24 March 2017

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (vv. 16-17)

Psalm: Psalm 125


Today's passage will be familiar to many of us as it contains the words we use week by week in our services of Holy Communion: "Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread."

Paul draws a contrast between the food used in ritual pagan sacrifices and the meal that is the hallmark of the Church's life as a worshipping community - which has for us become known as the Eucharist. And (as we now expect with Paul) it's still not actually about food - what we physically consume - but rather about our relationship with that meal and, through it, with one another. The Lord's Supper (as it's also known) is described by Paul as an act of sharing both in the body of Christ and in relationship with one another. "Whose table do you want to eat at?" he asks, "What company do you want to be found in?"

Idolatry and integrity are the issues at stake here - you cannot, Paul says, claim that Christ is the risen Lord and yet also share in another kind of community meal whose nature is to deny Jesus' sovereignty. It's a living contradiction - and implies that you've got your 'heart knowledge' all wrong.

Today we speak of the Lord's Supper as a sacrament - a visible outward sign of an inward and invisible grace. And this chimes with what Paul is saying here today - though food and drink themselves cannot corrupt our hearts or bodies, the rituals and relationships we're prepared to engage with speak of the values that lie within. Discipline is required if the Corinthians are to retain their integrity in a society that is dominated by idols and idolatry.

To Ponder

  • What different tables do you find yourself eating at? Where are you most at home?
  • Can you recall a meal you have shared in that has been not just physically but spiritually nourishing? What made it so?
  • What 'idols' do you encounter in your day-to-day life? How might you retain your integrity when you meet them? 

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.