August 1, 2021
Order of Worship:
This is the final lesson in our summer Holy Meals series. There are so many other examples in scripture of the people of God gathering around food, and we hope this has whet your appetite to feast even further on the Book that we Love. We conclude with the meal that Christians around the world share together, a simple fare of bread and wine. We pray the Spirit would open our hearts to the lessons of the Word.
1 Corinthians 11:17-26
- “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This wisdom from the Old Testament sometimes comes to mind when we read the epistles of Paul, because as much as the Church has changed since the days of the apostles of the first century, some things don’t. People are still people, facing some of the same worries and conflicts. Of course, that’s why the wisdom of scripture still speaks to us today. How often does something happen in your life which reminds you of a story or verse from the Book that we Love? Are you looking for those parallels when they come up? How does the Holy Spirit use what you read in scripture to speak truth to your experience today?
- The church in Corinth is one in conflict. There are lots of issues Paul addresses in his letter: following a false apostle, whether it was right to eat meat from a pagan sacrifice, escalating a grievance to a lawsuit in the civil courts! The believers in Corinth were divided on issues and in class and status. Paul urges them to be “one body, though many members” (11:12-27) and to always remain united in love, practicing the faith “decently and in order” (14:40). We Presbyterians sometimes joke that this should be our theme verse; as one teacher of church polity put it “The Book of Order exists because we know we’re going to argue, but we want to make it fair.” How do you participate in both conflicts and peace-making in our community? When has disagreement offered a chance for deeper learning and engagement? What does it mean to you to keep showing up in love, even with people you’re in conflict with?
- Perhaps one of the Corinthians’ worst conflicts is coming out in their communion. Like most first-century congregations, the Corinthians didn’t have a building or sanctuary to meet in. They gathered in House Churches to pray, to hear and repeat the apostles’ teachings and letters, and to share a meal – hosted by members with large enough homes or courtyards to accommodate them. But Paul has heard: “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 meal, and one becomes hungry and another becomes drunk” (verses 20-21). Rather than sharing from a common table, the wealthy among them (probably the hosts and close friends) are dining on fine cuisine, while the poorer members of their fellowship are relegated to smaller tables (or possibly even other rooms) to eat food and wine of a lesser quality. Paul is understandably unhappy – this is meant to be a holy meal for the whole church, not a cliquish middle school cafeteria! How would you respond to such a situation? Can you think of any parallels in your own experience, either in or outside of the church? How are we called to show true hospitality in scripture?
- Paul uses this conflict as an opportunity to talk about what the sacrament really is. Verses 23-26 will become the ‘Words of Institution’ said over every table where the Lord’s Supper is served through the centuries. Read them again; what stands out to you? One of the tenants of our faith is that the sacrament is a mystery, that in this holy moment we are united with Christ who is present with us by the Spirit and in the bread and wine (or juice). The Lord’s Supper symbolizes and embodies many things – it’s a sign of the new covenant; it’s a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice; it’s a joyful taste of the Feast of Heaven. When we come to the Table in worship, what does that moment mean to you? What are some memorable times when you’ve shared the sacrament (special places or occasions)?
As we gather around the Table this week in worship, and as each of your gather around your tables in kitchens, restaurants, parks, or anywhere else you might find yourself, may God bless us with Holy Meals that nourish us for our faith journey!
Grace and Peace to you all,
Pastor Maggie Rust