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Communion Meditations (2022)


In the Temple

Originally scheduled for February 27

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

(1 Corinthians 11:27-28 NASB)


It is a common practice in communion for the speaker to encourage his audience to examine themselves. There seems to be little advice, however, on exactly how we are to do this. Perhaps we can learn from a parable told by our Lord to some of his disciples.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(Luke 18:9-14 NASB)


Please note that the parable is not addressed to the Pharisees themselves, but to “some people.” We may assume this includes the disciples of Christ. We may therefore learn from it.

Both the tax collector and the Pharisee are in the temple, the same place at the same time — with the same objective: they are seeking to deal with the issue of righteousness. It is instructive to see how they differ.

First, please note that Christ does not accuse this Pharisee of lying about his achievements. We may therefore assume that he indeed does fast and tithes as he says. He is living the life of a pious man who follows the rules. He’s proud of it, too. But there are two problems with his attitudes:

·         Self-Righteousness. The Pharisee evidently asked thinks that God is some sort of cosmic bean counter. If your white beans outnumber your black ones, you get to go to heaven. He’s taking no chances in this; he lives the outwardly pious life. His sins, he thinks, are trivial compared to his righteousness. Surely, God would agree.

·         Contempt for Others. This might more commonly be expressed as, “I At least I’m not as bad as…” Note that his comments do the tax collector no good — but they do make the Pharisee feel a lot better. This is stroking your own ego.

Vanity, vanity.

The tax collector approaches the problem quite differently. He describes himself as “THE sinner.” There is no sense of him comparing himself to others. Indeed the conversation between him and God revolves entirely around the fact that he is a sinner. He comes right to the point: “Have mercy on me.” He appeals to the grace of Almighty God — and not without effect.

Therefore, when you examine yourself today, make no comparison with others. If you must mention them at all your prayers, let it be for the purpose of making amends and fixing your mistakes. Do not tell God your virtues, but rather seek his mercy while it may be found. Then handle the body and blood of Christ in a worthy manner, a sinner seeking grace.

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