13 September 2010

1 Corinthians 11:17-33

"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, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it." (v.17-18)


Paul had a problem with the church in Corinth. It was, after all, a church in which everyone was a new Christian. Everyone had a past in the cosmopolitan culture of Corinth, in which gods were ten-a-penny, and social status determined much of peoples' lives.

Sadly, the little Christian community found it really hard to put all this behind them. They had to get their heads round the idea that God's love put an end to those social distinctions, particularly in their gathering to celebrate the Lord's Supper. A little group who, in their previous life, had been doing the rounds of posh dinner parties at one another's homes saw no reason to change when they gathered for a meeting of the church in their homes... They and their friends could eat in the dining-room in comfort, while lesser mortals could take their token bread and wine in the kitchen, or perhaps in the atrium - the central courtyard.

Pauls reminds them sharply of the true character of the Christian fellowship, in which such things have no place. He points to the loaf which all share in common, and also to the gathering of equals in which everyone, regardless of social status, is 'in Christ'.

When in Communion services today we offer our sisters and brothers the body of the Lord, we see hands outstretched to receive. Here are the hands of a nurse, soft and gentle. Here are the hands of a gardener, cracked and calloused. Here are the hands of a musician and here the hands of an oarsman - all very different, but all one in Christ. Each one makes her or his unique contribution to the life of us all. How do we see them? With our own eyes or with the Lord's eyes?

Christ has no body but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

To Ponder

Are all truly equal in Christ? How can we see with Christ's eyes?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.