Those of us involved in teaching and leading try to seek out feedback and to give each other feedback. How did we do? Did we pick the right type and number of songs? Was the talk the right length? Did I speak clearly but not too loudly? Was there variation in tone and emotion? Was the application relevant?
However, beyond occasionally being reminded that I sing out of tune, I don’t think I’ve ever really received or sought feedback about how I am doing at participating as a congregation member. Nor do we really evaluate how we do at gathering together as a congregation.
Now, there’s a risk to saying this. It’s easy for the preacher to get his own back or deflect isn’t it. It’s not me, it’s you. So this isn’t about us and them but the question is “How are we all doing, together?”
Paul’s assessment of the Corinthian Church is “Needs Improvement” – especially in this area.
This comes back to our question from last week. “What is the point of worship”
We saw that it is to
Hear God speak to us
Encourage one another and witness to others
Here the specific focus is on the “one another bit”
How are we doing
- Be aware – where do problems tend to come from? (v 17-22)
Remember no church is perfect – so there will be problems here at Bearwood Chapel
In Corinth it = divisions at Communion.
Note Paul’s comment in v 19 “ there have to be divisions” – it looks like this is probably ironic. They constantly need to establish who the elite are, who are mature, who’s really in. Early on it was about who followed the right leader. Here it’s about haves and have nots (v 22).
Those with big houses hosted congregations but even the mansions tended to have small private dining rooms. Not everyone would fit in. So most people would gather in the atrium
It’s possible that the rich folk are eating together as friends in the dining room, getting their own food, starting early whilst the poor arrive as soon as they are able to from work and are stuck outside going without.
The world’s divisions where the rich had the luxury of eating at home in comfort and the poor had to rely on the fast food equivalents of their day have been “tracked in” to church life.
Possibly that they start eating early
Have their own food
Eat in the private smaller dining room of the house with close friends whilst everyone else has to eat in the courtyard
Rich people were able to have meals prepared for them and eat in luxury at home. Poorer people often had to rely on the fast food shops of their day! (v22)
– They have privatised things so that it isn’t the Lord’s Supper they eat. It’s lost its significance
– Some in the church are shamed (link to earlier in the chapter)
– They are actually despising the church instead of loving it
What about us? Do we love the church – do we see it (ourselves and each other) as Christ sees it?
- Be captured by a better vision – The solution is a deeper grasp of the Gospel (v23 -26)
Pauls’ response = a reminder of exactly what communion is, why we do it, who instituted it
It’s received from the Lord and passed on – revelation
It’s something we are commanded to do
It’s an act of remembrance and an act of proclamation
It represents his body given on behalf of us
It tells us about the New Covenant
This is not about ritual or legalism. Instead, it is about going back to Christ and the Gospel
Do we really grasp what Christ has done for us?
- Act – motivated by love (V 27-34)
The implications for the Corinthians is that they were to examine themselves. There’s a need for
Discernment of self – motives and attitudes
Discernment of the body – “Though we are many we are one because we share in the one loaf” -1 Cor 10:17
Communion is meant to be about unity together -love for the whole body
Their lack of love and discernment was causing sickness and death.
What’s this all about?
- Possibly spiritual sickness – a failure to build one another up
- Judgement/discipline. Probably in the context of a plague/famine and this is likely to be what Paul also is referring to as “the present crisis” (1 Cor 7:26). Paul connects their actions to this.
- Possibly a practical dimension -what happens at the meal has a wider impact. If you fail to discern the body when you gather, you are probably not looking after the needy the rest of the time so some go without leading to ill health and death.
I find that third suggestion helpful. We should not ignore the point that our actions bring consequences. However, it’s unwise going around second guessing and making links between one person’s sickness and sin or even a natural disaster and sin.
However, how we live can bring its consequences and if the City of Corinth lived in this unjust unloving way it would have brought consequences. The church was wrapped up In it so that it could not claim to be innocent victims.
If you hold onto bitterness and isolate yourself from others then it can lead to emotional and even physical torment. Neglect to care for the vulnerable and it will lead to the breakdown of society. Do that in the church and it will poison relations.
What is needed?
Answer – Repentance, discernment and genuine love for one another
So for the Corinthians there is a call to respect and love each other -wait for one another -do this together.
Application for us
Is our worship helping us to encourage each other and be a witness to others
The positive opposite of despising the church = loving the church.
I love the church by putting to death selfish individualism in my life. This means:
- We should show love to others –starts with the church family
– Practical help
– Giving time to listen
- We should have a sense of togetherness when we gather -this is not the place for individual consumerism. Links to last week -am I aware of the spiritual needs of others -not just what I need/want. Aim is for all to be fed by God’s Word. Aim is for all to be built up in Christ together. This means I will come ready to use my gifts for the benefit of all.
“Lord help us to love your church and not to despise it. Give us a greater vision of your great love for us. May your love transform us so that we are able to love and serve one another. May the world around us see that we are your disciples because we love one another.”
 A view suggested by Chris Green