Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
1 Corinthians 11:23-28 Sermon
April 13, 2017
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
175 "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"
163 "The Death Of Jesus Christ Our Lord"
155 "Go To Dark Gethsemane"
153 "Stricken, Smitten, & Afflicted"
REPENT: TURN TO JESUS & RECEIVE A SPECIAL ASSURANCE OF YOUR FORGIVENESS
TEXT: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ďThis is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.Ē In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ďThis cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.Ē For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."
Tonight as we come together, we're doing something that we've done ever since the founding of this congregation. We're going to celebrate the Lord's Supper. We've done it enough so we're used to the routine.
Oh, we've made some minor alterations in the way we do this over the years. When we started out atHeartlandParkand in ourJackson Avenuelocations, we would all stand together in front of the altar, and I would distribute the elements accordingly. When we moved here, we would stand up here in front like we did at the other locations. Then we modified the communion rail and added kneeling pads.
We've also replaced our make-shift communion ware over the years so we have the trays that hold the individual cups. And with this, we are able to offer the common cup, or chalice to those who prefer using it rather than the individual cups.
These are all minor adjustments that we've done over the years. But nothing has changed the meaning of the sacrament. It's the same Word, the same body, and the same blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our text for this evening, the Apostle Paul is addressing the subject of the Lord's Supper. The instructions he received from the Lord himself he is now passing on to the Corinthian congregation. And as we examine these words, we need to keep in mind the theme of our sermon this evening: Repent, turn to Jesus and receive a special assurance of your forgiveness.
I began this evening by giving a small review of how the practice of celebrating the Lord's Supper has changed in our congregation. But that is of no real significance. We weren't doing anything wrong that needed to be changed.
However, that wasn't the case with the Corinthian congregation. Things had gone radically wrong, and Paul needed to get them back on the right track. Instead of a feast of salvation, the Corinthians had turned it into a celebration of self-indulgence. Just before our text begins, Paul goes so far as to say that the Corinthians were no longer celebrating the Lordís Supper. Listen to what Paul tells them just prior to our text for this evening in verses 20-22: "When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not."
Don't worry, this is not a prohibition against having pot-luck dinners in the fellowship hall. This is not the problem that the Corinthians had. They were celebrating all right, just not what Christ had instituted. Because of their consistent misuse of the Lordís Supper, they were feasting at a buffet of drunkenness and debauchery.
Drunk at the Lordís Supper? How in the world did that happen? In the Corinthian congregation, it seems that there was a regular meal called an agape feast, or a love feast. This meal either included or was immediately followed by a celebration of the Lordís Supper.
Imagine this for a moment. Say we had an open bar down in the church basement, and everybody went downstairs and got roaring drunk before coming upstairs for our communion service. I couldn't even begin to imagine such a scene!
But it goes much further than that. Drunkenness wasnít the Corinthiansí only issue. Some were using terrible manners, such as cutting in line, elbowing others out in an effort to look out for themselves. Others viewed the Lordís Supper as a Golden Corral meal; no more than opportunity to cure a hungry stomach.
The abuse that tops the list, however, is the matter of divisions: some of the rich wanted nothing to do with the poor; some people followed Paul, others were all about Apollos; some preferred Peter, still others boasted about their dedication to Christ. Instead of celebrating Holy Communion, they were celebrating an unholy disunion. Instead of a wonderful unity rooted in Godís Word, they were squaring off into petty factions.
They were sanctifying their lovelessness and self-indulgence before the Lordís altar! Instead of the Lordís Supper it had become the Corinthianís Supper, and they were not blessed because of it. They were sinning.
How does Paul handle the drunken debacle that the Corinthians were mistaking for Holy Communion? He turns them back to a proper use of the Lordís Supper by returning them to the clear words of Jesus: ďI received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ĎThis is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.í In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ĎThis cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.íĒ
With the clear words of Jesus, Paul calls them to turn aside from man-made agendas and appetites. In effect, he's saying: ďThis isnít your supper; this is the LORDíS Supper. This supper is Godís gracious gift, not manís toy to tinker with. This supper proclaims Christís sacrifice for you!" And unfortunately, we see the attitude of "Hey, it's a party, let's break out the chalice!" repeated today by so many, which goes along the same lines as the abuses Paul was witnessing amongst the Corinthians.
The Lordís Supper is Christís gift to us. In his Supper, Jesus gives us a gift that keeps on giving. He blesses unworthy sinners with the gift of himself in a most wonderful way! Jesusí Word assures us that when we receive the bread and wine, we also receive his true body and blood for the personal forgiveness of all our sins. Jesus says, ďThis IS my bodyĒ and ďThis IS my blood.Ē Jesusí body and blood are really present in, with, and under the bread and wine.
We take Jesus at his word, and believe exactly what he says. Even though we cannot understand exactly how everything happens, yet we know it does. Jesus doesn't lie. In other words, donít let your brain get beyond you tonight. The Lordís Supper is not given for your logical speculation or scientific investigation. The Lordís Supper is given for your comfort, and to strengthen your faith. And you are assured that your sins are forgiven.
