For those of you who are new, what we’re doing here may need some explanation. At this church, we take the Lord's Table pretty seriously and devote an hour each Sunday for this distinct service. We begin the service with a brief thought that sets the theme for the morning and then we open the service up to the men to pray, expand on the thought with other scripture, to ask for a song, etc. This month is "mine" for doing the introduction.
I am particularly indebted to Eugene Peterson and his book, "Christ Plays in 10,000 Places" - many of these thoughts were prompted (even lifted!) from that work.
Here is the text I’m starting from this morning: 1Corinthians 10:16 –
“The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
In other translations, that word ‘participation’ is also translated as “communion,” “fellowship,” or “sharing.” But you’ll notice that the word is about doing something with or together – definitely not about “alone” or “by myself.”
God made us for group life; 'individualism' is not only not an Ancient Near-Eastern cultural thing, it not a Biblical thing. Gen. 2:18 says that it is NOT good for man to be by himself.
God made us to group together - is probably in our genes. That is not only family life, that is also life with others. We are, "gregarious." And that carries over into how our theology works itself out in the world. We want to be a part of it all. We want to be part of the world. Not only in its beauty and mystery, but we seek our place in history and our role in society. It is not enough for us - in a God-given way - to just sit back and admire the view. God gave us that desire in Genesis 1:28 - we are to rule well over this world. Within the created order, we are tasked to participate - and it is one of our deepest desires to do just that. We are so much this way that 'passivity' and 'disengagement' are not generally considered virtues for us.
We see the world and we want to respond to it. We want to do that. We want to "get in on what's getting on" - we want to respond, to be a part ... to part-icipate. Being a spectator is fine for a while, but what we really want is to do it ourselves. Just talk to any two year child: “Mommy, I can do it myself!”
And as we become aware of the spiritual truths that God has seeded into creation itself, explicitly in the scriptures, and – of course - most fully in Jesus, we naturally and rightly want to participate in what God is doing.
Being a part of what God is doing also means we have that same requirement to be part of each other. We are, as the theologians tell us, a "community;" a group, an assembly, a people, a spiritual family. That is constantly affirmed in the Bible itself, especially in the New Testament where much of what it is to be a Christ follower is about how we do the many "one another’s” that are commanded by God.
Here’s Eugene Peterson: "there can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community."
'Just me and Jesus' is not a Biblical idea. And that is definitely not easy. It takes no time at all to realize that our little company of believers is quite a mixed bag of saints and sinners; some of whom are not much to our liking - even those we plain ol' dislike.
God has called us to participate with each other. Be a part: to be active, engaged, to be responsive.
Fortunately, we don't do this on our own power, or ever will. We participate with God himself. Paul tells the Philippians, "if there is any encouragement in Christ ... any participation in the Spirit ... to be of the same mind." We are commanded to be together and get our heads straight.
And just before he gives specific instructions on the Lord's Table in 1Corinthians, chapter ten; Paul warns of putting anything above Jesus and then says, "the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" We are told that this time together is one way that – TOGETHER – we are part of what Christ is doing, and has done, in his saving work. We are a unified people because of Christ and this time together is one way that we participate, both with each other and with God.
Let me summarize by saying this: what we do here today is how Christ works in this world. God works in community, not the 'rugged individualism' that is so valued by our godless culture. What we are reminded of this morning is that we are – all together - part of Christ’s blood and body. And as such, God expects us to take part in what he is doing in our world.