Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, do you enjoy being alone? Sure, there are times when just about all of us like to be alone for a while, to clear our heads, to sort things out, and so perhaps there are times when we enjoy just being alone for a little while. But what about being alone indefinitely? Can you imagine being alone every day? No family to visit. No friends to do things together. No co-workers to talk to. Loneliness or being alone is not a very pleasant experience for many people. Tonight we are going to see that God understands our needs and fills those needs in a far greater way than we could ever imagine. One way He does this is in the Lord’s Supper which He instituted or started on the first Maundy Thursday almost 2,000 years ago.
Our text this evening from 1 Corinthians is really a commentary on the Lord’s Supper. God gave us the words of our text in order to bless us and further assure us of some of the awesome truths of the Lord’s Supper. The scenario Paul addresses is 1 Corinthians is not a very pleasant one. A brief perusal of the book of 1 Corinthians will make it clear to you right away that the congregation in Corinth had many problems. In a way we are thankful for their problems because we learn a lot from God through the apostle Paul about different truths for our life as Christians. What was happening in Corinth was that there were some members of the church who thought there was no problem going to these pagan/heathen/false god meal feasts. For instance, you have a business client who invites you to discuss business over dinner, but instead of going to Sparkling Waters, he insists you join him at a worship feast at the local temple of the false god Zeus. Some in the Corinthian congregation saw no problem with this. Paul uses the Lord’s Supper as an illustration as to why it is mutually incompatible to commune at a pagan feast and, as a Christian, at the Lord’s Supper.
One of the reasons for this is the communions involved in the Lord’s Supper. As a participant you are involved in 2 communions in the Lord’s Supper: with the Lord and with the other believers there. First of all with the Lord: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” Now you know there is something up with this thing called the Lord’s Supper: we celebrate it twice a month, it is special, it is unique, there’s something going on here that is beyond our minds, and it is something that is good- it’s given for the forgiveness of our sins. But what exactly is it? Well, when Jesus first instituted or started or began the Lord’s Supper it was a very solemn and sober night. Not only was He celebrating the Passover with His disciples, but He was also about to go to the cross. He was about to leave His disciples and He had nothing to give them; no inheritance, no wealth, no riches, no heirlooms. So in the company of His close disciples whom He’d been training for 3 years He gave them something far better than anything in this world, He gave them all He had, He gave them Himself. He spoke the words of institution, distributed the elements and they all received it. And this gift was one He wanted not just his 1st Century disciples to enjoy, but all of His disciples down to His 21st Century disciples today.
So, in a very real way we receive four things in the Sacrament: bread, wine, and in a miraculous way we also truly receive Jesus’ body, and Jesus’ blood. That’s what God says: the cup is a participation/communion/joint-partaking in the blood of Christ. “But how can this be?” We ask. Well, God has a way of doing this to us. He simply tells us this is the way it is and doesn’t go about explaining all the details. Think about it. In Creation God said and it was there- He doesn’t tell us exactly how that works; The Bible tells us that there is one God and yet there are three persons of that one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- God simply takes it for granted and says, “That’s the way it is,” without trying to explain it to us. Would it be any different for God to simply tell us this is the way it is with His supper and here’s why it so cool? God doesn’t tell us the mechanics or the details because He wants our focus to be on the blessings of why this is so awesome!
God obviously means this to be something awesome and special for us. But have we always treated the Lord’s Supper as something awesome, something amazing, something profound or is it just another church thing we do? Have we always anxiously come forward to be fed by the Lord Himself? Have we wrongly thought at times, “Why should I come up, I’m not that sinful to need it?” But the fact is we are deplorably sinful and desperately need this gift of forgiveness God gives us. Let us come excitedly and anxiously to the Supper!
Why? Because not only is it the Lord’s own body and blood, but by faith you also receive forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation! Think about what God gives you in the Supper! In a very tangible way, you hear the very words Jesus spoke about it, you see it, you touch it with your lip and mouth, you taste it, you eat it, you drink it- God reaches out to you with just about all your senses to assure you of the forgiveness which His body and blood won for you on the cross. Why? We need it! And He knows it! He gives you Himself and chooses to live inside of you! Through faith Jesus chooses to dwell in you.
So we hold tightly to everything that Jesus tells us because by it we are blessed! Jesus chooses to gives us Himself – the most precious gift ever- in His Supper. This is something special! This is something awesome! Treasure it!
Not only do we commune vertically and are connected to our Lord and Savior in the Supper, but there is another communion going on. There is a communion horizontally between fellow participants at the Lord ’s Table as brothers and sisters united in faith. This is what Paul tells us about in verse 17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
Not only are you as an individual united with the Lord Himself as He gives you Himself in a real way for the forgiveness of sins, but there is also another communion that happens in the Supper. As we, a body of believers in Jesus, all come together to receive at the same time and place the sacrament together there is a special unity we enjoy. Each person who comes forward has learned the truths of God’s Word and has had the opportunity to examine what is taught here at St. Mark’s and in our larger church body, the WELS, based on the Bible and has had the opportunity to confess agreement in all these truths. So as you come forward as an individual you are also united in something much larger than yourself.
This is meant to be a blessing to us, not a burden. But are we not tempted to view it as a burden? To see it as a restriction, a burdensome truth? Or are we tempted to disregard the unity we have with other believers? Do we fail to see in these brothers and sisters people in whom Christ lives? To recognize that when we love and serve them we are actually loving and serving Christ, who lives in them as He lives in us?
Rather God wants to give us profound encouragement and blessing in the Supper. As you go out into your lives you go out facing the world not alone, not individually but as part of a united family of believers, who care about you, who are concerned about your spiritual well-being, just as you are about theirs. Yes, we may have differences in personalities, differences in opinions or ideas in earthly matters, but finally in the most important things, the spiritual things, the eternal things, the truths of God’s Word we are in agreement and there is profound blessings found in this unity. This is unity is what God wants in the celebration of His supper: we are ONE body. Unity is found in agreement, not agreeing to disagree or in error or in false teaching.
This awesome, wonderful, gracious, amazing, incredible, mind-boggling blessing is simply thrown in the wind, trampled, and lost by those who practice open communion. This is how it is with everything God tells us: disobey what God tells us = we get hurt, hold on to everything that God tells us = we get blessed.
So, let us hold on to the awesome blessings of communion that God gives us in His Supper. That in His Supper we receive our Lord Himself in, with, and under the bread and the wine, we receive Him and He lives in us. He actually gives us forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation in this foretaste of heaven. AND we also come to His Supper united together and bonded together with fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ who believe the same thing we do! What an awesome foretaste of the blessedness we receive in time that we will enjoy forever in eternity!