Back in the Day: Being Together
Today is World Communion Sunday. It is in part a reminder of the many different cultures and ways of life around the world. Each of those cultures are made up of people who have lives. And World Communion Sunday is a day to get a little closer to those different people around the globe.
Do you enjoy getting closer to people? You enjoy spending time together. You share important life events and deep dark secrets. And the relationship becomes so close and meaningful and wonderful that you come to the place that every good relationship reaches: the arguement.
Ever noticed that, the closer you get to someone, the more you argue…? This is definitely my two older girls. They love each other so much that they fight all the time.
Lately my girls have been arguing about their room and sleeping arrangement. My girls want their own room. They aren’t gonna get them, of course. Nonetheless, they whine about needing separate rooms because one won’t be still and the other won’t quit talking. She does this and she does that. And eventually it gets on my nerves and I offer them a solution. Lacey (the toddler of my three daughters) can move into the room so they can all 3 be together and it will put and end to the two of them arguing.
“Why is that the solution?” they ask. Cause back in the day, all 3, 4, 5 or 6 siblings had to share a room with one another. Nobody had their own room cause that was a luxury. You shared a room and learned how to get along and love one another.
Maybe you think kids are spoiled today with their own rooms. And maybe you think it’s a terrible thing for children to have to share a room with one another cause every child should have their own private space. Either way, you probably don’t know the half of it. You see, sleep has been a communal activity for millennia! In the days before central heating, sharing a bed was a necessity. The norm was for entire families to share a bed (and the bed was often the most expensive fierce of furniture in the entire house). Children slept with parents. Servants slept alongside their masters. Even strangers usually shared a bed with their host when traveling.
It’s hard to think about such a sleeping practice today because sleep has become such a personal, private, and intimate thing for us. So much so that for a time from about 1890 to the 1950s couples even slept in separate twin beds. Remember those old black and white TV shows? Leave it to Beaver and I love Lucy. Remember those Ricky and Lucy beds. They just might help your marriage!
Whether you sleep in your own bed or sleep with someone else, this old back in the day sleeping arrangement daying makes me think about the way we spend our time.
Do you enjoy alone time? Or are you a people person?
If you are like me you probably sense the need for some balance of these two in your life. After I have spent a lot of time around people, I always feel the need to be alone. And after I’ve been alone awhile I always end up feeling….well, lonely.
Balance is a good thing. But what I want us to see today is that we were not made for solitude. We were made to be together. Solitude is like our recharge cycle. We have to have it to be rested and renewed. But after we are charged up, then we get activated to be together because that is our purpose – together with God, with one another and with all of creation.
Togetherness is one of the lessons of communion as Jesus practices it and as Paul teaches it. 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 says:
Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
So, if you haven’t figured it out, Paul is pretty upset here. He’s gotten a report that people are divided when they get together as church to eat. This shared meal was a central part of their fellowship and worship together. In many ways, it defined who they were. These divisions are about who has what to eat.
Think about how we do potluck meals at church. Now, throw that out the window and imagine that our meals together are BYOF – Bring Your Own Food. That what these meals had tuned into. The wealthy brought lavish feasts and forged themselves. While the poorer members brought little or maybe even nothing when they had nothing to eat. So some went away full and others went away hungry. To say the least, this didn’t make Paul – or Jesus – happy.
I love what Paul writes here. He basically says, “What! Are you kidding me! Gorge yourself at home. But don’t come to church without sharing! Don’t come here and lift up the economic division that you live out in the world. This is a place where no one goes without because everyone shares. This is a place that looks different from society.” And Paul points to the Lord’s Supper to make that clear. He says:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
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.
What is the unworthy manner of taking the bread and cup? Is it some sinful state of mind? Is it some unresolved issue of faith? Is it taking the meal without believing? No, not really any of those things. What has Paul said so far?
Paul has talked about the way the Corinthians are eating. They eat is a socially stratified way. The rich get a lot. The poor get little. And this created division in the church…the same division that was in the larger society. And that is the unworthy manner that Paul is taking about. So Paul says:
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 judgment against themselves.
What does it mean to eat while discerning the body? Does it mean to eat while thinking about Jesus? That’s not really it. His isn’t about focusing of the person of Jesus. This is about discerning the body of Christ which is the church while eating. And what does Paul say about the body? He says that every part is important. He says that each part is essential. And he says that the weaker parts have a place of honor.
How would that apply to eating together? Well, for starters…
- It would mean paying attention to the weakest members of the community and making sure they had a lace of honor at the meal.
- It would means ensuring that everyone got filled at the meal.
- It would mean the strong parts sharing with the weaker parts.
- It would mean the rich share with the poor so that no part of the body went malnourished because for one to be malnourished meant the entire body suffers. One part going without would make the whole body sick.
That’s what it means to discern the body when eating together. And Paul brings this point home when he says:
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.
Wait for one another. Pay attention to one another. Leave no one out. Ensure that everyone is fed. Welcome each member to the table with equity. Don’t gorge yourself. Wait for one another so that everyone is filled with God’s good provision.
To not wait for one another is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ. To gorge yourself with no thought for those who go without is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ. To BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ. To create division during any meal, most especially the lords supper, is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, we call it communion because to eat this meal alone with no thought of others, to eat it as if this bread and this juice is yours, to practice this meal in solitude, is to refuse the body and blood of Christ. For the body and blood which is the man on the cross, yes, and also the very symbol of the church (both here locally and worldwide) is the body and the life force of Christ.
Communion is about togetherness. It is about sharing. It is about paying attention to one another, about seeing Christ in one another and ensuring that all are fed.
Too often the church forgets what communion is really about. We invite folks to the table. We say nice things. We pass a plate to one another. It’s quite and contemplative and nice. But communion is not about being quiet or nice. Communion is about relationships, and commitments and sharing and serving and being together.
So today, take communion like you have never taken it before.
• Today as you receive communion, commit to meaningful relationships. Don’t live on the periphery of life or faith. Get involved with this family of faith.
• Today as you take communion, commitment to church. Be here. Join a small group. Commitment leads to relationships and relationships lead to intimacy and intimacy leads to, well, like I started out saying, it leads to arguing! But you see arguing is a sign of love and passion within a relationship. Believe it or not it is through conflict that we actually live out and practice our faith in Christ Jesus.
• Today as yo take communion, seek out someone important to you – a friend, a pastor like me or Joanie, maybe someone who you have some conflict right now. Seek out someone and grow deeper with Christ through that relationship. Maybe you need support or encouragement or reconciliation. Whatever it is, this is not a time for division. This is a time for coming together.
• Today as you take communion, serve one another. Yes, by sharing the bread and cup. But also by praying for someone else, by literally doing something specific to help another person. Re-commit to a ministry or mission of service. Consider serving in a new way through this church or in our community.
• Today as you take communion, be together, be family, be faithful, be part of this body, and be filled with the goodness God has for you.