Scripture puts boundaries and qualifications in place for many positions within the church such as Pastor, Elder, Teacher, Deacon and Deaconess, etc… and we want to be careful to follow scripture. However, where Scripture does not exclude, we want to embrace the Priesthood of all believers and not set-up man-made boundaries. One such area in the church where we see an opportunity to include more people is in the distribution of the elements during communion. If you are worthy to receive communion, than you are qualified to help distribute it. And, this brings me to an area of communion that is near and dear to my heart.
The communion passage we use each month during the celebration of communion is 1 Corinthians 11:23ff. The words used during communion are in the middle of a section Paul wrote to the Corinthians to provide them instructions on communion. Communion is very important to many Christians, but for several different reasons. I for one find the monthly rhythm of communion a great reminder to take stock in my walk with the Lord. It is a time to check my heart.
Starting in verse 27 Paul says, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”
I love how Paul reminds us at the end of this passage, that even self-examination and the judgment and discipline of the Lord is for our own good to avoid the eternal condemnation. Communion is a time to examine ourselves; to look at the last month and evaluate our attitudes and actions; and ask for forgiveness and divine assistance in the coming month. Part of remembering our Lord until he comes again is making sure we are living in a way that brings Him honor. We will take a moment now to quietly examine ourselves.
Heavenly Father, we confess that we have sinned against you in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We have had anxieties about the future even though we proclaim you as Lord. We have failed to love others as you have loved us. We have disobeyed your commands, and we have failed to always act at the prompting of your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us and forgive our sins. Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Help us to walk in your ways and to love as you have loved. We ask this in your mighty and holy name. Amen.
At Cornerstone we practice what is called open communion. This means that the only fence we put around is the one Scripture itself puts in place. Communion here is open to all those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. You do not need to be a member here, or at Immanuel, or of any particular denomination.
1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And so, in that confidence, we enter into communion.
1 Corinthians 11:23b-24 “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.””
Pass the Bread: Eat in remembrance of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:25 “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.””
Pass the Juice: Drink in remembrance of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:26 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”