Thursday

'Do this in remembrance of me.' (v. 24)

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Thursday 9 April 2020

Psalm: Psalm 116

Background

As we hear Paul remind the Corinthians of the events on the night before the crucifixion of Jesus, we are in fact listening to the earliest record of the words of Jesus in the New Testament. These few sentences were written many years before the four gospel accounts and are the first to capture the key events of Jesus’ final meal with his disciples. Paul describes what his readers would be very familiar with. It took place on the night before he was betrayed, an action that led to his detention and then crucifixion; he took bread and gave thanks before breaking it as a sign of how his body would shortly be broken for his disciples; and after eating a meal he shared wine with his friends, a sign that his brutal death would lead to a new relationship between his followers and God.

These verses provide the first insight in to the rituals developed by early Christian communities and Paul’s account reads like the liturgy that was used. It was though already proving to be controversial. The Corinthians were a divided community, and one of the problems centred on the way they were misusing the sharing of the Lord’s Supper. There was division between those who had plenty to eat and those who did not, as well as those who used the wine to get drunk (1 Corinthians 11:21). Paul needed to remind them that this was a special act they were taking part in, and they should be more respectful about what they were doing.

As Paul makes clear, this was more than an act of remembrance. Sharing the Lord’s Supper enables a collective thanksgiving to be offered for God’s grace, provides a moment to renew the covenant made between people and God, as well as giving an opportunity to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v. 26).  It’s an act that should unify and bring people together, not be a source of division, for by sharing in the bread and wine they are celebrating the presence of Christ in their midst, they are sharing in a Holy Communion.

As many Methodists will say:

“Send your Holy Spirit
That these gifts of bread and wine
May be for us the body and blood of Christ 

In union with Christ’s offering for us,
We offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice.
Unite us in love and peace with all your people
Until, with the whole company of heaven,
We are brought into the presence of your eternal glory,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord."

(Holy Communion for Lent and Passiontide, Methodist Worship Book)

 

To Ponder:

  • This sacramental activity, that is known by many names, including the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist and Mass, has been the source of division for centuries. Consider how churches working together in your community can overcome this.
  • Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples, knowing that he was to be betrayed. Pray for those who have let you down or caused you harm.

 

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