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Corporate Celebration: The Lord’s Table and 1 Corinthians 11

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This is post #4 in a blog series entitled Come to the Table: A Blog Series About the Lord’s Table Ordinance. This blog series will be more memoir than instructional guide. I’m not a theologian. I’m a daughter of God who has learned that she is welcome at the Lord’s Table. This process of learning – and accepting – these truths is what I hope to share with all of you. This post discusses the corporate, public aspects of the ordinance.

“How is your Lord’s Table anxiety today?”

This is the text I received from our music coordinator at 2:55 PM on the day of my first Lord’s Table celebration in over five years (3/21/21).

I was blessed to tell her that I wasn’t anxious at all.

I had taken a lot of time that week to process the past and renew my understanding of what the Lord’s Table was, as though for the first time. I listened to some of the recordings of celebrations from the sermon archives on our church website so I had an understanding of the format and how the ordinance would be approached (as every church does things a bit different).

She had also sent me a podcast episode that was incredibly helpful in reframing my understanding. I have transcribed several relevant sections here. They are lengthly. If you prefer to listen rather than read (hands up for auditory learners!), the link to the podcast is provided.

(Disclaimer: This is the only episode I have listened to of this particular podcast, so this is not a blanket recommendation on the entire podcast.)

The Lord’s Supper (Ep. 41) | Knowing Faith Podcast

Youtube | Google Podcasts | Amazon Prime Music | Spotify | Apple

Mason: …if you’re IN CHRIST, this is our moment in our gathering to meditate on Jesus. And it’s a moment for us to think through what it means to be IN HIM in a very tangible way…

JT: It’s part of the service where everybody in the service becomes a preacher. Because we’re all preaching this good news to each other, in saying WE are in Christ, together. So as I watch you take the Lord’s Supper, or we partake communally, we are saying “We are this family…that Christ has accomplished something for us.”

Mason: We are proclaiming Him to each other!  

I loved the above section because it helped me grapple with the corporate (public) aspect of observing the Lord’s Table. If it is supposed to be so personal between you, God, and the depths of your own depravity – then why do we have to partake in front of others?

But, as 1 Corinthians 11:26 (KJV) says, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” 

The Greek word for the word “shew” in this verse is katangellō, which is more often translated in the New Testament AS preach.

“The KJV translates Strong’s G2605 in the following manner: preach (10x), show (3x), declare (2x), teach (1x), speak of (1x).” {Credit Blue Letter Bible}

Corporate Celebration: The Lord's Table and 1 Corinthians 11 | Reframing the celebration and observance into the context of community, family, and corporate worship was very new to me.
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Jen continues:

The way that I grew up taking the Lord’s Supper, it was not “look back” or “look forward” or “look around,” it was “look inward.”

Unworthily. That was the sum total of it for me. It was the moment where I was supposed to sort of go through where I had sinned…it was almost like Catholic confession, actually…where I would go through the litany of my sins and make sure that I had gotten everything checked off before I took the elements.

Sound familiar? It did to me. If this resonates with you, check out the introductory post to this series, Am I Worthy?

Then they delved into the context of what was meant by partaking “unworthily,” as well as the reason behind the intention that the Lord’s Table be a corporate ordinance:

JT: But even “taking in an unworthy manner” is a “look around” moment. Because what’s going on…where there’s great divisiveness among the community. There’s the spiritually elite and the spiritually impoverished, based upon spiritual gifts, they were saying… OR…those who had financial wealth, and those who didn’t. And those who had physical means, and those who didn’t. So what you had in the community…there was those who were wealthy and could eat food, and they would eat before the people who didn’t have food showed up. Paul is saying, “This is not a proclamation of what Christ has accomplished for you. The cross is the leveling ground for all people. And if you’re partaking when somebody who has less than you do, or doesn’t have the means to partake with you, you’re proclaiming the opposite of the gospel.” 

Kyle: It was a personal reflection, but it was tied into a corporate reality. 

JT: It was an issue of justice. You were behaving unjustly to your brothers and sisters. It wasn’t that you had some sin in your life, that, again, yes…we should talk about that, and we should repent from sin, and we should root out every kind of evil in our hearts as we can…but that’s not what that text is talking about. 

Kyle: It was personal, but not private. It wasn’t like, “Settle this in your hearts.” It was like…there are very real, tangible results…or effects…from the result of your sin. 

JT: The way you are worshipping is improper, because it’s a false communication of the gospel. 

Mason: …and to Jen’s point, I think probably – I would say the last half century, we’ve seen a lot of the interior move of, “Hey it’s where you need to examine your own heart, make sure you’re clean before you come and take…or, go settle something before you do it.” And I’ve felt like in some instances less of the “Hey, look around!” moment. “This is the body! This is what we do together! This is our point of union! Let’s talk about who we are in Him in taking this together! 

Jen: It’s just one more time where we have co-opted the corporate gathering for a private moment. 

Jen then moved to discussing some of the deeper thoughts that she regarding the Lord’s Supper (quite similar to the feelings of squeamishness, guilt, and indebtedness that I had as a teenager).

Jen: The other emphasis though was communicated to me around this as I was younger…was that this was a time for me to do a gut-wrenching search about how Jesus hung on the cross for me. …we’re looking at elements that are symbolic of that sacrifice…there was probably an over-emphasis on that in the sense that these calls to remembrance that are in the Old Testament that would be pointing toward this call to remembrance, they were calls to remember the faithfulness of God. And that’s what the emphasis ought to be when we think about remembering. Certainly, we remember His faithfulness to be the sacrifice for us, but the emphasis is on faithfulness – not loss. I thought of it as “make sure you feel bad enough…”

Kyle: It’s like a wake…it’s a meal at a wake! 

Jen: …instead of a celebration…

Mason: …there’s the moment of introspection, of awareness. But we are looking forward to a feast! We’re celebrating in this meal together. We are rejoicing in who He is and what He’s done…and we’re proclaiming him until He comes! We should be excited about taking this together! 

Kyle: The Lord’s Supper is Advent every Sunday!

Knowing that someone else went through the same experience and had some of the same spiritual baggage was incredibly helpful. Reframing the solemn ordinance and observance into the context of community, family, and corporate celebration was very new to me. It was also relieving to finally understand the social context of the social injustices that were happening in the corporate church of Corinth, and what the verses regarding “partaking unworthily” really mean.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember:
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

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