Songs, sung; sermon, preached; Scripture, read; prayer, prayed. Soft instrumental music is played and an ambiance of silence is created. It is time for the congregation to partake of the body and blood of our Lord. We grab a morsel of bread and a swig of juice from a tray, then bow our heads to meditate on Christ's body. In silence, we think back to that dark day two thousand years ago when Christ was crucified.
But what if "recognizing the body of the Lord" is more than a contemplation of Christ's physical body? What if it is a recognition of his body, the Church, as well? What if "remembrance" is less a retrospective reflection and more a present participation? What if "proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes" means we echo his self-emptying humility? How would this change the way we take Communion?
The clearest reference to the Lord's Supper outside the Gospels is found in 1 Corinthians 11. The Corinthian church was a diverse group made up of men and women, rich and poor, strong and weak, Jew and Gentile. This diversity often (sadly) led to division.
The Corinthians argued about church leaders (1 Cor. 1:10-12, 3:1-9), marriage (1 Cor. 7), whether or not to eat food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8, 10:14-33), financial support of missionaries (1 Cor. 9), and spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12, 14:1-25). Sandwiched in between Paul's specific instructions concerning these divisions is the text about the Lord's Supper.
In the early church, the Lord's Supper was eaten as part of a larger meal sometimes referred to as the love feast. The flexible schedules of rich Christians allowed them to arrive early with an ample supply of food and start eating. By the time the poor, working class arrived, most of the food was gone.
I want to encourage you to reread 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 with this context in mind. Then, I would love for you to come back here and share your thoughts.