Have you ever texted a friend & sent them a text that was intended for someone else?!
Or maybe you were a victim of saying something & then immediately wishing you could take it back. Like, it just came out the wrong way. You meant one thing but what you said had a completely different meaning?
We do this sometimes, don’t we?
We say things that we instantly regret. We didn’t mean it. Or it came out wrong. We meant one thing but what we said was something entirely different.
Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Sometimes it’s hurtful. Sometimes we do damage. Sometimes we have to take a step back & find other words that try to fix what we just broke.
And all this is true because what we say matters. Words matter.
What we say at Communion matters
And I believe this is true when we gather at the table for Communion as well.
What we say when we gather at the table matters.
What we say shapes our belief & shapes our behavior.
If it helps, from the very beginning the church has had difficulty getting this moment right.
Paul, who at one time was an enemy of the church, became a follower of Jesus & went from working against the church to working for the church.
In fact, about 17 years after the death of Jesus on the cross, Paul, who had been a believer in Jesus for about 14 years, arrived in Corinth & stayed there for about a year & half preaching Jesus to the Jews & Gentiles who lived there & formed the first church, the first new community of Jesus followers in Corinth.
But after starting this church & moving on to continue his work of preaching & planting churches, this church in Corinth had gotten sideways on several things, one of which was communion.
Here’s what Paul said to this church…
“But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together.
Now – before we go any further… just think about how Paul starts this conversation. Paul is saying that when they come together for worship & specifically when they gather for the Lord’s supper, they’re doing more HARM than GOOD. That’s a serious indictment.
Here’s the problem…
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!
The problem is this – division. Lack of unity.
For Paul, Jesus has created an entirely new community where there is no Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, male or female, slave or free — NO, in the Jesus community we are all united & we are all one. There are no more dividers. No more separators. No more reason for anyone to be divided for any reason. Jesus has inaugurated a brand new community.
The fact that there are divisions for any reason is troubling for Paul.
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!
What’s the problem? The problem is that when Paul started this church, all kinds of people were drawn to Jesus. Jesus had always had this effect on people. All kinds of people were drawn to him. Rich. Poor. Jews. Samaritans. Religious leaders. Sinners. Women. Children.
Everyone was drawn to Jesus because Jesus was completely different from anyone they had ever met before. And he was teaching things that were entirely different from anything they had ever heard before.
So this church reflects that same kind of crowd. You’ve got a church, a gathering of people, followers of Jesus in Corinth from all walks of life coming together to be a part of this new community that Jesus has started but… they’re trying to be a new community while holding on to old ideas about what separates us.
They had learned from Jesus & from Paul that the way of this new community is love. In fact, in chapter 13 Paul is going to say it again because apparently, they’ve somehow missed it… that Jesus had summed up all of the Law into 2 commands, love God & love your neighbor… which then Jesus ultimately reduced to 1 command… love each other as I have loved you.
And here, at communion, at the Lord’s supper, the very meal Jesus gave them & gave us at the cross to remember that Jesus lived, died & rose again, to break the bread to remember Jesus’ body was broken for us & yet what is broken in this church is relationships! Is love for each other!
Paul is saying that when you are not being considerate of each other as you participate in the Lord’s Supper, then you’re not loving each other as Christ has loved you. This moment should be the most beautiful moment, the most beautiful demonstration of us loving each other the way Christ has loved us.
So Paul wants to remind them that what we say when we gather at the table is of the utmost importance. Both what we say with our words & what we say with our actions.
So Paul says to this church I believe he dearly loves…
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.”
And then he said this…
For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
What you & I announce, what we proclaim, what we say at the table is that Jesus is Lord & that He died & that He is coming again.
So I’ve been wondering… why do we proclaim Jesus’ death? Why do we announce his dying? Why do we publicize that the Jesus we follow died? Why do we “announce the Lord’s death?”
The only reason I can think of that you & I could announce the Lord’s death, the only reason that is news, is because Jesus didn’t stay dead!
Paul doesn’t just say, “announce the Lord’s death.” He says what we say at the table is that we “announce the Lord’s death UNTIL HE COMES!”
You only proclaim your faith, your belief, that someone died if, in fact, they are now alive.
So what you say matters. What you say in this moment at this table matters.
We say “That happened!”
On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport for what the pilot of the aircraft, Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, thought would be another routine flight. But shortly after takeoff Captain Sully said 1 word that changed the trajectory of that plane. “Birds.”
The plane had struck a flock of Canadian geese rendering both engines inoperable.
Now, he had 4 minutes to figure out what he was going to do. And there was only 1 question going through his mind. How do we save every life on this plane?
And as you know, he was able to glide the plane into the Hudson & save all 155 passengers that day.
Your Father in heaven looked down on earth when everything went wrong & sin entered the picture. And one question ran through the mind of God as well.
How do we save everyone?
So God sent Jesus to live among us, die for us & rise again so that one day we too might rise again into new life.
And what we say in this moment is that that happened.
What we declare in this moment changes everything.
What we say matters.
And if we believe what we say we believe, it changes everything.