~personal reflection written several years back…
“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry; another gets drunk.”
I Corinthians 11:20-21
In the first century, the Apostle Paul addressed the perverse practices of the Corinthians as they “celebrated” the Lord’s Supper. My initial reaction coils in salty shock. Slowly, smacking and swallowing reveals more. The bitter bite of traditions and habitual behaviors exposes a potentiality (maybe even probability) that external actions lack proper and pure internal alignment.
Is nothing sacred? First century followers of Jesus actually dined in such overt abuse at the Lord’s Supper? Drunkenness, really? Did they honestly believe they were acting in obedience to Christ’s command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”? In these moments of quick and quip-py assessments, I pause.
That speck I see in them pales in comparison to the plank uncomfortably surfacing within me. By no means do I minimize any detestable practice that draws our hearts, minds, or bodies away from purest response to Him; however, my own pride is revealed. Here my focus must be shift beyond a habit of holiness.
On the night Jesus faced betrayal, “He 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.'” When bread is broken before me, am I presently sensing and savoring Jesus’ broken body sacrifice on my behalf? Our behalf collectively? Without thanksgiving, I merely munch through monotonous motions of a flavorless church tradition.
“After supper He took the cup saying, ‘This is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:25) Again, Jesus commands. The command, which requires remembering His bloodshed- the ultimate sacrifice, comes with the new covenant. Again, do I sip the sacred with reverence? Do I haphazardly rush or even neglect the delicacy of this communion?
Do we promote tasteless negligence and dishonesty at the Lord’s Supper? Do we remember and heed our charge to make amends with brothers and sisters prior to partaking? Do we allow subtleties to distract us from being honest and present with our Lord and with one another?
Although we genuinely “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” we exchange nourishing humility found at the cross. Instead, we indulge on distractions, excuses, pride, fears, and denials. Slipping into a habit of holiness handicaps the feast intended to be full of reverence, thanksgiving, and fresh delight. Furthermore, in our pursuit of “righteousness in this manner, we actually starve the body and blood of Christ through besetting separation“… also known as sin. Paul writes, “Therefore, 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 man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (I Corinthians 11:27-28)
Finally, we must remember why we partake in communion. We must listen to the heart, soul, mind, strength love for our Lord and our neighbor stirring and prompting humility and hunger for right-standing relationships. If I choose a mindless habit of holiness, would Paul address my pious, tasteless sloppy table ettiquiette as similar debachary to the drunkness of the first century Corinthians?
Heidi L. Plinsky March 4, 1996