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Communion Meditations (2014)

Sensible People

Originally scheduled for October 5

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 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? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
(1 Corinthians 10:15-17 NIV)

One of the more irritating phrases commonly found in science textbooks is this: “it is intuitively obvious to the casual observer…” Many a student is found what is intuitively obvious to the writer of the textbook to be not at all obvious to the student.

But what does it mean to be “intuitively obvious?” Paul deals with this question here, indirectly. He makes his appeal to the Corinthians on the basis that they are “sensible people.” They should be easily able to figure out what he is saying. May I submit that there are two kinds of things which are intuitively obvious:

·         One would be something that you already know. It could be something that appeals to your common knowledge as a resident of the planet.

·         The other meaning could be that it is something you can easily reason out. It is this sense that Paul is appealing to.

This is perhaps not so obvious to us today, but Paul’s readers would be completely familiar with the worship of idols. It didn’t matter which god you are worshiping, there were certain ceremonial rules and principles which were the same in all of these temples. They understood what ritual worship was like. It is a form of acted out symbolism. We still see this today in many of the arts. I am told that ballet can be interpreted symbolically by those who understand what the symbolism means. A similar type of interpretation can be applied to plays, as those who have ever studied Shakespeare are quite well aware.

One thing is true across all of these forms of symbolism: the simpler the symbolism, the more easily understood it becomes. Paul applies this principle to communion. In so doing he produces two facts which are logical results of the symbolism Christ used in implementing communion.

·         He begins with what he calls the “cup of thanksgiving.” The phrase only occurs in his letter to the Corinthians, but it is an obvious point: whatever else it means, we are thankful for the sacrifice of Christ’s blood on the cross. He calls it a “participation” (other translations use the word “sharing”) in the blood of Christ. This emphasizes the unity of the church, for all of us together in the church are those who are forgiven through the blood of Christ.

·         He continues on this theme by pointing out the use of “one loaf.” Unlike churches in America today, the church of that time would take communion from the bread of a single loaf. They would clearly see this as a sign of unity. Paul expresses this by saying that we are one body. He uses this metaphor on other occasions to describe the church as a whole.

The way in which communion is served in the modern church sometimes lends itself to the individual feeling very much alone with God. The early church would’ve seen it somewhat differently — they would’ve seen the unity of the church, being the body of Christ. Remember this today as you partake. You are one body with the believers around you because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

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