then at GCR. We’ll ask our folks to say something to the people around them as the trays are being passed, to remember Jesus together, to share a Scripture or to talk together about your experiences with Christ. And we want to do more of that. Sharing. Fellowship. Koinonia. We want to put the communion back in communion.

We also want to set up a dozen tables around the room two or three times a year and ask our people to gather around them to promote more of the mealtime mood. There’s the bread and cup, but there’s also other little bites of things to enjoy and experience together and room and space and time to really serve one another, to share the food and drink, and to encourage one another. To talk. To hug. To welcome. To include. To remember Jesus and more fully express and experience the communion we have with God and each other.

And here’s something we started this past Sunday. We are working on a church-wide understanding that nobody eats alone. We’re making a commitment that nobody sits by themselves in our Worship Center and eats and drinks communion by themselves. If anyone is sitting alone on Sunday mornings, our folks have committed to getting up and joining them. Whether you know them or not–especially if you don’t!–we’re going to sit together for the Lord’s Supper. We’re going to make connections. We’re going to be encouraging. We’re going to communicate that belonging together the meal is intended to demonstrate.

I wasn’t sure it was going to happen–we’re asking people to really step out of their comfort zones. But during the song before the communion meal on Sunday, several people left their seats to join those who were sitting alone. The movement was scattered all over the Worship Center, in the front and the back. It happened. And it was beautiful. A clear demonstration of the realities of the Gospel of Christ.

At the Lord’s Supper, we are invited to sit down for a meal with the crucified and risen Savior of the World. We are all invited–all of us–which means we are reconciled not only to God, but also to one another. We are one body. A communion of the redeemed. And we’re all equal. Together. There aren’t any box seats at the table, no reservations for VIPs. We’re experiencing and expressing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at this meal. And we’re practicing for the ultimate potluck, the coming feast, rich food for all peoples, the best of meats, the Bible says, and the finest of wines. And, I can only assume, big bowls of banana pudding.

We’re not just remembering the acts of the past that secured our salvation in Jesus; we’re experiencing and expressing the present realities of our unity and community together in Christ.



Unworthy Manner

Today I want to zero in on a couple of verses that have been key to our misunderstandings of both the form and the function of the Lord’s Supper. The verses come from the end of 1 Corinthians 11, the only passage in the New Testament that tells us how to eat the communion meal.

“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A person ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

The phrase “unworthy manner” is an English translation of the original Greek word “anaxios.” It is an adverb, not an adjective. This word describes the verb in the sentence, not the noun. This is a really boring detail to build this blog post around, but it’s so profound. It’s so significant to the meaning of Scripture’s instructions. “Unworthy” does not describe you. This isn’t about the state of your soul. “Unworthy” is not about your life this week or for the past month, it’s about the way you’re eating right now. Is the manner in which you are eating and drinking this meal with your church family worthy of the Lord?

It’s not, “Are you worthy to eat and drink with the risen Christ and his holy people?” That question has already been answered. No, you are not worthy! None of us is worthy. We are all unholy sinners who have no right to be in God’s presence, eating with him at his feast. Or, yes, we are all worthy! By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are all made worthy. All of us are equally worthy by grace through faith in Christ. You see what I’m saying? The question of your worthiness is not the issue here.

It’s more like, “Now that you are made righteous by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, how are you eating and drinking this meal?” Are you only concerned about yourself? Are you paying attention to the people around you? As you eat and drink, are you recognizing the body? Not “body of the Lord.” Some of the Bible translations add “of the Lord” in verse 29, but that’s not in the original text. It’s just “recognize the body,” the group. Every time Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Corinthians, especially in this immediate context, he’s referring to the congregation (10:16-17, 12:12-13). Discern the body, the community. Not the bloody, mangled, dying or dead body of Jesus on the cross. Pay attention to the community, the people. The main point of the Lord’s Supper is to share with one another, not to satisfy your own needs. That’s the core of Paul’s instructions here. This is how he sums it up.

