What desecrates the Lord’s Supper?
When coming to the Lord’s Supper, how should one prepare themselves? What are your feelings when you partake?
For a long time, I thought of Communion as a moment for serious soul-searching and heavy heartfelt contemplation. I learned along the road that this was the correct strategy to employ. I subtly adopted a number of unwritten rules for receiving the Lord’s Supper:
1 Bow your head.
2 Suppress your visuals (or look at the floor).
3 Slump your shoulders to better experience the gravity of the moment.
4 Look inward to see if there is any unrepented sin.
5 Don’t make direct eye contact with other people.
6 Do your best to ignore the 6-year-old in front of you who wants to know why he can’t have a snack like everyone else (or to not beat yourself up because your 6-year-old is the one causing the distraction).
7 If you want to be absolutely sure that you are not harboring any sin in your heart, check it again.
8 Contemplate your own depravity in great detail.
9 Consider the cross (but don’t lose sight of your own depravity in the process)
10 Don’t even look at your neighbor; you never know when God could be working right next to you, and you certainly don’t want to interrupt him or her.
This serious, introspective demeanor was not without cause. That the elements can be consumed “in an unworthy manner” is made evident by Paul’s words (1 Corinthians 11:27). One who partakes in this manner brings condemnation upon themselves and is guilty of desecration of Jesus’ flesh and blood (verse 29). Some of the Corinthians fell into this kind of sin so grievous that God punished them with illness and even death (verse 30).
In light of these facts, it is appropriate that the meal have some substance. However, it is also crucial to acknowledge how egregious the Corinthians’ crimes actually were.
Why Was It So Undeserving?
There were a lot of disagreements and strife in the church in Corinth. When it came time to share in the Lord’s Supper, those differences became painfully apparent. Forgot whose table it was, to be more precise.
John’s supper, Jane’s supper, Mark’s supper, and Carol’s supper all took the place of the Lord’s Supper.
No one acted like it wasn’t “his own lunch” (1 Corinthians 11:21).
The Smiths came prepared with little, but the Johnsons brought a meal that would make Solomon green with envy. They brought so much money in part to embarrass the Smiths (verse 22). In the rear of the room, a few of the deacons were passed out cold. At the end of the third row, Billy, the brother, had passed out (verse 21). All around selfishness, pride, excess use of alcohol, and ostentation were the hallmarks of this lunch.
Put simply, the Corinthian believers were looked down upon by the rest of the church (verse 22).
Also, by rejecting them, they rejected the Lord who had paid for them.
God’s discipline and judgment fell upon them because of how they had behaved, which was very unworthy.
My unspoken norms diluted the solemnity that was supposed to accompany the dinner.
My mind was constantly racing as I looked for old, unrepented sins, which contributed to my constant sense of urgency.
As the elements were passed around, I prayed that I would be able to feel the weight of my sin and the horror of the cross and therefore be worthy to receive them (a grave, somber, heavy, introspective one).
This led to me spending much of the Lord’s Supper alone, “feasting” on Jesus despite my sorrowful heart.
My bent shoulders and gaze at the floor reflected this attitude, and the only time I looked up was to accept the plate and pass it around.
A significant sense of awe, surprise, pleasure, Godwardness, and gratitude were conspicuously absent from my experience of Communion.
Amid all my focus on seriousness, I had neglected to remember the importance of joy.
What am I missing exactly?
Ingredients Not Included
To begin, I failed to recognize that Jesus instituted the meal with a prayer of thanks.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took some bread, said a prayer of thanks, and then broke it (1 Corinthians 11:23–24).
This is why in some branches of Christianity, the Lord’s Supper is called the Eucharist (from the Greek word for thanksgiving).
Gratitude to God was the first note played when the dinner was served.
Gratitude to God was the first thought when the supper was served.
Second, I failed to see that this was a “sinner’s dinner.”
“I offer you my body as a gift.”
In that line, every “you” refers to a sinner, a broken rebel, a child of wrath who has been saved by God’s sovereign love.
