August 7, 2016
There is a lot of animosity, hurt, and anger in the world today. In fact it seems as if the world is fueled by animosity. In our own country we are polarized politically and socially. People are not happy with how things are going and we don’t seem to know how to fix it.
And what is true in our country is also true in many of our personal relationships. Marriage relationships, family relationships, our relationships at work are often broken on various levels and we don’t know how to mend the brokenness.
The most important relationship is one’s relationship with God. Being in a deep relationship with God will have a positive effect on all our other relationships. But the truth is our relationship with God is broken. Deep in our heart we want to be our own God. O we want God to solve our problems and help us. But we do not want God to rule us, even though living under God’s rule is the best possible way of living. How can we be reconciled to God? How can our relationships experience reconciliation?
In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth we learn that that church had problems. People in that church were polarized and there were factions. Relationships needed to be reconciled. So when Paul wrote about the Lord’s Supper he made it clear that broken relationships in the church were incongruous with the Lord’s Supper. In other words, Christ’s presence at his Table calls for reconciled relationships in his Body.
I. RECONCILATION IS THE HEART OF THE LORD’S TABLE. 1Cor.11:17-21
The good news about Jesus Christ is that through his life, death and resurrection our sins are forgiven and we can enter into an eternal relationship with God, living under his good rule, in his eternal kingdom the moment we believe. The believer is the one who confesses with his mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, to the glory of God.
Whereas we were once separated from God because of our sins and our refusal to acknowledge Christ as Lord, when we heard this good news of forgiveness and life we put our faith in Christ and through Christ God reconciled us to himself. Listen to what Paul writes in Col.1:19-23. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
The Lord’s Supper focuses our attention onto Jesus Christ who died for us. When we gather around this Table we are brought into the presence of Jesus and we surrender ourselves to him. Our desire is to have our lives reoriented around Christ and his saving work. We give thanks because we have been reconciled to God.
But here in 1Cor.11, Paul makes it very clear that this reconciliation is not just vertical between us and God. It is also horizontal. Our being reconciled to God also means that we are to be reconciled to all those who know God through Christ.
In the church at Corinth there were divisions and factions. In 1Cor.1 we learn that people in the congregation were aligning themselves with various church leaders. Some were saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Christ.” And they were arguing about this. In 1Cor.6 we learn that some believers were suing other believers in court. Here in 1Cor.11 we see that there was a socio-economic divide in the church. Before having the Lord’s Supper, the church would have a pot-luck dinner called a love feast. Those who were wealthy would bring their food and gather together and begin eating and drinking before everyone else arrived. Those who were poorer and who perhaps had to work longer hours would get there later and there was nothing for them to eat. Instead of sharing their food, the wealthy ate it. Not only that but some were getting drunk. And then the congregation would observe the Lord’s Supper.
You notice in v.20 Paul writes, “It is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” Wait. Didn’t they break bread? Didn’t they have the cup? Didn’t they give thanks and hear the words, “This is my body. Eat this in remembrance of me. This is my blood of the new covenant.” They were having the Lord ’s Supper, only Paul says, “It is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” How can that be? Well, through his death and resurrection Christ is reconciling all things to God. In Christ we are reconciled to God. If we are reconciled to God, should we not be reconciled to God’s people? As far as I can see here, division in the church negates the Lord’s Supper.
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words, if we want the Lord to forgive our sins, how can we not extend forgiveness to others? Likewise, if the Lord has reconciled us to God, how can we remain unreconciled to others in the body of Christ?
In v.17 Paul says that when the believers were coming together for this love feast, it was not for the better but for the worse. The body of Christ was being harmed. When believers dwell in an unreconciled condition it does continual harm to the body of Christ. In fact, in v.29-30, Paul writes, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Some say that Paul is referring to the person of Christ himself, while others say that Paul is referring to the church, the body of Christ. These believers in Corinth were not discerning the unity of the church. They were thinking only of themselves and that is why some were weak and ill, and others had even died. Clearly the Lord’s Table is very significant and not to be taken lightly. And this leads me to say that…
II. RECONCILIATION IS A PRIORITY IN CHRIST’S BODY. 1Cor.11:22, 33-34
In v.22 Paul writes, “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.” I would imagine if someone asked these wealthy people if they despised the church of God that they would have said, “No.” From what I can see, these folks were regular attenders. Perhaps they were prominent in the church. Maybe they were the best givers in the church. Paul says they were despising the church and humiliating those who were poor. So what were they to do?
In v.33 Paul tells them that when they come together to eat they should wait for everyone. In other words, they should have regard for their fellow believers and they should share their food. In fact, in v.34 Paul says that if a person is so hungry he should eat at home before he comes.
When we come to the Lord’s Table we come to Jesus, who gave himself for us. He came to serve and to give himself as a ransom for many. He died to himself in order to die for us that we might be reconciled to God. In 2Cor.5:17-18 we read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” People who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ are given a ministry of reconciliation. We want to see others reconciled to God. But if we have a ministry of reconciliation does that not include being reconcilied with our brothers and sisters in the local church?
I don’t know all the interactions that go on between each other in our church. Having attended various churches over the course of my life, I do realize that the potential for being misunderstood and hurt is high in most churches. As one person puts it, the local church is a body of differents. We are different from each other. Some of us are more easily offended than others. We have various ways of communicating. When we become aware that someone has misunderstood our words or intentions, when we feel hurt because of something that was said, it is very important that we take the matter to the Lord, and then try our best to be reconciled.
In the church, the body of Christ our goal is to encourage each other and to build each other up in Christ. In Rm.12:15-18 Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Brothers and sister, before we can think of helping others be reconciled to God, should we not make every effort to be sure we are reconciled with God’s people? The Table of the Lord calls us to be reconciled with each other.
Now maybe you realize this morning that your relationship with God is broken. You have pretty much kept God at a distance. Well, God came to this earth in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God came to this earth to find you. God sees the sin and brokenness of your life. God sees that the trajectory of your life is moving towards a death in which you are unreconciled to God. Jesus died on the cross for you. Somehow God put the guilt of your sin and my sin on Jesus. Sin leads to death. Jesus died for you. And he rose from the dead and on the basis of what Jesus did, God is extending to all an invitation to receive his forgiveness of your sins and to receive his eternal life in his kingdom. He invites us; he does not force us. Well, Jesus is here and if you will have him, he will gladly be your Savior, Lord and King and give you his life to live.
But many of us already know God through faith in Christ. Well, before we come to the Lord’s Table, I want to give us time for personal reflection. Are you at odds with someone? Are you holding something against someone? Are you aware that perhaps you may have hurt someone? Please bring that before the Lord and after the service seek to be reconciled. Amen