I am going to celebrate the Lord's Supper at my place next Sunday. I wonder what it's actually like? I've celebrated 'communion' many times. I'm not even sure where that 'word' communion originated. I think the stiffness and formality of listening to a depiction of what we're supposed to do during the Lord's supper, and then trying to imitate it, most of the time with people who I really didn't share much depth of brotherhood with, may have gotten in the way of my actual doing it in the past. Entirely my fault.
But I'm going to do it next Sunday. I'm going to drop my 10 year old daughter off at church, come home, and bake some bread. Maybe I'll even use wine though I don't think I own any. I don't think I will use wine just so as to avoid any hint of drunkenness -- I don't drink much, so I will probably notice the effects a little too much. Even enjoy them, though I've never been prone to alcohol abuse. So I'll just use juice in any event, and that way nothing will get in my way.
I'll invite a few people from church, although they will all be at church and unable to come. Maybe some will surprise me. I hope not. Although it would be glorious if some did. But they just partook together last week -- after examining each other. And I could not.
I wonder if Jesus wanted us to examine each other. Judge each other. Public testimony for "confessions" and "to clear things up"! Being sure not to commit the unpardonable sin of "pride", and, "rebellion" by "going your own way" without accountability to the brotherhood. My Pastor surely did.
Did I ever let him have it.
My initial experience in seeing the Lord’s Supper at Gleason Mennonite Church was that it was well patterned after the original in scripture. Public “self-examination”, sharing of the bread and the cup in reverence to the memory of the Lord, foot washing, hymn singing and fellowship. In communion with one another according to what He had told us. It still is. But with condemnation added that neither Paul nor Jesus include. At least that kind which last week's sermon had brought in.
Let me explain what I mean.
17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Just an additional thought: he’s not saying that there “should” be heresies among them(opinions opposed to the established views), but rather that divisions and heresies are a certainty('must'), they are expected, and it is necessary('must') for them to show themselves so that the view which is approved, that view which they oppose, may be made manifest, or 'made known'.
But now on to the Lord’s Supper.
20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
He said what they are doing is not the Lord’s Supper. It’s a church meal. And not even that properly done. It’s not being done together or in common. There is partiality, sectarianism and even some drunkenness.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, andanother is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Jesus gave thanks, explained what it stood for and asked us to partake in it, and in doing so, for us to remember Him.
Now is an explanation by Paul:
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
In my opinion, Paul is saying the offender is guilty of eating and drinking the body and blood of the Lord unworthily, or, doing so without giving it it's proper worth, or it's proper respect. Regardless of what he actually means, Paul then goes on to explain how to be free of that 'guilt'.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,(or, other than as Jesus told him) eateth and drinketh damnation( or, judgement ) to himself, not discerning the Lord's body(as the Lord prescribed, and every believer would be familiar with).
So the guilt is not discerning the worth of the body and blood of the Lord. A symptom of spiritual inattentiveness and weakness. An unfortunate, even insulting position before the Lord.
30 for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.(spiritual sickness)
Paul continues then with his thought from v. 29 above as to drinking judgment on ourselves by not discerning what Jesus asked us to remember about Him - His sacrifice and the covenant.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
What does he mean “judge ourselves”? He means “examine” ourselves. As in “Let a man examine himself”. Are you discerning the Lord's body? And when we do so we are not judged because we have done what was asked by Paul and implied by Jesus.
If he does not judge(examine) himself, then he will drink judgement to himself. “Eateth and drinketh damnation(judgement) to himself .
The word “damnation” here is a questionable translation of the Greek word 'judgement'. The KJV is a “thought for thought” translation, and in this case their 'thought' gives debateable meaning to the literal word in question. Even though there are places in scripture where 'judgement' is used to mean 'damnation', using the word “damnation”, in this instance, gives it a value that the Greek word does not, in that, “judgement” can mean either ‘condemnation’ or, the opposite, 'aquittal'(and anything in between).
The word "damnation" is seen only in the Syriac manuscripts which overall contain wide variations.
The word "damnation" simply does not fit. Jesus says nothing about 'damnation' in his asking us to 'remember', and Paul simply warns that we will be chastened if we disrespect the memory of the Lord's Supper, and not be 'damned' as unbelievers. "Damnation"(judgement) above simply refers to the act of 'judging' or 'being judged', not being 'damned' or 'judged unto destruction'.
We faithful will all be “judged”, at the Judgement Seat of Christ, but 'aquitted'.
Paul specifies how these violators at the Lord's Supper will be judged immediately after mentioning it.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
They’ll be chastened, or, punished unto correction; not condemned as unbelievers. Then he summarizes his thoughts telling them to do the Lord’s Supper not as divided into factions; and not as a mere meal; but rather a sacred memorial. Not presuming to eat the Lord's Supper without remembering it's meaning and intent.
And for whatever my opinion is worth, before or after a meal, as distinct from the meal, would suit it just fine. Perhaps ideally it might even be done wholly apart from a meal. But not as a meal.
As in accordance with normal Christian doctrine, the only 'ones damned' would be those who eat and drink 'without being believers', and they would have been damned before they ever arrived to eat and drink, and will continue to be, as their unbelief in 'Jesus as God on earth' continues. A believer will not slip from God's saving grace just through the careless labeling and eating of a fellowship meal.
Then Paul finally concludes with:
33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation(this is also a presumptuous translation of the Greek word “judgement”). And the rest will I set in order when I come.
And isn't Paul here summarizing the main point of the whole exchange. 'The Lord’s Supper is not a church social meal where you break off into your favorite groups'. Examine yourself to see whether you are in the spirit of hunger and revelry, or rather, in the Spirit of remembering our Lord.____________________
And, bless his heart, my pastor agreed with me.
I haven't told him yet though that next Sunday is a Lord's Supper celebration at my house.
Nor have I told him that I will not be available for his or anyone elses 'examination'. Just "not available", sorry. Just going to enjoy the Lord's invitation and, take, and eat, and drink, of Him and His memory. The memory of Him telling us about Him and the Father. What He did for us. How He is here with us now. And will take us to the Father when He is ready.