Monday

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 Monday 27 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 126


Background

Paul was passionately concerned for the wellbeing of the churchin Corinth. He had lived there for about 18 months and had foundedthe church there (Acts 18:1-11). He then moved on, but continuedto offer teaching and guidance to the church through letters. Thissection of 1 Corinthians is concerned with the church's worshippractices.

Here, he is discussing the church's way of celebrating theLord's Supper, and is strongly critical of their practice. Hiswords seem to take it for granted that every time they cometogether, they share a full meal, described as "the Lord's supper".Other early Christian texts such as theDidache make the same assumption. But for Paul, what theCorinthians do is not the Lord's Supper at all but contradicts whatthe Lord Jesus intended.

Many Methodists are familiar with the faith tea, where everyonebrings something to share. Paul presupposes that this meal shouldwork along the same lines, with the sharing of the bread and wineembedded in a meal where all contribute and all share. What wentwrong in Corinth? Paul's words strongly suggest that classdifferences were preventing genuine sharing. The well-off broughtplenty, and ate and drank it themselves. The poor people broughtwhat little they could, and went home hungry. The meal reflectedthe social stratification of Greek and Roman banquets rather thancovenant fellowship in Christ. The Letter of James offers similarevidence for a lack of respect for poor Christians (James2:1-7) and, like James, Paul is very critical of their practice- verse 22 especially reveals his frustration and disbelief thatthey could behave this way.

Why is he so disappointed in them? Their approach is wrong at anumber of levels. It demonstrates a failure of pastoral concern forthe badly-off. It counters Jesus' passion to stand with the poor.It means that this meal cannot properly be called 'the Lord'sSupper' at all, because it does not honour the Lord's way of lifeor respect his authority. If Jesus was really there, Paul implies,they would be ashamed of themselves.


To Ponder

  • In what ways would it change your understanding of the Lord'sSupper if it were routinely celebrated in the context of anordinary meal?
  • How can you make God's passion for the poor come alive in yourown life, especially as part of a people in a covenant relationshipsealed by the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper? 
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