According to Matthew, throughout the Supper, Jesus made a point of emphasizing the connection between our sin and the meal.
After giving thanks, he passed a cup to them and said, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Referring to (Matthew 26:27-28).
As long as we continue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we will continue to announce the Lord’s death.
As well as being a death for sinners, the Lord’s death is a death.
What I have learned and passed on to you is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).
That’s why even the sinners should have a seat at the table.
We may be unworthy on our own, but Jesus’ sacrifice has made us worthy.
Since the patriarch at its head is seated on a throne of grace, we can confidently approach the Table.
Getting Dinner On the Table
That being said, how do we get to the Table?
How should we carry ourselves?
Think about the homecoming of the prodigal son.
If the prodigal son had sulked in the corner all night, grumbling about his unworthiness and trying hard to remember what it was like in the pigsty, his father would not have been pleased or honored by his return.
In and of itself, such a stance dishonors the father’s generosity.
What would be most fitting is for him to sit at his father’s table, totally restored to communion with him, with a genuine sense of wonder that he is actually sitting at his father’s table after feeling so unworthy on the way home from his immoral escapades.
If the prodigal danced as he had never danced before when the music started, it would be a fitting tribute to his father.
His ring is made of genuine gold.
Shoes, to be exact, are what he’s wearing.
That is the robe of inheritance on his back.
And his father’s kiss on his cheek still lingers in his memory.
There is a rising and converging of wonder, gratitude, joy, and gladness, the kind that makes you want to pinch yourself to be sure you aren’t dreaming.
What if we approached the Lord’s Table in that way?
The time for introspection is before we sit down to the table, not at it.
It is assumed here, like in the parable of the prodigal son, that we have acknowledged our fault and repented.
There is value in self-reflection, but it’s most useful before we sit down at the Table.
As a result, my congregation always reserves the first part of the ceremony for individuals to come up and receive God’s forgiveness for their sins.
By the time we go to the Table, we want our people ready to happily dine in the comfort of God’s favor.
(Even if confession isn’t a regular part of your church’s liturgy, you can still take a moment before the service begins or during one of the early songs to get your sins out of the way before receiving Communion.)
Cups overflowing, and emotions unbounded
At last, we approach the Lord’s Supper mindful that we are gathering together to break bread.
This is a supper for the whole family.
We are all one body because, as Paul says, we share one loaf of bread (1 Corinthians 10:17).
This has nothing to do with Joe and Jesus hanging around in some secret hideaway munching on crackers and drinking juice.
The timing of this meal, when the church gathers, is not coincidental.
A meal shared in koinonia, or Christian fellowship.
After experiencing a second birth, we are adopted into God’s family.
Baptism symbolizes this by depicting the burial and subsequent resurrection of Adam’s offspring into the family of God as sons of God in Christ, the firstborn among many brothers.
The sacrament of baptism symbolizes initiation, and this supper represents the typical evening meal shared by members of the same family.
We partake of the one loaf jointly.
We share of the cup of blessing together.
In Christ, we share a meal.
Thus, it is fitting and proper that we show consideration for one another at the table.
There are other apostates here who can attest to God’s unmerited favor.
It’s understandable to sacrifice a single fattened calf for a wayward son, but to slaughter the herd because a thousand prodigals emerged from the pigsty is absurd.
Therefore, it is appropriate to keep an eye out for them and acknowledge them with a grin.
Let your eyes do the talking instead of you.
I mean, can you believe we made it?
The fact that he invited us is a surprise to us.
Look around at all the people here, young and old, wealthy and poor, male and female, representing a wide variety of ethnicities and countries, and tell yourself, “These are my people.
This is my family.
Remember to come to the Lord’s Supper with solemn joy the next time you attend.
Be amazed that the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has embraced you.
God has created you holy, so be glad.
Give thanks to your Heavenly Father, who provides you with both physical and spiritual sustenance.
Pick up an old song and share some tears, laughter, and joy with your fellow listeners.
To God be the glory, let us eat together in a godly fashion with a grateful heart.