“So, then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:33

If you’re concerned about filling your belly and getting drunk, stay home. This meal is not as much about the food and drink as it is about sharing and serving one another as a community in Christ. Wait for each other, he says. Be considerate. Think about one another. Do this together. Communion.



The Table and the Way of Jesus

We’ve spent all of this week in 1 Corinthians 10-11 because it is the only place in the New Testament that tells us how to eat the Lord’s Supper. We’ve detailed exactly what the church in Corinth was doing wrong; it was the way they were eating the meal. It wasn’t the types of foods or the amount of foods, it was that they weren’t waiting for each before they dug in, they weren’t sharing the food equally, the selfishness and “me/us first” attitudes were causing division.

So how does Paul correct the problem? He points to Jesus. He reminds them of Jesus.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

The table is shaped by the salvation work of Jesus. The Church’s meal reflects and demonstrates the Gospel values of sacrifice and service. The Lord’s Supper expresses the way of Jesus–selflessness, giving to others, considering the needs of others more important than your own.

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:26

The Lord’s death broke down all the barriers between us and God and between us and each other. The Lord’s death unites all of God’s people together. Around the table on Sundays, and anytime we eat and drink together in his name, we’re proclaiming and practicing all the salvation things Jesus died for, everything that was accomplished at the cross: acceptance, fellowship, unity, forgiveness, peace.

How we eat the Lord’s Supper matters.


The Stars have more depth and the better goalie. The Avalanche have more speed and more purely skilled scorers. This thing’s going seven and it’s going to be a two-and-a-half hour heart attack every night.



The Gospel at the Table

Whitney and I took in Myles Hill’s final Little League game of the season last night and delighted most of all in seeing both Myles and his dad, Brandon wearing Texas Rangers logos. Brandon and Myles are both massive Astros fans and over-the-top Rangers haters. So it’s been a funny bit all season to poke fun at Myles for playing catcher for the Little League Rangers and Brandon coaching at first base. They wear the Rangers’ “City Connect” uniforms, those horrid Friday night home game black and red monstrosities Texas threw at us last year. But, those are Rangers logos nonetheless! Myles did an expert job handling things behind the plate and lined a sharp single to right field in his last at bat in a tough one-run loss. And I’m certain those two Rangers caps are already at the bottom of a dumpster somewhere between Butler Park and Briarwood.



If the Lord’s Supper is the place to experience the real presence of Christ and the real fellowship and community we have together with God’s people–if the purpose of communion is, well, communion–then the way we do it matters. The form of the Lord’s Meal serves the function. In fact, the form IS the function. The medium IS the message.

You can’t hold a Weight Watchers meeting at Golden Corral. Why? Those rolls, man! You can’t ask people to pay for Financial Peace University with a credit card. That defeats the purpose. The form matters.

That’s what’s wrong with the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. That’s what so concerns the apostle Paul: the form, the way they were eating the meal. The form of the meal was working against the purpose of the meal. In fact, Paul tells these Christians in Corinth, the way you’re eating it, it’s not the Lord’s Supper at all.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for each of you eats his own supper without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:20-21

The original Greek text makes this much more clear. Paul says you’re not eating the Lord’s Supper (kuriakon diapnon), you’re eating your own supper (idion diapnon).

It’s important to remember that the Church’s Lord’s Supper started out as a full meal. For the first 300 or so years of Church history, the communion meal was a potluck. The Greek word diapnon is translated as supper, dinner, feast, meal–the word most commonly means the main meal, the biggest meal of the day. We call that supper. And Scripture tells us if we eat the meal one way, it’s the Lord’s Supper, and if we eat it a different way, it’s not.

So, what’s the problem? What are these Christians doing wrong?

