This Week's Message
Message: Midweek Lent 3: March 22, 2017 CPH Series on The Lord’s Supper
Lessons: Ps. 116:12-19 (Ant. Heb. 12:1); Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor. 10:14-22; Luke 24:28-35
Title: “Blest Communion”
“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?”
Why does the Apostle Paul ask these pointed questions? Was there some problem in the Christian Church at Corinth that needed addressing? Were there some in the congregation that recognized the presence of Christ Jesus their Lord and Savior in the blessed Supper He instituted for the Church and some who did not? And this may lead us to another question: “If they did not believe the same thing about the presence of Christ Jesus in the Supper was this affecting the health and life of everyone in the congregation in a negative way? As you mull these questions consider how the Lord used Paul to address this controversy in the life of these believers in Corinth. Paul does not tippy toe around the problem. He equates those who are flippant in their association with the pagan practices of their time by practicing along with the pagans in them as bringing shame upon the body and blood of the Lord in Holy Communion. And by doing this they are dividing the koinonia, that is, the Communion of saints that make up the true Christian Church. You cannot be of the world and its false beliefs and practices and of Christ. And if you are not of Christ then you are not of His Church, which we know as the Communion of Saints, the Communion of those saved, made righteous by the blood of Christ.
We confess in the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints. What does this mean? How does Martin Luther explain what this is? He says,
“There is only one church, one spiritual body of believers (saints), whose one and only head is Christ.” He cites Romans 12:4-5, “As each of us has one body with many members…so in Christ we who are many form one body.” Later on in His Scriptural description of the Church, the Communion of saints he asks, “What do the Scriptures teach about our life in the church? He goes on to make these 4 important points: 1. The Scriptures teach that: “we should seek always to be and remain members of the invisible church, Christ’s body, by sincere faith in Christ our Savior. 2: we should be faithful to that visible church, or denomination, which professes and teaches all of the Bible’s doctrine purely and administers the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution. 3: we should avoid false teachers, false churches, and all organizations that promote a religion that is contrary to God’s Word. 4: we should maintain and extend God’s church by telling others about Jesus Christ, by personal service, and by prayer and financial support. This is how the Communion of Saints, the Church lives and operates in the world. Our koinonia is not one that we determine willy-nilly by how we feel about things, but it is truly determined by how God reveals what and who the true Church is in His holy Word. I invite you later to break out your Small Catechisms to read all the Scriptural citations that are listed to support these statements of faith.
So when we come up and receive the Blest Communion in Christ’s instituted Supper our participation here is not an individualistic participation. We are joined to Christ or rather Christ Jesus joins Himself to us by faith in this precious meal. At the same time we are joined to one another in a unity of doctrine, that is a unity in belief in the same teachings of God’s Word, a unity of confession in God’s Truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. Where there is not a unity of belief there is not a blest Communion, a koinonia. I say these things because Scripture is very clear about participation in this Meal as can truly be seen in 1 Corinthians, chapters 10 and 11. We strive as God’s people to draw others into this unity of understanding concerning the clear teaching of God’s Word. When this is achieved then we can draw together at the Table of Blessing where Christ presents Himself to us in all His power, perfection and purifying presence. It is backwards thinking that says, “Let’s have Communion together and let this lead to oneness in doctrine. This will never happen. Rather we say, “Let’s sit down and come to a unity of understanding in the Word of God in all its points, and when we have accomplished this, let us sit down at this precious Meal and celebrate our oneness now in Christ. Then truly this meal becomes for us a united unity in Christ and also a united unity in faith with one another. The Church must continually strive for this in this broken world of many doctrines in which we live.
We love this meal and participate regularly in it for the great blessing of Jesus becoming one with us here in a holy unity. He brings His precious body and blood in a holy mystery, meaning we cannot reasonably comprehend how He accomplishes this in the Meal, in oneness with us sinners who have been reconciled by His blood unto salvation and life. This is not child’s play, as Luther would teach. We are not flippant in our understanding of just what it is we receive when we come to the Table as if we do it with unbelief and false belief in what we receive here it will not affect us. We hear in 1 Corinthians 11 that those who did not understand or misused the meal were affected both spiritually and physically. 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 (1 Cor. 11:29-30).” We can and should pray, “O Lord, lead Your Church into this blest Communion, that as Your body in unity we may bring You to the nations of unbelievers with a unity of heart and purpose that is heard and seen, and that many may be brought into Your kingdom which has no end. Amen.” This starts here among us in our little congregation as we strive for a unity of belief in the teaching of God’s Word. We must always strive for this unity, this communion in the same faith. This means that we must put aside the holy opinions we have let guide us in our understanding and belief, trusting God’s Word as the only source of true doctrine and belief. When the Word guides each of us in its purity, we as a Communion of saints can live and work in a unity in this kingdom of grace, one that gives honor and glory to the God of our salvation.
In this blest Communion as we are made one with Christ, we also are made one with each other, something that is especially important in this individualistic world in which we live. We do not strive for individualism of faith, for such brings but division and heartache in the family of God. If someone says to you about Christ’s real presence in the Holy Supper, that “that’s just your interpretation of God’s Word,” share with them these clear passages of Scripture that really don’t need much interpretation, but state clearly just what is going on as we receive Christ’s body and blood. We don’t do this in pride or to show others our superiority of faith, but rather to bring others to the knowledge of the Truth that builds Christ’s Church on earth. Though there are many teachings that many of the Christian denominations do agree upon, we should always strive to a unity of belief in all areas, for such will make Christ’s Church on earth much stronger and will draw believers together in a unity of purpose and work for the kingdom.
Finally one blessing of this koinonia meal that we often overlook – a communion that this meal brings us to and to which it leads us is the communion we have with the angels and with the saints who have gone before us. We sing in our Communion liturgy in the Proper Preface, “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your holy name, evermore praising You and saying… “ We often fail to recognize when we come to the Table of Blessing which Jesus blesses with His holy presence that we join in holy worship here at this simple but blessed meal with our faithful family members and friends who have preceded us to heaven. What a comfort and a strength to each of us as this helps us to break from the shortsightedness of the worldly things that often discombobulate us and blind us to our Lord’s promise to His faithful of heaven. When we come forward to receive Christ, becoming one with Him and with one another, we also join with all those we cannot see in worship of our holy God and of the salvation and Savior He has given us. As the hymn confesses in all truth: “Oh, blest Communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.” Unity with Christ, unity with one another in the Church, and unity with those who have received their reward in faith, truly this is a Blest Communion. Amen.