Oh yes, we need Jesusí comfort! You come tonight as you are. You come with sins of youth and sins stockpiled in lifeís closet, sins open and sins secret, sins ďlittleĒ and sins ďlarge,Ē sins accidental and sins willful, sins ugly and sins awful. You come as you are; sinful from birth and by nature separated from God!
And in spite of all of that, Jesus comes as he is tonight. He is the friend of sinners and the Saviour of sinners. He comes to you tonight ďin mouth and soul to make you whole!Ē
Yes, turn to Jesus tonight for a special assurance of your forgiveness. Know for certain that just as surely as you come before the Lordís altar, just as surely as your ears hear the Words of Jesusí institution, just as surely as your tongue tastes the bread and your lips sip the wine, so surely do you receive the body and blood of Jesus given upon the cross to save you from all your sins. There is no more personal, no more intimate way of bringing the assurance of Christís forgiveness to us as individuals than his Holy Supper. Jesus deliberately gave sinners the gift of himself! And where there is Jesus, we indeed have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through faith in him!
Such a gift! That is why Satan works hard and long to get people to regard Lordís Supper too lightly. The objections to Jesusí body and blood being truly present with the bread and wine are legion. Every one of these objections comes from peopleís brains trying to figure out God's mind instead of simply trusting in Jesusí promise with childlike faith.
I've often heard people try to focus on the word "remember" to the exclusion of everything else. People's minds almost automatically associate the word "remember" with a type of memory jog, or bringing something to mind, like remembering somebody's birthday or anniversary.
But the Hebrew definition carries a lot more weight than that. For the Hebrew, "remember" means to take an event that has happened in the past, and repeat it just as if it was happening for the very first time.
Just think about that. The bread and wine that we have here tonight is just as real as it was on the night Jesus instituted it in the upper room at the Passover feast. The comfort we receive is the same comfort the disciples received. When Jesus said, "Let not your hearts be troubled," we hear those words just as if Jesus is speaking them to us right now. So when we gather and have the Lord's Supper in remembrance of him, there's a whole lot more going on than jogging a foggy memory.
This evening, Jesus gives us his body and blood for our forgiveness and our strengthening. Let us praise him for it! Jesus deliberately gives his children the gift of himself!
Such a great blessing needs to be treated reverently and responsibly. Itís that way with anything in life. When we purchase a new car, it can be a wonderful blessing. That car needs to be taken care of. The Lord blesses us with a child. That child needs to be fed, educated, and trained in the Word. The Lord blesses us with a husband or a wife. Our spouse requires our total commitment and loving care. Blessings do indeed carry responsibilities. So it is with the awesome blessing of the Lordís Supper. It needs to be received reverently and used responsibly and faithfully.
In our text for this evening, Paul concludes: ďSo then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.Ē
So what does ďunworthy mannerĒ mean? First of all, letís be clear on what it doesnít mean! It has nothing to do with "unworthy people" or someone being "too sinful" to receive Christ's forgiveness.
I've encountered those who were refraining from Communion because of something they had done. Their guilt made them feel ďunworthyĒ to receive the Lordís Supper. I reminded them that this is the meal in which they receive Jesusí forgiveness precisely for what is ailing their conscience! Jesusí body and blood pays for the exact sin that makes them feel so badly! The Bible isnít talking about unworthy people. If we needed to wait until we were worthy to receive the Lordís Supper, no one would ever receive it. And no pastor would ever be worthy enough to administer it.
The Apostle Paul isnít writing about unworthy people. He is writing about an unworthy manner. In other words, let our use of the Lordís Supper be equivalent to what the Supper really is. The Lordís Supper is for my forgiveness; therefore I need to recognize my need for forgiveness. The Supper is the Lordís Supper; therefore, I dare not treat it like it is mine alone. A worthy, faith-filled reception of the Lordís Supper is one that simply takes God at his Word when he tells us what Holy Communion is, gives, and means.
A faithful receiving of the Lordís Supper means that we will examine ourselves before receiving the Supper. Paul uses a word that was originally used to test gold to see if it was genuine or not. Therefore, we need to examine ourselves honestly and realistically.
Am I a sinner? Do I desire the Lord's forgiveness? Is this communicated to me through Holy Communion? Do I believe that Jesus is truly present in, under, and with the earthly elements of bread and wine? Do I need strength for my faith? To these questions, we must answer a resounding "yes!"
So now what? Receive the gift of the Lordís Supper, the food of Christís forgiveness! He instituted it for you, just as surely as he lived for you, died for you, and lives again for you!
The Lord has passed on an awesome treasure to us this evening. He deliberately gives us himself when he blesses us with his body and blood. And so tonight, we turn again to Jesus for a special assurance of his forgiveness. This assurance is always ours through faith alone. This assurance is ours only through Jesus.