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for each of you eats his own supper without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:20-22

The problem here is the breakdown of community during the Lord’s Supper. You’re not waiting for others, you’re not sharing your food with others; people are going hungry, people are being humiliated. The rich Christians are getting full and drunk while the poor Christians are starving and being singled out as not really belonging to the group. People are going back for seconds before everybody’s been through the line once. Some are saving seats. There is selfishness and division, Paul says. Even if they had no idea what the Lord’s Supper is all about, common courtesy demands they don’t get stuffed and drunk while their brothers and sisters in the same room go hungry.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is breaking down barriers and tearing down walls and uniting us together in his holy community. Only thinking about yourself, only worrying about your own needs and feelings at the meal, denies the very Gospel the Lord’s Supper is intended to demonstrate. Paul says it makes a mockery of the Church.

So, what’s the corrective? How does he fix it? By pointing to Jesus. He reminds them of Jesus.


I found out at lunch today that my friend Steve Schorr, the pastor at First Presbyterian, is a big Colorado Avalanche fan. This afternoon, I am re-evaluating our friendship and this whole “4Midland” thing.

Go Stars.


The Meal Makes It Real

Our tendency is to think about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Sunday assembly primarily as commands we obey. These are the things we do. And we have to do them exactly right. But we also tend to think about these sacraments in individualistic terms. Our default is to view these as personalĀ  and individual. This is about God and me. I am baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of my sins. I take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week in a manner that pleases God. I go to church every time the doors are open. Individualistic obedience to God’s commands.

But all three of these sacraments are actually communal in nature. These are communal moments, first, because they happen when we’re all together. Baptism is not a private thing, it’s a very public declaration of the lordship of Christ and a pledge of allegiance to Jesus as Lord in front of and with the community of faith. The worship assembly is not an individual experience, it involves all of us together. And the communion meal is not about individual introspection, it’s about, well, communion.

If the Gospel is that by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are totally forgiven of all our sins and are completely cleansed and holy and able to come right into the direct presence of God; that we have a righteous relationship now with God and with one another; that we are united with Christ and united with one another in Christ; where do we experience that? How does that become real for us? Where do we feel it?

At the table. We experience the Gospel around the table. The meal makes it real.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving (eucharist) for which we give thanks (eucharist) a participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation (koinonia) in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” ~1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Let’s remember our big picture understandings of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is eating and drinking a meal with God. That’s what God wants with us, that’s his goal, that’s what our salvation is all about: God and eating and drinking a communal meal with us. Why? Because sharing a meal together is an experience of and an expression of relationship. Sitting down together at a meal means you’ve got things in common. There are no barriers between you, no divisions. There’s acceptance and belonging and trust and friendship around a table. When we’re all dipping our chips into the same bowl of salsa, it means all the walls are down. You’re experiencing community.

The meal makes it real.

The blood of Christ is what makes us righteous and clean. When we drink the cup together, we participate in those benefits. Eating the bread together is a communion or participation in the unity we share in Christ. One loaf means we are one body. The people of Israel eat the sacrifices and so receive the benefits of forgiveness and community that are achieved by the sacrifice at the altar. We eat and drink the Lord’s Meal and we receive the gifts of forgiveness and holy community that are achieved at the cross (1 Corinthians 10:18).

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” ~1 Corinthians 12:12-13

By faith, our baptisms unite us as one people in Christ. No divisions. No differences, No distinctions. We are one body. And we experience that around the table. The peace. The reconciliation. The community with God and one another. You want to feel like you really belong? You sit down to a meal with your family. The meal makes it real.



Sermon Sidebar

We’re in the middle of a sermon series at GCR looking at the Church sacraments of baptism, the communion meal, and the Sunday worship assembly. Two of the lessons just concluded were about the Lord’s Supper, specifically the “why” of the Church’s meal. As with all three of these ancient church rituals, if we can get a good handle on the ‘why,’ it will help us a lot with the ‘how.’ For the rest of this week, I’ll be posting portions of those sermons in this space. Due to time constraints–some of you will be surprised that I’m paying attention to time at all–some of what I wanted to say on Sunday wound up on the cutting room floor. This blog allows me/us to go a little deeper and wider in a little longer form. I’ll start by posting this sermon sidebar.

