Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Unity in the Lord’s Supper

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” ~1 Corinthians 11:26 (NRSV).

A central purpose in this sacrament—the Lord’s Supper—is to cultivate Christian unity.[1] Indeed, this is one of the Apostle Paul’s underlying premises as he corrects the Corinthians in their mismanagement of this remembrance ceremony. They ought to enjoy this practice together.

If the Body of Christ cannot enjoy fellowship with the Lord in the sanctity and harmony of oneness, certainly with each other as equals bonded in love, then the Lord’s Supper vanishes in relevance. Power hence evaporates. In some quarters it would be to crucify Jesus again—the Spirit anguished.

Doctrine – Humanity’s Stumbling Block

Legalism has crept in from the beginning. It is our human default to go that way. Knowing this, we need spiritual protection. We need to understand that unity is not our preference. God knows, however, unity’s our only chance at survival.

Doctrine is a flesh-driven thing, as we wrangle with knowledge, and make sense of our world. In that, doctrine is not a beast. It assists us find meaning and helps to steer us straight.

But we all have differences. Everyone sees the world from different perspectives. When we introduce the education process—the want and acquisition of philosophies—with these different perspectives, doctrine is created, endorsed, followed, and promoted.

This is when we tend to polarise. As soon as we do this, our doctrine becoming law in our minds and as others accumulate in agreement, it begins to become a stumbling block; not for others so much, but for ourselves. We are then blindly restricted to our own, at times shared, reality.

The point is our doctrines too often hold us back from achieving the unity that sacraments like the Lord’s Supper aim to promote.

The Purpose of Unity in the Lord’s Supper

Remembrance of Christ and what was achieved on the cross—the broken body and spilt blood of the holy Saviour dying in our stead—is the vertical purpose in this sacrament that is the Lord’s Supper. There are so many dimensions to this vertical purpose, which is us in relation to God.

The horizontal purpose, certainly from the Saviour’s perspective, has to be just as important, and that is about being unified as one—the church—at harmony with the vertical purpose.

The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of unity of our oneness in Christ. The early believers exemplified this (Acts 2:46). Whilst our culture may differ vastly from theirs, unity in grace, peace, and love is what characterises us as Christians.

This sacrament, then, is the epitome of what it means to be the church; a mode of worship, the vertical purpose, with the method of unified fellowship, the horizontal purpose.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), p. 232.

No comments: