Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.
We can no longer be innocent about eating in our global village. What I choose to eat, how much, how often, and where and how it is produced affects the daily lives and possibilities of people in the poorest sectors of our world. It even determines whether they live or die. Eating itself – not just food banks – poses moral and theological questions.
That is what Paul wants the Corinthians to know about their Communion services. Rich members are celebrating the Lord’s Supper privately instead of sharing, so that they could gorge on rich food and fine wine while the poorer members went hungry because they did not have enough to eat (11:21). Paul told them that they were making a mockery of all that the Supper signifies.
Note his stress on the body of Jesus. At the Last Supper, Jesus offers his own body and lifeblood as a sacrifice. “It is for you,” he tells them. “Do it to remember me!” How do we “remember” Jesus in this way? Firstly, it is an occasion to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”. It’s Gospel time!
Secondly, it’s about the Church – the kind of community it is, and the relationships among the members. Paul calls the Church “the Body of Christ”. What happens to the Church and within it is “done” to Jesus, whose body it is. If we inflict suffering or hunger on one another, we do it to Jesus. We wound and re-crucify his body. Instead of it being the means of healing for our brokenness and inequality, it becomes the whipping post for our greed and living at the expense of others.
Do we examine our own part in our Church’s relationships at Communion? Do we use it as a space to put things right? We need to!
Lord, Do your transforming work until every aspect of our lives speak of you – your salvation, your healing, your forgiveness! Make that true of our relationships within our community, our world, our Church, for Christ’s sake! Amen.
Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road URC