This was ready to go in the middle of Sunday’s sermon. I even had a PowerPoint slide that simply said “Sidebar: Something to Think About.” It’s an aside to remind us that we should be very careful about making hard and fast rules and laws around the Lord’s Supper, especially because the way we have observed it for centuries now in no way resembles the original meal. In my mind, these are all important and much-needed cautions. But it got cut for time. So here it is.

I believe lots of people know that the Lord’s Supper started out in the Bible and in the early Church as a full meal. We know it. But we just file it away as something ancient and unrelated. We don’t think about it. But the fact that how we observe the Lord’s Supper today hardly resembles at all the form or function of the Lord’s Supper in the early Church does have ramifications for us. It is something to think about.

Some people want to draw hard black-and-white lines and boundaries around who can serve the Lord’s Supper and who can’t. We’ve inherited some of those rules here. This turns the community meal into some kind of litmus test on spiritual leadership or church authority when Jesus made overly clear at all of his meals, particularly the last supper in the upper room, that the meals are totally about serving one another. Our Lord went out of his way to denounce position and chains of command and authority, especially around his table. But to justify our cultural traditions, we’ve determined that our sisters in Christ can pass a tray of cups horizontally while seated, but not vertically while standing. On that rare occasion when a woman does stand up with a plate of crackers, it had better be to serve someone on her row–she can’t cross an aisle! It’s just good for us to remember that we wouldn’t have any of these issues if the Lord’s Supper were still a meal. Something to think about.

Some people want to put up walls around the table and decide who can eat and who can’t. Only the baptized can participate. Little kids who are not baptized cannot. Look, Jesus ate his suppersĀ  with some of the worst people in town–in the Gospels, that’s the religious leaders. Jesus’ table is open to everybody, his invitation to the feast is for all. Our Lord refused to discriminate with his suppers–he ate with everybody–it’s one of the things that got him killed. And I don’t think it’s a good idea for the church to draw lines of restriction where Jesus never did. As for our little kids, if you’re looking to the Bible, the Lord’s Supper is the main meal of the day. It would be like not letting your child eat dinner on Sunday. In the Bible, it’s very clear that at the Passover meals and the covenant meals, the little kids are right there. The children are actually main players in the liturgy, they’re at the table and participating and eating with the community. The Bible paints it as a God-ordained teaching opportunity, one of the places and ways we pass on the faith. Something to think about.

Some people have very strong feelings about what kind of bread is served at the Lord’s Supper. Unleavened bread is certainly what Jesus and his apostles ate at that last supper, but the first Church did not use unleavened bread. God’s Church used common, leavened, fluffy, table bread for the Lord’s Supper for the first 700-800 years. The Roman churches in the West introduced unleavened bread into church services during the 7th and 8th centuries to shift the focus of the meal away from resurrection celebration and toward silent reflection on Jesus’ suffering and death. Unleavened bread was part of the move toward turning the table into an altar, a re-sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday. It was one of the things that led to the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054. Unleavened bread at the Lord’s Supper is not a two thousand year old thing. It’s more like a one thousand year old thing. And only for us in the West. Something to think about.

Lastly, some of us want to make hard rules about the form of baptism and won’t accept as legitimate anything other than full immersion. But we accept much less than a full meal at the Lord’s Supper every week.
But the Greek word is baptizmo. It literally means to be immersed under water.
Yeah, the Greek word is diapnon. It literally means supper, the main meal of the day.
Well, the bite of cracker and the tiny cup represent the supper; it’s a symbol.
Yeah, the people who sprinkle and pour claim it represents the immersion.
Until we’re eating pot roast, mashed potatoes, and fried okra at the Lord’s Supper, I’m not judging the amount of water somebody uses or doesn’t use in baptism. Something to think about.

You don’t have to agree with me on any of this. You don’t have to agree with the person sitting next to you for us to have unity. I’m just saying that if you’re going to draw lines and make hard rules about these sacraments, there’s a lot to think about. Carefully.



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