Unity and Community
Many of the early Christian communities struggled to find their way in a new world order. For the Corinthians, their old ways were hard to break. They were used to the hierarchies, the classes, and their roles in the culture. They were not used to Jesus’ new way of equality and unity.
Paul knew that the Lord’s Supper had the potential to shake people out of their habits and recognize the oneness of humanity. Jesus’ final dinner with those he loved gave a new meaning to the ritual of sharing a meal. The meal, Jesus’ body and blood, became a new ritual of bringing all followers together, of eliminating class and caste, of treating all people the way Jesus would treat them. Paul made it quite clear that misusing the Lord’s Supper would be cause for condemnation; sharing the meal properly would lift up the entire community.
Once I was in a work environment that was, let’s say… challenging. Tensions rose high in the office, and arguments and fights were commonplace. I often found the lunch break a welcome reprieve from the stress. Interestingly, I gravitated toward lunches alone or lunches with those I did not have arguments with. I guess that seems obvious, but when I look under the surface, I notice that mealtimes are a time when I feel most relaxed, but only when I am in the presence of those I trust. There is something about sharing a meal that exposes our vulnerability. On the rare occasions it was necessary to eat with people I did not trust, I found my appetite considerably changed. Eating and trusting kind of go together in a weird sort of way. Refraining from eating (or overeating, which is another form of abnormal eating) and distrust also seem to go together. When we are asked to share a meal with people we don’t know well or do not trust, we are asked to be vulnerable. Jesus’ invitation to eat together is also an invitation to share our vulnerability. It is only through being vulnerable and then discovering that our vulnerability will not be exploited that trust can be formed. Maybe Jesus knew that people could truly come together over the sharing of a meal.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 65
Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is 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. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.