My understanding of the Lord's supper growing up was that it was a time to examine myself; it was a time for introspecting. When we would observe the Lord's supper, the lights were dimmed, and soft music was played to make the mood somber and glum. We were then told to bow our heads and examine our recent track record. We were then to confess our sins to God so we could be forgiven, cleansed, and qualify to partake of communion. I'm unsure how far back I was supposed to examine my performance record. I am guessing that I only needed to examine myself as far back as the last communion when I had also been forgiven, cleansed, and qualified at that time (tongue in cheek). Where did we come up with the idea that the Lord's supper is supposed to be focused on me and not the Lord? Is the Lord a double talker, are we forgiven and cleansed of all our sins but at the Lord's supper, we need to be cleansed of more sins? How does this make any sense?
1 Corinthians 11:28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.
This is the supportive verse that is usually read during a clergy-led communion. It seems to make sense. Hmmm, I guess the bible does tell me to examine myself. But wait, what if we read more of Paul's letter and don't skip around the Bible using single verses as proof text for our church traditions?
Instead of reading the letter written by Paul, let us briefly take a look at a more extensive section of the letter so that we can see some of the contexts as Paul corrects an abuse of the Lord's supper among these believers in Corinth.
Here is an excerpt from Corinthians 11 in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent, I believe it. But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this! For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other. If you are really hungry, eat at home so you won’t bring judgment upon yourselves when you meet together. I’ll give you instructions about the other matters after I arrive.
Now that I have read a considerable section of Paul's letter, I get a better idea of what is going on, or I should say, what was going on in Corinth. In modern language, Paul was telling the Corinthians to examine themselves; he was saying, "look at what you are doing!"
The early Christians gathered for a complete meal. They broke the bread and passed it around. The meal concluded when the cup was passed around. There was no clergy to officiate this gathering. Today, our religious traditions have forced us to chew a tiny tasteless cracker and drink a thimble of grape juice while focusing on ourselves rather than remembering and celebrating our Lord.
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